Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Multisensory Worship

stained glass window

In the past few weeks I've attended a number of different worship services with friends, all different Christian denominations.

Lately, I've been trying hard to more clearly define why I am able to worship more completely in certain situations than in others.

My logical side takes issue with the known fact that I clearly feel more uplifted in a pleasing setting. After all, if I lived in a country where I was forced to worship in the dark in a dirt basement, for example, I'm sure that the fellowship would be sweet and our worship would be sincere. Probably more sincere than any I experience now. But the truth is, for me, that if I have choices, I feel much more worshipful in buildings that are not plain cement blocks. I like colored windows (no known preference for Biblical scenes vs. geometric patterns, but I do like symbols). I like banners, preferably changed with the seasons/church calendar. I like beautiful woodwork and fancy light fixtures. These things (colors, textures, designs) all flow together to create a sense of peace and well-being within me.

I like a variety of audio inputs. Today, I went to a church to hear a handbell choir that some friends belong to. I hadn't been to that church for a number of years and had forgotten that they have a pipe organ. What luscious, rich sound! The Prelude was an organ/piano duet. There was also a Power Point album of a youth retreat with modern music and lots of shots of happy kids. In some of the other churches recently attended, there were several scripture readers, a dramatic reading, and special music. I love to sing- I love almost all types of Christian music, with the exception of the most recent iteration (since about 1990?) with only a few words per song repeated over and over, and no tune to speak of.

I've also reached a point where I'm not willing to listen to sermons of an hour or more in length. Blame it on being a speech major (learning about public speaking... more is not usually more), blame it on grad school(too many long lectures), blame it on old age ADD, blame it on sheer cantankerousness. Right or wrong, it's where I am right now.

Now, all of you who are ready to leap on me with the reminder that worship is not about how I feel, it's about focusing on God, I'm ready to agree wholeheartedly. And yet... I find it difficult to worship where the services only touch a couple of my senses.

I guess I would ask those of you who may feel critical toward this post to ask yourself the question, "If I were asked to worship week after week in a setting I found unpleasant, with music I didn't care for, would I feel enthusiastic about worship?"

This may be "off the wall," but it's honest.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Best Reason to Seek Help in an Abusive Relationship

man hitting woman
We often look at abusive relationships and wonder why the abused party did not seek help until some dangerous crisis point was reached. Often it is a wife who is physically or emotionally abused. In many cases, no one even knew what was happening until she snapped and became violent towards her partner. Perhaps she internalized the problem until she killed her children and herself, seeing no other way out.

Christians who are subjected to abuse or wrongdoing are often the least likely to try to get help to change things. A friend of mine recently had to combat her entire family in the "right-ness" (righteousness) of taking a man to court who had stolen over $800 from her. Her Christian family insisted that she should "turn the other cheek," as it says in Matthew 5:39, "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."

Women are particularly likely to put up with a life of bad treatment. Some Christian men still think that their gender gives them the right to hold absolute power over a woman, and enforce this with physical or emotional violence. Christian women may live with this for years, trying desperately to be an obedient wife. Or perhaps they are so fearful of retribution that they cannot reach out for help.

Many people who do seek aid, counsel, or just plain leave the relationship do so for the wrong reasons. In fact, I'd say that almost all people who strive to change their unloved, subservient or abused position are doing this for the wrong reason.

What? Why should anyone put up with being hurt? Get out of there, or get help. Yes... I'm not saying that a person should tolerate being abused. However, abused people almost always base their actions on the premise of "I deserve better than this," or "This marriage/relationship is over because the love we used to have is gone."

The problem for the Christian is that the highest goal of a marriage is not to find love and security for ourselves, but to honor and please God. Many abused Christian women do realize this, and so they stay with their partners, allowing the abuse to continue because they say to themselves (or are being told), "God wants me to honor Him by being obedient to my husband."

This person has taken a correct first step in asking herself, "What will make God happy?" But she has come up with an incorrect response by thinking that it will make God happy for her to submit to the (sinful) will of their spouse. She correctly realizes that her own happiness is not the primary goal, but she also incorrectly thinks that she is making her spouse (and God) "happy" by allowing abuse to continue. Abusers just escalate, it is impossible to make them happy.

Injustice never makes God happy. People who can turn the other cheek are well-adjusted, balanced Christians who can absorb some of the world's nastiness and return good for evil. No human can do this indefinitely. (In theory, a perfect follower of Christ's example could, but real life is grittier.)

What would make God happy is for a marriage to be a picture of his relationship with the church- that of a bridegroom and a bride. A person who is being abused needs to realize that God does not want the abuser to act that way, and that what will make God happy is to aid that person in getting help. This can involve separation, counseling, perhaps even legal action. It should involve a continuing commitment to the abuser.

None of this is easy, but a Christian must seek to end an abusive relationship for the right reasons.