Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Truth of Idol: The Self

We have seen a phenomenon in our current culture when it comes to what we watch on television. There is something to say for the popularity of reality television shows, such as Survivor, The Biggest Loser, and even Dancing With The Stars. Probably the biggest in influence and popularity of these shows is American Idol. Initially, it gives the viewer an insight into the process of becoming a signed professional musician, from the auditions to the record label. We get to see the singers interact with the judges, withe each other, and with their fans of the American public.

Along the process we see the growth of singers but, with an element of humor, we see the crash and burn of horrible auditions. I think we all get a little ego boost from each of these we watch. Either we can say to ourselves, "Hey at least I'm not that bad a singer," or if we are that bad, "at least I'm not that oblivious to the fact." I think one of the biggest fan-retaining elements to the show is that the process is given the air of being ruled by the voting masses, and though teenage girls' opinions may not speak for the rest of us, we are still given the sense that we are in control.

I think this aspect of American Idol is ironic, because it speaks to how we live our lives, especially in this country. I believe the biggest idol we can create above God is ourselves, putting us above any other, assuming we have control and the final word in all aspects of our lives. We are our own little American Idols in our own minds. It is something that we tend to do in this country, because we have so many freedoms and rights protected by our governments. We take them for granted when we have them, yet many of us impose them onto how we live our lives morally and spiritually, even when it hinders our faith and the faith of others. Paul reminds us that "Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is is beneficial."

When we place ourselves as idols, we make the assumption that our vote is the only one that counts, and that we have won on our own merits, regardless of the outcome of the vote, the opinion of the fans, or even whether or not the record label even wants us to sign. We sign our own contract before it has even had a chance to be written. We make our own critiques apart deaf to any others' and we ultimately win the competition, regardless of our own talent and ability (in singing or in life). When our opinion counts more than God's, we are essentially worshipping ourselves. We become the other god or idol that God is talking about in Exodus chapter 20 when He says "Do not worship any other gods before me" and "Do not make idols of any kind," and when we are the idol it is difficult for us to see that we have done this.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Knowing the Rules

When I was a teen, my church youth group would occasionally play a game at our devotionals. It was especially suited for large groups and lots of visitors. For those of us who had been around for a while and had played it before, it was up to us to make the game work, for in order for the game to work properly, it was up to each person to figure out the rules of the game for themselves.

The person facilitating the game would take a fork, a knife, and a spoon and place them on the floor in the center of the group. One person, usually who had never played, would be chosen to leave the room, and while that person was gone the rest of us would choose one person to be "it". Through the assumed hidden clues and codes in the way the silverware was placed, the new person would have to guess who was "it". Before everyone caught on to how the game was played (some of them never got it), we would sometimes have someone who knew the rules do the same, just to show that it could be done. The secret to the game was that it was a simple game of misdirection.

The secret of the game is that the hinting came not from the silverware, but from those who knew the rules. Whatever position the "it" person took, whether sitting or standing or crossing their legs or folding their arms, it was up to the others to mimick them as subtly as possible. Whenever "it" moved, everyone else followed.

The game acts as a metaphor for our worship services. Our worship services are places full of language, tradition, and actions that are foreign to visitors. Every once in a while someone will have the "aha!" moment when they finally get it. The silverware, the people moving together. Once they know and understand the rules and language, they will wonder why others don't. Our worship services have their own ways of inclusion and language and tradition that when it is finally understood, it sometimes means more to people than if they were more overt in its language. Jesus did this through the use of parables, that were obvious in their meaning to some and confusing to others.

Sometimes it takes someone telling them the rules. They won't get it until they get hints or until some of the distractions are taken away. At times we had to take away the silverware and play a couple more rounds of the game. Removing some of the non-essential pieces sometimes can be helpful in getting others involved. Sometimes with our worship services we have to take away some of the confusing language or distracting components. Like the silverware it serves a purpose, but sometimes that purpose is only confusing to those who don't know the rules. In order to be more inclusive, sometimes we must take away some of the forms, language, and distractions that only get in the way of people knowing the real rules and truth of the game.

Unfortunately, some walk away from the game and never get it. They never learn the rules either because of their frustration, the lack of explanation of the language to them by others, or because of their own indifference to learning the rules. Our worship services can be just as exclusive sometimes, with us unwilling to teach others the language necessarily to be involved, however it is also up to those people to make an attempt to learn the rules in order to participate.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Writing Experiment

Having become somewhat frustrated with unsuccessfully keeping forms of writing disciplines, I finally decided to do something a little more public to keep myself on track with writing. I've heard it said that writers simply write. They don't talk about writing, but simply do it without regards to initial quality or consistency. I've come up with an experiment to help me get into the habit of writing daily, and possibly come up with some good ideas along the way. The goal is to get myself to write at least 500 words each day (with some exceptions allowed). Check it out, read the full rules, and get ready for some random writing!

Tim's Writing Experiment

Our Prayers Have Been Answered

Over two years ago, I paid tribute to a friend of mine that I missed dearly, and still do. In that tribute, containing what may be the most comments on any one of my posts ever, someone wrote an additional comment that he should have a blog, for "it would be the most random and awesome blog in the world". The wait is over. Behold the blog of Rich Jandt.

The Adventures of Rich Jandt

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shout to the Lord

I just saw the top eight on American Idol sing Shout to the Lord on TV. No really. All of them. Together. As one of their group songs.

For what usually amounts to being really cheesy, this one was actually pretty good. It's amazing that when you put a message into a song that has eternal significance how much more impact it has. I'm sure there were many uncomfortable people in the audience and watching who either thought there was no way the show could pull off something like this or who were just totally turned off, but after thinking about it I am only amazed at how our God demands a response and how our worship is only a response to what He has already done.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Emerging Motivation

Motivational posters for the postmodern Christian.

Emergent-See Po-Motivators