Most every Christian (and many non-Christians) are familiar with the story of the prodigal son. A father has two sons and plans to leave a sizable inheritance to both upon of them upon his death. The younger son, being impulsive and impatient, demands he get his inheritance now while he is still young enough to enjoy it, and he promptly heads out into the world to live the “wild life,” blowing through every penny until he is left poor and homeless, living in a literal pig pen. At the lowest point of his life, he realizes that even his father’s servants live better than he does – at least they are fed and given shelter! He swallows his pride and heads back home, intending to ask his dad simply to have a job as one of his servants after all he’d done. His dad, however, sees him coming home, and immediately orders a feast and celebration, declaring, “My son was dead, but now he is alive! He has come home!” It’s a parable that is very well known.
But what about the firstborn son? Where does he fit into this story? Jesus tells of how the firstborn son was confused, and even bitter towards his father’s reaction when his younger brother returned home. Here he was, a loyal and faithful son, working for his father and earning his share of the inheritance. He never squandered his money, and he definitely was more deserving of a party than his brother was. And yet it was his brother who got the celebration after doing the exact opposite! The firstborn son was so angry that he refused to even come to the party. When his dad asked him what the problem was, he responded by asking, “Why does HE get a celebration?! I’ve stayed loyal, I’ve done your bidding, and I haven’t even gotten a young goat to share with my friends. That brat comes home after blowing everything, and you gave him the biggest steak we have!”
On the surface, it makes perfect sense why the elder son would be upset. I mean, he has a point. He never led the wild life. He was always at his father’s side, doing what was asked of him. And yet he never was given any sort of celebration. And in reality, it probably was never even expected. I mean, if you do what’s asked of you, why do you even need a celebration? It’s just part of life! But when your brother takes half of the family’s money and blows it, coming back home smelling like a pig pen and begging forgiveness, why should HE get a feast?! He got what he deserves!
How many of us are “firstborn Christians”? How many of us were raised in the church, or are long-time church members who show up every Sunday, volunteer for events, pay tithes, and play a large part in our church? Don’t we deserve to be celebrated? I mean, it’s because of US that there’s even a church here, right? If we didn’t show up every week, there wouldn’t be a place for prodigals to come. That’s why WE are the ones who matter here, not those losers who keep screwing up.
Or is it????
As the prodigal’s father explained, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” The firstborn was already guaranteed everything the father had because of his loyalty. Why did he need his father to give him a young goat (or anything, really), when he already had everything he needed? And aside from that, why couldn’t the firstborn be happy that his brother, whom he hadn’t seen in a long time, had returned home?
Why can’t we as Christians, especially “firstborn Christians,” celebrate when sinners are found instead of complaining about how “our needs are not being met.” God has already met everyone one of our needs, and will continue to do so. So put away your griping and let’s welcome the lost, for they now are found.
There’s no doubt about it; we are by far the most informed generation this world has ever seen. We are bombarded literally by the minute with information, whether it be the latest news, celebrity gossip, sports scores, movie showings (and spoilers), and even personal family events. All we gotta do is pick up that magical little gizmo we carry everywhere, tap the screen a few times, and we can get pretty much any information we want.
We also have the unprecedented ability to SHARE information with each other. It could be mundane, or it could be life-changing, but we can let everyone know what is going on pretty much instantly through social media. Bored at work? Turn on Facebook Live, and all of your friends can watch you be bored at work! Just got a passing grade on an exam? Shout it from the virtual rooftops with a picture of your score on Instagram. Heck, even the President of the United States seems to be addicted to Twitter (for better or worse).
While this ability to share information and stay informed is unlike any we’ve seen in history, it also comes with inherent problems. Prior to social media, information had to be obtained through a bit more laborious methods – trips to the library, buying a newspaper, or tuning into the nightly news. More often than not, this information went through at least some form of vetting prior to being distributed. That’s not to say that the information was more accurate in the past than it is now; it just means that more was at stake if said information was incorrect. If a newscaster wanted to keep his job, he had to be trusted by the general public, so his reputation was on the line with every single story he broadcast. Same with journalists and publishers. Sure, some still had an agenda (anytime a human is involved, there will ALWAYS be some sort of bias), but the risks were such that one or two “fake news” stories or pieces of misinformation could make or break a career (just ask Dan Rather).
