Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Problem with Idols

I watch American Idol. It's true, and I'm not ashamed (most of the time).

I do try to watch through healthy lenses, though. For me, the show is a singing competition. And when the producers decide to show singing, I'm thoroughly engaged. I have watched all seasons but the first, so I know what to expect most of the time. The judges' responses are rarely a surprise. They have added too many contestants this year, but that's just my opinion.

Where the show falls apart is that someone has decided it needs to fit the mold of a traditional "reality" show. Carrying that character means the producers are forced to interject more "reality" than is truly necessary for a show that is a singing competition.

Don't get me wrong: I like learning about the contestants. I like seeing where they are from, what they do, what their experience with music is (or isn't). I love seeing the unknown talent discovered. The unknown rendition of a song brought into the spotlight. I was a huge David Cook fan last year because I loved what he did with a song, more times than not.

What I don't love is when "reality" means the producers need to focus on an aspect of a contestant's life as if it were the only part of the life worth the focus.

So, the entertainment bloggy world is full of posts regarding contestant Danny Gokey, who is one of the show's Top 12, and will go to the finals. Danny has been a "featured" contestant since the audition process, because the producers found out something about him that was worth exploiting--sadly, that's the best way to describe it.

Danny Gokey was married for less than a year when his wife died. Idol producers took that fact and have blown it up into "Danny's story"--the reason we should be following him. Some even suggest that he is an early favorite in the competition, not because of his singing but because we feel for the guy's story.

Here's what he said: "Honestly, I do feel that I was highlighted. There's no getting around that. I didn't do anything to get that. I can say this; I'm grateful that they would do that. I have no control over it," he said. "I know everyone's not going to like me -- that goes without saying. But it's a bummer when people are just real mad about it. I had nothing to do with it and I hope people can see past that and just see that I genuinely just love to sing and that's what I want to do."

When ABC News/Sports starting using the phrase "Up Close and Personal" in their profile stories, I wonder if they understood just how far that would get stretched.

* * *

The problem with Idols, and idols in general, is that the producers expect them to be perfect--perfectly fitting the role that they have "cast" for them (i.e., contestant with deceased wife). And those who believe in the idols expect them to be perfect and to perform well for the believers. Otherwise, why should we believe in them?

This was--and is--God's problem with idols. He knows that idols can never be perfect and they will never be able to do what only He alone can. That's why He said--commanded--us not to make any graven images or any likenesses of anything in Heaven or on the earth or in the waters under the earth. (Ten commandments, Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5) "Do not bow down yourself to them nor serve them. For I the Lord your God am a jealous God."

How many idols did the Greeks and Romans create for themselves? They had a god for everything. Can you imagine God's anger when He saves His people over and over in the process of bringing them to the Promised Land, only to have them turn around and make a cow out of gold to praise?! I like cows, but, come on! What were they thinking?!

What are we thinking?!!

Why do we want to limit the capacity of our God? He is THE Creator. You can't tag Him with just one quality, because He is every good quality. The Bible lists scores of names for God because He is all those things! Just as Danny Gokey doesn't want to be known as "the guy whose wife died," God doesn't want to be known by whatever short-term name we feel like giving Him at the time.

I think we inadvertently make idols out of the chips we take off God. We don't take Him at His full level of Godliness, and that means we're worshiping something short of the Almighty. "I worship God the Encourager and God the Blessings Provider, but not God who might be upset with my disregarding His Word."

"And I don't wanna box you in
You've been doing big things since the world began
Sometimes I just don't wanna believe
That you're big enough - but you're big enough yeah!"
--Ayiesha Woods, "Big Enough"

When we're ready to put God centerstage in our lives--to accept that He is the biggest Name around, without shortchanging Him--then we're really ready to witness an amazing performer. He truly is the only One who performs amazingly all the time!

And He will, for each one of long as we claim Him as the One to idolize.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Anger Defined

Chatty Kelly has an interesting forum going on at her blog today.

"Does God Get Mad?" she asks. She continues forth to explain her perspective, drawing heavily from the Scriptures.

I think some folks believe God is mad all the time--at
them! I think that's why they work so hard to try and please Him. These folks never have the feeling (or have read the supporting Scriptures) that God loves them above all else! It doesn't matter what we do--as we will never measure up to perfection--He still loves us.

