Thursday, January 18, 2018

What Miscarriage Means

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.

Sometimes doing both rather suddenly.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

It's January. Bitter cold, and quite fitting. Memories of last January are hard to shake. The New Year had been very naively planned out and anticipated. As the month continued, plans were halted, changed, new plans laid, and then all plans shattered all in a roller coaster we never saw coming. On the last day of that previous December, something came up in conversation about miscarriage between my brother and his wife and Jason and I. "You guys never went through that, right?" my brother asked.

"No, never."

I hadn't, and I remember thinking how thankful I was that that bitter cup had passed over me. We had no plans to have any more biological children (something I in many ways had already grieved) and were beginning the foster-to-adopt process at that point. I had no idea that this was a valley I was about to be blindsided with.

Sometimes we think we learn lessons, but we haven't really, fully- yet. If you think you learned something it's quite possible that that's a sign you haven't really learned it at all. This is what I'm learning.

When we found out we were expecting our third child, I posted James 4:14-15 on Facebook. Because this baby was not "tried for" or "planned" and was a complete surprise (something you don't just tell people after miscarrying because you don't need to give anyone one more reason to invalidate your grief. Even though the grief is just as real and suffocating, and uniquely shocking; and it comes with it's own separate list of questions to God). I thought I had learned the lesson of "don't pretend like you know what the future holds- God's got surprises." But one week later those verses meant something new to me again- a bitter, truer lesson to actually heart-learn in an utterly broken heart.  I thought I learned not to be confident of the future but to tread carefully. But I had just spent the past few days planning this new, unplanned future- getting out the baby blankets and dreaming of genders. Talking with Jason about bunk bed plans for our boys. Looking up hospitals and doctors. After posting the lesson I thought I learned from James, I went ahead planning the future I knew was coming. And then those plans were taken away.

"Instead say 'If the Lord wills...'"

From standing cluelessly still on earth, to being gift-given and tossed high in the hopeful clouds of dreams, to being shoved back down and deeper yet into a dark pit of death and loss... all in a matter of a handful of days... I have wept much, broken much, and learned much.

Lonely Grief

There's two very distinct moments of our short time with Baby Ellis that are as fresh in my mind now as if they happened moments ago. One is when I first saw that plus sign, and the surprise and excitement of new life filled me. The second is when I first saw blood. And the fears and sorrow of what I might lose flooded me.

There's been a whole mountain range of pain and hurt and suffering through losing our baby. One of those mountains is that too often people don't seem to realize you lost a baby. That first week of loss was specifically lonely because the announcements had not yet been made. And I found myself constantly holding on to the ever shredding shred of hope that they could still be.

But even after holding out hope gave way and announcements of loss were told instead, there was a unique loneliness I've since learned is often a trait with this area of loss.

I started bleeding on the day of the March for Life. My Facebook feed and news stories were filled with people standing up for the unborn and preaching and teaching all the plethora of reasons that at the moment of conception there was a fully-human life. A child, a baby. I had read about all the forming and development that happens even at 4 weeks.  

So how is it that an aborted baby is treated as more human than a miscarried one within the bounds of pro-life circles? Mourned for more? Honored more deeply? This is not just my experience- this is common with those I've been able to connect with through this shared suffering. The pro-life message will be preached all day about the humanity of that aborted one; but when you miscarry you have "lost the pregnancy", can "try again", are told "it's common", "at least you have other children",  "there was probably something wrong with the baby so this is a blessing" (man, if this isn't the most pro-choice thing for a "pro-life" person to say)- and a whole list of yet more hurtful statements I can't bear to log here. I know people were trying to comfort. But these are not pro-life statements.

One of the surprising elements of the grief process for me was this burden to then educate and create awareness for others to better understand and sympathize with the grief. Feeling the weight of needing to "correct" harsh statements, or to explain the situation more clearly for someone's understanding. When utterly depleted emotionally, this is very, very difficult. Especially in the moment, on the spot.

Because trying again isn't always in the plans; and even if it were this isn't exactly some game where you  just roll up the sleeves, give it another toss of the dice, and replace a human with another who may get a "successful" ending.

And my pregnancy was not lost. My pregnancy ended like the hideous flip-side of the beautiful ending to my other pregnancies. Ultrasound screens were turned away, doctor's faces grim, heartbeats unheard.  My baby died inside of me, my body went through painful contractions of death, and my baby was born 34 weeks early, dead, in my bathroom. I'm not trying to sound harsh or crass- I'm trying to explain why to someone who has gone through this, saying the "pregnancy was lost" is what can sound harsh and crass.

And yes- I have two other children. Who stood outside the bathroom door needing their mommy who was screaming from the pain and sights inside the burial room. Two children who their mommy was overwhelmed with having to care for because of the torment she was going through. Children whose needs clashed with the doctor's orders to rest. And so yes, while my gratitude for them was always present, what I needed was not a reminder to look to them, but helping hands to care for them. And a recognition that two lives can't replace the one that is missing.

And then there is the brutal silence. Those who say nothing. Who don't even utter an "I'm sorry." Nancy Guthrie, in her book "Holding on to Hope" explains it best. After rattling off her list of everything hurtful people said after her baby Hope died, she writes, "But to tell you the truth, it hasn't been what people have said but what they haven't said that has been the most difficult to deal with... 'How could you add to my pain by ignoring it?'"

If you're sincerely pro-life, then you know- truly know- that a baby just died. You know not to minimize that horror, downplay it, or ignore it. You know to weep with those who weep, and come alongside the sufferer the same way you would anyone else who loses someone. Some people say they don't know what to do when someone they know miscarries. That's why they do nothing. Or even say nothing. But actually, we do know what to do. We know in our society and in our church circles what to do when a family member is lost. What to do when physical trauma and doctor's appointments overtake someone. We know to send flowers. Cards. Meals. Help. We have bereavement ministries and protocols.

But when miscarriage is not viewed as a life lost, as a trauma endured, and a tragedy- it is left out of these responses.

And before I even go farther here trying to explain the hurt of this, hear me loud and clear that there were many who revealed themselves to be among those who "got it". Who did give flowers, cards, help, listening ears, handmade treasures of remembrance, notes of encouragement, verses, and- most cherished of all- their tears.

Again, Nancy writes, "Every person's effort to acknowledge my loss- no matter how small, no matter how much time has passed- is significant and remembered." Often people don't want to say anything because they don't want to cause pain. But the pain is always there. It's always carried. And when others acknowledge Ellis, yes, it may cause my tears to flow. But those tears are always held in. And it is a relief to release them because of the balm of other's recognition.

To each of you who have listened, cried, texted, created, called, prayed, and sent: "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you".

Soul Sufferings

"This is God's plan", "God works all things to good", "God is in control"- spiritual quips that are surely true, but when said to a sufferer can be given quite tritely and received quite heavily.  I had spent three days sobbing in the same chair begging God to let our baby live. "Even if" held new meaning when He didn't.

