Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

I've recently begun studying the fruit of the spirit (as listed in Galatians 5), so I thought I'd start a series on it on this blog. We will make it through this topic(eventually), but I'm not guaranteeing to be finished by a certain day or time or even stay on topic on a consistent basis. I'm sure I'll blog about a lot of other things in between the discussing the fruit, but we will get through it!

I feel it's important to re-visit this very familiar topic because of my own personal shortcomings. I personally could use more development (and maturity) of my own particular 'fruit' - a lesson I clearly learned during my bus ride to work last week.

I take the bus every day to work. So, every morning, I rush to get ready, get in my car and head out to the bus terminal, where I leave my car for the day.

Well, I got on the bus one day last week and had pleasantly settled into my seat. I had an empty seat next to me, so I got a little more comfortable than I normally would have (my body language normally resembles an uptight effigy - arms tightly glued to sides or crossed in front of me, feet close together, firmly in my own space). So, just as I hit my optimal state of relaxation (or as relaxed as it gets on public transportation), the bus stops to pick up someone else and the woman who got on sat down right in the empty seat next to me! Or, I should say, right next to me and partly on top of me!

She was an older woman (which should have made me feel more forgiving, but had the exact opposite effect), so she stumbled a bit in reaching her seat, and leaned heavily against me as she regained her balance. This caused me to promptly draw myself together, hoping to silently encourage her to do the same. But, no such luck! She was comfortably sprawled in her seat, in part of mine and definitely on top of my coat.

And then the ride began. We hit every bump, turn and curve in tandem, as she stayed glued to my side. Any sharp left-hand turns (and there were several) meant she was comfortably cushioned against my resistant side. Every bump meant she had to re-straighten her bags, her arms, her legs, her whatever. She never seemed to get properly braced, instead seeming to rely on me (and the person on the other side of her) to help her get through the rough places on the ride.

By the time she got off, I was silently blessing her out, muttering things about 'old people' under my breath and giving her the evil eye as I vowed to be on the lookout for her the next day so that I would not have to suffer such indignities and abuse of my person.

It took several moments after she left for me to 'remember' I was a Christian. And then, of course, I was appalled at myself! Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day trying to get it together and vowed to do better with my 'love' walk, among other things.

So here we are today.

And now, on to our study!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the 'fruit' of the Spirit, these are attributes or qualities we should display as Christians. They are virtues that every Christian should try to attain through time, practice and under the guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit (because you cannot do it alone!). As with most things Biblical, developing more 'fruit' is a spiritual exercise, and should not be confused with positive thinking, positive affirmations or mental gymnastics of any kind. It is not based on your thoughts or your emotions - but it is a lesson learned directly from the Holy Spirit to your own spirit. (Maybe that's why it's so hard to develop them sometimes!)

So that's what it is meant by 'fruit' of the Spirit. And what are these 'fruit'? They can be found in Galatians 5 and are: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control. Sounds fun already!

Love, however, is the most important of these fruit. As a matter of fact, love is so important, there is an entire chapter devoted to it! (And I know you already know it, if you've attended any wedding in the last decade.) It can be found in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13. It, reads, in part:
1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.

2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

3 And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

4 Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5 doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil;

6 rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth;

7 beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8 Love never faileth:

And, if you didn't gather just how very important love is from the above verses, this chapter ends by saying:
1Co 13:13 But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

So, there you have it: we absolutely, positively must have love. And not just any kind of love. Strong's Concordance defines the type of love mentioned here as 'agape' love - which is far, far from the type of love we normally show to each other. Agape love is the type of love that God shows to us - unconditional, unwavering and selfless.

So, we are not only to love each other, but to show the type of love that God shows us to other people, too! Wow. That's deep. (And far, far from what I felt towards that poor woman on the bus!)

So that's our lesson for today - love others with the same love that God has shown us.

(Please feel free to add any other hints, tips or advice to this series. Anything we can say to help each other in our walk is always good and useful information.)

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Barber Shop: About Fatherhood

T.H., over at The Barber Shop did a great post about a week ago called 'About Fatherhood'. I found it personally to be very inspiring and encouraging to hear a man talk about the joys of fatherhood. With the prevalence of DNA testing being done on talk shows to determine if some (very reluctant) man is the father of someone else's child, and men banding together to see if they can establish parental rights as strong as a woman's (i.e., not have to legally support their children if they were not in favor of him or her being born), it's refreshing to see a brother who feels that fatherhood is both a blessing and a privilege. Here is an excerpt from T.H.'s article.

