Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cha cha cha Changes

Though I was in the fourth grade in 1972 I remember vividly the song Changes performed by David Bowie being played on Atlanta radio stations over and over…..I believe my sister and I had the single, and even today it’s still played on various classic rock stations.
Believe it or not Changes is one of David Bowie’s best known songs, but it failed to make the Top 40. In the book Strange Fascination-David Bowie: The Definitive Story, David Buckley reports the lyrics are often seen as a manifesto for his chameleonic personality throughout the 1970s. I can understand this as it seemed Bowie remade himself everytime you saw him during the 70s and 80s, but John Mendelsohn wrote in a Rolling Stone article from 1972 that the song could be construed as a young man’s attempt to reckon how he’ll react when it’s his time to be on the maligned side of the generation.

Well, Bowie’s certainly there by now, isn’t he? Born in 1947 he’s not exactly the younger generation anymore. He’s still producing music though and still changing with the times. He’s the same David Bowie….he’s just merely presenting himself using modern methods
Bowie has branched out as an actor over the years most recently playing the role of Nikola Tesla in The Prestige released in 2006. If you are a SpongeBob Squarepants fan you heard Bowie’s voice used for the role of “Lord Royal Highness” in the episode titled SpongeBob’s Atlantis SquarePantis. Many of my students came to school talking about the soundtrack to Shrek2 in 2004. They told me all about a great song titled Changes, a duet by Butterfly Boucher and SOME OLD GUY. They’d sing it over and over on the playground. They were amazed when I told them about “the old guy” and that I listened to the same song in 1972 or as one child remarked, “Oh, in the olden days.”

Changes….sometimes we do have to turn and face the strange.

Ecclesiastes 3, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. Perhaps it ranks right up at the top of meaningful text because it involves the concept of time…a concept which is always near and dear to the heart of any history teacher such as myself.

The passage reminds us everything has its own time during the span of our lives. Sadness, happiness, death, new life, planting and harvesting, love and hate, war and peace----they all have a place at one time or another in our lives since Scripture tells us God created those things to be appropriate in their time and for His purpose.

In order to experience these things we have to also experience change. You can’t get from death to healing without change. You can’t get from throwing stones to gathering stones without change. You can’t get from tearing down something to building something up without change. None of it will happen without change. Life can’t exist without change.

Even so, many of us spend a large amount of our time here on earth resisting change, including myself.

I actually hate change. Change is the unknown. Change is scary. Change is uncomfortable, but the Bible shows us that change is necessary, and my own life experiences have shown me this is true. You can probably think back on great and not so great changes in your own life and see that while there were negatives with the change there were also postive things as well even though it might take some time for those results to be seen.

Last Sunday’s Bible Study lesson involved Abram and changes he made in his life. It was titled “Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone”. Using Scripture from Genesis 12 and 13the lesson reminds us about God’s call to Abram to leave his homeland and his people in order to follow a promise God has made to him.

Genesis 12:4 explains Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.

Between verses one and four of Genesis 12 we see the Lord commands and Abram goes. He doesn’t question, he doesn’t do any research, he doesn’t argue, he doesn’t discuss God’s command with a focus group, and most importantly he doesn’t ignore God’s command. God said go, and Abram went.

We see that Lot goes with Abram with no reservations as well. This amazes me. How many of us would pack our things and move simply based on the fact a relative told us God had spoken to him and promised he would become the father of many nations?

The most interesting thing is the last part of verse four……Abram was 75 years old. This isn’t exactly a time in someone’s life when change is easy. Now I’ve never been 75. I hope I get to 75 and beyond, but one thing I know from being around many who are 75, 85, 95, and even one important lady in my life who made it to 102, change isn’t easy for these folks even though they have the most wisdom to provide regarding life.

Yet we see Abram at at 75 setting out on a journey that our lesson compared to what we know about Columbus and his journey to the New World. I’m not sure I really know what I would do if the Lord spoke to me today, and told me to tell my family to pack up because we have to go on journey.

How many of us truly like getting outside of our comfort zone?

As an educator I have survived a firestorm of change in the last ten years. American History is still American History, but due to needed reforms I go about teaching it differently than the teachers who taught me. Instead of just reading a textbook or “sit and get” type lessons where students listen to me, I provide guided situations where students uncover content on their own. I provide opportunities for students to be motivated and involved in the learning process through various strategies that hit on multiple intelligences and learning styles. I don’t demand that students meet me at my level…I hunker down and meet them where they are even if that means providing content five different ways.