The spiritual confusion that overtook me upon our loss was shocking. I grew up in a Christian home, always attended church, went to Bible college, and had even just finished reading the Bible through in 6 months. I should have had this, right?  But nothing can teach you the lessons of God quite like suffering can. And no check list can prepare you for the test.

A significant part of my confusion was due to the fact that we weren't trying to get pregnant. Not because we didn't desire another biological child, but because we were seeking to obey the prodding of God to take care of the orphans. And though with our two boys we had to plan and plan and plan in the attempt to get pregnant... with Ellis we were using those planning measures to not get pregnant. When we found out we were expecting, I grinned and declared "Wow, this is such a God thing." 

As I bled and curled up in pain the next week, those words played in my head... this is such a God thing.

What do we do when the God who forms stops forming?  When He gives you just enough of something to take it all away? When you then choose to seek Him and cry out to Him, and He responds with His silence?  When the joy and peace of the Lord doesn't flood you like you think it should? Suddenly Jeremiah 1:5 was painful. And knowing God was with me all the time hurt. I've realized a lot along this journey, and one lesson is what a lack of a proper theology of suffering the American Church has.  The ways the prosperity gospel sneaks into Baptist pews. That those pews often don't know how to handle someone who is in pain, without just wanting to give it a spiritual band-aid that simply fixes it. That weeping with those who weep is so rare. That when we say "as long as everyone's okay" as the what "really matters" after a hardship, we are missing the mark. 

What about when everyone's not okay?  When the "even if" happens? 

And what about where babies go after they die? Do we really know what we believe? Because when the stakes are so high, it can take more than David's words in 2 Samuel 12:23 to comfort you. When you really study it because it matters so much to you, you see the holes and cracks in those verses being the case-closed. I had thought I knew what I believed in this area, but was taking that for granted. Once it mattered so much, I had to invest some serious study time.

When we are weak in our pain, Satan attacks. I was slammed with doubt, anxiety, and depression. And one of the worst weapons he used was false guilt. I remember in those days, weeks, and months after losing Ellis, when I would snap at the boys, get behind on my to-do list, feel overwhelmed with motherhood- how Satan would whisper to my battleground mind, "That's why God didn't let you have Ellis. You couldn't handle another. You're not a good enough mom to have kept Ellis." I cannot describe the agony of the false guilt I was fighting.

But I kept reading His Word, where suffering is not sugar-coated and pain is allowed. Where there is a time to mourn. Where we learn that God being with you and helping you can coincide with agony and confusion and grief. Where #blessed is redefined and what really matters is Christ alone, even if everyone's not okay. What a life boat God's book has been. 

I realized doubt can be not a sign of weakness, but of strength. Not a revelation of weak faith, but the growing pains of it. When you come to truly recognize for the first time how indescribably phenomenal what you believe is; and the mind literally can't wrap around it.

And I cried through the words of worship music as the lyrics took on a whole new meaning. And I learned that "It is well with my soul" is not some lovely sounding, inspirational lullaby, but a battle cry declared through gritted teeth and tortured heart and tear-stained face.

And I remember the day we got the call confirming the miscarriage, I went to pray with the kids for dinner. I began with my usual autopilot prayer, "Thank you for this day." I choked on the words. Realizing their meaning. Wondering if I meant it. And then remembered- I thank Him often for the day His child died. How could I withhold my thanks for the day mine did?

"Thank you for this day."

What Miscarriage Means

Miscarriage means taking almost a year to write a blog because it is a mountain to climb.  Knowing still, once you climb that mountain, there is no way a mere blog can adequately communicate your message. But you have to try to communicate it anyways.

Miscarriage means the invasion of death not just into your very home but your very body. It means the death of your child where you want them to be the safest. Where you should be able to protect them the most.

Miscarriage means having panic attacks checking the mail. Coming home from the ER with paperwork on miscarriage and finding prenatal vitamins delivered. And then a few days later, leggings you ordered for maternity wear. And for months after that, medical bills.

Miscarriage means salt in wounds in a thousand different places. Triggers constant. Baby sections. Comments. The restaurant you can no longer go to because you went when you bled. Follow up doctor's appointments that seem to never end as you wait for the HCG to deplete. Having the death of your child be forever a part of your personal medical history. And all the times that allows it to be brought up by who knows who.

Miscarriage means feeling like you are walking death. The glow of the life-giving-body replaced with a womb that became a tomb. Feeling like you in your gloom and despair are a dark-cloud to everyone else's sunny weather. Feeling like you failed. Like you are a burden. Stained.

Miscarriage means taking months and months to post pictures. Just taking them was such a painful reminder of loss. Such a document of whatever stage of grief I was experiencing. Posting them affirmed it all even more deeply. You are missing, sweet one.

Miscarriage means countless shattered dreams. Loss unfolding. So many say of early term loss, how good that you weren't further along. I've never understood why we would be happier that someone died younger. When you lose someone you don't just lose them in that static moment, you lose their whole future. The earlier you lose a baby, the more future you watch play out without them. The more weeks to watch your belly not grow. I lost Ellis. And because of how early I lost my baby, I lost even getting to know if Ellis was a boy or girl. This constantly tears my heart. I lost even having one, single ultrasound picture. What I would give to have just one! I lost celebrating Ellis with so many others. Not even making it far enough along to have had enough time to tell even my own sons the exciting news of their new sibling. I lost hearing a heartbeat, or ever feeling any movement. What I would give to have had more time with Ellis. To have been able to have seen and held my baby if I had made it farther along before losing him... or her.

Miscarriage means understanding why hearing  "Let me know if you need anything..." can feel more like a task given than help offered. And why it's so dangerous to compare pain. And why time doesn't heal. But instead reveals more and more lost milestones and reminders of what is missing.

Miscarriage means fighting tears when you sing "Happy Birthday" to your two children, because you know you'll never get to sing it to your third.

Miscarriage means sleep deprivation; not from newborn cries, but from your own. Falling asleep crying and waking up mid-sob. Finally falling back to sleep just to have nightmares too horrific to type.

Miscarriage means understanding why the Psalmist called it the shadow of death. As everything is indeed so shadowed. And understanding why the Psalmist referred to "drowning in tears". Not being sure which you're more afraid of- crying every day for the rest of your life, or the first day you don't.

Miscarriage means knowing your family will never be complete. 

And while miscarriage means a lot of different things to the different people who go through it, we should all feel the weight that miscarriage means a baby died.

When Ellis died, a baby died.

A son or daughter.
A sibling.
A grandchild.
A great-grandchild.
A niece or nephew.
A cousin.
A friend.

It's not just the mother who loses someone when she miscarries.