Today, “fake news” is all the rage. It’s not about information so much as it is about attention. Want to look like a moron? Go for it, but at least you’ll look like a moron with millions of views and likes, which can be translated into monetary gain. Just look at the recent meme phenomenon/trainwreck, Danielle Bregolli, the 13-year-old delinquent whose single appearance on Dr. Phil turned her into an instant celebrity for being nothing more than a teenage brat. She’s now making all kinds of money, including commercial deals, from a criminal attitude and one single, poorly-enunciated phrase. She is this year’s “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
That’s not to say that we can’t be entertained as well as informed. In fact, some of the most entertaining individuals are also the most informative. Look at The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight. Both shows feature biting satire, but also with a heavy political and social commentary tied to them. Again, bias is heavy, but it just goes to show that, if you have the right platform, your word can spread like never before thanks to online viewing and clips on YouTube.
But that leads us to the question – who should we trust for information?
In the past (I’m talking at least half a century, not last week), information was primarily obtained from folks who were older than us. Parents, teachers, mentors, clergy, they all played a part in making the next generation who they were in some way. They passed on what they learned to the next generation, who would repeat the cycle in perpetuity. Once again, bias was still present, as all of these folks had at least SOME sort of reason for passing along this piece of information over that, but for the most part, children learned from their elders, and young adults gained their knowledge from those older and more experienced. And aside from the schoolyard experience, that’s how information was accepted.
Today, however, with the never-before-seen amount of contact among our peers, self-education seems to have overtaken the history of passed-down education. Teenagers and young adults (millenials, if you will) are questioning, challenging, and often outright rejecting education from elders in favor of learning from each other, and in a way, it’s hard to blame them. Why continue to rely on one or two sources of information we we literally have a whole world of information at our fingertips? It also has resulted in a lack of trust among the current generation. With so many different variations of the same information, it becomes difficult to determine what the truth actually is (just ask Sean Spicer).
So the question then becomes, should the current generation start looking again to the previous to help vet some of this information, or has that model been completely outdated by the amount of (and access to) information available to us? Is it safe to learn with (and through) each other, or do we as a society NEED the wisdom and guidance of past generations?
From a Biblical standpoint, you can find many instances of being referred to wise counsel, and while that sometimes refers to elders (either as a governing body in the church or just someone older than you), it does not reserve wisdom and guidance SOLELY to them. If you are a Christian (as I am), you believe that God (through the Bible) is the one true source of wisdom, but how this wisdom is obtained depends on the person. Many churches, however, take this to to mean that ONLY previous generations have the authority and/or ability to train up the next generation. In fact, some church leaders take this to an extreme, refusing to accept any sort of input from younger generations, which is viewed as inherently flawed (“How can THEY possibly have more knowledge or wisdom than me? I’m older than them; I have authority over them; I MUST be right, and they MUST yield to me!”). Obviously, they never paid much attention to the books of Samuel, and how an 11-year-old boy was given knowledge of the fall of his mentor’s entire dynasty.
So again, back to the question at hand: is the time-honored tradition of passing down information from one generation to the next now outdated by the amount of knowledge and information available to us? In all honesty, I think the two models (learning from each other and learning from those who have gone before us) should work hand-in-hand. We have such an abundance of information, but we seem to lack the wisdom to determine what information we should take as definitive, which is where having guidance comes into play. Sure, we can question and challenge, but we should also be willing to accept that there are some folks who DO have the experience and wisdom to help you determine what is and is not right.