I'm a proud father of two baby boys, an almost three-year-old and a one-year-old. Prior to becoming a dad I was kind of indifferent about having kids, because my dad was very distant when I was a kid so I guess I looked at children as being a burden to some extent.

In our popular culture a lot of brothers equate freedom and the "good life" to having little or no responsibilities. We're taught to fear being tied down by anything, be it marriage, children, or too much hard work. Words like commitment, discipline, and responsibility have a subtle negative burdensome connotation to them, so even when we embrace some of these situations it's often with a hint of mourning for our lost freedoms.

To read the entire article, visit here: The Barber Shop: About Fatherhood

Thank you, T.H., for a beautiful article.

12 Things the Negro Must Do For Himself

I don't know if you all have seen this before, but Nannie Helen Burroughs wrote an essay in the early 1900s that is eerily relevant to today's society. See for yourself:

12 Things the Negro Must Do For Himself


1. The Negro Must Learn To Put First Things First. The First Things Are: Education; Development of Character Traits; A Trade and Home Ownership.

2. The Negro Must Stop Expecting God and White Folk To Do For Him What He Can Do For Himself.

3. The Negro Must Keep Himself, His Children And His Home Clean And Make The Surroundings In Which He Lives Comfortable and Attractive.

4. The Negro Must Learn To Dress More Appropriately For Work And For Leisure.

5. The Negro Must Make His Religion An Everyday Practice And Not Just A Sunday-Go-To-Meeting Emotional Affair.

6. The Negro Must Highly Resolve To Wipe Out Mass Ignorance.

7. The Negro Must Stop Charging His Failures Up To His "Color" And To White People's Attitude.

8. The Negro Must Overcome His Bad Job Habits.

9. He Must Improve His Conduct In Public Places.

10. The Negro Must Learn How To Operate Business For People--Not For Negro People, Only.

11. The Average So-Called Educated Negro Will Have To Come Down Out Of The Air. He Is Too Inflated Over Nothing. He Needs An Experience Similar To The One That Ezekiel Had--(Ezekiel 3:14-19). And He Must Do What Ezekiel Did

12. The Negro Must Stop Forgetting His Friends. "Remember."

The entire essay can be read here

Isn't it fascinating? And this essay was written around 100 years ago!
And as tempted as I am, I will not take this as an opportunity to put Black folks down. If any of the above applies to you - then you are responsible for dealing with it. And, if it doesn't, it is your responsibility to help others around you to put those things behind them.

We have a long way to go, but, God willing, we will get there.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

The Myth of the Strong Black Woman

It's something my women friends and I talk about a lot. At dinner, running around, walking for exercise, or whatever. We are motivated, we are energized, we are cooperative and we are connected. Oh, and one more thing: We are TIRED!

Most of my girlfriends are still single. They may have a man, they may not. If they have one, it is a litany of what he is doing, what he is doing wrong, what he could be doing better and how can she continue to put up with this man. Our men are broke, broken down, tied down to two or three baby mammas, used up, tied up, playing games, uncommitted, unrepentant, unsure and timid. If they don't have a man, we talk about how they are making it, what their lives (or children's lives are like), how hard it is to meet a good man, how much easier it is to let their lives revolve around church, etc., etc. Oh, yeah: and we are TIRED!

Tired of having to make it work alone. Tired of being the only ones involved in the raising of our children. Tired of trying to make our relationships work. Tired of going to school so we can better ourselves cuz we darned sure can't depend on a man to take care of us. Tired of striving, tired of fighting, tired of 'keeping it all together', tired of taking care of mama, daddy, baby, boyfriend, sister, brother, nephews and nieces.

I want to talk today about the Myth of the Strong Black Woman.

See, Black women my age were raised with the notion that we'd only have ourselves and our mammas to depend on. A few girlfriends, if we were lucky. Maybe some daddy support every now and then (after mama had straightened him out), but, definitely, not ever, don't ever depend on it - support from our men. Or from society. All we had was ourselves, God, our mammas and each other.

So we built our own support networks, took care of our children, held down jobs, bought our own houses and proceeded to - make do. Make do without a man (or husband), make do without societal support, make do in our churches, accept leadership when they 'allowed' us and to take a back seat when they didn't. Be a good friend to other, similarly situated, woman. Be a good daughter and sister. Be a good mama, and in many cases, a good daddy as well. We made do.

But now we are tired.

