Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Singing Unironically

I used to go to a Hip Contemporary Church. The idea behind this church was that if we sang songs in a style that fit with the music that's played on the radio (real radio stations, not religious ones), and if the pastor used Power Point slides and movie clips to give visuals to his sermons, and if we renamed Sunday School to Kidtricity, and if we had a church logo, and we put the logo on frisbees and polo shirts and coffee mugs, then people who would ordinarily never set foot in a church would come and they'd become Christians.

One time, I was driving my family to church in our big blue twelve passenger van. (Dad called it the "Purple Mountains Majesty.") I had to wait, as we entered the church parking lot, because a passel of people were crossing the street. Mom told me that just a couple of years before, none of these people were Christians, and now they're involved in our church; I suppose this idea works pretty well.

One time, at the Hip Contemporary Church, we sang "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." We started singing it in the style of the old hymn that it is; the keyboard was set to sound like an organ. Then, as the second verse began, there was a sudden style change, and the volume went up, the tempo quickened, and the electric guitar got turned on. There was head-banging and applause. At the time, I thought this was cool.

One time, I went on a retreat with my church, the one I go to now, the Hip Mennonite Church. The Hip Contemporary Church is hip as in congruent with our culture; my Hip Mennonite Church is as hip as a church can be and still be Mennonite, which is to say, not very much. We use transparencies, not Power Point, to show our song lyrics. Some of the women wear head coverings and dresses. Each Sunday I expect my thighs to fall asleep, because the pews are old and wooden and uncomfortable.

The speaker on our retreat was E Daniel, the father-in-law of our pastor, Todd, and the father of Todd's co-pastor and wife, Marita. E Daniel used Power Point, but his slides weren't very well designed; they didn't have pretty backgrounds. E Daniel didn't make pop culture references.
E Daniel is bald and old and portly. Before one evening session, E Daniel played Bang! with Richard and Michael and me and I forget who else.

In the evening session, E Daniel talked about how he was always a very religious person. When he got baptized, everyone else getting baptized with him was crying, because they were contrite for their sins. E Daniel didn't have any big sins to make him feel contrite, so, instead, he discretely pinched himself in the back of his thigh until he cried, too.

E Daniel then called Lee to the front of the room.

Lee is old and portly, but he has hair--it's silver. His granddaughter normally sits in his lap during church and pinches his nose and cheeks, and she smiles. I've never seen Lee in a shirt with fewer than two buttons; he is a polite, mature, generous, devout person, and someone we all look up to.

E Daniel told us that he and Lee grew up together. E Daniel asked Lee to tell his story.

Lee used to be a drag racer.

Lee had a fake-o conversion when he was a teenager; he says, he actually just cared about himself, and behaved himself well enough in church to not get into too much trouble. He wasn't truly a Christian. He got married to Ginny, a good Christian woman; she didn't realize that Lee's Christianity was a mask.

Lee hated revival meetings.

He hated how the preacher would yell at people and intimidate them, he hated the weird pressure, he hated how it was the same story every night, but if you were a church person, you were expected to not miss a revival meeting. Most of all he hated altar calls, which always used Just As I Am as the invitation. Lee hated Just As I Am--it's all sappy and the imagery is wimpy. We all laughed, because we hate Just As I Am, also.

Although Lee didn't like revival meetings, he would go to them anyway, every summer, "to keep up the façade." He was more interested in drag racing, so he would fantasize about that while was imprisoned in a pew. He would arrive late and try to sit in the back.

At some of these meetings, he would feel a compulsion to genuinely repent and become a Christian. He didn't want to walk the aisle, though, that would be cliché; he intended to convert at home. However, after he'd leave the revival meeting, the urge would pass.

For no good reason, in one of these revival meetings, Lee realized that he needed to change. Each time he went to a revival and felt compelled to salvation, God was calling him. He had an impression that this might be the last time God called him, after that, God might just let him stew in his stubbornness; God might let him get away with this stunt.

He wanted to do the altar call, but he was ashamed, so when it was time for the altar call, he asked Ginny to go with him, for moral support. The choir sang Just As I Am.

He said that this experience with God was a breath of fresh air. Before, he had been weighed down by living unforgiven, but after he fessed up, he was floating a foot above the ground.

Lee told us that the next morning, at work, he told his buddies that he wasn't going to tell dirty jokes with them any more. He made it clear that he still wanted to be their friend, but something had changed with him, and he felt like he couldn't tell dirty jokes any more. (I suppose Lee was changed in other ways, too, but this was the most concrete change he cited.)

After Lee finished his story, E Daniel asked us if anyone needed prayer, if any of us wanted to live a changed life. We sang Just As I Am.

One woman asked for us to pray for her for freedom from an addiction. Our pastors, Todd and Marita, were the others to come forward for the altar call; they felt overwhelmed and attacked and depressed, so we prayed for our pastors. I don't think I'd ever seen a pastor ask for help like that, before.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Peculiarities and Irritations

I am irritated when people try to schedule phone calls with me, or tell me "leave your phone open". If I can take the call, I will, if I can't, I won't, and it's as simple as that. I can't stand it when someone calls me five times trying to get through to me, without leaving a voicemail.

I like it when postal workers wear pith helmets while walking their routes because it makes them look like they're on a mail safari.

I do not have the mental capacity to understand why people fill the kitchen sink with dirty dishes to "clean up." The worst case of this that I've seen is a pile of dishes that goes above the faucet. This means that the dirty dishes get wet and fester. To actually clean them, the dishes have to get pulled back out of the sink, so that there's room to use the faucet, and now the counter has fetid dirty dishwater on it.