‘Tis the season – so to speak – when our televisions are bombarded with various Christmas programs and specials. It’s A Wonderful Life, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, It’s Christmas Charlie Brown, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, and a whole slew of cartoons, Hallmark movies, and music concerts fill both network and cable time slots in an effort to display the holiday spirit. Some are very well done, others are simply phoned in; nevertheless, they play virtually endlessly through December 25th.
One in particular that I remember from my own youth seems to be all but forgotten. I never would have seen it myself had it not been for my mother recording it on VHS from cable (WGN if I remember correctly): George and the Christmas Star – a tale of a young man who, while decorating his Christmas tree, decides that a standard paper star on top simply won’t do.
That premise, in and of itself, isn’t all that outlandish in comparison to most other specials. What makes this 24 minute cartoon stand out is the lengths that the titular character goes to find the perfect tree topper….
For starters, the ultimate decoration he desires is an actual star he sees outside his window. But how to get it? Simple! He gathers “a few odds and ends” from his home and builds a fully functioning space ship (at this point, one gathers that “logic” is a moot point in this story) and launches himself into outer space to catch this star.
Ok, a bit unusual, but not ENTIRELY out there, compared to a magic snowman or a deer with a neon schnoz, but we are only 3 minutes in. Throughout George’s journey, he meets an alien robot who owns a planetary motel (but all he ever wanted to be was a piano player), is ordered by space rangers (also robotic) that star hunting requires a permit (of course!), is captured by space pirates, meets a lovely female astronaut, and has to deal with an evil space bike gang.
I couldn’t make that up if I tried!!
Ultimately, George does catch that shiny star and makes his way back home, only for the star to immediately shoot back off into the sky where it belongs. At this point, he realizes that Christmas is not about decorations, but about being with his new found friends.
So how, you may ask, is this show a favorite of mine? How is a plot that seems born from a bad game of Mad Libs even remotely entertaining?
The answer comes from its execution. The story is narrated by the main character in a largely understated, calm, and almost dismissive tone, as if the entire series of events was just another day. For as off-the-wall as each scenario may be, George never once even raises his voice in emphasis. Of course he flew into space and did all these things. Who wouldn’t? The strange and outrageous scenes are not played directly for laughs; they’re simply odd for the sake of being odd, but there is such charm in them that you almost forget that you’re watching one of the few sci-fi Christmas cartoons. And at no point does the story talk down to the audience.
This special was produced in Canada in 1985. I was 4 years old when Mom recorded it, which means that it aired at least once in the US in 1987. Since then, that VHS has been completely worn out. A few years back, I found a VHS copy on Amazon, as well as a DVD that includes other “Christmas Classics” that I’ve never heard of, both for under $10 each, but this past week, I found the entire special on YouTube in one full 24 minute clip. I sat and watched the whole thing on my iPhone and was just as amused now as I was 25 years ago.
If you are tired of the usual Christmas specials and are looking for something different (and I DO mean different), look up George and the Christmas Star.
The Ernest movies are among Hollywood’s surprise success stories. The “Ernest P. Worrell” character originated as a redneck pitchman played by Jim Varney for a series of Nashville-produced ad’s. Ernest was so popular that he quickly began making ad’s for products throughout the country, often produced at director John Cherry’s Nashville home with a hand-held camera. The character became so popular that Varney was invited to take part in a holiday parade. When Varney (as Ernest) received a bigger response from the crowd than Mickey Mouse, Disney executives took notice and offered Varney a movie deal.
The first film, Ernest Goes to Camp, has become a cult classic since its release in 1988 (and also was the final film of Italian-turned-Native-American character actor, Bill “Iron Eyes” Cody). The unexpected success of Camp meant Disney wanted another Ernest film. The follow-up was the charming Ernest Saves Christmas.
For those of you unaware, Ernest Saves Christmas stars the titular redneck character who gets inadvertently sucked into a quest by Santa Claus himself to find a suitable replacement. While Ernest may be the star of the film, the story really does revolve around Santa, played beautifully by Douglas Seale (most famous as the voice of the “Sultan” in Aladdin).
