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Renascence and Reformation

“So where do we go from here?”
David Essex, Rock On (1973)

It’s funny how one line of a song can stay with you forever; or at least for a lifetime. I was born in 1961 and “came of age” as they say in the 1970’s. I heard this song, Rock On, a lot from my older brother who was an accomplished guitarist and singer who played it endlessly along with other classics like House of the Rising Sun. But what is it still doing in my head after all these years? I became a Christian in 1978 and purged my music collection, and my mind too I assumed, of all secular music and yet still it lingers. I think perhaps because, within the context of the song, and even more so the context of a culture, it strikes me as profound.

I know a lot has been written about the 60’s and 70’s and the seismic cultural shifts that wracked America but let me add a Christian perspective to the mix. I was 8 years old when Woodstock happened, making me a bit of a latecomer, so rather than “We” let me say “They”, were what Don Mclean later called “A generation lost in space”. But how did they get so lost? They were children growing up in the United States of America, a nation that by all accounts was a bastion of Christianity. And this was what some would argue was the golden age of Christian influence in America with a hundred million church going citizens raising their children in Christian Sunday Schools that were both well funded and well attended. What went wrong?

Here’s what I think happened. America had experienced a great spiritual awakening in the late 1700’s fueled by fiery itinerant preachers like Jonathon Edwards. This lasted through the early to mid 1800’s further animated by Methodist Camp Meetings dedicated to seeking holiness and a 2nd act of grace. And after the horrors of the Civil War Dwight Moody found a broken and heart-sick nation that was ripe for yet another great revival that carried us through the end of 1800’s. World War I, The Dust Bowl, a stock market crash and the Great Depression dominated the better part of the first four decades leading off the 20th century and those issues kept the people of God in a place of desperate need. World War II, again, cost so many lives and demanded so much sacrifice that once again it was no time for Christians to wander far from a place of prayer and devotion in the face of so much sorrow and devastation.

But then came the 50’s. America emerges victorious as a Super Power and consumerism is born. Everybody has a house and a car and jobs are plentiful. And that’s good because households now need two jobs to pay for it all. But what happens to the church? It dies from the inside out. People are the same everywhere in each generation when it comes to serving God. He has our full attention when things are bad but when things are good we get distracted. Pretty soon the people who won the war, the Greatest Generation they have been called, are more interested in kneeling at the altar of conspicuous consumption than serving the God of the Bible. I think, for many, Christianity becomes simply a religion.

So what happens next? A generation of children find themselves in a nominal Christian culture for the first time here in America. And by nominal I mean Christian in name only. Their parents attend church and claim to believe in the God of the Bible but like in Isaiah “With their lips they worship me, says God, but their hearts are far from me”. This is clear in a society where the point of life for many Christians becomes a house in the suburbs and an affluent lifestyle that refuses to redress the evils of slavery and poverty inherited from the past. What happens is that a generation stands up, looks it’s parents in the face and says “You are a fake. Your religion is a fake, and your God is a fake “. And they are right. That’s why they won. When David Essex sings his song written in 1973 and asks “So where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear?” this is not the lost, angst-filled teen of the late 60’s this is the triumphant young man bursting with freedom surveying the landscape and saying “We won. Now what?” It’s easy to destroy a thing, it’s much harder to create something good out of the ashes.

One of the things that I remember from reading the book How Should We Then Live? Was the author pointing out that the Renascence and the Reformation are two branches of the same movement. The Catholic Church has become a hypocritical and oppressive force in society and in breaking away the various inhabitants of Europe seem to react in one of two ways. One large group, the founders of The Renascence, cast off the false religion and return to classic Greek culture for inspiration in art, music, literature and education. Another large group, the founders of The Reformation, cast off the false religion and return to the Bible to correct (rather than reject) their relationship with God. When I hear that line from the song, “So where do we go from here?” I can’t help thinking that the same thing happened here in America.

