The Church Lady by JanCase
A Celebration of the Faith Community
Jun 29, 2011 | 5259 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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Dill Pickers Don't Disappoint
by JanCase
Jan 17, 2012 | 5021 views |  0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
What to say about a group that channels Mahalia Jackson, Joe Cocker, Johnny Cash and John Denver while playing dozens of instruments and just having a little talk with Jesus? Well, at the very least it was great fun to the folks who packed The Bridge and toe tapped along. I didn't even mention the humor and the nod to 1940s jazz. The show moved at an energetic pace that was a delightful showcase of musical talent and interesting personalities. 

I come from a family of music appreciators. That is to say, a rare few of us have musical talent, and for the most part, the ones who are musical married in. However, you won't find a better audience than my kin. Even at my grandfather's funeral, there was a country gospel quartet and band at the church. Everyone thought it was appropriate since he found such pleasure in listening to the music during his life. The preacher even quoted PaPa when the musicians finished, "Boys, the only thing wrong with that was you didn't play and sing long enough!" The congregation smiled because we remembered the rest of what he'd say, "Coulda done with more singin' and less preachin'." 

The Dill Pickers definitely left us wanting more, and I hope to get the opportunity to hear them again soon. 

The Dill Pickers
by JanCase
Jan 14, 2012 | 3869 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
So, I've been reading about the concert by The Dill Pickers to benefit Interfaith Ministries and I wonder why I don't already know these folks. My favorite diversions are bluegrass and musical theater, and my most troublesome obstacle as a Christian is exactly how to implement Jesus' words recorded in Matthew 25 regarding our treatment of "the least of these" among us. The Dill Pickers have somehow managed to consolidate all these things with a healthy dose of fun thrown in to boot. I can't wait to see them perform tomorrow at The Bridge behind Anniston First United Methodist Church at 2:00.

I learned that Interfaith Ministries was formed by Rev. Lawrence Dill and his wife, Flo,  and some friends from various churches sitting around a dining room table in 1975.  Ministry to the poor, sick, and needy seems like such an overwhelmingly impossible problem. Even Jesus said that the poor would be with us always. And then you hear that someone just sat down and did something and the result was over 100 churches and multiple ministries that do everything from deliver food and help pay for medications to sponsoring community wide worship services that welcome all regardless of faith tradition or anything else that defines them. I want to be like these people!

Reading the Bible Through
by JanCase
Jan 09, 2012 | 2741 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
I recently purchased a book by George Guthrie with a novel reading plan for the Bible. It's called the "Reader's Guide to the Bible" and it presents the Bible in chronological order. Of course a lot of this is subjective since none of the stories were written at the time that things were actually happening and there are multiple accounts of the same stories. We don't know exact dates for most of the writing, much less the actual events.  But I like the idea. Guthrie uses "Acts" and "Scenes" to present the themes of God's interaction with humanity. One interesting point is that there is no actual "book" of psalms. Since all the poetry was written in relation to some historical happening or someone's inner turmoil or a worship liturgy, the psalms are scattered throughout the readings. The book also contains a timeline with fill-in-the blanks opportunities, short commentary and group discussion questions. I hate filling in blanks, I find the commentary largely uninspiring, and I'm doing this as an individual, so the extras are pretty much wasted on me. But the idea of a start to finish reading is appealing.

Now, which version of the Bible to use. I've read the King James's and the New American Standard translations through in the past, and I once spent a year reading the New Testament with an outline from the Navigators. I've just spent the past 9 years reading passages in preparation to teach a weekly Bible Study class. Reading something with plans to teach it is different from reading it for illumination or for pleasure. I decided this time to read for fun, and I selected The Message translation for my 2012 plan. The Message is the work of Eugene Peterson, a pastor who collected his personal translations and sermons over a lifetime of Bible study. It is easy reading, and occasionally startling in his folksy choice of phrase. For example, when God asks Cain where his brother Able is, Able replies, "How should I know? Am I his babysitter?"

Now I'm in the wonderful Old Testament stories of the creation, flood, tower of babel, and having a blast.

Happy Halloween, er, ah, Fall!
by JanCase
Oct 23, 2011 | 4765 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
When I was a child, Halloween was tied with Christmas for my favorite holiday. On October 31, for some unknown reason, the usually strict parents of myself and my friends threw caution to the wind and let us wander the neighborhood after dark taking candy from strangers. It was great! We thought it prudent not to ask too many questions about this grand state of affairs, so none of us knew that "All Hallow's Eve" was a church holiday from the 8th century leading up to "All Saint's Day." When the church decided to take back the holiday, however, it wasn't to restore the ancient Christian meaning, but to curb our enjoyment of this delightful extravaganza. Ok, so that wasn't really the reason, but it sure felt that way. Suddenly our boundaries shrunk from the entire neighborhood to the church parking lot. But then something interesting happened. What was once one crazy night of candy consumption expanded into a two week series of candy galas all around town. Churches started pouring out the sweets in the middle of October. The troublesome moniker of "Halloween" is seldom mentioned at church anymore; it's been replaced by the more innocuous sounding "Fall" or "Harvest" festival.  So we have a one day church holiday that became secular that was retrieved by the church who then turned it into a multi-week secular holiday. Spooky!

