Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Holy Spirit and Liturgy

Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church.Image via WikipediaI follow Rick Warren on Twitter. Probably a mistake. Most of what he posts is pretty inconsequential. Occasionally, he's right on. Every once in a while, way off base.

The night before last he tweeted: "You cannot choreograph the Holy Spirit. Pentecost never happens in a completely scripted worship service."

Usually, he takes the position that different people need different "worship styles." This statement however seemed like a direct attack on the liturgy, and since this statement is often how non-liturgical Christians seem to perceive the liturgy, it seemed worth addressing. defines liturgy as:
  1. a form of public worship; ritual
  2. a of formularies for public worship.
  3. an arrangement of services.
  4. a particular form of the Eucharistic service.
  5. the service of the this service (Divine Liturgy) in the Eastern Church.
It's an order of worship. Something that is basically done every time. Loosely speaking, the nondenominational church that I went to when I was eighteen had a liturgy -- half an hour of music, an hour of sermon, fifteen minutes of music, altar call, another ten minutes of worship. (Yes, Lutherans, that's a two hour service, and I did say an hour sermon). Really, it was very scripted, and everyone there fully expected the Holy Spirit to do His job.

Every church has some amount of scripting. Even Joel Osteen's opening "This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I have what it says I have. I can do what it says I can do. Today I will be taught the word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive; Ill never be the same. In Jesus name, God bless you " is in this sense, liturgical.

In the Lutheran Church, we go by a liturgy that is generally in the hymnal. It is similar to the Catholic mass and has developed through the historic worship traditions of the Church. We have thrown out any practice that was against the teachings of Scripture. What it is, really is a constant flow of Bible verses being either recited, sung, or chanted back and forth between the pastor and congregation.

The liturgy follows a progression. First, we invite God into our presence with the Invocation : "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." These are the words said at our baptisms -- the name of the Triune God -- our claim to the right to be in His presence, because we were made one in Christ through that baptism. It reminds us that God has promised us this.

Then, being in God's presence, which makes us aware of our sinfulness, we confess our sins through a corporate confession, and the pastor absolves us of our sins. Then, we launch into prayer that God provides for us (Introit) and the Hymn of Praise. Being forgiven, we can go to God in all confidence and expect that He will sustain His church and we can praise Him for the gifts He has given us. Then we hear His word through the readings, confess our faith together through the Apostles or Nicene Creed, and hear God's Word preached to us. Then, having been fed through His Word, we bring Him our gifts out of what He has given us, we bring our concerns to Him through the prayers of the Church, and then we prepare to receive His Body and Blood, where the Holy Spirit feeds us, sanctifies us, and sustains us. Then the pastor blesses us and sends us back out into the world. Interspersed in the service are hymns.

There is often criticism that a liturgical worship takes the brains and heart out of the worship. There are times I've felt that, too. But in reality, there are hundreds of Bible verses being said there. We are being nurtured there. By saying them over and over again, they are entering our hearts. Sometimes we don't realize this is happening. But God promises us that He works through His Word...whether we feel fully conscious of it or not. For " all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

It doesn't matter if you've said it before. Bring it into your heart and meditate on it. Learn it by memory. Scripted does not mean less authentic. In fact, it often means more authentic. It is harder to error when we are using the very inspired words of God, and the words and worship that The Church has used through the centuries.

The verb definition of "worship" is "to render religious reverence and homage to; to feel an adoring reverence or regard for (any person or thing)."

Often, Christians tend to focus on the nature of the 2nd part of that definition -- what we feel. And when we pay this reverence, we focus on what makes us feel that way, rather than what actually conveys reverence to the receiver. In our casual days, we have often eliminated our dress as conveying reverence, what we say, how we act (bowing, folding hands, refraining from conversation) are less important than the fact that we feel warmth, awe, etc. We lift up our hands rather than get down on our knees. We choose music that we enjoy, rather than music that conveys any sense of form or formality. And we focus on whether it matters to us, whether we think we need it. We look at traditions and because we don't understand them and weren't taught what they mean, we decide they don't matter, rather than seeking their meaning before we decide that, even though the Church throughout history has chosen to observe that tradition. We can even go so far as to say things that are in Scripture don't matter to God -- whether the pastor is male or female, married or not, homosexual or heterosexual.

