Sunday, May 31, 2015

Simply a Collection of Figurines?

I had the opportunity to attend a bat mitzvah. A truly wonderful ceremony. Similar to a bar mitzvah (Jewish "coming of age" for boys), a bat mitzvah (for girls) celebrates a person's fully becoming a member of the Jewish community. If you have never had the opportunity to attend one, I encourage you to.

One thing I noticed during the ceremony is that the Jewish faith has three major focuses: (in order of their presentation) Tradition, the Torah, and God. Unlike my Protestant-type experiences, which tend to elevate the whole bible as the "Word" and an object of worship, the Jewish faith focuses on the traditions of the past and the Torah - the first five books of the bible (a.k.a. "The Law"). At one point in the ceremony, the doors in the back of the main platform are opened and the Torah is presented. They take it out and carry it up and down the aisles, where people will reach forth and touch it with their books, and then touch the books to their lips in adoration. It is not done solemnly, but with great joy. In their readings and prayers (mostly in Hebrew), you hear the word "Torah" about as often as "Adonai" (God).

Do you like to collect things? I think it's a pretty common affair. I, for one, collect books (fiction and nonfiction) and movies that focus on time and time travel. My wife collects movies she thinks will make me cry. Some folks collect stamps. Others collect comics. Some even go as far as collect figurines (or, as some like to call them, "action figures" - though, since they don't move, I don't comprehend the "action" part.)

We, as humans, like to collect things. As George Carlin once said (not a quote - this is from memory): "A house is a place to store your stuff. The bigger the house, the more the stuff. The more the stuff, the bigger the house." And boy do we like our stuff. We find comfort in our stuff. We find security in our stuff. Don't believe me? Go on vacation and forget to pack something.

It's not easy to get rid of our stuff either. We find comfort in the tangible. I am in the process of ripping (AGAIN - higher bitrate) my entire collection of CDs and then GETTING RID OF THEM! Okay, not all of them. I'm keeping box sets. And live albums. And those autographed by the artist. And special local ones you won't find on eBay or Amazon. But aside from those, I'm getting rid of them! Okay, it's not easy. I know I'll have them in a digital format on my local hard drive, and on a backup hard drive in a fire-proof safe, and on a server somewhere in the cloud, but it feels odd to let go of the physical CDs. Why? Because we, as humans, find comfort and security in our physical stuff.

And we always have. Go back far enough in history and you'll find people with little statues of wood or stone that represented their gods, and they worshipped them! Then one day a guy named Moses is out looking for a killer way to roast his bag of marshmallows, and meets a God (who ironically is talking to him out of said "killer marshmallow roaster") who tells him not to make similar statues to represent Him. He said He is the God who created heaven and earth, and cannot be represented by insignificant objects of man's hands.

So what do we have today? Statues and rosaries and crosses and altars and prayer shawls and bibles and the Torah and grilled cheese sandwiches that look like Jesus that we consider as "holy", and we worship them.

I wonder what God thinks about us, when we focus on objects to represent Him. It's not like He ever said anything about that (check out numero uno on His Top Ten list [Exodus 20:3-5]).

So, like Gollum, what do you consider "my precious"?

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Occasionally, there is a knock on the door - usually the front - and my wife answers it. Standing before her are usually two nicely-dressed individuals, with the purpose of introducing her to the ways of their religion. She smiles politely and says, "I'm sorry, but my husband is a minister at our church and we are happy in our faith." That is usually enough for the two nicely-dressed individuals to turn and head for the next-door neighbor's front door.

"A minister at our church." The reason she would say that is that, because I am on the worship team - in the "music ministry" - I am therefore a "minister". I'm neither licensed nor ordained, yet, I AM a minister by association. I like that.

As I've mentioned in a previous blog, I believe I am coming to the end of my sabbatical. The question remains: where do I go from here?

During this time of separation, I've visited a friend's church where I've had the opportunity to join in on their worship team, and have visited my "home" church a few times (worshipped from in the congregation and departed prior to the sermon). I have continued to read the bible (not as intensely as before) and assorted devotionals, so I haven't gone "cold-turkey Christianity".

Here is my conundrum: Can one be involved in a church ministry, when one disagrees with a major belief of that church?

I don't know when it started, but at one point the pastor of my church started praying the following when praying with those who wanted to become Christians: ". . . and I will attend Your church, and I will read Your book." That statement may indeed have been the proverbial straw for me. Taking it from the viewpoint of the person standing before him, "Your church" sounds an awful lot like THIS particular church is Your church - and that is bad enough. The part that hit me the most was the "I will  read Your book" part. My church, like many Protestant style churches, teaches that the bible is the Word of God. As I've stated previously, I've come to the conclusion (and fervent belief) that the bible CONTAINS the Word of God, but is NOT, in and of itself, THE Word of God.

(You can go back and read some of my recent blogs and see some of the details of that statement, so I'm not going to take up too much space here.)

