Monday, September 20, 2021

Made To Worship

We're going through a small group study on purpose.   Trying to answer that age old question, "what is our purpose"?  "Why are we here"?

To that end, we're going through Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life and looking at it in the micro, trying to find out God's unique design for each of our lives.  This depends on so many factors, like our individual bent in life.  Our passions, our experiences, our circumstances.

But I love the approach the book gives to the macro.  

Why do we as a human species exist?  Why were we creating as just one other group of animals on this planet?  What do we offer that others cannot?  In those terms, our purpose becomes much clearer in the micro.

We as human beings are made for one primary purpose - to worship God.

"The Lord is pleased only with those who worship him and trust his love."
Psalm 147:11

I think we inherently understand this as believers.  We have that hard wired desire to worship something.  We will devote all our attention and effort to something.  That something might be ourselves and our pleasure.  It might be our family.  Our parents and pleasing them.  Our spouse and living for them.  Our children and providing everything for them.  It might be our jobs and our success.  It might be a prized possession, making an idol of our car, our home, our boat.  

Yes, we all worship something.  

When it comes to understanding the worship of God, we may have to adjust our definition of what worship is and what it isn't.  Cause we don't think of it in these terms of devotion.  We think of what we know and experience.

Worship isn't music.  It isn't a particular style of music or a particular period of music.  You don't worship first and then have preaching.  Worship, in fact predates music, as Adam worshipped God and music isn't mention until a couple of chapters later with Jubal in Genesis 4.  

Worship has nothing to do with a particular location.  It has nothing to do with being in the building on Sunday morning. It does not need a pastor. It does not need a worship leader/music minister/song leader/whatever you want to call them. It does not need other people around you.

Worship isn't even about us.  It's not about what we feel or what we get out of it.  It's not about what we learn or what we take away.  It's not about how we feel.

True worship is radically different.

Worship is whatever is pleasing to God.

Worship can include music, but it also includes all parts of a religious service.  It's prayer, it's preaching, it's teaching.  It's serving others.

Worship is everywhere.  It's where two or more are gathered.  It's being struck by the beauty of God's creation.  It's singing along to your favorite song of praise in the car.  It's showing mercy to others at your work.

Worship is for and about God.  It's lifting high and glorifying his name.

In short, worship is a way of life.  It's something you should be doing every day.  Every hour, every second.  It's doing whatever we do as if for the Lord.

It's why Stonepoint always ended with "Have a Great Week of Worship."  It was a recognition that what happened on Sunday morning was only a brief blip in the worship of a believer.

Our danger lies in half-hearted worship.  In going through the motions.  While it is true, we sometimes must rest on ritual and wait for our feelings, our spirit to catch up, we must be careful not to repeatedly offer stale prayers that we don't expect to be answered, empty words, man-made ritual without even thinking of the meaning.  God does not care for any of this.  "I've come for mercy, not sacrifice."  Jesus explicitly said to the most "religious" of his day, the high "worshipers" that he did not care for their sacrifices if their hearts didn't match.

This is also exactly what God complains of in Isaiah 29.  His heart is not touched by the Israelites tradition in worship, but is looking for their passion and commitment.  "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.Oh, that this not apply to the American church today.  I fear it does far too often.  Think of how much chatter there is when the order of worship is changed.

The challenge, then, is to be fully committed to worship.  For our every activity to be done for the praise, glory, and pleasure of God.  To be transformed into our act of worship.  That way, it is so ingrained in our lives that we can't help but worship.  

We know that is what the rest of creation does.  What it was made for.  So, it's our turn to join in that chorus and shout at the top of our voice:

So will I

"All we are
And all we have
Is all a gift from God that we receive
Brought to life
We open up our eyes
To see the majesty and glory of the King

He has filled our hearts with wonder
So that we always remember

You and I were made to worship
You and I are called to love
You and I are forgiven and free
When you and I embrace surrender
When you and I choose to believe
Then you and I will see who we were meant to be
Made to Worship, Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, Stephan Sharp, 2006

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Batman Day 2021


Holy celebrations, today is Batman Day!  

This is the seventh annual celebration of Batman Day, now commemorated on the second or third Saturday in September.  The celebration initially started in 2014 to mark the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman.  It is now a yearly event, with DC even providing free Batman comics for comic shops to distribute.

