Ready For Some Raw Rock

Tomorrow night, Alanna and I heading to Rocketown in Nashville to destroy our eardrums at a concert featuring Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Showbread, and a couple more hard hitting rock bands. I’m pumped! Plus, this is going to be Taylor’s first concert! (Don’t worry, we have solid ear protection for him. Ben’s first concert was a Family Force 5/tobyMac show from the third row when he was just a few months old too.) Usually I’m down in the mosh pit with all the rowdy teenagers, but with the baby there, I think for this show I’ll get up in the balcony and watch. This seems like the type of music that could inspire a little aggressive behavior.

I realize that most of my blog readers (i.e., parents) probably have never heard of these bands, so I’m gonna post a couple of videos below. You won’t be able to see them through the email updates, so make sure and go to the blog to check them out. Showbread and Maylene are definitely Christian bands, but they know how to rock as hard as any other band out there.

First up, here’s a little Maylene and the Sons of Disaster for you. Heavy Southern metal with a little screaming thrown in for good measure. In the midst of the screams, you get lyrics about having faith in the midst of trials, “Thank God grace has come my way. Tomorrow hope awaits living closer to the end.,” and having bold faith, “I’ll never stop believing, but today I’ll stop the pleasing. Lay it all down and the judging will come. To people like you we’ll never be good enough,” Solid Christian themes and some of the most aggressive Southern metal out there.

Next, Showbread is definitely not your typical Christian band. Their lyrics are full of symbolism and can be challenging. Their latest album is a double disc entitled Anorexia Nervosa and is the soundtrack for an extended allegory about the futility of a life lived for either selfish pleasure or for good works for one’s own gain. Heavy stuff there. Here’s one of their older songs… last time I checked it was one of the most played songs on my iPod.

It’s going to be an awesome night. I offered to take some of the teenagers in the youth group with me, but they all decided it was a little too hard for them. Maybe I’m not that old after all.

Edit: At the show, I was also introduced to another band I like now, Attack Attack.

Panic (and Rage) at the Pump

Today was an interesting day to buy gas in Middle Tennessee. Many motorists discovered that their favorite fossil fuel was simply unavailable at many of the gas stations across the state. Those who did find stations with a supply often had to wait as long as two hours for a chance to fill up. What happened? How are we suddenly without gasoline? (As a DJ I heard on the radio said, “When did the United States become a third world country?”)

A number of factors led to the “shortage.” You’ll see why I use quotation marks around that word in a moment. It’s true that Hurricane Ike did damage some of the Texas refineries that supply Middle Tennessee gas stations with their fuel. The pipeline that we get our gas from was operating at about 25% of it’s normal capacity so there was definitely less gas than usual coming our way. Along with that, though, one of the chief causes of the problem was panicked motorists who had heard rumors that we were about to be out of fuel and sucked up the fuel supply at almost double the rate of usual sales. Prices soared, tempers flared, and “panic buying” ruled the day.

I’ll admit that I was among the buyers waiting for gas, but not for two hours, just for two cars in front of me. The station I stopped at had set a twenty-five dollar cap on how much gas one person could buy at a time, possibly to keep their doors open for longer, possibly to make sure that everyone was able to get at least a little gas. The guy in front of me in line was obviously not aware of this fact as he attempted to fill up his SUV. When the pump stopped, he stormed into the gas station and began to yell at the cashiers. I couldn’t hear his words from inside my car, but I could see the anger on his face. He made threatening gestures, threw his hands in the air, turned red, and after about five minutes of screaming (probably about the same amount time that he had spent waiting), he stomped out to his car at drove off. What causes people to act like this over a few gallons of gasoline? Are we so dependent on “stuff” that when it’s taken away, or at least not given to us in the amount that we want, we fly off the handle?

What can we learn from a day like today? First, when rumors run rampant, things can get sticky. Thankfully this time, it was no real problem. Yeah, today a lot of the pumps had plastic bags covering them, but officials say the pipeline should be back at full capacity into next week. We definitely don’t need to take everything we hear at face value and react, but that doesn’t seem to be the biggest issue of the day. All the anger and rage over having what is “rightfully ours” taken away seems to me to be the bigger problem. I understand that for a lot of people that gas was necessary, but most of us could probably stand to conserve fuel more than we do and could definitely get by on less. I also understand that the inconvenience of having to wait for hours at the pump can make drivers get frustrated, but that’s no excuse to blow up. What I don’t understand at all is why having to share with others during what looks like a potential crisis would cause a presumably normal person to have a meltdown.

I think the real source of the problem is not a gas shortage, but an overage of getting what we want too much of the time. Materialism and a sense of entitlement convince us that we “need” many things that we simply want. As Americans, most of us expect that if we have the money, we should be able to buy whatever we want, whenever we want it. When we’re not able to get something we “need,” or even worse, when we have to share with others in need, well… that’s just un-American. But maybe it’s something that Christians need to think seriously about. What are we seeking first: the kingdom of heaven or the American dream?

All the stuff we’ve been given doesn’t really belong to us in the first place and it’s all temporary anyway, so maybe we need to loosen up about it. I seem to remember a very wise man saying something about not serving two masters. Stuff isn’t bad in itself, but how we react to it can be bad. Do we seek after and hoard our stuff or do we see a chance to share? And entitlement? Just what makes us think we deserve any of the stuff we have? Let’s keep stuff in it’s proper place and thank God for the things we do have. Just something to think about next time you’re filling up.

