More Stuff That Made Me Think

We’ve had some interesting discussions at PCC and at small group lately. How do we reconcile a God who offers love, grace and forgiveness to everyone with our human desire for fairness, revenge and justice?

God is love.

It’s easy to say. Some of us learned it with flannel-graph images in musty Sunday School rooms. Others picked it up from Oprah, or New Age teachings, or just general random-acts-of-kindness concepts.
He loves everyone.

It’s easy to say. But when it’s in our face – when those who God loves are different from us, perhaps radically opposed to things that we hold dear, or even offensive – the words choke us.
God is love. God is good. And He loves everyone.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2.1-4

Thanks to Andy Sikora for this link, and thanks to folks like Michael Gungor – who writes amazing worship music – and Goodwin Films for being creative.

The Power Of Music

Doing some reading this morning, I came across this interesting bit of research (via this blog):

“(Among young adolescents) high exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex in popular music was independently associated with higher levels of sexual behavior. In fact, exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex was one of the strongest associations with sexual activity…” – Science Daily
This study seems to underscore the “DUH” factor that would come with simple common sense.  If kids are listening to lots of verbage that talks frankly and graphically about sex, they’re going to be interested in having sex.
Read that quote again:  the highest association with sexual activity in the study group (ninth grade kids, by the way) was “exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex.”  It’s not R movies, it’s not TV, it’s not what their friends are doing or not doing – it’s what they’re listening to.
Go read the article here.
And that adjective “degrading”?  Think that’s off the spectrum?  Think again.  Directly from the blog I read today, here’s a few choice lyrics from the artists who were the nominees for Nickelodeon’s 2009 Kids’ Choice Awards:

“Now take it off while I watch you perform.” (Suga Mama)
Chris Brown
“Let’s get and make love on Venus.” (Gimme Whatcha Got)
Alicia Keys
“So maybe we can go to first base because I feel you.” (Teenage Love Affair)
Jesse McCartney
“Spend the night with me and I’ll rock you.” (Rock You)
Katy Perry
“I kissed a girl just to try it/I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.” (I Kissed a Girl)
Pussycat Dolls
“I can get off when you ain’t around.” (I Don’t Need a Man)
“What you got up in them jeans? Put it on me, or get lonely.” (Lemme Get That)
Kid Rock
“That little p**** l***** finger f***** h* a** c***.” (F*** U Blind)
“She was s***** on me. And I was l***** on her.” (69)

I’m not advocating that we boycott Beyonce – I love some of her music.  I like Chris Brown.  I am not suggesting that anybody ought to ban kids from listening to this stuff.  But we’d better not stick our heads in the sand about the power of what’s on their iPod.  
I’m writing as a parent here.  I have four teenagers, and one of my greatest hopes is that they make good, healthy choices as they mature – spiritual, emotional and physical.  They don’t live in a cave – they’re exposed to a good bit of popular culture.  They love music; it’s a powerful influence on them and an outlet for expression.  And as a parent, I’ve got to be informed about what it is that’s influencing them so powerfully.
I want to influence my kids against having sex – not because it’s sinful and it will send them to the pit of hell, but because of the consequences – spiritual, emotional and physical.  I’m not sure I can identify one single benefit of early sexual activity, other than the instantaneous physical gratification.  It’s all downhill from there.  I want the best for my kids, and having sex at this point in their lives is not it.  They have the power to choose; they can make the opportunity should they so desire – but I’ve got to do the best I can to guide and influence them to make healthy decisions. That’s my responsibility.
Maybe you disagree with me as a parent; maybe you’re happy for your kid to be getting some at the tender age of 15. Or 14.  Plenty of them are, you know.
Check out their playlist.  Start a conversation.  Have a frank discussion.  Talk about it.  It’s worth the effort.  And, if you’re a parent, it’s your job.

"It Is Written"

Today I took Shannon on a mommy/daughter date and saw “Slumdog Millionaire”.

Took me by surprise; I had heard that it was a ‘love story’, and that therein was the appeal.  So I expected the girl + boy story to be the focal point.  But that aspect seemed almost secondary; the love story was as much about brothers and friends as the romance you might expect to find in a popular two hour film.  The relationship between the brothers was powerful.  And powerful may be a rather anemic word.  I was completely captivated.
Sarah went to see it later today with friends and Twittered afterward, “I am paralyzed.”  I think that’s a good word for it.  
It’s not unusual for me to enjoy a movie and encourage other people to go see it.  But there was something so visceral about this film…so deeply moving…it compels me to want to insist  that everyone in the universe go to see it.  
Reflecting on it a bit, I’m really not quite sure what the appeal is.  Perhaps, more than anything, my western, American, comfortable heart was shattered by the vivid depictions of life in the slums of India.  And because the poverty, the filth, the unbelievably desperate conditions were barely nodded at – simply a part of a very real, authentic story – the impact of how two brothers grew up in Mumbai is driven home with a fierce and desperate power.  It is inescapable.
I was so moved, on so many levels.  It was way beyond what I expected.  It is a movie I want to watch again and again and again.
I suggest you catch it in a theatre, where you can be transported to Mumbai and experience the intensity of this film in the dark.  Because, in spite of the setting of the story, it’s a tale of the triumph of human spirit, and love, and right.  In the midst of the mess, it truly is a happy story.  And I think maybe that’s what resonates most of all, what my occupied spirit completely understands.  
In the midst of great brokeness, there is true joy.

Nice To Meet You, Kate Campbell

We had our Middle District Minister’s Appeciation Banquet tonight; a good meal, nice company.  It’s a yearly event designed to honor “Ministers and their spouses”, which is awkward.  Being that I don’t have a spouse.  But I go anyway.

Our small denominational group is chugging into the new cultural context in some surprising ways.  Tonight, the surprise was a great – in fact, a marvelous – blessing.  Jim Hamacher, the Executive Director and event planner, brought in a guest artist for the evening.  He did a great job talking her up; frankly, I figured the hyperbole was a bit much. 
Turns out the man knew exactly what he was doing.  I found it a bit risky – which I respect and admire – and in terms of an artistic and meaingful experience, he nailed it.
Actually, I should say she nailed it.  Tonight was my second exposure to Kate Campbell; I’d heard a song on NPR some years ago and remembered it only when she sang the first line tonight.  I didn’t realize I’d ever heard her before.  We sat together for dinner and chatted.  She took the stage and her guitar and told us some incredible stories, woven in and around beautiful, poignant melodies.  There’s something wistful about the tales she tells, of road signs in small town America, elderly black church custodians and some spiritual longings.
What a night.  And what an unexpected treat, to be deeply and richly moved by a secular market folksinger at a local meeting of Baptist church ministers.
God never ceases to to amaze me.
Here’s a taste of Kate Campbell.  I purchased just one starter cd; I’ll be soaking in it for a few days.  You can check her out here, and she’s got a lot of stuff on iTunes.  
Feeling blessed….