Saturday, February 26, 2011

I'm Becoming Obsolete

Do you remember when you used to have to get up off of the couch to change the channel on your television?

If you do, you're old like me.

I was telling my college students the other day about how the new formats of media are actually changing the way we act and think. Consider the things that young people now have never experienced. Can you add to my list?

1) Physically turning the knob on a television to get a new station. In addition, we often had to adjust the rabbit ear antennas on the top of the set and sometimes still dealt with a scrolling picture.

2) Waiting for a movie to be released on television. I remember watching The Wizard of Oz once a year. Once a movie was shown in the theater, we often did not see it for years. VCRs changed our ability to see old movies.

3) Watching home movies on reel-to-reel projectors or, better yet, slides. I have a slide that shows my family watching slides. This was a big family event - to set up a screen and gather around a slide projector.

4) Buying a record, 8-track, or cassette tape. These "old" forms of music distribution are things of the past. My daughter used to call our records: big cds.

5) The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature - Our English teacher used to make us look up subjects for research in this multi-volume index. Then we had to hope the library had our particular magazine. Now? We Google...

What else?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Coveting the Ten Commandments

Once a year, our small Baptist church would host a revival.

When I was ten years old, the featured evangelists were Cowboy Ken and Aunt Marge. The husband and wife came dressed in full cowboy get-up – Cowboy Ken wore the requisite ten-gallon hat, western belt, plaid shirt and jeans. His wife, Aunt Marge, was a busty woman in a western fringed dress that would sway when she sang. They could swing a lasso and preach with enthusiasm.

But what really drew us kids back night after night was their offer of a special prize: a Ten Commandments charm bracelet. Cowboy Ken told us that if we memorized each of the night’s seven passages of Scripture, and were able to recite them before the church at the end of the revival, we would earn the glittering gold bracelet.

I was determined to win that prize. So I began to memorize Scripture. Night after night I worked on my passage. And, night after night, we listened to Cowboy Ken preach the gospel. My best friend and I liked to sit close enough to get a better look at the gold charms that whirled around Aunt Marge's wrist.

Night after night the plan of salvation was unveiled. And, each time, we would dutifully recite the chosen Bible verse. Individually, the verses were not too hard, but remembering all of them in succession was tricky. Like a spelling bee, the playing field gradually narrowed, and I think my friend and I were among the very few to actually receive the charm bracelets.

It never really hit me, at that age, that it was probably wrong to "covet" the Ten Commandments. But I did. I wanted that bracelet, not just because it was pretty, but because of what it represented. I would be one of the select few to get to stand on stage and jangle my bracelet like Aunt Marge. It would be a big achievement – something that would make my parents proud.

I am sad to say that this covetous attitude continued to creep into my faith life from time to time. I remember being jealous of my college roommate at Bible school. Every morning at 5 am, she would get out of bed, click on her desk light, and spend time in prayer. She had a little file box with names of missionaries and specific prayer requests in alphabetical order. She was meticulous and faithful in her prayer life. My own was sporadic and sometimes non-existent. I coveted her spiritual habits, but I did little to change mine.

It has been easy to get caught up into wanting what other people have. I justify this attitude, because the things they have are good things. They may be talented preachers or brilliant writers. They have been gifted by God to do the work of the church.

Why can’t their giftedness be mine? My attitude can easily drift into coveting not just their gift, but their position, their prestige, or their reward. Social climbing, I’ve learned, can be replaced by religious climbing. It is easier to justify, but just as deadly.

The disciples had the same struggle. They wanted to be first in the kingdom. They wanted to be on top. They wanted to be the ones who Jesus noticed, the ones who had the power.

“Thou shalt not covet” does not just apply to our neighbor’s house, wife, or car. It can be a sickness that creeps into our hearts. Wanting what we have not been given, and ignoring the responsibility for the gifts we already have, is dangerous, even when the things we so desire are good things.

The Ten Commandments bracelet that I coveted at age ten is long gone. But I am thankful that the Words of God that I learned continue to break down and teach my stubborn heart.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Henna Tattoos and Teenage Hearts

Today, my daughter wanted me to help her put henna tattos on her hands. I gave her the kit for Christmas because it reminded me of our last summer. At a street fest , Sabrina and I had both gotten henna tattoos. The scrolling flowers and leaves were stained onto our hands and lasted an impressive two weeks.

Mixing the powder with eucalyptus was fairly easy. We had to let the pasty brown mixture sit for 45 minutes, then I carefully squirted it onto her hands in flowing lines. The design sat and hardened, turning a deeper brown and then black. Little by little the powder cracked and fell off leaving behind a brown stain. The henna left its mark.

Henna tattoos are a nice picture of our job as parents. Day in and day out, through conversations and laughter, through tears and sometimes arguments, we are impressing our beliefs and our faith on our kids. We might not even realize, sometimes, that it is sticking. They may shrug off our views and opinions as old-fashioned or uninformed. But our words will no doubt leave a stain.

I was talking to a friend whose kids are in their late teens. Some of their latest life choices have unsettled her. She is worried that their Christian heritage might not stick. I assured her that her efforts have certainly made an impression on both who they are and who they will become.

In my oft quoted Gilmore Girls, Lane Kim, whose mom makes every effort to restrict her life with church standards, chooses a rebellious path. At one point though, she confronts her mom. "Why have you done this to me?" she asks. "Why are you in my head!" She moans that though she disagrees with her mom's strict religious views, she cannot ignore her mom's guidance.

The Bible says that "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:11). God's word is like a henna stain that promises to remain in our lives, to help us and guide us. God's Words will stain our own lives and tattoo its truths on the lives of our children.