There is a quote from "This is Us" referring to a family member who was only able to be a part of the family for a very short time before passing away. At his funeral, his daughter-in-law says, "And even though we only had him for a few months, we'll remember things as 'before William' and 'after William'."

Yes. Yes, dear Ellis. Even though we only had you for a few weeks, there will always be a dividing line in time. Before Ellis, and after Ellis.

Miscarriage means lighting candles. Building a cross. Sunflower comfort.

Miscarriage means trusting in resurrection power. Knowing Him deeper. It means being homesick for heaven. Understanding more deeply what we've been saved from. And falling in love more with the Rescuer. Miscarriage means a suffering that produces steadfastness.

Miscarriage means faith tested, yet proven. Satan attacking, but Satan defied. Nightmares from hell, but dreams of heaven.

Miscarriage means hope.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

On Statues and Souls

   What good will it be for someone if they gain statues and forfeit their souls?

   Maybe that seems like a dramatic introduction.  But is it?...


  For many, the question in Matthew 16:26 seems alarmingly relevant:  "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"  

  When it comes to the Alt-right, we shouldn't have to ponder the question too long.  This klan definitely needs to do some soul-searching.  

  But what about the rest of the statue-staying-callers?  They may not be holding torches and doing the Nazi salute, but could they be bowing down to these statues in other ways?

Unity Gone Bad

  On Friday night, August 11th (wait- did they have a permit for Friday, or just Saturday?), white supremacists took tiki torches, anti-Jew chants, and their fists to Charlottesville in anticipation for the Unite the Right Rally the next day.  They had spent months planning the event.  It was organized by white supremacists as a platform for white supremacists.  The statue was not so much their issue as it was their stage.
  Not that they weren't protesting the statue-removal also.  But it was sadly much more than that.  In their own words, "The Alt-Right is growing stronger and stronger. Our ideas dominate the internet... Now it's time to dominate the streets. From there, we will begin to dominate politics as well because all power ultimately flows from the streets. A fight lies before us... a fight for action... for vigor... for vitality... for manhood.  You might think it's just a rally, but really, it's so much more" ("The 'Unite The Right' Rally Is Going To Be A Turning Point For White Identity In America"). And if you're not aware of these "ideas" of pure-white-blood-and-soil dominance of the alt-right, you can find more blunt speak in that article, as well as from their other proselytizing posts, tweets, interviews, speeches, etc.

  Ironically, people, including our nation's leader (I use the term loosely), have often chosen to not even recognize this as a "rally"; instead it has been coined "a peaceful protest over a statue".  I'm not sure how we got confused on that.  Last May, Richard Spencer (one of the main speakers for the rally) led a parade of torch-bearing white nationalists around the park. On July 8th, the local KKK that was scheduled to be a part of the rally held a gathering there.  They called for weaponry and violence to be brought to the rally; sent death threats to counter-protesters in the weeks before; had a militia force armed with assault rifles march through the town ahead of the rally; and advertised the rally like this:


And this...


   And in a plethora of other nauseating ads.  My point is this:  The Alt-Right did not hide their intentions and flavor of the Unite the Right Rally.  So why now do we?  Did the Alt-Right actually show up peacefully protesting?  Or did something else happen on August 12th to change our minds?

Hate the Left
  No, the Alt-right showed up as brazenly as they had planned.  They encircled and beat up the counter-protesters on Friday night, beat a black man in a parking garage, beat more people than I can list here.  Their chants were horrendous, their signs despicable, and then to top it all off- one drove over a group of counter-protesters, killing one lady and injuring 19 more in a domestic terrorist attack.

  And yet that was even softened to be a "crash".  The events of those two days shocked and pained me, but the dialogue of the following days further sickened me.  We blamed the "many sides" and even often went so far as simply blaming the counter-protesters for "instigating" and engaging the violence.  We allowed there to be room for "peaceful protesters" and "good people" to be a part of the Alt-Right rally; and yet the counter-protesters (which included clergy groups and many peace groups that specifically called for non-violence) was labeled as the enemy of the "Alt-Left" (the foolishness of that term is layered, not the least of which is that you just handed the entire anti-white-supremacist campaign to the left.  Guess what that leaves you on the right? All those white-supremacists that are already claiming your name).

  What happened to cause so much of society, including our administration, to go soft on this?  Surely, if the driver of that car had been Muslim our outrage would have been much more measured and the word "terrorism" would have been flying.  If BLM had put on that "rally" the judgments and damning would be relentless.  If the Unite the Right had been Unite the Left the fury would never mention "all sides", "peaceful protesting", and the real zinger- that "permit".  If President Trump were a democrat (still) the right would have lost their outraged minds over his lies, insults, poor behavior, and lack of leadership in his handling of Charlottesville. The bias abounds. 

  What happened?  The left happened.  Anti-fa.  BLM.  Never mind all the clergy, peace groups, and the many others who just plain think NAZIS ARE WRONG. The mantra became about the violence of the left, the progressiveness of the left, and the debate on statues and liberals stealing our history.  One could not speak out against the atrocities of the Alt-Right without immediately being countered with the left-blame.  People would post passionate, painful, personal pleas on Facebook regarding Charlottesville and it was like a race to see which Republican could refute it with a "but the left" comment first. Deflections, downplays, and denial ran rampant, because... the left.  As long as the right is able to say the words "Hillary", "Obama", "liberal", and "media" they have all the ammunition they think they need to rebuke any criticism of the right- even if you're criticizing Nazis.

  I feel like I should qualify this with more proof, but here's another idea: if you understand what I'm saying here, you already get it.  If you don't, you've quite possibly already mentally come back against a lot of what I've said with a "but the left" argument.

Love the Right

  Ironically, I think one of the reasons the right hates the left so passionately is because they're the "competition" to beat.  And if there's anything a right wing-er loves it's the right winning.  But the irony is this: The right isn't winning.  The right is committing political suicide by obsessively pointing fingers at the left. Too many are so busy constantly gawking at the errors of the left, that they can't even see that their party is being poisoned by the Alt-Right.  They cannot admit the Alt-Right is evil (without qualifying it with a but-the-left-comment) because that would be admitting part of the right is inexcusably evil.  And the right is quite loved.  But true love corrects.  If you cannot self-criticize you are on a slippery slope.  Many Republicans are sold out, no matter what (one example: they hate the "fake news" yet then with itching ears [2 Timothy 4:3] they "seek lies" [Psalm 4:2] that fit their agenda from extreme-right-tabloid-sensationalism). And you can come at this with whatever "but the left" line you want, but these are the facts: One side has a long, deeply dark history.  One side organized and planned a hate rally.  One side took a life.  One side represents the goal of erasing people groups.  And one side did it using our President's name.  And he should have swiftly and strongly and solely condemned them.  For what they did, and especially for doing it with his gear on and with lip service to his name. But he then handled the condemning-of-Nazis-lines so well that Heather Heyer's mother won't even speak to him
  So, right, it may be time to examine thyself. You are patriotic, party-loving fellas.  And if you love this country and your platform, then please put your side under the microscope for a change. It's past time to turn the pointing fingers your way.  To point to the left over Charlottesville is an example of pointing out the speck in one's eye while your stuck with the log in yours (Matthew 7:3).  Your party is log-filled and imploding, and that will indeed be a victory for the left.