We tend to view worship as something WE do. So in worshiping God, we are giving a piece of ourselves as we are. The historic view of the Lutheran Church and other confessional church bodies has actually been the opposite. The Sunday liturgical service is called "The Divine Service" not because it is a church service having to do with God, but because through the liturgy, the preaching, and Holy Communion, God is coming into our presence and SERVING us. Through these divine things (and I am defining the liturgy as divine because it is composed of Scripture), the Holy Spirit comes to us, assures us of our forgiveness, nurtures us, strengthens us, and sanctifies us. Our praise is the response to this, but the entire focus of the service is what God is doing for us.

That is also why the historic view of the church service is that the worship service is for the believer. What Pastor Warren is also failing to see in this statement is that the miracle of Pentecost did not happen in the church service, it happened in the streets. And as soon as the Holy Spirit created believers of the masses of people who heard the apostles preach, He then caused them to gather in Solomon's Portico to worship, learn, and strengthen each other -- to become a congregation.

Christ promised us that the Holy Spirit works through the Word and the Sacraments. Administering the Word and Sacraments are most often scripted. And whether it is loosely scripted or strongly scripted, if the Word and the Sacraments are there, He is working to create and strengthen faith in those who hear.

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Monday, January 17, 2011


(cross-posted on both blogs)

* Do you spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about your diet?
* Do you plan your meals several days ahead?
* Is the nutritional value of your meal more important than the pleasure of eating it?
* Has the quality of your life decreased as the quality of your diet has increased?
* Have you become stricter with yourself lately?
* Does your self-esteem get a boost from eating healthily?
* Have you given up foods you used to enjoy in order to eat the 'right' foods?
* Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat out, distancing you from family and friends?
* Do you feel guilty when you stray from your diet?
* Do you feel at peace with yourself and in total control when you eat healthily?

(from: Lisa's Life Lessons)

There are a lot of questions about this list that come to mind, chiefly who made it? There are a lot of corporations out there that would benefit from converting a solid concern with eating healthy into a disorder.

There are two questions that define a disorder (According to Dr. Winter, my Psy 101 prof - the only man ever who has managed to get me up, alert, and interested on a consistent basis at 8 a.m.). These questions listed above don't facilitate getting good answers to the two key questions.

First of all -- is the behavior abnormal? And by abnormal, it means, does it deviate from the norm. In our culture, I'd say "normal" is pretty wide, because there are certainly subcultures that would support and uplift this thinking and behavior. While in the overall culture, eating organic and going out of the way to seek healthy foods and avoid harmful ones is abnormal, one cannot overlook the cultural system that the person is in.

This leads to the second question -- is the behavior deviant? That is, does it keep the person from functioning in a healthy manner? The question about socializing with family and friends probably comes closest to assessing that. But again, if the person does have social support, eating healthily helps the person feel good about himself, and it is feeding the person's body with nutritious substances, then it probably does not fall under deviant, even if more than four questions can be answered "yes." The one about feeling guilty is another one that looks like it could assess for deviancy, however, it doesn't measure degree of guilt (from "dang, shouldn't have eaten that" to utter despair), and how that guilt effects the person's overall functionality. It's misleading.

A person can be so obsessed with how they eat that it does get in the way of their functioning, but I have seen this already used across the board to describe people who care about eating real food, who go against the mainstream diet, yet manage to hold jobs, raise their families, and enjoy life -- and make enjoying that food a significant part of it.