This year is DC Comics is celebrating 82 years of Batman.  The character, created in 1939 in Detective Comics #27 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, has proved one of the most durable characters in pop culture.  He's gone from pulp to camp to science fiction to crime and everything in between.  He has been a television, film, and radio star.  He's the star of fiction and comic books.  The number one selling comic character in fact.  A video game icon.  He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year.

This Batman Day is headlined by two breakthrough releases, Batman: The Audio Adventures and Batman: The World, as DC, Warner Bros. and fans around the globe will celebrate the iconic character’s longevity and impact across comics, film, television, and more!

Until next year, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Jane Powell


There are certain movies that are replayed a lot in our house hold.  The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jurassic Park, Jaws.  All for a variety of reasons.  Nightmare for Jude. Jurassic Park for 90's nostaglia.  Jaws once a year for Fourth of July.

There are certain types of movies that get played a lot too.  We watch a lot of musicals.  I'm a sucker for classic Dream Factory musicals when they are on TCM.  Even if the plot is bad, I love discovering the old songs.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is played a lot.  Not as often as Jamie watched it as a teenager, but a lot.  More than once a year. 

The cinematography that demands wide screen and letterbox television.  Michael Kidd's incredible choreography.  

And Jane Powell's best performance.

Powell's Milly is the glue that holds it all together.  Her rich and clear operatic soprano pared so well with Keel's bass-baritone.  Her comic timing was impeccable.  The role remained her signature and best performance, truly marking her transition from child to adult characters.

An MGM staple contract player, she made the Dream Factory shine.  Throughout her career, her youthful appearance allowed her to project the image of the innocent girl next door throughout her career.  

Career highlights include the previously mentioned Seven Brides and Royal Wedding, in which she played Fred Astaire's wise cracking sister, giving her a chance to keep up with Astaire in a six-minute musical number of witty banter, song, and dance.

Jane Powell passed away yesterday of natural causes in her home at the age of 92.   She was one of our last surviving links to that Golden Age of Hollywood.  

She will be missed.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Yom Kippur

Tonight begins the observance of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  The holiest of the High Holy Days.  The one day of the year where the high priest can enter the holiest of holies and make a sacrifice for the people.

It is the day of intercession.

A time of prayer and fasting.  A very focused time to get right with God.

For those of us who believe Jesus is the Messiah, I think we all too often forget we have this kind of access on a continual basis.  Jesus interceded.  His purpose is to be our great high priest.  The great high priest whose name is Love.  He has, is, and is continuing to intercede on our behalf.

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Hebrews 4:14-16

Should it not follow that we are in a continual atonement?   We should be in a continual process of evaluating our lives, our walks, to ensure alignment with that high priest.  

Would we not also benefit from that level of introspection and evaluation?  From a day of fervent prayer and fasting?

To my Jewish friends:
May you be blessed. May you be happy. May you be at peace. May you be in good health. May you be in good company. May you never lack food, shelter, or safety. Wishing you a wonderful Jewish new year, and an easy fast for Yom Kippur.

G'mar Chatimah Tova

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

National Hispanic Heritage Month

Today marks the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, running from September 15 to October 15.  The celebration has its roots dating back to 1968, with the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Week.  The week was first proclaimed by President Lyndon Johnson, with the month long celebration being first proclaimed by President George H. W. Bush in 1989.

Today is particularly significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua from Spain.  The month also includes several significant dates in Hispanic heritage.  Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Further, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, falls on October 12, within the month-long celebration.

The month serves as a great encouragement to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.  In particular, United States Military recognizes the longstanding and remarkable contributions that Hispanics have made in building and defending the nation, dating back to the Civil War.

This month is the perfect time for exploration.  For discovery.  Read Hispanic American authors, watch television and film from Hispanic American artists (which we are doing).  Google "Hispanic and Latinx History you should know" and explore - there are dozens of articles that could provide a great springboard for education.

There's a wealth of information out there to make this month an enriching experience.  All you have to do is be willing to learn.

We know the future of the United States is Hispanic growth.  Citizens of Hispanic heritage account for nearly 20% of the United States currently.  Or 1 in 5 Americans.  That number is growing.  Half of the population growth in the United States has come from the Hispanic population.  