I read a poem called The Strong Black Woman is Dead by Laini Mataka. In it, Ms. Mataka speaks about the mythological black woman who is now dead. One excerpt reads:

She died from an overdose
of other people clinging to her
when she didn't even have energy for herself.
She died from loving men who didn't love themselves
and could only offer her a crippled reflection.
She died from raising children alone
and for not being able to do a complete job

Sound like anybody you know? (The complete poem can be read here.)

Another article I read talks about the number of households now being headed by single black woman. It says:

I know the statistics: They say that when my grandmother was born at the turn of the century as few as 10 percent of black households were headed by females; when I was born at mid-century, it had crept to 17 percent; and now it is almost 60 percent. No longer a widow or a divorce as in times past, the single woman with children today probably has never married—and increasingly she is getting younger. By the time she is eighteen, one out of every four black unmarried women has become a mother.

And finally, an excerpt from "Soothe Your Nerves: The Black Woman's Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety, Panic, and Fear" by Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett talks about how black women tend to underplay their stress levels and hold it all in. The author conducted a study of black women where they kept a diary of their day while their heart rate and blood pressure were measured as well. The women never admitted to being stressed out, but their blood pressure and heart rate went up by 15-20 points during the day. An excerpt from the book says:

Interviews indicated that women were aware of their stress level; they were just unwilling to admit it was problematic. Several said to me, "Baby, I don't have time to think about that mess. If I did, I'd be stressed out about everything." Yet taking the time out to acknowledge the stress and do something about it would go a long way toward preventing the development of serious anxiety and the health problems associated with it: chronic upper respiratory infections, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity.

Black women - what are we doing to ourselves? When you get stressed out, how do you handle it? Are you a classic case of 'holding it all in'?

I can only speak for myself - but it sure would be nice to have the family structure be what it used to be. To have loving and supportive dads and husbands. To be connected to each other, with God, with the community. To have a sense of who we are and where we are going. Inter-connected. Bonded. In Unity.

But maybe that's just me.

I know for myself - the days of trying to pretend I have it all together are gone. I am not afraid to ask for help, to show that I am weak, or to depend on others at times to get me through. I am not afraid to admit my complete dependency on God, the helping hands (and strong shoulders) of my girlfriends, the love and support of my family and the consistency and reliability of my man. I need, want and desire all those things to help me make it through.

The image of me as a Strong Black Woman is dead and gone.

How about you?

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

About the Sexual Revolution.......

The sexual revolution happened before I was born. All I know of it was what I saw on TV - women marching, burning their bras and equality being demanded for all women. Equal pay, equal rights and the equal ability to sleep around.

Or, at least, that's how it was portrayed.

I think the sexual revolution and the women's equality movement were beneficial to me in many ways. I appreciate the fact that I am paid as much as my male counterparts. I appreciate the fact that my future daughters can play any sport they want. And I appreciate all the minority government contracts that were set aside for women. (Not to mention my previously obtained rights to vote and to own property.)

But I also think the sexual revolution brought great losses to women.

One of the issues I have with this 'revolution' is the idea that women are now 'equal' in their ability to sleep around. Women of my generation and of the generation preceeding me were told we were free to sleep with whom we wanted. Birth control became widely available and sex was no longer tied to the idea of procreation. Now, we could just have sex for fun. We could be just as sexually adventurous as man, we were told. Live a little. Date. Sleep around. Enjoy yourself. It's your Right.

But they never told us the other side of the coin. That with sexual promiscuity comes a higher level of responsibility. That getting pregnant no longer meant a man would ask you to marry him. Or even stick around. As a matter of fact, abortions were as widely available as birth control, so that was now one of the choices we had to make for ourselves.

They never told us that since sex was no longer tied to procreation, not only would the man not necessarily stick around, but may never even acknowledge his child. Nor would there be anyone to pressure this young (or old) man into being responsible. Women were now solely responsible for themselves and, in many cases, responsible for the welfare and development of their children.

And they never told us that men and women process sex so very differently. That the hormonal and biological interactions that occur during sex cause men to become distant and women to become clingy. The Bible even says that sex is the only sin you do to your own body - and that you are 'joined' with every person you have sex with. The Bible meant that you are joined 'spiritually' - so you connect with every single person you have sex with. And, unless you go through a long period of cleansing and renewal, you will always carry those people around with you in your spirit. For the rest of our lives.

They never told us that.