I started thinking about this when I read an article in an old 1970’s Readers Digest that chronicled what it called a “dynamic and measurable” religious revival that occurred in America in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It was sparked by the preaching of men like Billy Graham and David Wilkerson and produced, among other things, a powerful movement called The Jesus People around Chicago. I realized that I was a product of that movement in America. It was called being “Born Again”, a rather new phenomenon in 1978, and it seems to have been caused by the same societal pressures that brought the rock & roll rebellion. So in effect, I was one of those conquerors who found myself in a divided and decimated society where Christianity has once again been exposed as a false and hypocritical religion to be thrown down in rebellion.

I look back now and I see myself standing bewildered in the rubble of a post Christian culture unaware of all that my older comrades had won. Some asked the question “So where do we go from here?”and turned to Eastern mysticism or Eastern religion for answers. Others turned to the satanic influences found in heavy metal and acid rock or simply went after “sex, drugs and rock & roll”. Thank God some of them made the choice of the earlier reformers and returned to the Bible because they were the ones who launched the movement that captivated me with the Gospel and the relationship that it affords me with the God of the Bible and his Son Jesus Christ.

A Day in the Life 8/10/10

A Day in the Life 8/10/10

7:15 Home: Miranda, our Husky, wakes me up and wants to go out. I put her out with Boots & Rikku and go back to sleep. I should stay up but I don’t.

7:30 I get up, shower, shave and get dressed for work.

8:03 I pray with Deb briefly and head out the door.

8:06 Waverly Parkway Convenience Store: I get a ½ cup of coffee (all there is) augmented with hot water and a USA Today newspaper while listening to a black guy argue with Eddie, the Indian owner, about whether he paid for some cigarettes he charged previously or not. Either way Eddie lets it go for now because the guy says he may have paid Eddies wife. He finally leaves, I pay for my stuff and Eddie says “It’s been a long time” because I missed our routine yesterday and his wife was on mornings all last week. We exchange pleasantries and part with my usual “Have a good one” answered by Eddies “take care”.

8:10 Best Copy Products Inc.: I’m 10 minutes late for work and Josh, Scott and Rodney are already here. Usually Scott is the one that’s late and Rodney (the owner) doesn’t make it in till 8:30-9:00 so Scott and I have a laugh about that while Rodney steps next door. Truth is though it’s Tuesday and I have already been late two days so far. I hate my job and I hate coming here right now and It's nobody's fault but my own for having such a bad attitude. I should know better.

8:10-25 I check my email and find I have none. I check Facebook and find the same three notifications I saw yesterday afternoon. I have already followed all of them up but sometimes they don’t auto-clear like they should. I don’t know why. Computers stink and they never do what they are supposed to do. My email does the same thing telling me I have emails once in a while on my homepage but then showing me none when I open my email. I hate computers. I peruse a few articles about flooding in Pakistan, a ship sinking somewhere and the capture of a murderous escaped convict who was captured after attending church in a small town out west somewhere. I read the comments at the end of that article and find they are all crude and focused on the guy who is still on the run with his fiancée/first cousin.

8:25-9:30 I type up two quotations for a church in LaGrange. The new guy I’m dealing with is Tyrone. When I spoke with him yesterday I mentioned Willy Nelson was my contact when I sold the last copy machine to them and there’s an awkward silence on the line. Then I remembered that I had read in the paper that a man named Willy Nelson from LaGrange was arrested for rape a while back and I think perhaps I should have left well enough alone. Ah well. I type both quotes and call Tyrone back to get his email address. I explain that, although he had given me a fax number to send the quote to, with an email attachment I can send him full color brochures that he can open up on his computer and possibly print out for his church board. He gives me the email address and I do both the email and the fax to be safe.

9:32 Best Copy Parking lot: As I’m leaving Ken R calls me to shoot the breeze for a while. He’s waiting in a motel room somewhere in Georgia for a conference call that starts at 10:00 and he’s killing time. He likes his new job and says the company has lots of money but they aren’t really selling anything right now. He says it’s the wrong time for selling hay bailers and farm equipment. I try to silently brainstorm to think how he might be able to generate some business and then realize he has been in this business a long time and he’s probably trying it all already so I say nothing. He senses that the conversation is going nowhere and that I am walking and talking---then driving and talking---so he lets me go.