For most of the history of humankind -- devoting a good deal of our energy toward what we will eat has been central to existence. Being able to open a few packages and have something whipped up in twenty minutes, or to pull into a drive thru is NOT normal, anthropologically speaking. Being able to do this together, and to enjoy these things together is a core part of what community has been about through most of the history of people. And when we look at how food is raised now (See Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma), what it is doing to our environment, and what it is doing to our own bodies and health...if you asked a cultural anthropologist, it would be pretty clear which is deviant.

Some of the questions describe healthy behavior. Any organizational expert, chef, etc. will tell you that making a menu before you shop for groceries is healthy. It also saves you money.

And what about self-esteem for eating well? Watch food commercials, read magazine articles in women's magazines -- We are conditioned to feel good about making good food decisions. We're supposed to want to feel good about eating right. And listen to all the talk about obesity and overeating-- there certainly is conditioning in our culture for obsessing about what we eat and feeling bad about it.

Another important question is "why?" For instance, as of two months ago, I could answer yes to several of these questions. I have celiac disease. I've really had a hard time adjusting to the idea of it, and I certainly can say my that my quality of life has gone down. I don't eat at restaurants I used to love, I don't cook the foods I used to love to cook, and I get to lie to people about how good the cookies were that they gave us for Christmas.

But which would truly be the disorder -- to keep eating in a way that was destroying me and was severely hindering my function, or to be able to eat at McDonalds whenever I wanted?

What they also fail to evaluate in this is when a person CHANGES, it takes all their energy to focus on that change until new habits develop. And sometimes, the way we focus on things that matter to us does separate us from those we love.

It doesn't seem to be anything new to me -- as someone who chose staying at home instead of working, driving one car (to save money), family bed, extended breastfeeding, homeschooling, and even marrying a pastor -- my life is full of decisions that have separated me from my friends and family for something that I felt was more important.

One thing to note here -- trying to eat healthy in a counter-cultural way has been around for a long time, and despite the "disorder" language used here, orthorexia is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IVTR, (DSMIV-TR), nor are they planning on including it in the DSM V. If the person's obsession with food is truly inhibiting their function, it often will fit under a diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or one of the existent eating disorders. This has all the marks of a propaganda movement on the part of the food industries, because in the end, you're not an obsessive foodie if you eat low fat Dannon yogurt and Special K cereal all the time. You're an obsessive foodie if you decide you want something other than what is in the grocery store.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Homeschooling Article, Local Style

My friend Linda was interviewed for a homeschooling article for our local paper: "A Lifestyle of Learning."

The Temmes are an amazing family. Pastor Temme is in my husband's circuit, and our kids have been in choir together for years. I was so thrilled they were interviewed for this and wanted to pass it on.

Also, a little feedback on the article is due, not with anything Linda said, but with some other things mentioned. Often homeschoolers are portrayed as having to really have their acts together in order to pull this off. Since I lean toward the very unstructured side of things, I took a bit of an issue with Mr. Tenney's statement about "Get organized or die." We seem to get things done pretty well using the "by gosh and by golly" method. I find that while we all may have some faults that make homeschooling harder on ourselves, what tends to work best is something that's compatible with the way you and your family relate to the world, and that "delicate balance of structure and getting things done" tends to fit into that.

But you don't have to be really organized to homeschool your children, and it doesn't have to absorb your entire day (teaching one-on-one goes very quickly because you know whether they get it or not, and so much of classroom time is just absorbed in group management). So if it is something you are considering, know that these are issues that can be worked around. There are so many different approaches to homeschooling, and what is "legitimate" for your family may be completely different for someone else's.

What the mother mentioned about the needs of her sixteen month old coming first is right on. One of the things about homeschooling is that the children are learning in the midst of life, they haven't been pulled out of real life in order to learn...and the truth about real life is that when a little one needs love, that comes first. It's a really good lesson to teach kids -- to learn to function in the midst of life, to be able to suspend what they need for others. And when things are taken care of, we return to the routine.