The other problem I have with the sexual revolution is that I don't think it prepared women to deal with the reality of being 'equal' to men. Yes, we could join the work force, and no longer had to stay home to raise the kids, but we also lost quite a bit. Because we said that a woman has no set place, we now don't seem to know who we are or where we belong. Most women (myself included) love going to work every day and making a living, but when it comes to the idea of marriage and the 'equal' roles that I am told I should want - I am left at a loss. So now I don't have to cook, clean or be a full-time mom. But, what if I want to do those things? Does that make me any less a 'liberated' woman? (I am often struck not by how many women work these days, but how many women still choose to stay home and be full-time moms. College-educated, smart, work-oriented women. And studies show that women still do the majority of the household and child-raising duties. So, what did we really gain? A new expectation that not only would we work full-time, but that we would do the majority of the household chores and still do most of the child-rearing.)

The Bible admonishes me to be submissive and humble as a wife. To respect my husband and to serve him as I serve the Lord. Society tells me to be equal to my husband (or even to be dominant in the relationship) and to demand my 'rights'. Who's right?

I can tell you this for sure - I do want my rights in my future marriage. I want my 'right' to have a husband who loves me as much as he loves himself. I want my 'right' to have my husband minister to me spiritually and emotionally. And I want my 'right' to have a husband who will do what he needs to do to support our combined household (spiritually, financially, etc.). And I want my 'right' to a husband who feels just as responsible for our children, our spiritual life and our marriage.

I'm just not sure where all that fits in with the 'sexual revolution.'

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Quest for Perfect Love

Don't you just love Sunday mornings? It is usually the one day of the week that you don't have to get up early, you get to relax and, of course, spend some time with God.

At my church this morning, our Pastor spoke today about the Quest for Perfect Love. This was taken from 1 John 6:12, 16-19:

12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

I love these verses. It reminds us, first, of God's love for us, but also reminds us of our responsibility to love one another. Verse 12 tells us that none of us has seen God - face to face, that is. We know of Him, we can see the wonders of His glory around us, but He is not an earthly being. God is a spirit. However, God lives in us as we love another. This is the secret to finding that ever elusive 'Perfect Love'.

'Perfect Love', as my pastor reminded us, is not often found in another person. Our own love for one another is imperfect - it is flawed. However, God's love is perfect. And, by demonstrating His love to others, our own love is made perfect as well.

I also love the verse about there being no fear in love. That 'perfect' love casts out fear. Wouldn't that be great? To finally not feel fear - about anything? This is possible only through the love that God has available for us. Perfect love - no fear.

And, finally, I love the verse where it says we love God because He loved us first. I am always humbled to think about the many years I spent away from God - living my own life the way I thought was best. Ignoring God. Being selfish. And yet He loved me anyway. The same way He loves you. Despite your reservations, your fears, your apprehensions and your skepticism about who God is. (And, yeah, He knows all about what you think about 'hypocritical' Christians, pastors who are 'pimping' the church and your ability to be a Christian within the confines of your own home - but it's all good, as you will soon discover.)

In fact, He loved you so much, that he made a way for you to come to Him. All you have to do is accept His love for you. Acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross to save your life and that he is the Son of God. And that's it. You are now His.

So, today, when you are seeking that 'perfect' love, and realize that you will not get it from anyone - not your spouse, not your kids, not even your mom - realize that God has it in store for you.

He's just waiting on you.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The AIDS Virus is Killing the African-American Community

I was reading an article in Newsweek this week and I was horrified to learn how the AIDS virus is ravaging the Black community. (Newsweek gives an overview of the AIDS epidemic in America here.) Numbers don't lie. The article tells us that:

African-Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population but account for an astounding 51 percent of new HIV diagnoses. Black men are diagnosed at more than seven times the rate of white men, black females at 20 times the rate of white women.

Did you see that figure about black women - we are getting AIDS at 20 TIMES the rate of white women. 20 TIMES. And, most heartbreaking of all, most black women get the disease during heterosexual sex with men.

The virus once referred to as "gay-related immunodeficiency disease" has become increasingly gender-blind, especially in the black community, where heterosexual transmission accounts for 25 percent of male infections and 78 percent of female infections.

And where are most of the black men getting the disease? From homosexual sex with another man.

That's scary. And it's outrageous. One of the men profiled in the story admitted to regularly having sex with both men and women. And, EVEN AFTER HE FOUND OUT HE HAD AIDS - HE STILL HAD UNPROTECTED SEX. And did not bother to inform his sex partners that he had the virus.