Love Your Self

  Maybe another reason for the denial over the Alt-Right is because one loves oneself too much.

  Pride keeps us from admitting wrongs.  Maybe we are too proud of our political identity, or too proud of our vote to admit error?  

  Or maybe... maybe we are, dare I say, racist.  Maybe we gave that car attack a softer hand because the driver was white.  Maybe we have spent our time criticizing the other side because they're often different than we.  Maybe the Alt-Right doesn't threaten us as much because... they're white.

Love Your Statues

  And sure, maybe we really do just suddenly love statues this much.  Maybe we love them so much that in the d.a.y.s. following a white supremacist terrorist attack, by someone losing their mind over losing the statue, our hearts were all "Aw, I don't want to lose the statues either.  These guys have a point." Maybe our love of statues is what caused us to be so calloused to all of this.  That's possible.  But quite frankly, just like it wasn't just about the statues to the Alt-Right, I don't think it's just about the statues for most others.
  Because really, to speak up for statues in the days following that attack is pretty cold.  I mean, even if you really are that big of a history buff, that's pretty bad timing.  Not just for all those hurting so deeply right now, but also for the ever-emboldened white nationalists movement. Maybe we just can't see the humans for the statues.

Lose Your Soul

  Are we bowing down to graven images?  No, I'm not talking about statue-loving.  I'm talking about nation-loving.  I've blogged before about the area of idolatry with patriotism.  Is Charlottesville an example of this?  It seems to me the only lens that's being used by many Christians in all of this is the political lens.  But when it comes to racism, murder, oppression of the weak, white supremacy, our sinful history, and God's chosen people being attacked, these require more than our political passions.  When it comes to compassion, love, equality, and taking care of the vulnerable these are not left or right issues. These are Christ-commanded issues.

  Statues don't have souls.  Last I checked, they would fall under the "earthly things" of Colossians 3:2.  Why are our hearts and minds so set on them then?  To the point that we can't weep with those who weep over them? To the point that we're siding with the KKK?   I'm not saying don't have an opinion on the statues, but when you're more worried about them then you are people groups, there's a problem there.  When you allow yourself to gloss over the attacks in Charlottesville but then cry out about stone, there's a problem there.  Anything that we love more than Christ and others needs to go.  So maybe these statues need to go if for no other reason than they seem to be our "high places".

     Have we lost our eternal perspective when it comes to the right and the left?  Have we forgotten God's definition of "great" (Mark 10:43)?  Would we really stand with Daniel and his friends and refuse to bow down to the statue with all the othersPlacing ourselves in the parable of the good Samaritan, do we think we're revealing that we would indeed be the one to prove to be a neighbor?  Or are we walking right by the broken and wounded to continue our own agenda? Are we confusing compassion for compromise?  Imposing godless qualifications for empathy?

  When we pray "Your Kingdom come" to our Father, know this- that is praying for these statues to go.  That is praying for the confederate flags to go.  Not just because they represent things that are oppositional to His ways, but because when His Kingdom comes all of America goes.  We are citizens of heaven; even now, we are exiles here in this strange land (1 Peter 2:11).  And it's fine to be a patriotic American, but we must, we must, we must be Christians first and foremost. 

  Have these statues become an idol to you?  Has your love of the right become an idol to you?  Has your hatred for the left become an idol to you?  Do pride and politics need to take a back seat in your worldview?  Do we love the right so much that we're willing to forfeit our souls on the altar of hating the left?

  Maybe we've buried our heads in sinking sand, and that's why we're landing where we are.  Or maybe we've misplaced our hope, and that's why we're fighting the way we are.  Whatever the cause for our misconceptions and indiscretions, it's time to tear down the high places. 

  When His Kingdom does come, it will be with a question:  How did you treat the least of these?  Because that is how you treated Him (Matthew 25:31-46).  And when He asks you that question it will do no good to say "But the left..." or to wax eloquently about statues. 

  This country needs true revival.  But it doesn't need more politics for revival to come.  It needs something different.  Something pointing up, instead of left or right.

Monday, June 13, 2016

To the anti-gun-control American, on the day after the worst mass shooting in American histroy.

  Yesterday was the worst mass shooting in American history.  And today I feel heavy from it.  I'm sure you do, too.

We are reacting differently today though, in part.

I feel baffled, frustrated, and a deep angst over our lack of gun control laws- a lack that allows a wife-beating man who had been investigated twice by the FBI, to legally buy an AR-15 and a handgun a week ago, which he used to commit this horrendous act of evil.

I cannot speak fully for how you feel- but I'm guessing it has to do with feeling threatened- threatened that your guns and rights to those guns could be taken away.  I'm guessing you also feel blamed in a round-about away.  So along those lines, I'd add that you seem to feel defensive.

And so we see that in the posts and memes defending guns and gun rights; that lash out against our president and fellow Americans that are calling for more gun control.

Well, I am one of those calling for more gun control. 

And I propose this, in love, and in hopes that this could cause some pause for our bleeding nation:

If, on the day after the worst mass shooting in American history, you are unable and unwilling to even pause and reconsider our gun control laws, then I suggest one of two things may be going on for you:  1.  You are ill-informed.    2.  Guns and the right to those guns have become an area of idolatry for you.

Before you jump to defense, I ask a favor of you- would you please, truly, be willing to hear me out (note: not just read in anger while simultaneously mentally forming your retorts) and give this some heart consideration?

1.  Maybe you are ill-informed:  

Perhaps you do not realize how loose our gun control measures are currently; and maybe when you hear "gun control" you interpret it as "take all of our guns away".  Maybe you don't understand that one of the things that is often meant by "control" is a desire to require background checks on purchasers of guns.  Maybe you didn't know it was possible to legally buy a gun WITHOUT a background check, and yet it easily is:

  Another aspect that is often meant by "gun control" is that we don't think criminals should be allowed to have guns legally.  But since you may be ill-informed, maybe you thought criminals can't have guns legally.  But, they often can.  Not to mention the criminals that can easily buy a gun without ever revealing their past- because again, background checks are easily avoided.

  Mental health would be another area that the "control" seeks to come into play more.  And while I could keep explaining all of these actual aspects of "gun control", perhaps it would benefit you to read our President's actual proposals here.

  If you've read the President's proposal, then we should be able to agree on this: unless you have something to hide, I do not know why these areas of gun control would threaten you so much.

  Another area you may be ill-informed in, is the success that other countries have had in implementing stricter gun control.  You can read in-depth about that here.  Results speak for themselves.

