From the Mental Vine


I’ve got several topics in me that I may never get out in full, so I’m going to post some abbreviated versions today rather than let them rot on the mental vine.

Christian Ghettos

In the wake of the International Christian Retail Show (which, by the name alone, sounds like something Jesus would’ve driven out of the Temple with a whip of His own making), several bloggers have given their impressions of the event.

What amazes me in the aftermath is the ghetto mentality on display in those recaps. The charismatics ooh and aah over the charismatic books and authors, the Reformed over their camp’s books and authors, the Baptists over theirs—and on and on.

When I was at Wheaton College, I tried with all my might to convince some of those young whippersnappers to bust out of their denominational ghettos and see how the rest of Christianity lives. It won’t kill the Episcopalian to attend an Assemblies of God service. The Free Will Baptist won’t spontaneously combust by checking out what the high-church Presbyterians are doing. The Covenant Church fellow might see how his counterpart in the Ukranian Orthodox Church worships and come away renewed.

But no, such a request bordered on heresy. Or crossed it, depending on how much starch one had in one’s undies. And back in the early ’90s when I attended, Wheaton could’ve passed for a starch factory.

To see that same paranoia from adults at the ICRS just drives me nuts. Folks, break out of the ghetto! Pick up a book favored by some other denomination and—before you start with the criticism—see if God speaks at all from within the pages. Because I believe that people who dwell in a ghetto never experience the beauty of all God has laid out for us. You can still love your particular denomination, but bring in something precious from elsewhere and watch how God will breathe life back into your ghetto. It’ll change your life and the lives of those around you, I promise.

Power Pop

Being a musician, I deeply appreciate a well-turned song. I’m an extreme sucker for power pop done well. Think huge hooks, anthemic themes, and suitability for cruising the carefree highway with the top down and the volume cranked up.

I don’t follow any contemporary Christian music groups anymore. Most of my faves are relics from the ’80s and early ’90s. I’ve bought one freshly-released Christian music CD in the last five years.

But I’ve got to say this: Newsboys possess this remarkable ability to totally nail power pop. Repeatedly. In a variety of styles. Like clockwork. That’s a rare skill.

The other day while running errands, I turned on the radio and heard this techno instrumental break that reminded me immediately of New Order (not the kind of music one hears on Christian radio) and I said right there, “Newsboys. Must be a new single.” And it was: “Something Beautiful.”

The synth part on the chorus? Simple to the point of stupidity, but absolutely pure genius. (Reminds me a bit of the lead guitar line in The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”) I also love the abbreviated-bridge lyric construction in the verses. That’s the kind of chance too few artists take in Christian music today. As a drummer, I’m repeatedly bored to tears by the same beat used in song after song on Christian radio, but to hear a disco drum machine beat—ah, refreshing in a way some may never understand.

I dare you not to get up and dance to “Something Beautiful.” I just love a song filled with life, don’t you? What are your favorites?

And Now For Something Completely Different—And Heartbreakingly Sad

I don’t know why, but I have a total fascination with vanishings. Individuals, planes, boats, villages, and troops that go missing capture my attention. I read about a classic vanishing like the crew of the Mary Celeste and I’m riveted. I’ve always been a “What If?” kind of person, and vanishings afford tons of what ifs. When I see missing person posters, I can’t help myself, I have to read them. These are people’s husbands, wives, daughters and sons. They’re neighbors, friends. And they’re gone. Just gone.

Most end in tragedy. You read enough outcomes and you understand why women out alone cast that furtive, over-the-shoulder glance, eyes wide and frightened. I see too many of those stories anymore. And the number of blogs dedicated to someone gone missing keeps growing.

Mary Byrne Smith, pastor’s wife, kindergarten teacher, and mother of two, vanished from a Beth Moore conference back in March. A few days ago, they found her.

But hers isn’t the story of a shallow grave in a remote forest. No, her story is far more tragic. Though I’m not a sensationalist, I heartily encourage you to read it.

I’m not here to judge Mary Smith. What I’m here to judge is the system we Americans uphold that creates people like her. I see her smiling face in that FoxNews update and I wonder how it all went wrong.

Six weeks ago, I posted some sobering stats concerning ministers and their wives. Our inability to accept them as fellow laborers for Christ creates pressures few of us outside the ministry understand.

I remember last year when I first heard of the Winkler case in Tennessee. Minister’s wife shoots him dead and flees with her daughters. It’s terrible, but I thought what many thought: molestation. Turns out the reason was check kiting and money scams. And not by the minister.

I hate this trend. And I do think it’s a trend. I fully understand that people sin, and pastor’s wives are people, too. But something’s wrong and we in the Church need to wake up and find a way to fix what appears to be an increasingly dire situation in the homes of many families in the ministry.

Please pray for your pastor and his family. They need our covering.

Have a blessed weekend.