Reformation Day is Coming
by JanCase
Oct 17, 2011 | 2477 views |  0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Anniston Bible Church is presenting a series of lectures led by Bob St. John on The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther. The sessions meet at 6:30 pm on Mondays in October leading up to the anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It was October 31, 1517 when the Augustinian monk nailed his 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany in an attempt to reform practices in the Catholic Church. It was the second time that the New Testament Church had experienced a major upheaval. The church had a united existence for about 1000 years when the Roman Church split off. The changes made by Rome included placing authority in a Pope instead of a council, requiring celibacy for its clergy and using unleavened bread for the Eucharist. These two Christian churches, Orthodox and Roman Catholic, existed separately for another 500 years before Luther. With the advent of Protestant churches, we were off to the races. While the Orthodox Church remains largely unchanged, it seems like a new Protestant or Evangelical church splits off daily.  This is good and bad.  We spend a lot of time bickering amongst ourselves about what the Bible really says and who’s really saved. But this diversity can also be positive in that whatever it is that you want from church, you can probably find it. And if not, just start your own church. One of the interesting things that I've learned from Rev. St. John is how consistent most of Luther's ideas are with the Orthodox Church. It would be interesting to know what would've happened if Luther had led a return to the Orthodox Church instead of a reform of the Catholic church.


The text that accompanies the lectures is Martin Luther:  A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought  by Stephen J. Nichols. He writes of Luther's conversion which began when he acknowledged that he "hated the righteous God who punishes sinners" ... and "raged with a fierce and troubled conscience." Luther's study of the book of Romans led to a spiritual breakthrough in which he was overwhelmed by an understanding of God's gift of grace. Thus the foundation of all Protestant and evangelical churches was laid. Anyone who worships today in this stream of faith would benefit from learning of Luther's discovery of how life-changing the gospel really is.


Thanks Andy & Betsy!
by JanCase
Sep 27, 2011 | 3668 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I've never heard more beautiful music in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville. The orchestra, choir, and congregation were led by Rev. Andy Bumpus in a most reverent and meaningful worship experience. I've been singing in church since I was a Sunbeam, and I've been blessed to know many dedicated music ministers, but I can honestly say that Andy is the most talented of them all. He writes music; he arranges musical scores for both choir and orchestra; he's a soloist with the civic chorale; he is a brilliant conductor; he plays a variety of instruments at the professional level; and he has taught novices to play instruments so that they could participate in worship. The really amazing thing, though, is that he's so humble that many people in our own church do not realize the depth and quality of his talents. His concern is to be faithful with his spiritual gifts, not to be the center of attention. As churches continue to blur the line between worship and entertainment, Andy is an example of humility to all of us. If possible, his wife Betsy serves even further under the radar. She's in the background providing food for socials and funerals, folding clothes for tornado victims, sending messages of encouragement, singing in the choir and even filling in on the saxophone when needed.


As beautiful as last Sunday's service was, it was also quite sad since it was the last time that Andy will lead worship for us. He and Betsy have joyfully given of themselves to our congregation for 7 years, and they will be sorely missed. His position may be filled, but they will never be replaced.

Balancing Act
by JanCase
Sep 24, 2011 | 3008 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I was in New Orleans a few months back and saw a man literally standing on his soapbox preaching loudly into a microphone to a largely uninterested stream of pedestrians. Bourbon Street has no shortage of street performers vying for the attention of the crowds, and this guy was definitely losing the competition. I have no reason to doubt his sincerity or question his motives in what he was doing. Like telemarketing, it must achieve the desired effect sometimes or people wouldn't do it. About a block away a group of around fifteen young musicians was serenading a packed crowd with a fabulous blending all kinds of instruments. Their skill and dedication were admirable, and much appreciated by those of us who stopped and listened. I couldn't help but wonder which performance was more pleasing to God. The Bible tells us that life is made up of things that are clean, things that are unclean, and things that are holy. I think it is possible that offering up a gift of talent that has been honed into its highest expression might just fall into the holy category. Screaming judgment at strangers doesn’t strike me as quite so appealing.

C. S. Lewis describes humans as amphibians – half spirit and half animal. As spirits we belong to the eternal world and as animals we inhabit time. It’s a creative structure that requires us to be in a constant state of rebalancing. Fortunately, God made it pleasant for us to tend to our physical needs. It feels good to eat when we’re hungry or sleep when we’re tired. Of course when these basic functions get out of balance, the result is misery – just ask anyone with eating issues or insomnia. Being out of balance spiritually can cause even more distress. In Romans 5, we read that our spiritual condition is a trait of our human condition and that God solved the problem of humanity with humanity --- through the Incarnation. Our free will affects our spiritual state and physical state in much the same way, but God offers rescue. We are not so much cowering before a harsh judge as receiving a father’s warm welcome into restoration and balance.  Grace. It really is amazing.