  Lastly, maybe you are ill-informed because you have bought into some simple, shallow quip from social media.   Sayings like:

   ~ "The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."  Actually, as we saw recently, a good guy who can tackle well can stop a bad guy with a gun.  This statement actually has several other weak points to it; and if you're a Christian you should recognize the biblical principal that there is actually no one who is a good guy (Romans 3:10).

  ~  Social media will tell you guns aren't the problem, the people (the bad guys, ISIS, etc.) are the problem.  But if it's true that people are so evil and capable of such horrors, then why wouldn't we want more restrictions in place to prevent them from being equipped to perform such evils?

  ~  Social media quips often give a false sense of safety to those who own guns.  Sayings along the lines of "being armed will make the bad guy think twice", and that assure us that carrying guns will reduce our risk of being shot.  For one, if being armed will deter such violence, then why are we the most privately armed nation, and yet have the highest cases of gun violence?  As good ol' Dr. Phil would say, how's it working for us?  Also, please remember:  if you are ever in a situation where you need to use your gun, the chances are rather high that you will be unable to.  When we are in emergency situations, our ability to think and reason go way down.  I'm trained in CPR and even also have interpreted a CPR class separately from the one I took.  I know it- well.  When my son fell and hit his head and was unconscious a few months ago, I couldn't even remember "check for breathing" as the first step.  I froze.  Which is what our brains naturally do under such stress and shock.  Police officers go through rigorous, continual training specifically on using their weapons when in duress.  Don't think just because you took one class, you can suddenly be the hero in a mass shooting.  Even if Facebook told you so. 

  ~ Other quips on social media tell us that bad guys will find other ways to kill people apart from guns if their guns are taken away.  This follows the same type of "surrender" thinking as "criminals don't follow laws anyways".  But if we are driven by that type of thinking, we could refute every law we have.  Because bad guys will be bad guys shouldn't mean we give up on restricting them or their weapons.  See more on the link below.

  ~ Going along with the above, social media can insist that with more gun laws only the good guys will be punished.  But if you're a so-called good guy, none of the proposed gun laws should restrict your gun use.  For more on this point and the one above, please read this.

  ~  "No guns, know fear; know guns, no fear" is another meme I've seen.  This one actually leads nicely to my second main point though, since it has to do with idolatry...

2.  Maybe guns and your gun rights have become an area of idolatry:

  "No guns, know fear; know guns, no fear" is a blatantly idolatrous statement.  Our hope is to be in Christ alone, and just because we don't have a specific weapon does not mean we must live in fear and doom (and of course this statement ignores the great level of RISK that is included with gun possession).

 But is this actually the heart issue here?  John Piper wrote about Christians and bearing arms and addressed this more deeply than I will here.  He pointed out that if our hope is so deeply connected to our guns, then our hope is not in the right place.  He made a lot of great points about our heart in this area, so I encourage you greatly to read his post.  Ironically, a lot of fellow "Christians" wrote unimaginably hateful things to him because of this article.  Newsflash:  if someone ELSE not being all pro-gun-love causes you to act in hate to that person, then your guns are an idol.

 Where is your hope?  What is your trust in?  Are you primarily motivated by fear?  Does the idea of gun control make you act hateful to others or to your government?  Do you have respect for other aspects of self-defense, or are guns "the way"?  Do you seek to "evangelize" others and get them on the gun bandwagon?  Are you offended by others who aren't gun-lovers?  Are you placing a greater value on guns then you should be?  Do guns hold more worth to you then is spiritually healthy?  Do you value and invest in your earthly weapons more than your spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6:10-18)?

Only you can answer these questions.  But I think these are timely questions to ask.  It is possible that guns and your rights to guns have become an area of idolatry to you; and maybe that is why the day after our largest mass shooting, you may be clinging to them tighter than ever.

If you've read this far, I sincerely thank you.  This isn't my full philosophy on guns by any means.  I simply am hoping to cause some pause and awareness on this area.  It's more complicated than you or I can understand.  But our heart postures should be one of humility and willingness to change if we can better protect our fellow Americans.  It starts by asking ourselves tough questions.  To be willing to open our mind in humility.  Maybe, in the end, our answers will be the same.  But there is honor in pausing and asking the questions.  At this point in American history, it would be foolish to not do so.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Mine, Mine, Mine!

  There's a book my 3-year-old has called The Mine-O-Saur about a selfish dinosaur who goes about taking everything from everyone and declaring it all "Mine!".  As the day for him goes on, exclamations of "Mine, mine, mine!" result in no friends, no fun, and eventually a changed dino.

  A cute story (though reading it a zillion times does get old... *if I have to make that whiny dino voice one more time...*), and a good lesson.  A lesson that is timely in our house as said 3-year-old and the 1-year-old are finally interacting a lot.  It's so precious when they're playing together, to hear their happy voices and see their pleasant faces enjoying their brotherhood.  But with such sweet moments inevitably come squalls of anger, fits of fighting, and shouts of "Mine!!"

  Ah, being a mom does also mean being a referee now, doesn't it :-)

  Dinos and toddlers may fit the mold of "Mine, mine, mine!" but sadly, doesn't our adulthood frequently look this way as well?

  Scroll through Facebook, and though we may not come out and say it anymore, how much of our themes are stemming from this declaration of "Mine!"?  Look at our daily lives, our interactions (or lack of), our hopes and dreams- isn't it often more tactful and hidden versions of "Mine, mine, mine!"?

  We certainly live in easy and tough times.  It's a rough combination-  the luxuries of this land and first world "problems" make us used to and expectant of high standards of comfort and ease.  The rocky terrain of our humanity, culture, and politics leaves us jarred from this comfortableness, and too often we sadly react with stomped feet and shouts of MINE!

  Our political views...  Guns- MINE!  Rights- MINE!  The constitution- MINE!  This country- MINE!  Morals- MINE! 

  And our personal lives... Jobs- MINE! Promotion- MINE!  Money- MINE!  Health- MINE!  Houses- MINE! 

  And, regretfully... I hear my own cries of mine... The kids won't nap? Free time- MINE!  The house is messed up again?  Clean house- MINE!  Up in the night with the kids for the 8 millionth time? Sleep- MINE! Not enough time in a day? To-do list- MINE!

  We are a stressed group, a selfish group, and goodness, how often they go hand in hand.

  This is what God's been teaching me lately.

  I am convinced that the more we could embrace the doctrine that all is HIS and nothing is MINE... well, peace that passes all understanding can be ours indeed.

  When everything is MINE then we always feel threatened, closing our tight fists tighter, trying to hold on in panic- mine, mine, mine!

  When everything is MINE then everyone is a threat to these possessions of ours- and so people become the enemy. 

     The government becomes the enemy because they're trying to take MY rights/values/things away.

     The husband becomes the enemy because he messed up MY clean house again.