Now, quickly, so as not to be misunderstood, this doesn't mean that we can do anything we want and that God will be OK with it. God gave us freewill, but He didn't give us total freedom of rule. The Bible is our faithful boundary reminder reference guide. We can know from studying His Word what He requires of us--act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8), as a starting point.

And when we don't follow His Word? Why should we think God would be happy with us? Why should we think God would be angry with us? If you have "you don't listen?!" children, then you might be able to understand on the most basic of levels what God's frustration--and, yes, anger--is with His children, whom He loves unconditionally. (Don't lose sight of the fact that His love is still what this is all about!)

I received an amazing concordance as a Christmas present (from Chatty Kelly, no less). It contains Hebrew and Greek dictionaries, so I can explore the meaning of words in Biblical passages using something closer to the original language. So, when the Bible talks about God's anger, what does that mean?
"And the anger of the Lord was kindled...." Exodus 4:14

"He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger...." Psalm 78:49

"I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." Jonah 4:2b

In the Hebrew, the word for anger comes from a word that means "to breathe hard," as in to be enraged, angry, displeased. Exasperated is another word that comes to mind, and if the Old Testament were written in Greek, perhaps they would have used the same word that Paul uses in his letter to the Ephesians ("Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4). Can you picture God fuming over our bad choices? Since I brought up the New Testament.... Kelly mentions this one on her blog:
He [Jesus] said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!"

And He said to them [the Pharisees], "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent.

After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Mark 3:3-5

The word used to describe Jesus' anger, in Greek, means "desire, as a reaching forth or excitement of the mind." It comes from another Greek word that means "to stretch oneself, reach out after, to long for, covet after." By analogy, it also means a violent passion or, by implication, punishment.

Wow! That's a lot of different words and ideas to cover in one definition. What catches my eye and captures my attention is that reaching forward/coveting after/passion is coupled with anger/displeasure/punishment. While that appears to be a dichotomy of thoughts, when it comes to understanding who God is, that's exactly right!

Is He angry or displeased with us? Yeah...because we do make wrong choices. We'll never get it perfectly right. Do we face punishment? Well, if we believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior of our lives, then we don't face eternal punishment, and, through confession and repentance, we are forgiven of our sins. But, because God loves us, we do face discipline--if we want to grow out of our disobedience. Some folks think that's punishment. Depends on where you are on the spiritual growth chart.

On the other hand, is God continually trying to reach His children? Does He covet a relationship with us? Is His passion for us so great that He will go to every limit to show His love for us? YES, on all questions!

Remember, the God who loved us so much sent His one and only Son to receive His wrath on the cross. And because He loved us so much, the Son "stretched Himself" to hang on this cross--the passion of the Christ.

Is there a lot wrapped up in what the Bible terms as God's 'anger'? Are we willing to accept that our loving Creator can show that that kind of anger? Are we able to show that kind of anger?

What's a few more questions, Kelly?....

Monday, February 16, 2009

You're Over the Top, Valentine!

You'd think it Christmas or something! WOW!! What a Valentine's Day we had here!

I thought it would be a simple celebration. I changed up our front-door Christmas wreath with a spangled heart from Michaels (before the Valentine's pricing went into effect).

But, when the actual day came, we were flooded with cards to each other, and from family, and from classmates. (Mom, I now recognize your handiwork! Don't ever say you're not creative or anything like that..... See the Suzy's Zoo stamped card above.) There was quite a bit of chocolate and other candies, too.

Hubby and I got a special wooden sculpture of a kissing couple to put together. And my sister surprised us with a copy of the gift she had made for our mom--a recipe book of special Mom recipes with some new additions from the rest of us daughters, complete with pictures of all of our Kitchen Aid mixers. (That's worth a post in itself, probably.)

Then, as if that day's mail wasn't enough, FedEx appeared with a huge cardboard rectangular box. Oh my!

For the 3 girls in the house!

That night, the celebration concluded with pizza--handmade and heart-shaped for the girls.

I had purchased a frozen stuffed pizza (Chicago-style). Our old favorite pizza restaurant in Naperville, Illinois, Leonardo's, has gone national (through Kroger), so we gave their frozen cheese and spinach pie a try (adding sausage, because we always ordered it with sausage!). It wasn't what we remembered, but it was a treat nonetheless.

So much for a quiet holiday! It was definitely one to remember....

Monday, February 9, 2009

RJ2 is 5!

Yeah! Happy Birthday!

(This video repeats to the length of the music.)