Annoyances or Opportunities?

Yesterday as I was unloading groceries into the back of my van in Wal-Mart’s parking lot, a young man asked if he could take my cart when I finished getting everything out. I assumed he was going to use it himself and wanted to do a good deed at the same time, so I said sure. It was a hot day and that would save me the walk. That’s when I looked up and saw his dark tie, white shirt, and dark pants. He was wearing a small name tag on his lapel that said he was with the Church of Latter Day Saints.

“Great,” I thought, “he’s a Mormon. He caught me off guard while I was looking in the cart or I would have walked away. Here comes the sales pitch.”

He introduced himself and I introduced myself as Jody, the youth minister at First Baptist Church, hoping that throwing around my religious credentials would dissuade him from trying to convert me. Instead, he surprised me by saying that he hoped I didn’t have anything that would melt on the way home since it was such a hot day. He told me that he was on his two year mission and that he had just arrived in town a couple of months ago. Then he surprised me even more by saying that if I ever needed any help with anything, like mowing my yard, to feel free to ask him or any of the other Mormon missionaries. He gave me a big smile and told me to have a nice day, taking my cart and leaving it in the closest cart return spot. No sales pitch, no argument about how the Book of Mormon is just as important as the Bible, just putting up a cart for someone on a very hot day.

As I drove home, a couple of things struck me about this short exchange. The first was my own lousy attitude in assuming that talking with this guy would be a waste of my time and wanting to avoid any contact with him. I was so wrapped up in myself and what I had to do that I was going out of my way to avoid people who might be “annoyances” instead of seeing people that way that God sees them and looking for opportunities to show love.

The second thought followed quickly behind, “I know why the Mormons are getting so many converts while biblical churches are struggling.” This guy was genuinely nice and helpful. He was friendly and didn’t mind going out of his way to help others. He was spending two years of his life not pursuing an education or trying to get girls, but going to a strange city to help put grocery carts up and share a little about his faith with others.

A couple of years ago, Alanna and I went to Salt Lake City and while we were there, we went downtown to the Tabernacle, the headquarters of the LDS Church. Again, I was struck by the friendliness and the willingness to take time and talk with a stranger. How does a stranger feel when they walk into our church? Are they struck by our friendliness or do they leave without being noticed? Do people take time to genuinely talk with them, or is interacted limited to a quick handshake?

When people see Christians out in the world, the malls, the schools, the Wal-Mart parking lots, what impression do we give? I fear that many times, the only thing visibly “Christian” about us when we go out is our bumper stickers. When we witness, do we share ourselves and our God, or do we pass out tracts and read from a script?

It makes me sad when I encounter people like this young man, first because these wonderful Mormon people are being deceived by the enemy, and most Christians don’t care enough to share the truth with them. Even worse, it makes me sad to see how much more effective Mormons are in interacting with the world than most Christians. We must be willing to go out of our way to share our lives with others and show them love. It’s inconvenient. It’s uncomfortable. But for many people, our lives and our attitudes may be the first glimpse of Jesus some people ever see.

Why We Talk About Sex So Much

As most of you parents know, the message last week at our High Voltage service was about sex. After service, I sent the students home a pretty thick packet of information… about sex. Thursday night at Pause, again the topic was sex. Why so much emphasis on sex? Teenagers know to wait, right?

A couple of days ago I ran across an article on MSN’s (Microsoft’s) front page, an editorial piece titled “In Defense of Losing Your Virginity”. This article pretty much contradicted everything I had taught the youth the week before.

The article was written in response to an incident at the MTV Video Music Awards. A good portion of the host’s comedic material centered on the Jonas Brothers’ public stance on sexual purity. All three of these pastor’s kids wear a promise ring and have vowed to remain celibate until marriage. The author of this article believes that the host was right to challenge the boy’s decision, calling their purity rings a “sham” and stating that saving sex is not only an unreasonable expectation, but that it is actually a harmful idea. Unbelievably, the author asserts that abstaining from sex puts teens at an increased risk of getting pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

“Plenty of studies have shown that promoting abstinence fails, and that teens who try this route are less likely to use contraception, making them more likely to become pregnant or infected with preventable sexually transmitted diseases.”

Additionally, the author insists that even if a person is successful in saving sex for marriage, they are more likely to end up in a bad marriage than their sexually active peers.

“But the idea of saving it for marriage is only so useful, and it’s the sort of thing that will no doubt lead to starter marriages between horny 18-year-olds who don’t have any idea what “till death do you part” really means.”

Even worse than the article were the comments that readers left. While some did stand up for those who choose to remain sexually pure, many others applauded the author for telling the “truth” and continued to mock those students who wait.

This article was featured prominently on the front page on MSN.com, not on some obscure blog that few will ever read. Teenagers are getting messages about sex everyday, some subtle, some very direct. It’s is imperative that the we present them with a different vision than the world’s. I say “we” because this has to be a joint effort of parents and the church to teach our children and youth the truth about sex in a world gone sexually mad. Teenagers need to know why waiting is so important, so that when they face temptation, they have something stronger to fall back on than “My dad/mom/youth pastor said it’s wrong.” The world believes that teenagers are going to have sex and that there’s nothing that can be done to stop them. We must challenge that message and show our teens that there is a better way.