According to this film, the role of Santa is one that isn’t held by one individual, but is passed on over generations. This particular Santa admits that he has held onto the position longer than he should have, resorting to hand-written notes to keep track of who is naughty or nice as his magic continues to fade. The magic is only replenished when a suitable replacement takes over the role. This is quite an interesting idea, and one that was revisited somewhat in another Disney film, The Santa Clause. The difference here, however, is that Santa has to convince his chosen successor of his validity.
This proves to be harder than expected, as the one Santa is eyeing for the position is a former children’s television host, Joe Caruthers, who is attempting to break into mainstream films as a legitimate actor. The kind-hearted Joe seems willing to at least hear the jolly one out, but Joe’s agent, Marty, sees Santa as a senile old man who is getting in the way of Joe’s big break. It’s with the help of Ernest’s convoluted schemes that Santa is eventually able to reach Joe and explain the situation to him.
Meanwhile, a teenage runaway is scraping along by conning her way from place to place. When one of her con jobs puts her in trouble, she crosses paths with Ernest and Santa. The two take her in, with Santa being aware of her situation, but allowing her to learn her own lessons in a genuinely touching side story.
Director Cherry admits that this is his favorite among the many Ernest films made over the years, and its’ easy to see why. Rather than being a series of set-pieces strung together by a thin plot, the idea of Santa actually putting Christmas at risk due to his own selfish desires puts the typically-joyous Father Christmas at a more human and vulnerable level. This isn’t a perfect Santa. He gets hurt. He gets frustrated. He makes mistakes. He even gets angry. Seale’s performance only adds to the magic – you completely buy into his Santa Claus, even at his lowest.
Since he doesn’t have to carry the film all on his own, Varney is free to play with the Ernest character (as well as several other characters), creating some truly funny moments. You definitely have to suspend disbelief at times, but such is the case with this type of comedy – embellishment and exaggeration. Noelle Parker’s runaway has enough attitude to cover up her own vulnerability, which she plays very well.
While this isn’t a beloved classic along the lines of It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol, Ernest Saves Christmas nonetheless is a fun, enjoyable 90 minutes of silly humor mixed with a unique and often touching Santa story. If you have Netflix, the film is currently available to streaming. It’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Knowhutimean, Vern?
There are so many things I can be mad about in this life. At the same time, there are so many things that I should be thankful for, often as the result of my frustrations. For example:
FRUSTRATION: I struggle to pay my bills sometimes.
THANKFUL: I have a roof over my head, water and electricity.
FRUSTRATION: I need to get gas in my car.
THANKFUL: I have a car to get me where I need to go.
FRUSTRATION: I have to go into work early.
THANKFUL: I have a job to support my family.
FRUSTRATION: My kids are running wild throughout the house.
THANKFUL: I have been blessed to be a parent.
FRUSTRATION: My wife and I are in an argument.
THANKFUL: I have a wife who loves me and is willing to accept me even with my faults.
As you can see, even in the worst of times, there is always a blessing to be found.
I’ve been listening to a wide variety of music lately. It seems to vary day by day. One day, I’m listening to 80’s synth pop music. The next, I’m listening to old-school country music. Today, it’s been church music. Not your stereotypical hymns and organ music, mind you! I’m talking old-time, down-home, runnin’ and jumpin’, pentecostal music – the kind of music that if you played it in a baptist church, they’d kick you out for being over the top. The kind of music where you don’t sing the words so much as you preach and shout them.
This is the kind of music I grew up listening to in a small pentecostal church. Not a single person had any formal music training, and a good portion of the singing would be considered mediocre at best to the trained ear, but there was SOMETHING about it that just reached down and grabbed you. It bypassed polish for passion and exactness for excitement. It’s also where I first learned the basics of playing “open jams.” These songs never had a set structure, and often would go on for anywhere from 3 to 10 to even 30 minutes at a time (depending on how the Spirit was moving). When you’re playing the music for those songs, you learn very quickly how to pay attention to where the singer is going and respond accordingly. To say I have a fondness for this music would be putting it lightly.