They are America.  And it's time we celebrate their contributions to and place in our shared history.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Praise Team

One thing that I've really enjoyed over the past couple of months is getting opportunities to sing.  As I've written before, the pandemic has been tough on live music.  For months, everything was shut down.  And even as things opened back up, live music has been one of the slower things to come back.  When we first were able to go into our church for worship last August, we were still wearing masks for services and singing through masks.  Most choirs weren't meeting.  

Over the past several months, I've found those new opportunities to sing.  First with the Cummins Diversity choir, as written about before.  And since this August, with the praise team at Connection Pointe.  

I've forgotten how much I missed this.

Especially because the choir and the praise team stretch different muscles.  There are musical differences.  The choir is about matching volume and pitch with others in your range, while balancing with the rest of the choir.  Following the director.  The praise team is about blending with the small group of singers, often with tighter harmony.  About finding the right harmony to bring to the group that is additive.  

There are technical differences.  The choir is accompanied by a piano and generally does not use a microphone.  The praise team has a full band behind it with a click track and handheld microphones.

There's even one more fundamental difference.

The praise team is about throwing yourself unabashedly into worship.  

It's being able to strip away everything else, the rest of the band, the congregation, the lights, everything and just worship.  All of the musicians at Connection Pointe are able to do this very well.  To take pride in rehearsal and in trying to present the best music possible, but at the same time, being able to let that go and just worship.

This cuts across denomination, across the size of the church, and the style of music.  I've sung in church since I was four and have been part of worship teams or choirs since high school.  Sure, some things change.  I know here I have definitely been caught off guard because of the live video feed that is shared on the screens on each side of the worship center.  Nothing like catching a glimpse of yourself when you are not expecting it to make you do a double take.  

But the heart of it consistently remains the same.  

Praise forever to the King of Kings.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Cube Theory of Food


"Is a hot dog a sandwich?

This was the lighthearted question raised as a poll yesterday for the praise team and audio/visual team at church.  It only received two responses, one yes, and one depending on if it had cheese.

My response was no, a hot dog is a taco.  For I subscribe to the cube rule of food. 

Surprisingly, there has been a lot of history and development in this area.  It started with the initial question raised yesterday.  "Is a hot dog a sandwich?"  Apparently, New York state says yes, classifying hot dogs as sandwiches under tax bulletin TB-SB-835.

Then Twitter went a little crazy and decided to declare that Pop Tarts are a sweet form of ravioli.  Pop Tarts corporate denies this, and says that ravioli is just a savory pop tart.

Someone then decided to create a sandwich alignment chart, following the Dungeons and Dragons alignments.  Here based on structure and ingredients as opposed to the lawful/chaotic and good/evil dichotomies.

This is helpful, but still a bit wanting, not quite covering the breadth of food related arguments that could be raised.

Twitter to the rescue again, with the Cube Rule of Food, thanks to user @Phosphatide.  The cube theory of food is a grand unified theory of food categorization based on the number of pieces of bread (or starch) and their location in correlation to other. 

No starch is a salad.

With one piece of starch, the other ingredients are necessarily on top.  This is toast.  Think avocado toast, toast with jelly.  But also under this structure, pizza is toast, nigiri sushi is toast.

Two pieces of starch, parallel to each other makes a sandwich.  This would include the traditional sandwich designed by the Earl himself, as well as quesadillas and stroopwafel.

Three pieces of starch gets us to the hot dog example.  The three pieces would be placed in a u-shape to hold the food.  This makes it a taco.  

Meaning a hot dog is a taco.

Perhaps more controversial for Texas, four pieces of starch (a box with open ends) make sushi.  This means that pigs in a blanket and enchiladas are sushi.

To round out the list, five pieces of starch, creating a bowl shape with an open top, makes a quiche.  This is a correction to the chart above, which has a bread bowl.  This would be an example, but it should be labeled quiche.  This category can also include deep dish pizza and pies.

Finally, six pieces of starch, completely enclosing the ingredients, makes a calzone.  Corn dogs, burritos, chimichangas, dumplings - these are all calzones.  In Texas terms, your klobasniki and kolaches are calzones.

A handy guide to help settle any useless arguments that may be raised.  And a lot of fun silliness to counteract the overbearing muchness of the world right now.  

A hot dog is a taco. 

Why not?