The Fulton County Fair
by JanCase
Sep 11, 2011 | 2605 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

No, not the Atlanta one. This Fulton County is "the top of Ohio" as the tee shirts proudly display and the trip was a birthday gift for my 50th last November from my friend Lin Veasey. Even I think it's a bit odd that someone would give this gift without ever hearing the recipient mention an interest in such an event, but in fact, some of my fondest childhood memories are of attending the Alabama State Fair with my grandfather. I've been looking forward to the trip for months and it exceeded all my high hopes of reliving a time long gone. I wouldn't have been surprised to see Pa taking a pass from heaven to join me in the adventure.

 Where to start? Of course there is the food. I set aside my generally healthy eating habits and seized the fried moment. For the record, fried cheese curd is surprisingly delicious. I spent hours happily browsing the judged exhibits of canned goods, quilts, artwork, flowers, and livestock. In case you didn't know, baby goats are just about the cutest thing going. From the grandstand I watched harness racing and farm boys driving tractors really fast. It seems that everyone in town had a volunteer role in making the fair a success.

 The most memorable event, though, was something I had never seen before at a fair. Each year, every couple in the county that has been married for at least 50 years is honored at a reception. The longest married couple is seated in the place of honor up front, and they actually get crowns! This year the prize marriage had been in place since 1943. The tent was packed with golden anniversary couples including Lin's delightful parents, John and Eunice. This wasn't John's only recognition as he also took home the top division horseshoes championship trophy for the 4th consecutive year.

 It was refreshing to be reminded of how much can be accomplished by a community that works together. While attending St. James Lutheran Church with Lin's family, I listened to the epistle reading which included a familiar passage from Romans 13, "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law...You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Love expressed through friendship is truly one of the great blessings of life. 

Pilgrim's Progress
by JanCase
Aug 30, 2011 | 1849 views |  0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I saw him in the Dallas airport while waiting to board my flight to Portland, OR. He looked like one of my college students with his somewhat rumpled, thoughtfully mismatched clothes and his baseball cap on backwards. I filed him under "too much energy" and returned to Caleb's Crossing, a book about a missionary working with Native Americans in Massachusetts.  He was the last person to board the plane where he took his assigned seat right next to me. He cheerfully introduced himself as "Christian" and thus began a three hour church service in the air. He had just graduated from college with a degree in psychology and had taken a job with no salary working as a missionary to Native Americans in Oklahoma. I commented on the appropriateness of his name, and he said that when he was young he hated it and refused to answer to anything but "Opie."  We shared our experiences of faith and the questions and ideas that we have about God. At one point he spontaneously broke into a prayer over me. Before we disembarked he gave me two CDs. One contained a sermon delivered by Heidi Baker, a pentecostal missionary to Africa and the other was a collection of rap music with Christian lyrics. I can honestly say that it's unlikely that I would have ever come across either of those things without a chance encounter with a Christian on a journey. I was captivated by Mrs. Baker's account of God's miracles among the orphans that she cares for in Mozambique.  As for the rap, well, I'm still learning to appreciate that.  

There are no Atheists in Hell
by JanCase
Aug 21, 2011 | 4765 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

We all know that there are no atheists in foxholes. I was on vacation when I saw the church sign with the updated ruling. Maybe it's just that wars don't seem to involve foxholes anymore, or maybe this church felt the original version was too subtle so they decided to amp it up a bit.  Oddly enough, the sign actually could be read as an advertisement for atheism. Think about it. It's like saying, "There are no boys in my club" or "There are no seeds in that watermelon."  If one is a boy or a seed, then there's no need to worry about finding oneself in the aforementioned club or watermelon since the rule forbids them being there. So, if I want to say out of Hell, and who doesn't, then I should be an atheist since there are none of them in Hell. Right? Of course, this church meant no such thing, but I made a note of the sign to use in class the next time I teach existential and universal quantifiers. (Sorry, I fell out of church lady mode into math professor mode there for a minute. I was about to draw a Venn diagram!)

Actually, this church has an attitude that is very similar to that of an atheist. The church boldly assumes the role of God in pronouncing its verdict. The atheist boldly proclaims the certainty that God does not exist. The church should know better. 

The Bible is very clear about where judgement and vengence belong. It also describes the temperament we should have in approaching God, and the mindset we should adopt in our relations with others. I would run from a church with such blatant disregard for these central teachings. Maybe I'm overreacting and the church just thought it was an attention getter. Maybe they didn't know if "foxholes" was one word or two. But I think the Christianity that we reflect is noticed, and we should humble ourselves before God as a preface to any announcement that we decide to proclaim to the world.

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