Monday, December 30, 2013


As the New Year approaches thoughts turn quickly to how we can take advantage of another new start. How can we grow just a little more, or maybe even a lot, in this next year?  What “resolutions” do we make and try to keep this time around? What changes to our life can we embrace?

I heard on the news last night that weight loss is losing ground and is no longer high on the list for most people these days. Enough is enough, they say. It is a hopeless resolution. “I just can’t expect to do that”. Moving forward in some way has become more important, in this time of so much financial and health and world wide crisis.

Personally, I have never made any resolutions. I seem to know that I would not keep them, so why make them? I guess that may go along with never having dreams so that I would not be disappointed when they didn’t come true. But the reality of resolutions is that they are just realizing that changes need to be made; and being willing to make such changes. One thing that can be recognized as true is that change is inevitable as long as we are alive. The question is: Will we embrace it or will we fight it?

I posted the other day that David once said, “I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.” (Ps 17:3) Now that is a serious resolution. Most of ours are a bit simpler, I think, except maybe that weight loss thing. But many of them deal with not accepting change that goes with, say, aging: wrinkles, flabbiness, aches and pains in every joint, fading eye sight and hearing, hair loss… you name it, we will fight it somehow. But fight as we might, age will eventually catch up and do it’s damage, even unto death – if we have not been brought down by something else, first.

There are many directions we could go here (and I hope you will take some of those other trails.) But not every change in our lives comes from our decisions; many come unbidden: many come from the inside and many come from the outside. Many are good changes and many are not. What I am thinking about today is changes that have taken place due to the decisions of others; we just wouldn’t have made those decisions, but we have to live with them – or fight them - or accept them and embrace them.

I have recently been reminded of how much I love and embrace the worship services at my church.  I am so encouraged and uplifted by them that I am sometimes brought to tears; and I am often brought to such joy that I can’t keep my hands or legs still while singing, or my “Amens” quiet during the sermon. My formerly introverted Baptist ways have long since disappeared.

When I first came to this church I was shocked. The dress-code had changed and I could wear the worn-out slacks and jeans that were my meager wardrobe at the time; no one even noticed.  The hymn books were still there, but the words were on the wall and there were no notes to follow in the morning services. And the singing went on and on, with few interruptions. I couldn’t carry a decent tune because I had not sung in 20 years. But I persevered and retrained my voice at least enough to carry that missing tune. I listened to K-love radio as much as I could so that I could become familiar with the tunes and even the words. I found that I really loved most of each. Soon my favorite singer became Toby Mack whom I constantly called “Moby Dick,” first, in order to get to his real name.  My friends found that to be hilarious. I just found his music to be some of the most exciting prayers I have ever heard.

In a prayer meeting one night, the subject of “arm raising” in service came up and one of our blessed Shepherds said that it was certainly in the Bible; but it seemed to be in reference to praying rather than singing. I laughed on the inside while thinking, “And that is exactly what I am doing. I am praying my way through this part of the service.” And I embrace that with all my heart.

Recently, I came to realize that Baptists may have come to be so “dignified” in their behavior because holding hymnbooks does not lend itself well to throwing ones hands in the air to express joy and excitement. :)  Joy and excitement are what celebration is all about and I am all in.

But some of my peers are not; they are so “not in” that they are “all out.” Some have even changed to others churches over this disagreement. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love most of the old hymns and I even keep a hymnbook handy so that I can sing them when I am praising and praying at home. I love doing that.

But, in church, it does not work well for me. My eyes are not what they used to be and I cannot sing hymns at all if I have to share a book. Not sharing is rude, so I hesitate, but I do ask for one of my own.

And recently I attended services in a church which has not turned away from the hymnbooks or the style of service I remember from the 60’s and 70’s. I enjoyed being there with my new friend/relative, but I knew that I was glad that our services are different: I am glad that we rejoice in full force as we begin our hour of worship. That is when I knew that I had become a traitor in the midst of the not so young anymore generation. :)

It is not a new thing that church music, and other music, changes over the years. Every music show I know of proclaims each decade as different from other decades. And nostalgia is built on decades, one after the other being different from the last (and that includes “hair” nostalgia). So perhaps it is time to embrace this change.  Perhaps it is time to love what was, but to also love what is, and maybe even what is coming next. Not everything; but as much as is possible.

Just for fun, let me say that the “too loud” complaint makes me laugh because those huge old built-in cathedral style organs were about as loud as thunder, and hurt my ears at times. :)  And I will also confess that I will never be able to clap along because I am a 1- 3 beat person, through and through. Even after 8 years of this Contemporary Christian Music I cannot, for the life of me, figure out when to come in again after a pause in the singing, and I miss the full harmony of the music of the past. But I have learned to embrace the music of today; and I am filled with Joy and Love as we sing it.

But wherever we stand on these issues, we must stand in love and understanding that change comes, even unbidden change; and we must not let change destroy our flow of worship to our great God. So let us embrace the changes we didn’t ask for and cannot change by our own will power or by our denial.

May God encourage love in us for all that is glorifying His name, even if it is different than what we think we want. May we all have a truly blessed New Year embracing the changes that will come to us. In Jesus name. Amen.

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