"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi
The Winds of Change
There stands a great forest with many trees
and vegetation. Many of the trees are old and showing signs of weakness; others
in the prime of their lives and stand firm and produce many leaves. Their roots
grow deep into the ground and even the mightiest of storms barely cause
movement other than the outermost limbs and leaves. Still others are young,
pliable and have difficulty in the windy and stormy days that come.
For years, the forest remains secure in the
circle of life and the cycle of life runs without causing any major disruption
in the community. However, at times, a great wind will come and many of the
trees do not survive if they are unable to withstand the buffeting and turmoil
brought to them.
We are all like that forest and such a wind
is coming. We are buffeted on all sides by disruptions of nature, such as
droughts, hurricanes, melting ice caps and the like. The winds of politics blow
in uncertain directions with no clear distinctions between candidates and platforms.
All we seem to hear is empty rhetoric and what everyone else is doing wrong. We
hear churches arguing about other churches, charities disclosing untrue claims
about other charities, healthcare not meeting the needs of the many who need
help and public policies being changed without the input of the public.
Innocent children in Africa and other
countries are dying from starvation and AIDS due to the lack of funding and
internal wars that prohibit help from being received. Friends and loved ones
are contracting illnesses that we have to face even though we would rather
crawl into bed and deny it happening. We find ourselves frustrated, anxious,
angry and disappointed. The forest is in chaos as trees begin to sway and many
snap off bringing down the tender young trees as they crash to the ground
below. The future of the forest is in danger as the storm swirls and many of
the young are being destroyed within their core and their roots are pulled
In these times, we can remember the writings
of Isaiah that tell us, “when you pass through the waters of life, I will be
with you; and through the rivers, you will not be overwhelmed. When you pass
through the fires in your path, the flames will not burn you and you will not
be consumed by the fire because I am the Lord your God, the Holy one of
Israel.” (Isaiah 43:2-3).
In my own personal world, the winds of change
are blowing even as I write. My tree is swaying and upheaval seems close at
times. I am not one to easily face changes of life because I prefer the
security and comfort of the known instead of the challenges of the unknown. I
am learning that through change, we grow; we learn and become stronger as
humans and as a community.
I would encourage anyone facing the winds of
change to remain strong, remember that your roots run deep if your faith is in
God and that He will keep you from breaking.
And for today my friends, this has been the
gospel according to Jimmy.
Just let me sing my hymns....
It’s a tough thing
to be a religion writer. I’m not speaking of the deadlines for a newspaper
column, but the fact that we are expected to give advice, encouragement and
share the happy life of the Christian person. And, speaking for myself,
sometimes we just don’t feel it. And it’s a struggle.
My writing style has
always been one of transparency; to let you folks know what I’ve been through
in an attempt to encourage you that you are not alone. God has always been with
me in the darker times and with His help and presence, I have managed to pull
through without harm to my faith. And so can you! Lately I have (once again)
gotten caught up into the ongoing preferences of worship - contemporary vs.
I am a traditional worshipper
at heart. I prefer the traditional hymns of faith, organ, piano and maybe an
acoustic guitar and a flute. I like handbells and candles. I like using a hymn
book, responsive readings, the Apostle’s Creed, the Doxology and the spoken
prayer and scripture responses. However, before I alienate most of you, there
are some contemporary praise and worship songs that I like because they speak
to my heart and create calmness in my spirit. But, generally and personally
speaking, that’s not my usual worship preference.
Many times we more
traditional-type Christians will be made to feel as “less” because we don’t
enjoy all the electrical instruments with repetitive words and loud and louder
sounds with almost indiscernible words….even though those words are repeated
over and over.
“How can you as a
Christian, Jimmy, not be moved by the emotional feelings that loud music with a
thrumming drumbeat can evoke? How can you worship without jumping up and down
with your hands raised and your eyes closed?”
And, on the other
hand, perhaps we more traditional worshipping Christians have spoken too
quickly and judgmentally for those who enjoy the contemporary styles.
“How can you not
worship God in the more quiet and orderly ways of worship? What’s wrong with
enjoying classical music and beautiful hymns being sung that have given God
praise for hundreds of years? At least they don’t say the same four or five
words over and over and over.”
what I am trying to say. If the contemporary style of worship is your style,
then that is great. God is in it. And, if traditional worship is your style,
then that is great. God is in it, too. But, don’t judge or diss those who
prefer a different style than yours. When it all shakes out, God is the same
God for all who worship Him whether liturgical, traditional, blended or
contemporary. None of us, me included, have the spiritual right to discount
another’s style of worship. It only causes harm in the fellowship.
And the funny thing
is that all this above comes from a very traditional guy who totally loves to
worship in a bar church on Tybee Island. Go figure? Our God is a great God….but,
hey, He definitely has a sense of humor!
And for today my
friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.