     The children are the enemy because they're interrupting MY time again.

     The boss is the enemy because he didn't notice MY hard work again.

  When everything is mine than we live in a constant state of panic and possessiveness, acting crazy as that little dino clamoring and hoarding and defending- MINE, MINE, MINE!


  When everything is GOD'S and nothing is mine then we are freed from the burden of such sin and selfishness.  Closed-fists loosen and become God-intended open-hands.  The reaction of "Mine!" is replaced with the praise of "HIS!".  We no longer feel threatened, because we know all is God's anyway- nothing can be taken from me that wasn't mine in the first place.  And so we see ourselves in the Biblical view- being worthy of nothing but damnation.  Instead of demanding MINE, we can fall to our knees in awe at the blessings and gifts we have that we are so unworthy of.

  The understanding- true, deep, soul-understanding (we tend to have the head-knowledge down!) that everything is God's and nothing is mine will silence our shouts, nullify our nerves, and pacify our panic.

  We do not follow a faith that is easy, dear ones.  It is easy to shout "Mine!"  It is easy to close our fists and stomp our feet and make our demands!  But our faith does not call us to this.  Our faith calls us to give our coat to the one who takes our shirt (Matthew 5:40) and to take up our CROSS and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24).  And our faith promises us that if we try to save our life (mine, mine, mine!) we will surely lose it (Matthew 16:25).  Let us relinquish our imagined control over our lives and our environments and rest in the control that is God's alone (Psalm 24:1).

  And if we are to declare "Mine!" may we freely, thankfully, joyfully, claim this of our salvation and our call- and may the possessiveness of these cause us to surrender our perceived but pseudo possession of what on earth we could temporarily declare as "Mine, mine, mine!"


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sorry, Matt... not this time.

   So, it's been a loooong time since I blogged here, and ironically my last blog was similar as today's.  A response-type blog to another blog that was hailing conservatively-styled worship as superior to contemporary-styled worship.  So, all that to say, sorry for the redundancy ;-)  But, quite frankly, this is an area I'm pretty passionate about.  And sometimes with that passion comes a need to write.  Also, please know this blog is not a comprehensive explanation of my point of view on worship, or even my comprehensive view of the blog I'm responding to.  These are just some of my thoughts and views that are on my mind and heart, as best written as my sleep-deprived mommy-brain is capable of right now- during the kids' nap time- yeah, this definitely will not be comprehensive.  ;-)

I more often than not agree with Matt Walsh's blog posts, but there are those times I definitely don't.  His latest blog would be one of those "don'ts" for me.

To me, this blog came across as just another "curse-those-evil-contemporary-churches-that-are-to-blame-for-everything-bad" post.  Maybe it's just his style of writing that got the better of him this time?  Or maybe that really is how he would sum it up?

I mean, he does say, "I recently attended a service that might help solve the riddle of the fantastic decline of American Christianity..." as well as, "And this is the problem with Christianity in this country. Not just inside our church buildings, but everywhere."  And more bluntly, "The light of the Faith grows dimmer in this culture because of that church service I attended. Not specifically that one, but that kind of service. And not just that kind of service, but that kind of Christianity, generally." "If we want to understand why Christianity is not out winning souls and conquering the culture, look there."

Well, I guess I didn't misunderstand him then.

This "kind of service" Matt talks about was so horrible because:
1-  it was "relaxed"
2- it was "convenient"
3- it was "comfortable"
4- "the choir members dressed in shorts and flip flops"
5- "there were a bunch of acoustic guitars and drums and tambourines and a keyboard."
6- "Before the service/concert began, some guy came out to rev up the crowd."
7- it was noisy and had sounds and lights.
8- there was a "jam band for Jesus, or whatever it was" who played a song that wasn't traditional.
9- the pastor used a lot of trendy quips/metaphors/etc.
10- the specific words “truth,” “sacred,” “reverence,” “sin,” “hell,” “virtue,” “obedience,” and “duty” were not used in the sermon; but the words "friend" "help" and "tolerance" were used. "Gospel" was only used maybe only once (apparently Matt's counting abilities were hard to keep up with with all the list-making of words).
11- There wasn't "any semblance of an insight, a challenge, a truth, a call to action, or a point", according to Matt.
12- There were empty seats and disinterested yawns from the attendees.

That folks, that is the list as Matt himself says, of this church service, that apparently with one visit and this list, has made Matt discover the secret to why Christianity in America is dying.

Whoa, whoa, whoa... let's back this truck up, shall we?

The only things on this list I see as potential red flags are 10 and 11.  And quite frankly, I'd have to hear more than one sermon from this one pastor to know if he really was as shallow as I thought.  I'd also be a little hesitant to know if Matt was so totally closed-minded from the open-toed shoes that maybe this sermon wasn't as awful as he thought?

In the blog, Matt talks about how often Christians are accepting homosexuality and abortion- I TOTALLY agree that this is a problem and this is wrong. But that wasn't what happened in this God-forsaken church service.  Matt doesn't say, "Wow I went to this church service that promoted abortion and accepted homosexuality.  This is what's wrong with Christianity today."  He talks later about the dangers of the prosperity gospel and not believing in hell.  But he doesn't even say, "This church service taught there is no hell.  This church preaches the prosperity gospel."  No, he doesn't say that.

It's guitars.
It's flip-flops.
It's lights.


Look through that list again and see how much of it is style.  How much is preference.  How much is taste.

Obviously Matt has a bias against contemporary-styled services, and I get it.

I do.

Because I struggle with the same feeling of bias against conservatively-styled services.

I've seen the ugly side of suits.  I've experienced the hypocrisy of hymn-sings.  I know the terror of tradition.

Don't think I don't understand bias.  When I visit a church that's traditional, that has hymn books and dress codes and and organs, I have to check my own prejudice.  Because I know those things don't equal hypocrisy, even if in my past they often have.  I know those things don't equal holier-than-though, even if I've seen that tendency. I know that suits don't always mean secrets and dresses don't always mean proud and rules don't always mean legalism.

Even if that's the baggage I tend to carry.

I put the baggage down, and open up my mind, and work to put aside my bias, and I say to myself "This style maybe isn't for me, and yes there are hypocrites out there, but maybe this is sincere and this is worship too and I'm so glad we all worship differently and give our God glory through our eclecticism."

Matt couldn't put his baggage down.  He saw guitars and his mind went to abortion.  He saw flip-flops and thought prosperity gospel.  The sermon was lacking in his mind, so he assumed shallow.  No benefit of a doubt.  No give it another chance.  No grace.

He did worse than this though.

He wrote about it.  He publicly took his baggage and bias and handed out free samples to countless readers he has.

