I have six months to reshape my life. I can do this.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Third Major Religious Holiday

Today marks the celebration around the United States of our third major religious holiday, See You at the Pole. It has really only been widely celebrated by most denominational Christians the past twenty years or so. But it is a rich holiday whose heritage and history date all the way back to the New Testament.

In the New Testament, it was a celebration along the lines of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of the Heifer. It's roots come from the Pool of Siloam. Apparently, crippled and lame and blind folks would gather at the Pool. They would pray for healing, for health. And then Jesus showed up one day and actually healed them. Of course, they would gather around the only one standing upright, so he was much, much taller than the rest of them (which would eventually lead into people gathering around a pole, sort of resembling how much taller Jesus would have been than the lame men and women at the Pool). From then on, every time someone standing upright would go to the Pool, people would gather around him, thinking he was Jesus. Sound ridiculous? Everyone looks about the same in a brown cloak from the waist down.

Well, people would get excited when they heard about upright people going to the Pool. So they started saying, "Seeist thou at the Pool." This later would become See You at the Pool. It was mainly celebrated in Jerusalem. In 268 AD a man named Horace would mistake a tweaked ankle for being lame. He would one day surprise himself at the Pool when a man simply helped him up, not knowing Horace thought himself lame. Horace swore to follow the man, assuming he was the second coming of Christ. He followed this Roman citizen back to Rome. Horace would continue to celebrate See you at the Pool with his family for years. His great grandson would migrate north into Germany. The holiday as we know it migrated this way from Germany. It is a very popular holiday over there. Surprisingly, it is not that big in Poland. Maybe not too politically correct. Eventually German immigrants would bring their celebration of praying around tall people at pools, touching them and singing praises to them to America. But with the thick Bavarian accent, "Pool" was misunderstood to be "Pole."

In the late 1800's children started praying around the flag poles in town squares, waiting for the Tall Man (otherwise known as St. Kareem) to bring them cheaply made merchandise and boring acoustical music. Eventually the shift was made from town squares to schools in the early 1920's. It was in the 20's that ambitious clothing vendors started selling white shirts with two color fronts and one color backs to silly children. We still celebrate this trend with our overpriced merchandise to this day. But St. Kareem has been replaced by Jesus himself. And tall people at the pool were combined simply into the flag pole.

But See You at the Pole has become a sacred and special holiday, marking the one time in the year when students actually pray for their schools. If they get around to it. In the late 1990's, the prayer was sort of replaced with music and donuts and some holier than thou senior student railing on and on about how bad the school is and how Jesus needs them to shine. And then, proving how obedient Christians set a great example, most of the students are late to their first periods.

We even sing many of the same carols the early German immigrants sing:
The Twelve Days of See You at the Pole - On the first day of See You at the Pole my Jesus gave to me, an alarm clock to wake me up at six - Fifth Day is five Krispy Kremes etc

Joy to the World, the merch is sold. We'll now receive our fee.

We Three Tees of overpriced stock, two colors in front and one on the back...

So, there is a brief history of our third major religious holiday. Hope you enjoy it. And a Merry See You at the Pole to all!

Don't forget to actually pray for the students and faculty you know in schools today. It really is a huge mission field. I may be cynical but I do understand the need. Pray.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Oh The Delicious Irony

I was reading over at a blog of a friend of a friend (Thursdays at 4:25PM are terribly slow and boring for me, what can I say?). He made mention of the recent trend of people, Christian people, to slam the church.

Apparently, God is great but the church failed them. Now, I understand that point of view. I really do. Many times I have felt like telling someone who doesn't know about the life-saving power of Jesus Christ; "Listen, Jesus is awesome. Church just stinks." But that is not true. There are aspects of church life that are out of touch, antiquated or flat out pointless. And there are some current movements in church that make the message of the bloodied body and the risen Savior too precious. Too cute. Half of these churches must make their living producing those rotten cutesy poopsy email forwards I delete (seriously, are there three more stomach churning letters than fwd?). But the church is still the best, most efficient way to share Christ with a dying world and help change lives for the better.

And people from Todd Agnew (that voice may be the most offensive thing ever played on CCM radio stations - like Bob Dylan and the lead singer from The Crash Test Dummies had a kid) to every post-modern author (Donald Miller etc) couldn't get in line fast enough to tell us what is so wrong with church.