Now, don’t for one minute think that I and my colleages accepted these types of changes willingly. Believe me when I tell you there was much gnashing of teeth, snarling, and to and froing. I’ve stamped my foot and kicked my fair share of door jams over the last few years because I hung onto the notion that patience was the watchword. At some point and time I would receive that group of students that would be successful simply because they did it my way. I didn’t want to change, but I’m awfully glad I did because the benefits were amazing.

Reasons for the changes weren’t merely because legislators and educrats up on high told me to. It wasn’t really due to the latest research or fad. The changes were necessary because our clientele---our students---had changed. You cannot use early twentieth century methods with early twenty-first century students. Folks today aren’t just merely the television generation. They are the instant and constant information generation via their cell phone, their Ipod, their video games, their Internet, and any other type of technology I could list.

So, if the folks outside the school walls are looking for something particular does it make sense for me to say leave technology out and forgo various teaching methods because I’m not comfortable with them. Instead of merely leaving a child behind it’s more like I would be tuning the student out and off.

With that in mind do we tune people out and off due to a resistence in the church regarding change?

I think we do.

Over the last two thousand years there have been great upheavals and change in the church, and yet it’s still here. It’s not going away. Those changes were necessary to allow God’s plan to come to fruition.

Where would the Christian church be today if we still ignored Paul’s encouragement for congregational singing (Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19) and only opted for liturgical hymns sung by the special few who could sing in Latin?

Where would the church be today without the struggle that was created with the Protestant Reformation? Back then the slogan was “the reformed church, always being reformed by the church of God.”……always being changed by the church of God…..

Where would we be if Martin Luther had not prepared a Mass in German, so that ALL of the congregation could recite and sing the texts?

Where would we be without Charles Wesley’s hymns that actually provided a new focus….one that expressed personal feelings in the relationship with God as well as simple worship seen in much older church music?

Where would we be without Wesley’s new style of hymn and a period of history in America known as the Great Awakening which led to another distinct style of church music we know as gospel?

Thomas Aquinas said, “If the primary aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.” Applying this idea to the church how sad it would be if in our zeal to not bend to the needs of congregants we run the ship aground.

In his book, A Church for the 21st Century, Leith Anderson questions the goal of a church. If the goal is to preserve everything in pristene condition then it will be “defensively protected.” However, if the goal is to go out and do something those involved will be willing to take the risk.

Change, of course, does not mean turning your back on the foundation of Christianity. There are certain things that cannot be denied or ignored. Much like my subject matter of American History…..I can’t change the events, but I can change the methods I use to convey the foundational doctrine (John 3:16). The New Testament provides for us two things Jesus told us the true purposes of the church. Those are the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20) These two things are paramount were until Christ returns. Over the years God’s people have stayed true to these purposes through ever changing styles and methods, but their eyes were always on the same common mission.

It’s clear to me from reading Acts 2 and listening to Bible scholars teach the text the church membership must be of one mind as the disciples were …..all together in one place. This is reemphasized at the end of the passage…..all the believers were together and had everything in common.

As believers we are all given the Holy Spirit, our guide to help us lead a Christian life. The Holy Spirit strengthens us, and it can be used to do things we have never done before. I’m just thinking that in order for the Holy Spirit to move within us we have to be open and willing for change to take place.

Are we, no matter our generational experiences, willing for that to happe

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Grandmother's Hands

This post first appeared here in September, 2007…..HERE

Last night at church one of our associate pastors read the following poem. Even though it is about a grandmother’s hands I couldn’t help but think about my own mother and her hands. She passed away in July, 2006, and I think I miss her hands most of all…..They did so much for me.

The pastor had to stop a couple of times as he read the poem, and I simply lost it.

At first I thought, “Durn, why did you go and read that? I certainly didn’t need to cry.” However, after some reflection time I realized I should be grateful that the pastor did read the poem because anytime something can trigger a memory of Mother it is indeed time well spent....even if it is also a tearful time.

The only copy of the poem I could find has been altered a bit from the one the pastor read but the majority of it is intact.

Grandmother’s Hands

I saw my grandmother sitting alone staring at her hands. I thought something was wrong and asked her about it. Grandmother asked, “Have you ever really looked at your hands?”

Grandmother continued, “Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout the years. These hands, though wrinkled, shriveled, and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life.”