Matt even decides to sit in the judgment seat itself, saying "And what happens when you don’t factor these Convenientists — members of the Church of Convenience, proponents of Convenientism — into the equation at all? Are we still at 70 percent? Not hardly. What’s the real number? Forty percent? Thirty? Ten?" (These Convenientism followers are apparently anyone from someone who wears shorts to church to baby murderers, mind you).  I think this part of Matt's blog angered me and hurt me the most.  So we are to ponder who may not really make it into the Kingdom?  And Matt thinks he can figure that out?  Let me tell you, I look at the guy who wears a suit every week and goes through every motion perfectly and can be tempted to wonder the same thing.  But I stop my mind from going there, from pretending to judge someone's soul and assume to know what's really going on because of my prejudice.  Yeah, 70% Christian isn't really an accurate number; but we don't know that because someone's wearing different clothes than we like or worshiping with different music than we'd prefer.  We know that because Scripture tells us that many call him Lord but don't truly know our Father (Matt. 7:21-23).  Only God knows who really knows His name and who's simply calling him Lord.  Let's let Him alone decide who that is.

He makes another assumptive and judgmental comment when he says about the worship leader, "I got the impression that he was fishing for applause, not worshiping the Lord of the Universe."  Matt, I sure hope you went and talked to this guy if you have such a concern, as is the biblical principle (Matt. 18:15); because for you to have that kind of thought obviously showed your concern over his heart condition.  That concern better have led you to a one on one conversation with the man.  Writing that for the whole world to see is the type of gossip and criticism that we definitely do NOT need in the church today.  I know a lot of worship singers/leaders Matt would probably say the same type of comment about, and let me tell you, I know first-hand how untrue it would be.  Maybe he really was worshiping the Lord of the Universe.  How dare we judge that.

Our traditional, American church is great.  It's a wonderful option.  But guess what it isn't:  the standard.  It's not the standard of church; it's not the standard of Christianity.  It's not what was in the New Testament and it's not what's in most of the world today.  Let's get out of our bubble and realize this.  Let's stop pointing our fingers at other churches and realize the incredible danger that kind of disunity is for Kingdom work.  Yes, let's hold to our Truths- I totally agree with Matt on that.  Let's hold to our doctrine, hold to our depth, not compromising the core issues.  Let's resist the Joel Osteens and the Joyce Meyers and anyone else who spreads heresy.  But different styles does not equal heresy.

And comfortable does not equal pro-abortion and contemporary does not equal pro-gay-marriage.  How offensive of an equation.

A couple weeks ago, my church (which I adore; it's SO Christ-centered, gospel-focused, and deep in doctrine and discipleship) had an outdoor service with 14 baptisms.  Pretty much everyone was in shorts and flip-flops.  There were guitars, drums, a keyboard, etc.  It was relaxed.  It was comfortable.  It was convenient. It was noisy.  It was jammed-up.  Matt would have decided we were all pro-abortion and support gay-marriage.

That makes me sick, because that is so far from the truth.

Of the baptisms, several were women from a local recovery ministry our church works with. These women announced how long they'd been clean, explained their salvation story, and we all celebrated the power of the cross and the chains that Jesus breaks.  When the women gave their testimonies, the rest of the women with them in the crowd cheered LOUDLY and danced and cried. It was beautiful.  Far from traditional.

Matt wants us to be quieter?  The leaders shouldn't rev-up the crowd?  But he also talks about how exciting our beliefs are?  Exactly!  It is exciting!  Hence the cheering!! Hence the applause!  Hence the loud music!  Sure, maybe some churches are doing those things for show, doing them to get attention, doing them for the wrong reasons.  WE CAN'T JUDGE THAT.  Because maybe they're NOT.  Maybe they're just passionate about Jesus and serious about their faith and it looks DIFFERENT in different people!

We are so petrified of compromise that we are petrified of being different.

It is a SHAME that so many "Christians" have claimed the prosperity gospel; that they would dare support abortion; that they are pro-gay-marriage.  I get it!  That's scary!  But let's not make that more than it is!

Matt says church shouldn't be comfortable.  Well, wasn't he uncomfortable at that church service he went to? Don't shorts, flips-flops, guitars, make him uncomfortable?  C'mon.  What are we really saying here?

It's okay Matt doesn't like that style of church- that kind of dress from leaders- those kinds of instruments.  BUT LEAVE IT AT THAT, MATT.  Ok, it's not for you!  Fine!  It IS for someone else!  And that's okay!  That doesn't equal compromise!  Plently of conservative churches are full of fluff too!  We can't judge these things so simply!

Um, and empty seats and disinterested yawns?  That's one of the bad things at this church?  We shouldn't be too cool and fun and interesting, but we can't be boring either?  What is is then? I mean, empty seats and yawns describes a lot (all??) of auditoriums of all kinds.  We don't base our worship and preaching on how people will react though, right?  Right??

So I guess the contemporary church just can't win.  At least it can't win with people like Matt.  We're too cool, but too boring, too this, too that.  And so Satan has distracted us from what really matters and it's no longer Kingdom work and there's no unity and what gospel?  And we're pretty much fighting over carpet color again.

I guess according to Matt church should be uptight; inconvenient; uncomfortable; have a dress-code for the choir; have no instruments; have leaders that don't make the crowd feel excited to be there; shouldn't be noisy or have lots of lights; the pastor shouldn't make jokes or current references...

Hmm... sounds to me like that could cause a decline of Christianity in America.

"Oh, cmon... you know what he really means", you're thinking.  Yes, I do.  Do you?

Tomorrow a lot of us, as we are the Church, are going to our church buildings.  "There are still plenty of Christians who desire the true faith," Matt says.  Yes, there are.  And as we desire that, we will find ourselves tomorrow seeking and following in that faith, and we will land in different places.  Some will land in churches as casual and contemporary as the one Matt visited.  Some will land in ones as traditional and conservative as the one he hails.  I will land at one that's in the middle of the two ends of the spectrum.  And in our different places, we can all do just what Matt desires: praise the Rock; be trained for war; change our behavior.

Sure, sadly there will be some in casual clothes sitting in casual churches trying to have a casual faith; there will be some dressed up in "church clothes" and holding hymnals who are full of hypocrisy.

But there will be those in casual clothes in casual churches who are dead serious about their faith.  There will be those who dress up because that's how they want to show God respect.

And so let's not worry about "them".  Let's worry about the true false teachers.  Let's worry about the real Enemy.  But most of all, let's worry about our own selves.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hymnals, Screens, and Battles.


So this blog has been flying through my newsfeed lately.

I hate doing that.  I hate "having to" share the link of whatever it is I obviously disagree with, because then it gets more page views, more publicity, more attention; but I'm also not going to argue something without giving it the fair chance to speak for itself here.

I digress.

I knew by the title, "15 Reasons Why We Should Still Be Using Hymnals" that there was a 99.9% chance that I would not agree with it, and a 99.9% chance that it would even raise my blood pressure.