While listening to this Holy Ghost music, a thought crossed my mind: it sure would be fun to play this during a service at our current home church – a baptist church. And not just play the song, but play a video of these pentecostal singers as well. The shouting, the jumping, the dancing, the running….all of which would be looked upon with a bit of, shall we say, distaste.
Yes, I got a chuckle out of that vision. Then I was saddened. Not because I can’t show said video, necessarily, but the reasons WHY I can’t show said video.
We used to live in a town that had (no joke) approximately 10 churches on one 5-mile stretch of road. Some of these churches sat literally next door to each other (and unless you were familiar with each church, the odds of pulling into the wrong driveway or parking lot were quite high). Baptist churches. Nazarene churches. Churches of God. Non-demonimational. Catholic churches. Methodist churches. All on the same road (which was locally referred to as “Church Street,” despite being officially named otherwise). Why are so many churches present in a single location? Heck, why are there so many DIFFERENT churches at all? And why is one church so completely against what other churches are doing?
In some instances, I feel that some of it is just flat out petty competition. No matter what this church does, that church will have a problem with it, or vice versa. This church believes that. That church believes this. They do this, which we don’t agree with, and we do that, which they think is wrong. It’s no wonder so many view Christianity with disdain – we Christians already to it each other, so why should the non-believing world by any different?
Now, I get that there are some churches that are fundamentally flawed in their teaching and theology (Westboro comes to mind), but where I have a problem is when the doctrines are the same, but the “day-to-day” aspects are separating us. “They do things THIS way, which we don’t like.” Well, is it biblically WRONG? “No, not necessarily, we just don’t do it here.”
Have you found the common link in all of these arguments yet? It’s a very simple word: “we.” The focus is not on God; it’s on US. WE can’t get along with that church because WE think THEY are wrong. Linear focus.
It’s not even other churches necessarily. A lot of times, it’s the people within a single church. “She said this. He did that. I have a problem with that.” Well, I’m sorry you have a problem with it. Why are you looking at them instead of focusing on God? Is your eye completely healed from that plank?
Then we have the issue of numbers. Our goal is to reach the lost for Christ. Instead, churches are too busy reaching members for tithes. Again, don’t get me wrong; I know that there is definitely a business aspect to the modern church (whether we like it or not), but what good does it do us if all we’re doing is bringing in people and not feeding them? How effective is a hospital that brings in hundreds of patients, but fails to treat any of them? Sure, in the short-term, the numbers go up, but failure to help those in need means that the solution is temporary at best.
I admit this is one of my biggest struggles when it comes to my faith – dealing with the church. I’ve dealt with so many different aspects of this same problem for most of my adult life. I have somewhat learned how to handle these issues, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling like we’re failing somewhere. It’s as if we’re just too busy being a church that we forget our calling to be THE CHURCH.
On this day seven years ago, two families gathered together at a lodge tucked away in a military base, watching as two kids said, “I do,” to each other.
Well, technically, I think we said, “I will.” I don’t know why everyone makes a bit deal out of “I do,” when every wedding I can remember attending has the bride and groom saying “I will.” I guess it’s because “I do” signifies the here and now, while “I will” indicates an on-going commitment, which (let’s face it) is what marriage is. You may now, but WILL you in five, ten, twenty, fifty years??
But I digress….regardless of the lexicon, we made a commitment to each other in front of our families, friends, and God to love one another no matter what. If only she had known what she was getting into….
Seven years later (minus one day), I slept on the couch after an argument that I don’t even care to detail, mainly because it was probably one of the dumber arguments we’ve ever had. I think the sentence, “Stop telling me I’m mad at you, because you’re really making me mad…..” How’s that for stupidity (and yes, it was me who came up with that jewel of couples ammunition). I didn’t even realize that it was the night before our anniversary when I stormed up to the living room, which made me feel all the more guilty when I woke up the next morning and realized, “Oh yeah, today’s the 11th. Well, crap….”