9:35 AM Burger King: I order my usual sausage/egg biscuit and a medium coffee and pull in to “my spot” in the parking lot to eat breakfast. My spot is near the edge of a field and some mocking birds live there in the trees. Sometimes they come out and eat my crumbs if I throw them out the window but this morning I don’t think to throw them out because I get a phone call.

9:42 AM one of my principals calls a service call into my cell phone disrupting the end of my breakfast which is why the mocking birds didn’t get there crumbs. I’m easily distracted that way. I’m annoyed because I know he has heard my voice mail message several times that says “If you are calling for service or supplies please call the following toll free number…” but they never do that. They call me.

9:44 AM I quickly scan the USA Today newspaper and see what happened yesterday. The score from yesterday’s Yankees game is never here, they have to go to print pretty early in the evening to get the paper distributed all over the country, so I know more than the sports page does. The Flyers Riley Cote has retired, I see that under the NHL transactions, but I knew that from the internet yesterday. There’s nothing worth reading here but I still scan through it anyway. I scan the national news, the Money section and the Life section just because it puts off actually working.

10:00 AM Four Seasons FCU: I meet with a customer to follow up on a $40,000.00 deal that I am hoping will close this month. It would be a huge commission and I sure need it. It seems the credit union has lost its CEO suddenly due to an unexpected early medical retirement and so the acquisition of new digital imaging equipment has been put on hold indefinitely.

10:19 Four Seasons FCU Parking Lot: Phone call from Woodland High School. Two copiers down and they need toner. I am hoping to sign a new $23,000.00 contract with them next week so I’m not as annoyed at them for calling the call into my cell phone.

10:20 I call Scott to see if anyone can go to Woodland today, but it’s not looking good.

10:25 Best Copy: I stop back by the office to put the two schools on the service call book.

10:30 Opelika Bolt: Drop off quote on copier. There's not a lot of interest here and they are looking at a small used $700.00 copier.

10:40 Opelika City Schools: Drop off invoice for copier installed yesterday at the Middle School.

11:00 Kroger: Pick up some Claritin D. I always feel like a criminal while they run my license to see if I can buy these drugs. The profusion of meth labs and the usage of allergy medicine to make meth has made it ridiculously hard to get Clarintin D. I can buy 30 but Deb & I both use them so that doesn't last long enough to get me past the waiting period between buys. I pass today and I can make the buy. As I'm trying to swipe & sign my cell phone rings.

11:06 Kroger: Call from Deb about picking up prescription at Bubbas.

11:14 Bubbas: Pick up Prescription

11:30 Home: Dropped of Claritin D, other prescription and then ate quick lunch. I have a ham & Swiss sandwich with mustard on pumpernickel bread and with cold tea. I also shared ham with dogs. Deb had ham sandwich too. It would be iced tea but I used all the ice Sunday night for drinks for a church supper.

11:40 Home: Scott calls and needs a loaner fax picked up in Phenix City. I am going that way so I tell him I will get it.

12:03-12:45 Car: Drive to South Girard Elementary School in Phenix City and pick up the fax machine for Scott.

12:05 Car: Lee County Sheriffs call me by mistake trying to place a service call on their copier.

12:46 South Girard: Pick up fax machine

1:05 First African Baptist Church: Knock on door, ring various bells and still no one answers the door for me to follow up on the proposal they have for a new copier. I need to get our demo machine picked up but Scott wont have their copier ready to go back until Thursday anyway so Ill call them tomorrow.

1:14 Spectrum Store: Buy cup of coffee and 15 chances at the $38,000,000.00 Powerball lottery. Spend the next couple of hours (off and on) dreaming about winning the lottery, buying a house in New Mexico, paying off all our bills, our kid’s bills, and setting up trust funds for our grand kid’s college education.

1:29 Car: Coffee break.

1:57 Car: Phone call from office. Mr. Frey at the school board needs to talk with me about a lease.

2:00 Car: Call Mr. Frey and realize that I have the paper work he needs with me so I arrange to bring it to him.