Also, there are MANY reasons that families homeschool. You don't have to be religious or have that as your main priority. Many people of many different religions (or who have none at all), choose to homeschool their kids all the time. You can be liberal or conservative politically, or not even give a whoop.

The article is right. There are SO many different resources out there that whatever your reasons or needs for homeschooling, you are very likely to find something to meet it. Quite often, as a Lutheran, I find I have more theological problems with many of the religious curricula out there, I have a tendency to look at secular curricula, but freely discuss how our beliefs flow through what we are studying, and use the Bible, the Small Catechism, and the Book of Concord often. When your faith flows through your life, and prayer, devotions, etc. have their proper place, it is easy to bring them into everything else.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Together We Thrive?

Why "Together We Thrive?" How about "Together We Mourn?"

What is so wrong with grieving? What is wrong with being angry, searching for meaning? Why do we have to go right to a place of strength, jump to a place of "hope?"

Why do there have to be t-shirts?

I'm not trying to be snide, picky, or mean. Really, I'm not. This just doesn't seem right. Tragedy shouldn't have an upbeat slogan. People who are grieving shouldn't feel compelled to cheer up. The message of hope in the eulogy shouldn't be about how strong WE are, when we've just been shown how truly weak we are.

I don't know...this just seems really...I don't know. The only words that come to mind are askew and incongruent. Hardly words that fit, either.

Cough, Cough, Hack, Sniffle, Sigh

EVERYONE in the house is sick, and it hasn't been some minor cold, either. It went Maggie, Me, Chris, and Jeff. Usually either Jeff gets sick first or I get sick first, but then one is pretty much recovered. Not this time. The kids were sleeping on the pull out beds in the living room because they could barely move, and we were often isolated in our bedroom because there was no room in the living room. Coughs, sneezing, draining, exhaustion, fevers, chills, and a bit of nausea has been the norm. It's been a long time since something has hit us this hard.

While I would be very overdramatic to say that it compared to the time when everybody in the Ingalls family got sick in Little House on the Prairie (you know...the time Ma thought it was watermelon that got them sick?), this did make me think about what it would be like to have everybody in the house really sick and have animals to take care of...because getting out to feed the rabbits has been hard enough. I can't imagine what it would be like back in the day to be sicker than this, and have horses to feed or cows to milk.

Maggie and I are only left with a bit of stuffiness and a cough. Jeff is sounding better, but his went into bronchitis almost right away. Chris is the one kind of still in the midst of it.

Monday, January 03, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

I'm generally not big on New Year's Resolutions, but this year, I do have a few, since it is my last year in my 30's. They are all pretty much related.

1. I am going to exercise at least three times per week. We gave ourselves the Wii Fit Balance Board for Christmas, and we are all having fun with that. I see that as really helping through these next few Winter months. It keeps track of goals, work out sessions, etc. And as a mother, I really admire its skill with guilt trips.

That being said, Wuhu Island is fabulous, and I want to move there.

2. I want to move my bedtime up, at least to 11:30. I know 10 p.m. would be better, but right now that is a HUGE change. I am convinced that my body still operates on Pacific Time. Here, even seven years later, I still go to bed 3 hours later than in California, and wake up about 3 hours later. I've read that some people just don't have the ability to adjust to time zones, especially over several, and continue with health problems until they return to their home time zone. I hope that is not me.

3. 30 pounds (45 total) by my 40th birthday. That's not my final destination - about half way to my final goal. 30 pounds puts me at a place where I was at least a lot more functional and content with my body than I am now. I wasn't snoring, my cycles were regular, and I could fit into clothes I actually liked.

In the end, my goal is to be healthier, not perfect. Not being able to eat grains or sugar has made a huge difference toward those ends. But with all that I've given up recently...I'm definitely skipping out on the "giving up something for Lent" this year. There's nothing left except sex.

So, do you have any resolutions? I'd love to hear them.