Ladies - that could be someone you are dating. Or someone you might consider dating. The article made it clear that it was not only 'promiscuous' women who got the virus from their partner - one woman was married and the another had been with very few men. But it just takes one time. One time with one person without protection. Just one time.

And the scariest part of all is that you can't even assume your partner will know if he or she even has the virus. The article uncovered the fact that testing among black men is low. A study of 2000 bisexual men discovered that half of these men tested positive for AIDS and TWO-THIRDS OF THEM DIDN'T EVEN KNOW THEY HAD THE DISEASE!!!

All I can say is, if you are having sex, protect yourself. Get tested for AIDS. And if you are contemplating marrying or becoming engaged in a long-term relationship, have your partner test himself or herself as well.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

In Pursuit of Perfection

Are you a person who is always striving to be 'perfect'? Does your house always have to look sparkling clean? Do your shoes always have to have a certain shine? Is it necessary to put on makeup and coordinate your clothing before you leave the house? How about your kids - how bent out of shape do you become when they give in to their normal childish behavior? When their grades are less than stellar? What about your spouse - does his or her appearance/mannerisms/job have to be at a certain standard to meet your approval?

The sad truth about it is, if you are a perfectionist about any of the above things, you are probably even harder on yourself. Chances are, you reserve the worst criticism for yourself: How you are not where you want to be in life, don't look the way you want to look, don't like yourself, aren't smart enough, aren't good enough and (maybe) never will be.

And, if you are a Christian, there is one more thought probably echoing in your head: I'm not a very good Christian. This thought typically comes with its own depressing litany: I don't pray enough (or long enough), I can't control my hormones (or my mouth), I am a lousy role model, I don't fast enough, I don't study enough, I don't go to church, I don't go to church as often as I should. I don't know enough of the Word and,the worst thought of all - God can't possibly love me with all my flaws. It's almost like you don't want to be a Christian so much as you want to be able to model what you consider perfect Christian behavior. As if being a Christian on the outside can make up for what you feel you lack on the inside.

In pursuit of 'Perfection'.

A good friend once told me 'Perfection is a Long Road to Nowhere'. This is what you must think to yourself as you strive to reach an unreachable goal.

"But, Sonya", you will say, "Doesn't the Bible require that we be 'perfect'?" The short answer is - NO. The most often quoted scripture is found in Matthew 5:48, when Jesus says 'Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.' But, according to Strong's concordance, this reading of 'perfect' means complete (in growth and moral character), not perfect the way we traditionally mean it - without any flaws, imperfections or mistakes. God knew that we would all make mistakes. Jesus died on the cross to pardon us from all our sins - past, present and future.

This, of course, doesn't mean that we should sin indiscriminately (this is further addressed in Romans 6:1), just that God made provision for us, knowing we would sin.

So what should that say to you? That God knew you would sin and still loves you. Loved you so much that He made a way for you to reach Him no matter what. And, if He can accept you will all your imperfections, shouldn't you?

God does not expect 'perfection', but He does expect you to try really, really hard. To study His word (2 Tim 2:15) on a daily basis (Ps 1:2). To be unlike the world and to transform our minds away from its thinking (Rom 12:2). To love God with all that we have (Matthew 22:37) and to treat others as well as we treat ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

But none of those things require perfection. And what does God think of our efforts? In the well-known story of Cain and Abel, prior to Cain taking Abel's life, Cain brought an offering to God. God was more pleased with Abel's offering (which led to Cain's jealousy and his subsequent murder of Abel), which made Cain angry. But the Bible says, "Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?..."(Gen 4 NIV). God was perfectly willing to accept the best that Cain had to offer - if Cain had been willing to give it.

Our God is not so concerned with the obsessive pursuit of perfection, but with our obedience - a desire to do His will. And, even more importantly, with a willing heart. Our obedience and willingness to please Him count much more than our desire to look 'perfect' in another person's (or our own) eyes.

Perfection is a long road to nowhere.

Strive instead to be 'perfect' before the Lord - experiencing spiritual growth and maturity as you serve Him with the best that you have to give. And, if you do what is right, will you not be accepted?

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Christian Worship - Does it Really Take 'All That'?

I attend a Baptist church. Every Sunday we gather to hear a sermon, praise God, sing along to the music, worship, give our offering and return to our homes. But it is an understatement to say that we simply 'enjoy' ourselves while attending church.

We sing. We dance. We clap loudly at the slightest provocation. We jump up and down. We run the aisles. And, sometimes, we pass out from the sheer joy of it all.