2:15 Russell County BOE: Meet with Mr. Frey and give him lease information for board meeting scheduled that night.

2:16-3:01 Car: Drive back to Opelika with dreams of lottery winnings dancing in my head.

3:02-Intercontinental Packaging Company: Swap out fax machines and program new machine with ID and Fax #.

3:20 AK’s Coffee: Drink a Coke Zero and read James 1:1-4 and meditate on it for a while. I notice that James addresses it to “the 12 tribes scattered abroad” which I have noticed before but this time it has new meaning because I have been studying the book of Acts the last couple years focusing on the formation of the early church and specifically have noticed the racist tendencies of the Jews toward the Gentiles (Acts 11:19 e.g.) So after seeing the struggle the early church had accepting Gentiles I guess it makes sense to me that James isn’t writing this book to believers in general, but to Jewish believers.

I notice that in vss. 2-4 James is telling them to “count it all joy” when they are tempted and face trials. I can’t say that I have ever accepted trials and temptations with joy. I pray forgive me Lord. It goes on to say that these should produce patience in us and I can’t help feeling that all that is being produced in me by my current troubles is anger and frustration. I pray forgive me Lord and help me to be what I should be. I also notice that he says “let patience have her perfect work that you might be perfect and whole, lacking nothing”. I have never been anywhere near that even in my wildest dreams but I get the impression that it’s something I have to do, not God, so I stop praying about it.

3:20 AK’s: In the midst of my penitent musings about impatience and my prayer for God to help me, two young men sit down next to me carrying on a loud, continuous conversation and I decide my time is up and I need to move on. As I get up to leave I realize that the entire place is empty and they could have sat anywhere else and never bothered me but they ended up 18 inches away from me. Am I being impatient by leaving? Am I just realizing that it’s time to move on? I have no idea.

3:21 AK’s: I see Joanne S in the parking lot as I am leaving and we chat for a few minutes about what everyone is doing. We never see any of our old friends anymore except by chance or at funerals & weddings.

3:48 Best Copy Warehouse: Drop off fax from packaging place and talk with James for a few minutes.

4:02 Best Copy Office: Spend the next 45 minutes or so answering phones and writing down what I did today so far.

4:48 Best Copy: James shows up and he is waiting for Rodney to get money. Between talking with him and Robert on the phone I get nothing more accomplished today but small talk.

5:02 Best Copy; Leave for home.

5:11 Waverly Parkway Convenience store: Pick up ice for refrigerator because our ice maker is still broken. It hasn’t worked in years and I just buy ice and dump it in the bin once in a while. The ice is $1.00 and I have no cash at all so I round up one of every kind of ice cream novelty in the cooler and throw them on the counter too so I can use my ATM card. Eddy would probably have let me swipe $1.00 but I would feel bad knowing he would lose money probably. I spend $16.95 all together for a bag of ice and a clear conscience regarding the ATM card usage fees charged to the store. And I have a bunch of great ice cream treats.

5:17 Home: I battle the huskies who are always overjoyed to see any human come through the front door and make it to the bedroom to change. I forgot to get a Columbus Ledger newspaper so I have nothing to read. Instead I watch the end of a Stargate Atlantis with Debbie.

5:31 Home: Cook hamburgers for dinner. No rolls so we eat them on bread. Wish I’d known that at the store. We eat and clean up the kitchen.

6:00-7:45 Home: We play a game of Heroscape where Ian & I get beat by Debbie & Rachel again. Ian walks out on the porch afterwards to “get some air” which is how he handles losing. I don’t need to do that because I spent the last 15 minutes of the game yelling, complaining about the dice rolls and accusing them of cheating.

7:48 Watch the end of last week’s episode of Warehouse 13.

8:00-9:00 Watch Warehouse 13. Not a very good episode. Last year it was the best show on TV. This year they have gone overboard on Pete and Claudia’s characters and it has thrown the whole balance off. What is good in moderation is often not good in profusion.

9:00-10:00 Watch 2 episodes of King of the Hill. I feel somewhat guilty because it has some off color humor but so does everything else on TV. And it is very amusing.