“They embraced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They held my husband and wiped my tears when he went off to war.”

“They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world I was married and loved someone special. They wrote my letters to him and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse.”

“They have held my children and grandchildren, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn’t understand. They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much anything else of me works real well these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer.

“These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of my life. But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when He leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ.”

I don’t think any Christian after reading this could ever look at their hands the same way again.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Think My "Wanter" Is Stuck....AGAIN

This post first appeared here in August, 2009. Look for the link to the second part at the end. Both postings were written after hearing a great sermon from my pastor.

By Friday evening I was worn down…..Dear Daughter had had a bad case of the “wants” all afternoon. She wanted to talk to me which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but conversation isn’t all she wanted. She wanted a snack, she wanted to be taken out to eat, she wanted a replacement pet for our dear kitty that has gone missing, she wants her room painted, and she wants to decorate it in black and white (always wanted a black and white room).

Then she wanted to drive My car over to a friend’s house – seems the friend had wrecked her car and Dear Daughter wanted to see it. No, she didn’t get to go. Then she wanted another friend to come over and spend the night. I said yes. Then she wanted to go out to eat for dinner. I said no. Then there were the reminders about her class ring needing to be paid for, and I had forgotten to order her letter jacket (for golf) once again.

After dinner she wanted to drive MY car to get some cookies. We (by this time Dear Husband was home) said no.

She argued. I blasted her. I had had it with the “Can I?”, “I want”, “Get me”, “Can you”, “Let me” direction of every single thing out her mouth since 3:30 that afternoon. I went through the long laundry list with her of everything she had wanted since she arrived home from school.

I ended my listing by telling her, “Sweetie, I think your “wanter” is stuck.”

Don’t we all do that, though? Think about all the things or situations you want right now. I bet we could fill up a page or two with all the things we want from the insignificant (removing a hangnail) to the very significant (world peace)…..from the small (a bracelet at the local department store) to the very large (a new car, a cruise, or a new home).

Yes, from time to time my “wanter” gets stuck. I get into an acquiring mode where I hunt and gather little treasures as I shop. My closest friends joke about my very large collection of jewelry, and I do seem to have a bunch of stuff. I eye my friends and their stuff, and from time to time I see something I covet and simply must acquire for myself.

Covet….now there’s a Bible term for you. Exodus 20:17 tells us in the big 10….You shall not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t covet a friend’s possessions to the point that I might slip a lace napkin or silver creamer into my purse and walk away with it, but I do usually try to find where they got the item and attempt to purchase my own.

But is this a good habit to get into? Is the hunting and gathering of “stuff” a good thing?????

To covet means you have an uncontrolled desire to acquire. Notice I bolded “uncontrolled”……this is where the word covet takes a very negative turn and it’s the negative part of wanting something that the covet commandment addresses, and like all of God’s commandments there are very valid reasons why we need to keep our “wanter” from getting stuck.

Always wanting more causes fatigue. Proverbs 23:4 advises…Do not wear yourself out to be rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. This verse isn’t telling us that wealth is wrong….it’s telling us there is a smart way to riches and a not so smart way.

Always wanting more causes debt. For some reason our “wanters” get stuck and our wants exceed our needs and that leads to greed with a capital “G”. Ecclesiastes 5:11 states the truth…..The more money you have, the more money you spend…..

Always wanting more causes worry. This effect of a broken “wanter” would naturally follow debt, wouldn’t it? Greed leads to exceeding our needs and we can become overextended and exceed our finances as well.

Always wanting more can lead to conflict. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from the desires that battle with you? … says James (4:1). Hmmmm….one of the leading causes of divorce involves money, doesn’t it?

Always wanting more can lead to dissatisfaction. You will never be satisified if you long to be rich. You will never get all you want….Ecclesiastes 5:10

No, I don’t take all the verses I’ve referred to here as a condemnation of being rich. These verses do not mean I should throw out everything I own, down-size my residence, or become complacent with a minimum wage occupation.


These verses refer to riches as in the over-acquiring of stuff and financial means. There is a fine line regarding being successful or having all you want, and you can cross that line very easily.

That is when our “wanter” gets stuck.

So, how do we unstick our “wanter”?

One way is by remembering the words of Jesus….A man’s true life is not made up of the things he owns, no matter how rich he may be……Luke 12:15

….and we need to learn how to be content. I address contentment in part two of this post found here.
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