My wife has one simple rule – do NOT wake her up unless I absolutely have to. My job is to wake up while it’s still dark, get myself ready for work, then start getting the boys ready for school, all while not disturbing my wife, who prefers to be left alone to wake up at her own pace. I do my best to honor that request, although it’s difficult to pull off on some mornings when one of the kids refuses to get out of bed. You try talking loud enough to wake someone up while simultaneously NOT talking loud enough to wake someone else up. It’s not easy!!
On this morning, I decided that it would be worth the risk, and I woke my wife up anyway to make sure I told her happy anniversary before I left for work. At this point in our marriage, we’ve come to appreciate acknowledgement, so — I’m sorry, my youngest son is sleeping on the couch right next to me as I type this, and he’s got a nose whistler that is driving me nuts. Be right back….MUCH better!! — I felt that it would be in my best interest to at least acknowledge that A) it was our anniversary, and B) I was sorry for being stupid. If there were a speed-dial for apology reasons, stupidity would be in my top slot.
I’m sure seven years ago, this beautiful bride never once thought that “I will” would one day mean, “I will tolerate the massive stupidity and stubbornness that is my husband, and I will do so with love, grace, and just enough attitude that he’ll hopefully not do it again, but even if he does, I will again deal with it.” And yet, seven years in, she’s still here, and she’s still dealing with my stupidity. It’s not like she doesn’t have her work cut out for her already; we have three sons, so her day already consists of massive amounts of head shaking, forehead smacking, utter disbelief. Add me into the mix, and….let’s just say there are some nights that I earn my spot in the couch.
But in the end, that’s what “I will” means. Sure, we loved each other on our wedding day, which is where “I do” would fit, but we didn’t say that. We said, “I will.” And you know what? We still do, and still will!!
Well, that escalated quickly.
In today’s world of instant global communication, it seems that we are seeing much more violence and rebellion now than ever before. Kids are bringing guns to school (and using them) simply to get attention. Criminals are tempting police (and often sacrificing themselves) simply because they refuse to abide by laws (and some police officers are reaching the ends of their rope and responding similarly).
We live in a society where “rules are meant to be broken,” and authority is to be questioned. There are entire movements today against authority of any kind, with anti-police and anti-government rhetoric all over society. Part of this is due to the widespread use of the Internet, wherein news is accessible and can travel virtually instantaneously to anyone you want. There is no cooling-down period before news can be processed and presented. If something happens, 10 people have cell phones trained on it, and it’s on YouTube within minutes for the entire world to see (rather than being published the next day in a newspaper or aired a few hours later on television). A fire is sparked and fuel is added immediately.
Why is this such an issue? Well, to put it simply, anger is a high. According to Psychology Today:
It overrides all other moral and rational brakes in the brain because it originates from our primordial, original limbic system: the brain center of our most automatic emotions like fear and desire.
Basically, anger is the body’s way of handling stress in a very primitive way. It’s a knee-jerk reaction that occurs without thinking, and if left unchecked, it can turn us into raging maniacs, clouding our judgement. That’s why we’re told to go “cool down,” so our bodies have time to process what is happening and we can make rational decisions.
But what happens when our anger is fueled rather than cooled? Instead of calming down, what if we’re told, “No, stay angry, and get angrier!” Like an addict, we begin to crave the anger and the feeling it gives us. It creates the illusion of power (“We’re angry, and we’re going to do something about it!”). That’s why angry mobs are often uncontrollable. They are a group that is fueling each other’s anger beyond rational thought.
And thanks to the Internet, that anger can be fueled continuously. Someone commits a crime against someone else, and immediately, an entire group of folks can rise up in anger (without taking the time to process it), and react however they see fit, creating their own version of what happened based on their anger rather than actual events.