10:00-10:15 Channel surf, watch enough of Baseball Tonight to know that the Yankees have tied the Rangers 3-3 in the 8th inning on A-Rods homerun.

10:16-11:34 Read more of Tacitus’s Annals finishing book III. A lot of boring stuff that deals mostly with intrigues and schemes in Rome, I liked the battles with the German barbarians much better.

11:37 I go to bed.

(no subject)


When all that’s left of me is a paragraph
And a photograph
In the evening news

I hope that you remember that I lived and died
Laughed and cried
Really tried---to do this right

Spent my days in honest labor
Loved my neighbor

But it just kept slipping away…

Now it’s gone and I can’t say that I mind
I was flying blind
Like everyone of us
I laughed too much
I ate too much

I saw too much

That I never could forget
But there’s no regret

Because the choice was never mine
To live or die
To stay or fly

I just woke up here one day
To find it all arranged…

I know the next awakening
Will be



Amish People


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Living the Dream

Living the Dream

1.) We were living the dream in Birmingham
A thousand miles from the Promised Land
With a brother lying broken in his bed
She was waving a Bible in her lifted hand
Laughing at the grace of God’s own plan
With staples and stitches fresh in her husbands head

2.) And we were living the dream when the world went mad
We were living the dream when the world was sad
When the market crashed and Wall Street tumbled down
When the latest election spelled out doom
We were living the dream in our living room
Praising God as his glory filtered down

3.) We were living the dream in a fast food joint
When a lost sheep finally saw the point
Bowed his head and wept in Jesus name
We’ll be living the dream when the lights go out
When the world caves in and the angels shout
We’ll be living the dream in Heaven just the same

And dreams die hard
Till they’re nailed to His cross
But dreams mean nothing
If they aren’t about the lost

Andrew Peterson

Introducing the music of Andrew Peterson.

The Queen of Iowa

I met the queen of Iowa
She was dying on a couch in the suburbs
And with all of the things she was dying of
She was more alive than the others

She was pretty as a flower in a crystal vase
It lights up the room as it withers away
And she opened her eyes
When she heard the music play

We sang a hymn to the rhythm of the river that flows
Down from the mountain of the Holy Ghost
And into the souls
Of those who know His name
Like the Queen of Iowa
She was the Queen of Iowa

Her majesty was all ablaze
She was burning hot but not consumed
Our shoes removed in that holy place
In the hallowed ground of the living room

I bowed down low and I kissed her hand
And we raised a toast to the Promised Land
And I saw the tears of joy
Run down her face

We sang a hymn to the rhythm of the river that flows
Down from the mountain of the Holy Ghost
And into the souls
Of those who know His name
Like the Queen of Iowa
(Peace like a river in a valley of bones
It fills the valley up and it carries them home)
She was the Queen of Iowa
I could see my illusions scatter
Every time she drew a breath
I could see the heart of the matter:
The heart is a matter of life and death
I'll never be the same

We sang about oceans of love again
As she stared past the ceiling and the sky above
Two court musicians, it was me and Ben
We were singing for the Queen of Iowa

We sang a hymn to the rhythm of the river that flows
Down from the mountain of the Holy Ghost
And into the souls
Of those who know His name
There was peace like a river in a valley of bones
It fills the valley up and it carries them home
To come alive again
In the river of Grace
Like the Queen of Iowa
(Peace like a river in a valley of bones
It fills the valley up and it carries them home)
She was the Queen of Iowa
Long live the Queen of Iowa

©Andrew Peterson

Fighting Fire With Fire

I had lunch with two coworkers Friday and sat at the local Shakey's Pizza eating pizza, watching Fox News and talking about current events. The usual news stories floated by either at the top or the bottom of the screen eliciting commentary from my two friends--- and with stories about Guantanamo Bay, Fort Hood and Somalia Pirates dominating the show--- eventually we ended up in one of our frequent discussions about crime & punishment in America as regards "terrorists".

The conversation was something like this:

Ken "They're bringing those guys to New York for a trial? Those guys that blew up the Trade Center? Some Senator is saying that's a bad idea."