There used to be this cute acronym made from the letters of "bible": Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. You'd see it on bumper stickers, t-shirts, and, of course, bible covers (gotta protect that faux-leather cover). The first I heard of it was back in 1998. It was a song by a Christian band called Burlap to Cashmere. I don't know if they were the ones to coin it, but they were the source to my ears. Being one who also believed that the bible was part of the "Holy Quartet", I reveled in the cleverness.

During a breakfast conversation about this with my wife, I got to thinking: It's called "Basic Instructions". Not "Critical Instructions", or "Intricate Instructions", or "Complete Instructions". "Basic Instructions". My Jeep has an owner's manual. Every time I read it (no really, I DO read it), I get some good tips on how to make my Jeep experience more efficient and enjoyable. It does NOT contain the complete details of every aspect of the Jeep experience. You have to "experience" it (and, if you haven't, do yourself a favor and DRIVE one!! Oh wow!) Yet, there is this "doctrine" that the bible contains the complete, inerrant word of God, and there is nothing else needed. You can find all the answers to this life in it. As Colonel Potter used to say, "Horse hockey!" It's a guide. In it you can find the stories of a lot of other people's experiences in their walk (a.k.a. "relationship") with God, and those things can help you as well. But it is a guide.

So, is it even possible to go back into the music ministry of the church that I disagree with on this? I still love God. I'm a Christian. I just won't put the "Basic Instructions" over that experiential relationship. I guess the question is, what does it take to be a Christian? Belief in Jesus the Christ, or belief in the bible?

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Overflowing Verbosity

Nothing worse than sitting down to a blank screen (or sheet of paper, for you analog folks) and having an even blanker brain. That's where I'm at right now. And it kinda sucks.

I've read other blogs that teach that in order to be successful, you need to write EVERY day. Every day. Are you kidding me? For one thing, even if I could write every day, what would I do with all of that material? This is, after all, meant to be nothing more than a way for me to release the tensions that resulted in me waking up screaming from stress headaches. At the most, it's a weekly thing. Much of what I would write would either become repetitive, or become about as relevant as your local, television newscast.

I've tried to keep myself on a weekly schedule. Surely there is something that happens during the week that would spur the synapsis to firing. This week? I guess not.

I got nothin'.

But isn't that okay? I mean, from the perspective of the reader, would you really want to waste your precious time reading something of little-to-no value? I wouldn't think so. I surely wouldn't. (That's twice I've used the word "surely", and I'm sure there is at least one of you out there quoting Leslie Nielsen right now.)

So, this week I am not going to waste your time having you read something that I haven't had the courtesy to formulate into intelligent thoughts; having expounded such thoughts into the written word medium of your choice. Nope. Not going to do it. Wouldn't be prudent. Not at this juncture.

Maybe next week, when I (hopefully) have something to say. Until then, I'll refrain from writing a blog this week.

© Emittravel 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Fight is Quicker Than the Eye

This was opening weekend for Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron. And, as any good comic book nerd will tell you, this weekend was a must weekend to visit your local movie theater. The one of our choosing was an AMC Theater, which was our second visit there. The first was for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy - which was also the last movie we saw in a theater. Not only does the place have a great screen, a terrific sound system, and leather, auto-reclining lounge seats, but more importantly, when you purchase your ticket you purchase your seat! That's right, boys and girls, no rushing to get to the theater early so you can grab that perfect seat. You sit in your living room and, after a few clicks of your mouse on, you have your specific seat. Can't beat it!

My intention is not to write a spoiler-laden article concerning the movie. So no worries. I do want to address something I wrote about 201 blog posts ago: the way movies present action scenes. In my very first post, "And no, I'm not switching to 'chick flicks' . . . ", I give a description of the terrible way fight scenes are portrayed: lots of quick cuts filmed with a shaky cam. You can never tell what is happening.

In the post I used Star Trek as the example. But to be honest, it was the same with the Transformers movies. I, for one, have no interest in ever watching any beyond the first installment. As a matter of fact, I wish I didn't watch the first installment either. I couldn't understand who was fighting whom, and I have to think that was the director's idea.

Attention Hollywood. Please remember, if there is nothing to see, why should we watch?!?

Now, I've been a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (so far). I've seen all of the movies, with the exception of Thor: The Dark World. For the most part, Marvel has made sure that the action is not lost on the audience. And I, for one, deeply appreciate that. Age of Ultron had a LOT of fight scenes in it (not a spoiler - have you SEEN the trailers?!?), and they are visually awesome. They don't even have to slow down the scenes, though when they do they are really breathtaking. There was one scene that really comes to mind. At one point in a fight, the action is slowed and you see Captain America jump forward and rotate in the air twice(?), before connecting with his intended victim. You can tell that Chris Evans did the stunt, because right after he connects you can see him falling downward, like he was going to land on a mat. I think the only complaint is that there is SO much action going on, that your eyes have trouble focusing on more than one of the individual characters at a time. I guess that means I need to watch it again to see the others. (Hey, Marvel! Can you say "Cha-ching!"?)

Speaking of movies making money, I think directors and studios can take a lot away from viewing the Marvel movies. And if they implement such care in making quality, it will be reflected in positive reviews from their audiences. Just like this one.

© Emittravel 2015