But, curiosity got the best of me- or was it that I was even going to give it a fair shot?  A bit of open-mindedness on my end for that .1%?

Well, that was foolish of me.

I've read similar blogs before, of course, and while the conservative-picking-on-contemporary mantra always bothers me, I normally just avoid comment reading, click out, and move on.

I don't know exactly why this one got under my skin so much.

So much, of course, that I just had to blog;)

I think it's because this one, while it still made me mad, made me more sad.

While it still got my blood pressure up, it got my prayers up more.

And while it angered me, it mostly hurt me.

I mean it really hurt me.

Dramatic?  Maybe.  But let me explain.

I will later on give some points refuting some of his, and in defense of the evil-screens.  But I'm not going to go on here about my 15 or 20 or 4 or however many reasons I could give that singing to songs that are on screens is "better".  I won't go through point-by-point of all 15 of his trying to tear each one down.

Because that's the whole part of this blog that hurts me so much.  The "better-than" mentality.  The tearing down.

It's not "15 Reasons Why Hymnals are Valid Choices for Today's Church's".  It's not "15 Reasons Why I Choose to Use a Hymnal".  It's not "15 Reasons Why You Might Consider Using a Hymnal Instead of a Screen".

It's "15 Reasons WHY WE SHOULD Still Be Using Hymnals".

And that really is the point of the blog.  Why hymnals are good and screens are bad.

It always has to be a right and wrong issue, doesn't it?  It always has to be a moral area.  It always has to be a matter of one being better than, one being the right way, and one being less-than, one being the wrong way.  And of course the people that throw this black and white paint over grey areas and areas of personal preference and freedom are the ones "in the right" and "better" position.  How handy.

A few more specific points:

I'm shocked at how much of this blog, that is apparently arguing the greater worth of hymnals and the detriment of screens, focuses on things that are personal comfort/preference and tuned (no pun inteded, har har!:) ) towards the musically inclined.  I mean, again if this was a "Why I prefer Hymnals" blog or a "Some Really Neat Aspects of Hymnals" post, then swell!  That's great to point out how all the notes are visible for those who want to sing parts (and can't by ear, I'll add) or how holding a book helps you pay attention.  Super!  But again, that's not at all the point of this blog.  The point of this blog is to say why hymnals are the RIGHT choice for a church to make, the more worshipful choice, and the superior choice.  If I'm going to read an argument from someone on why their choices in worship are more godly than mine, than I would expect, as I did, to read more biblical arguments and say, maybe even discuss the glory of God once in a while.  Even under the heading "Symbolic/Theological" in which he has 8 points, there is really only one that is "theological" and that one basically says "hymnals are theological textbooks."  The rest of the points are all symbolic, and preference and/or could be done just as well on a screen (I mean really, the point that hymnals can introduce us to new songs?  Us screen-users have been getting flack for that for plenty of time;)  Don't pick on us for singing all our shallow, unfamiliar songs that are scarily new and then not give us credit for singing new songs;)).  Unless I'm missing something, I'm also seeing NO Scripture references used in his "arguments" for why hymns are so much better theologically.  Because really, he's not saying that.  He's not even trying to.

He's saying that he likes hymnals.  That it works for him, and he sees a lot of good aspects in them.  But instead of being able to just say that, and leave it at that, it has to be a "Why I worship the right way and you don't" message.

He even goes so far as to call out and criticize Second Baptist Church in Houston (as seen in the picture at the top), who after a HURRICANE had to remodel and put up screens.  He criticizes them for "not preserving the distinctively theological and sacred space" in his added comments at the end of the blog, and in the blog calls it a "visual nightmare".  He clarifies that this is indeed a "theological issue".  And I've yet to hear a theological argument explained or verse given.  But hey, let's call out a whole church anyways, no matter how much they love Jesus and are striving towards Kingdom work.  I mean, their screens are ugly, so of course it's a theological issue and they should be publicly criticized, right?

I joked before about the point of new songs- something I've heard criticized of contemporary church's a few times, yet here used against them because of their ugly screens that apparently can't portray new songs.  Another irony of his I nearly chuckled at if it weren't so sad, is #2 under "Musical", "Hymnals Set a Performance Standard".  Performance.  Again, something often criticized of contemporary churches- that they're too "performance"-like and driven.  Yet here, it is the golden standard that the hymnal provides us with.  He criticizes contemporary worship for leaving the congregation to "individual interpretation" of how to sing the song- instead of singing like a choir basically, as he goes on to explain how hymnals "fix that" showing us how the song is "supposed to go".  Give me the individual freedom to sing to God how I want any day over feeling like I'm in a choir when I'm not and have to follow the song exactly as it's notated.  Let me harmonize as I want and can.  Let me hold out a note, or cut one short as I am LOST in praising Him and not worrying about following a musical script.  Let me WORSHIP.

Just a few more points and I promise I'll wrap it up;)

Shocking as this will be (ha! Where do I get these jokes?;)) I am currently in a contemporary church that uses screens for the songs.  They have one entire screen dedicated to Scripture that corresponds to the songs.  Sort of like a theological textbook;)  Several days before the Sunday service, the church emails all the songs that will be sung with links to listen to, so that we have access and can be prepared to sing as well, (as he makes clear is important under his #2 point under Practical.  Though I would word the importance of this MUCH differently than he would.  Again, not as "choir-performance" geared, but so I can participate fully in worship.)

I prefer the songs to be on screens. May I share why?  Not why screens are better or more "right", but just why I prefer it:

~I don't like holding a hymnal.  Has anyone ever dropped a hymnal in church before?  You'll never forget it;)  Holding a hymnal for me is distracting (more than any screen is to me, contrary to his Sympbolic #3 point).
~ Hymnals do "screw things up" (contrary to his Practical #3 point): They have typos.  Sometimes, as understandably over time, the pages are just nasty.  Dirty, sneezed on once too many times, colored on even.  And yes, ripped out at times. 
~I'm a hand-raiser, and a clapper (both EXTREMELY Biblical practices), so having my hands hymnal-free to worship is a huge blessing.

I've been in a LOT of churches.  I've been in churches that use hymnals that sing their souls out praising God and are so Spirit-filled it could make the earth quake.  I've been in churches that use screens that no one seems to care, and no one's  hardly singing.  I know screens don't equal quality worship and hymnals don't equal boring.

I also know that screens don't equal shallow and hymnals don't equal correct worship.

Because these are things.  Things.  Not right and wrong.  Not doctrine.  They're tools.  They're preference.  They're really the same thing, conduits to help us bring praise and worship of song to our Almighty.  They're both great tools.  Wonderful gifts.  Some of us like screens.  Some like hymnals.

They're things.  Tools.  Not battle lines.

Can we please, please stop picking on and judging each other over modes of worship?  WORSHIP.  Have we really forgotten what it's all for?  What it's supposed to be about?

Is it too late to remember?