Scott "Yeah, you know what they should do? They should strap them down, cut off one finger tip at a time..."

Ken "Yeah, they want to be martyred anyway so..."

Scott "...then cut off their fingers and toes..."

Ken "...I'd tell them, 'Hey we'll let you be martyrs..."

Scott "...then cut they're arms and legs off real slow..."

Ken "...we just want to kill you our way here in front of all the people you hurt ..."

Scott "...then shoot them in the head with a BB gun like 50 or 60 times...."

Ken "...instead of letting you blow yourself up and take innocent people with you."

Scott "...then just kill them somehow to finish it off like with a dull knife or something."

From there of course we went the full gamut through torture at Guantanamo Bay, nuking them back to the Stone Age and many other suggestions for “fighting fire with fire”.

Believe me I'm not in favor of showing mercy to proven terrorists, and I have no problem with them being tried and put to death for their crimes, but I always find it odd when Christians seem to agree with this concept of breaking all the rules in the way that we deal with them. I hear them talking about practicing terrorism against our enemies to put us on an even footing. Did you know that terrorism, in the Middle East, actually started with Israel planting bombs in civilian areas during the war for independence in 1948? How did that work for them?

Even more odd though is that the same people that believe in this also believe that we are a Christian Nation, called and ordained of God, to be a light to the world. Can we have it both ways? Can we believe that The United States of America is the beacon of Christianity to a lost world while at the same time believing that we have the right to practice torture, terrorism or genocide?

See fighting fire with fire sounds like a good idea when you’re mad, or hurt, but would you really want the fire department to show up and fight a fire at your house with flame throwers?

"OH, thank God you here! My family..."

"Back up sir, we're gonna fight Fire with Fire baby!!

"What!! No! My kids are in there!! My wife!!!"

"Hey we didn’t start this thing but let me tell you buddy we will end it! Stand back!!"

Well guess what? This is God’s house. Those are his kids. And we are here to run in, grab them from the flames and drag out as many as we can before the fire consumes everything in Judgment. Remember the Bible says that “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to eternal life through Jesus Christ”.

I know this is a ridiculous thought, but maybe we should resist the temptation to take revenge and pray for our enemies.

I know, I know, too ridiculous to consider.

Where’s my flamethrower?

(no subject)

I'm just finishing up a rather thick book of the Worlds Greatest Poems I found at Borders and I have arrived at a conclusion. If the Worlds Greatest Poems were written by the Worlds Greatest Poets (a reasonable assumption) then my dream of ever being a great poet has been shattered:

·         I have never been the inhabitant of an insane asylum

·         I am not a repressed (or liberated) homosexual

·         I have never been in a bad marriage

·         I have never been afflicted with tuberculosis

·         I am not a drug addict or alcoholic


All great poetry was apparently written by the most messed up people in each generation so maybe my own interest in poetry is misguided and doomed to failure. Either that or I need to punch up my resume  with some fictitious information:

David Sweet was born in 1874 to a Methodist Reformer and spent his early childhood living on a wealthy estate in Scotland. As a young man he studied Milton and Keats but was never to escape the shadow of alcoholism and drug abuse that decimated his family ---the ones who did not die from tuberculosis. He entered seminary in 1876 but was expelled for being to revolutionary---as well as much too young---and instead moved to Paris where he dabbled in painting and heroin.

In 1878 he met and fell in love with Mathilda de'Boutique-Marquis, an actress, but was forced to give up the engagement and move back to Scotland by his father---again because he was too young. He eventually entered an arranged marriage with Brunhilda McCallister, daughter of the Earl of Rochester and after 5 years of marriage he suffered a nervous breakdown and entered an asylum in London where he wrote most of his best work on the insides of empty cereal boxes including Emperion, Ode to a Bug and the haunting Knock, Knock, Whose There?

After leaving the asylum (and a short stint in the army before they caught his age) he spent his last years wandering the streets of Milan and eventually died of consumption at the tender age of 11. Who knows what masterpieces this young prodigy may have completed had his life not been cut short by the fact that he was a poet.