As a worshipper at a church that is 'high in the Spirit', I am often asked the question - "Does it really take 'all that' (all that meaning - all that noise, all that hollering (by the preacher), all that music and all that excitement)?" So I ask you that question as well - do you think it really takes 'all that' to worship God?

I could have chosen a different kind of church setting. I could have chosen to engage in the solemnity of the Catholic mass. Or the subdued excitement of the Lutheran church. Or I could have chosen a church that emphasized 'teaching' over 'preaching'. One that was quiet, thoughtful and reflective of the Awesome Unknown that is God.

But I chose the church where I currently worship. With its combination of exuberance and scholarly learning. Shouted worship mixed with deep silences into which we whisper our Awe of God. Dancing and jumping up and down contrasted with the sister in the corner raising her hand in silent praise.

So, again, I ask you - do you think it really takes 'all that' to worship God?

I think it does. I think it takes all you are willing to put out there to worship God in the way you see fit. But I also think you can worship and praise God silently, respectfully and with little ado. I think there is just as much joy to be found in raising your hands to silently worship God as the man or woman has who is running down the aisles as if they recently left a fire. Just as much passion in the man dancing for joy as the child who is clapping her hands and rocking back and forth in silent wonder.

The Bible seems to reflect both views as well. Psalms 66:1-2, says "...Make a joyful noise unto God, all the earth: Sing forth the glory of his name: Make his praise glorious." But, conversely, John 4:24 says "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth." This tells me that God accepts praise and worship how it is offered - and welcomes both. King David danced mightily before the Lord, but God spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice. God just wants you to come. I think it is just us who get caught up in the form and fashion.

How do you prefer to worship God? Do you think there is a difference between praise and worship?

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

More Da Vinci Code Stuff

I'm still rather fascinated by the whole Da Vinci Code phenomenon, so I'm reading the news, websites and other blogs to see what others have to say about it. I'm particularly interested in the Christian reaction to it.

From my reading, there seem to be two reactions - strong abhorrence to the book and/or movie and a lighthearted take on what we should all understand is just 'fiction'. Below is an example of the latter sentiment, from the The Grail Code Blog:

The best thing about The Da Vinci Code is that it's getting a lot of people interested in Christian history. You can get a conversation about the Gnostics started in the dentist's office; you can talk with a stranger about Mary Magdalene while you're waiting on the safety island for the streetcar. These things didn't happen before Dan Brown. (That whole article can be found here.)

I agree with the writer of this piece. Prior to the Dan Brown novel, we were not having these conversations, much less even thinking about such things (at least I wasn't). While I have given some time and attention to early Christian history, Dan Brown's novel forced me to re-think my perception of Jesus, the role of women in the early church and my whole concept of sin.

The book did not, however, shake my faith. And I don't believe, in a widely quoted passage from the book that 'everything we had been taught about Christianity is wrong'. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead. I believe that he was the Son of God. So that didn't change upon reading the book.

But it did make me re-think what I thought about Jesus, the workings of the early church and church history as a whole. And the thing to remember (as has often been pointed out) is that the Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction (with some factual content about the Priory of Sion, architecture and art history). (The Catholic Answers website does a really good job of debunking the book in 'Cracking the Da Vinci Code'.) So, ultimately, though I thought the book was a pretty good read (though I liked Dan Brown's book Angels and Demons better), it was just one more good read among many. But, as the Grail Code Blog pointed out, we certainly are having a lot more interesting conversations now!

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Deciphering The Da Vinci Code

I was browsing the internet today, when I ran across a special webpage put together by Focus on the Family. This webpage brings together radio broadcasts, articles and resources to help you decipher the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. The webpage can be found here.

I also think fellow blogger, Higher, had a really good post about the Da Vinci Code. It's Called Cracking the Da Vinci Code.

What do I think about it all? I am no Biblical scholar (which is why I am pointing you to a couple of places that have good information about the Da Vinci Code controversy), but I think any debate about Christianity is a good one. Yes, people are questioning whether Jesus was married, or if his bloodline died out, etc, etc, but at least people are talking about Jesus. And it's hard to debate about someone without giving at least some thought to who that person is. I'm all for spreading the gospel by any means necessary. So I tend to think Author Dan Brown did us all a big favor by writing his book. But that's just my humble opinion.

What are your thoughts about the Da Vinci Code and the surrounding controversy? Do you plan on going to see the movie?

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