I am not a simpleton. I know the church has problems. It always has. It always will. Because the church is filled with people. Broken and flawed. So, instead of bashing the church, why not rail away at sin or at temptation or at not knowing enough scripture to stand up underneath both?

And if I hear that stinking Todd Agnew song about Jesus not being welcome in my church because his feet were bleeding on the carpet one more time, I am going to shoot someone in the face. Honestly, how ignorant is that song? I appreciate the message: sometimes it is hard to find Jesus in the church. Well, crap, sometimes it is hard to find Jesus in my life too. But to say that Jesus would not be welcome because of his bloody feet is ridiculous. Is Jesus that much of a Bethlehem redneck that he cannot wipe off the blood that Agnew has decided to coat on his feet? Is he such a Nazarene hillbilly that he doesn't have enough sense to clean up? Did he just crawl off of the cross and come into my church all nasty and bleeding? Really? I remember an awful lot of feet washing in the New Testament. And Jesus was doing most of it! How hypocritical of him to come wandering in, all bloody and gross, when he KNOWS how much that new church building cost. And poor Mrs. Bennett. She spent so many hours agonizing over the perfect color of the carpet. Shoot, I saw what she did to Guy Akins and all he did was spill his coffee. Jesus better watch his back! Jesus and his bloody feet...spare me the sermon, Toddles. You're preaching to freaking choir.

Which brings me to the title of this rambling, sprawling and disjointed post. Isn't it ironic that without the broken, terribly cold, unwelcoming, icky church to hear it, people like Todd Agnew and the new guard of nay-saying POMO's (that is hip for Post Modern) would be preaching to...well, nobody. The church made those suckers rich. The church lined their pockets with money so they could stand up and speak out against it. If Todd Agnew felt unwelcome at church, well, maybe that has more to do with his drive-by-shooting of U2's great "When Love Comes to Town" on that horrific U2 tribute album than it does with his dirty feet. And if he has dirty feet, wipe 'em off. We have mats for JUST that purpose.

Folks, don't bite the hand that feeds you. Don't preach about how the church is broken. Help fix the broken one you go to. There will always be something wrong with every church. But pointing it out and then agreeing with everyone else who has a faux-hawk and a soul patch that church sucks isn't doing God, that church or the Kingdom a whole heckuvalotta good.

How many hurdles did that scathing critique of the church place in the way of someone seeking out an answer for the hurt and pain and confusion in life? How can someone who is looking for purpose, a place to belong, be encouraged to find God at church when the people leading those churches are beating it to death instead of leading it out into a hurting and dying world?

Sometimes instead of the squeaky wheel getting fixed, it should just get replaced.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm a Lumberjack and I'm Okay

Aaron posted an interesting article on his blog. I started to comment on it and then realized the comment was becoming too big. So, you should click the link to the left RIGHT NOW and read today's post. Then come back here for my comment, left so inconveniently far away from Aaron's wonderful blog. Go ahead. Check it out. I will wait for you. Go on. SHOO!

Back? Great. Here is my comment on that article about rugged, manly men leaving God behind because apparently Jesus would rather his followers scrapbook and hold hands instead of share the hope of the gospel with a lost and dying world. Who knew?

Ellsworth left off AC Green, Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin (albeit, the last two came to faith either after their playing days or in the later stages). He forgot David Robinson, Avery Johnson, Reggie White and Orel Hershiser.

I agree with his point about women sort of re-imagining how churches look and that basically there is a lack of "manliness" and jocularity because men have basically abdicated it.

But there are still plenty of opportunities to find the more masculine avenues of service. Surely churches need security teams, lawn maintenance, van drivers and even cooks - you know, grillers for the church picnic.

And since when did my faith become influenced by my preferences? I simply cannot approach my God the same way I approach going to view a movie. God is unchanging, the same yesterday and today and forever. I must approach my faith in that same way. I simply cannot allow what music I like or what technology I enjoy or what preaching connects with me to become more important than the object of my worship. Sometime a few years back our worship became more about us than about God. If Jesus was enough, if he was truly my portion that satisfied in times of famine and feast, than it shouldn't matter if there is any really butch ministry for me to plug into. I am called to be a Christ-follower before I am allowed to be a rugged man.

Man, does this shed some light on the selfish way I approach my faith. I hope you are not the same. But I have this sick, queasy feeling you just may be. And that, my young lovelies, is where we stumble into trouble. This Preferred Worship model that churches lean into is limiting our access to God, not broadening or enhancing it, like we may think it is. And that deserves a big old "Yowza!"