When I am driving somewhere that I have never been before, and I have a navigator (riding shotgun) reading directions to me, I request that the navigator read two steps ahead, at least, so that I know if I have to watch for any quick turns. Some navigators are obstinate, and only give the next immediate step, and refuse to provide any further information. If I have a navigator like this in the future, I will pull over and have them swap seats with someone in the backseat as punishment.

In the house I grew up in, we had an oak tree that was four hundred years old. There was a deer stand in it, or what had been a deer stand--all that was left was four rotting planks. We couldn't get them down easily, and this bothered me a lot.

Dad wouldn't let us build a tree fort. Instead, Dad made a little fort for me. It was barely a fort, it was three pieces of plywood, maybe a yard wide, total, held together with bungee cord. It wasn't as good as a tree house, but it was okay for watergun fights.

One time, I was at the gym, and someone hopped onto the elliptical machine next to mine, and exercised vigorously; ten minutes later, she got off, wheezing. Now, this person was reasonably fit. What was peculiar was the machine was off the whole time, so it provided no resistance. Is it proper to say, "Excuse me, Miss, but are you aware that you frittered away your last ten minutes on a non-functional piece of equipment?"

I started lifting weights this summer. I still haven't figured out the etiquette for that, either. Everyone's listening to their iPod. Someone will walk up to me as I'm doing lat presses, and ask me a question, but I can't hear them, and so an awkward, "What did you say?" and pointing and gesturing.

Also, we only have one rope thing in the gym. I don't know what its proper name is, but it's the only suitable handle for the ab press. People are always snatching it from the ab press, though, and taking it to another machine to do T-Rexes. Well, Mike, Tim, and I call them "T-Rexes", because when doing them, you only move your forearms. T-Rexes can be done with other handles just as well, so I think that it ought to be considered proper to request the rope thing back from someone doing T-Rexes if I want to work my abs, but I'm afraid to ask.

I was walking across the quad last Thursday, when I saw a man with a perfectly uniform halo of hair and beard, making him look like a lion.

When I go to a pub, it's typically because I want to drink beer and talk with my friends. Why do pubs often have the music so loud that conversation is impossible? Also, why do pubs often have muted TV's without captions?

I don't get toothpicks in sandwiches at restaurants. I know that the theory is that the toothpick holds the sandwich layers together, but I've not seen this play out so well in practice. I've had oodles of problems with sandwiches falling apart as I eat them, but this is after I've taken the toothpick out to avoid splinters in my nose. I've never had a sandwich fall apart from the kitchen to the table as a result of not having a toothpick.

Some churches are not satisfied with merely having a name, they have to have a tagline, too. Two come to mind:
Where the nations gather to worship
The Amazing Grace Church

The Amazing Grace Church tagline bothers me, because I hope that it's not the only Church in which Grace is Amazingly present. My big problem here is the definite article.

Another definite article problem I have is the Old Bay-flavored Utz potato chips, with the tagline, "The Crab Chip." I'm always disappointed, because when I open the bag, I hope for only one crab potato chip that just fits the bag. Also, although crabs are often seasoned with Old Bay here in Maryland, they do not naturally taste anything like Old Bay. They should change the packaging to read, "A Passel of Chips Evoking Memories of Eating Crabs."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Proper Names For Things

I don't like it when people refer to anything that isn't knit as a sweater. I don't think of hoodies, fleece, jackets, or sweatshirts as sweaters.

I also don't like it when people refer to anything other than email as email; for example, Facebook messages aren't email. Email is better than Facebook messages by a whoop and a holler, and the two should not be confused.

Juice comes from plant parts that you'd eat ordinarily. Tea is not juice, no one eats tea leaves. Kool-Aid is not juice, it is sugar water and dye. (It is acceptable to call Kool-Aid bug juice.) While real ades, like lemonade or limeade, contain juice, they are not, themselves, juice, because they are diluted. Soda is certainly not juice.

Action figures are not dolls. They might look like dolls, but action figures blow things up. Dolls are precious. Stuffed animals are not dolls, either, because stuffed animals are snoogly, while dolls are crunchy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

No One Should Own a Quesadilla Maker

  • Three billion people live on $2 a day
  • One billion people live on $1 a day
  • 1.2 billion people are malnourished
  • 29,000 kids die each day from hunger and preventable disease
  • Half of disease worldwide is caused by bad water

When I read facts like this, I get upset and I don't know what to do. I don't know if it's okay for me to buy a CD, even used, or if it's okay for me to eat out, except at Taco Bell. I have trouble beating Taco Bell's price on the 1/2 lb.* Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito.

I would like to think that if I don't buy a CD, and give the money away instead, that would help a few people a whole lot, and that's sort of true, but it's not the whole story. Money isn't the whole reason behind the problems in the world--the real problem is people being greedy and wanting stuff more than they actually love other people.

At the same time, I'm afraid that I'm fooling myself, because I was having a bad day on Wednesday and wanted to listen to Raffi, and I didn't care if there was a connection between buying the CD and people being hungry.

I don't know whether it was okay for me to buy the Raffi CD, but no one should own a quesadilla maker. It's easier to make a good quesadilla with a skillet than with a quesadilla maker. Mexicans and Texicans don't use quesadilla makers to make quesadillas. Quesadillas makers have no use other than making quesadillas. Quesadilla makers exist because people feel obligated to give gifts on certain occasions to people that they don't actually care about. There are human beings who would rather purchase a useless appliance and give it to someone than to ask their friend what they really want.

Also, people probably shouldn't own waffle irons unless they make waffles at least once a month.

*Before cooking