Think I’m being over dramatic? When was the last time something made you angry? Odds are you went and vented about it on a Facebook post, where other folks chimed in to tell you how right you are and how wrong it is for whatever made you angry. It’s confirmation of our anger, which again, fuels it. And if anyone questions why your angry (or attempts to calm you down), we instead get even more angry, because you’re not getting your anger fix. Instead, you’re being denied your anger.
Am I saying that anger is wrong? No. It’s an emotion that we all feel at some point, and it is often justifiable. What we DO with that anger, however, is what can be right or wrong. Do we stop and try to process why we’re angry, or do we simply lash out and let our anger take over?
I am not writing this as a lecture to others, either. I have dealt with anger issues my entire life, and usually, it’s born out of what I perceive to be a lack of control over a situation. When I feel like I no longer have control over something, I get angry, because it gives me that illusion of control, or at least an attempt at regaining control (however spectacularly it fails). It’s something I’ve dealt with and worked on for most of my adult life.
And this is the same mindset that society has as a whole today. They want to regain control over something that they never really had control over in the first place, leading to anger that is unexplainable, yet somehow makes us feel better, if only for that moment.
It’s spring cleaning time, and that includes cleaning up some of the sites I manage. I decided to consolidate my outside blog, “Some Bald Guy Responds,” onto this site, primarily because I have more control over it here. It also seems dumb to have two sites when one will do everything I want it to do.
I also am announcing that I am cutting WAY back on music gigs for the time being. I have been so busy lately with other commitments that I simply don’t have the time to dedicate to doing solo dates as I once have. I’ll still do the occasional gig here and there, but it’s not going to be at the scale that I was previously. Instead, I am turning my attention to writing, something for which I’ve always had a passion (another reason for bringing my blog into my main site).
So if you see a lot more writing from me than before, well there’s a reason for that! And if you couldn’t have cared less what I was doing, well….WHY ARE YOU EVEN READING THIS THEN?!
The New York Daily News’ cover is made up of tweets highlighting the words “pray” and “prayer,” with big, bold letters proclaiming “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.”
I think part of the issue is the definition of prayer (and how it has replaced the word “condolence” in modern language). It’s very easy to say “pray for this or that,” and it makes you look all spiritual in doing so. But how many people who say they’re offering prayers REALLY are doing so?
And what are they praying for? Dear God (or whatever higher being you hope might be listening), please give me what I am asking for? And is that all that’s going on? “Give me this please,” CLICK. That’s the secular take on prayer – the Genie in the Sky who only answers those who win the lottery.
In “Conan The Barbarian,” the titular character prays to a god named Crumb, asking for victory in a battle. He ends this prayer with the words, “If you do not grant me this request, then TO HELL WITH YOU!” And that’s where we as a society are today. God give me this. No? Then I hate you. Kinda sounds like my four year old when I won’t let him have another candy cane off the tree.
Instead, let’s look at what prayer is truly intended as and for – an open (and ongoing) communication with God. Makes not just your wishes known, but your gratitude, and be listening for that still small voice. It’s a two-way street.
The other issue is pure and simple – no one comes to the Father except through the Son. All these people say “I’m praying,” may say “God help us” under their breath, and move along with their day, feeling as if they earned their prayer badge for the day. Only the Bible says that empty, thoughtless prayers are NOT heard by the Master. It is ONLY through the Son, Christ Jesus, that prayers are heard.
And this is the concept that runs people the wrong way. They want their spiritual godmother to grant them requests, but don’t have the faith to back it up. They’re calling a wrong number then getting mad when no one answers.
So in a way, the NYDN is right. God is NOT fixing this, but it’s not because prayer in itself is ineffective. It’s because the prayers being offered are empty, hollow requests with no faith behind them (if they are offered at all….just because you tweet it doesn’t mean you do it).
Am I opening myself up to ridicule? I’m sure I am. Will there be counterpoint comments from folks claiming that I am 100% wrong? I’m certain there will be. But you know what? I don’t care. Unlike those who pray with hashtags and nothing else, I AM praying. And that prayer is, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come”…..