Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nativity Kitsch

I shall begin this blog post with an apology to my friends, Mark and Jen.

Several years ago, when I was really into Sculpey polymer clay, I made them the most God-awful Nativity set the world has ever scene. I thought it was adorable, of course, or I wouldn't have given it to them. It took me forever to make it, and in my defense it was a heartfelt gift. But now when I think about it, I realize it was also horrible, horrible, horrible.

Which brings me to this blog post. Tomorrow I am hitting the streets with my camera in the hopes of catching something awesomely terrible, but until then you will have to settle for a post about Nativity kitsch. There are some downright frightening Nativities out there and I have collected a few for the Christmas Hall of Shame. Let me just say that I love cats, but I will never - NEV-AH - purchase a cat Nativity.

Sometimes words cannot do something justice, so I'll just post the pictures. See for yourself... and weep bitterly.

This site has a great selection of Nativity kitsch. Glad to know I'm not the only one out there with an eye for the distasteful.

You have to admit, this took talent.

What do the letters S-A-N-T-A spell? SANTA! And also SATAN if you mix 'em up. Coincidence?

Hopefully nobody needs to explain to you why this is so wrong.

I can't even figure out what this is exactly...
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Holidays Are All About Survival

Happy Black Friday, everyone. Did you survive Thanksgiving? I did. In fact, I got the world's best night sleep last night. I don't think I've slept like that since I was in diapers. If they could put turkey into pill form, I'd swap it out with my Seroquel.

It was an interesting holiday, but aren't they all? This year was particularly interesting because my mother injured herself recently and needed extra help hosting the holiday. She called me sometime around Halloween and said, "I want to have Thanksgiving here this year. How would you like to come and cook it?" Usually, my contribution to Thanksgiving is a delicious sweet potato casserole that nobody eats. Every year I swear I'm never making it again, but of course I do. I haven't always had the best relationship with my mom in the past and it has been going so well I just couldn't say no. But I said yes without fully grasping what I was agreeing to.

"Cooking" Thanksgiving, as it turned out, also meant cleaning my parents' home from top to bottom. This would not have been such an overwhelming task if they did not own a vacuum cleaner that weighs approximately 4,000 pounds. I could have pushed a donkey around the house with greater ease. It's one of those vacuums that sucks up the stuff and you can see it spinning around in the plastic canister. What nobody realizes is, when the vacuum sucks things up and spins them around at warp speed, things get destroyed...things like stink bugs, for example. I sucked up only one in the apartment but it was pulverized by the vacuumed and smelled so terrible that my mother and I both had stinging eyes for about an hour after the fact. Pennies, as it turns out, are harmless, but sucking one up into the vacuum sounds like shelling along the Afghanistan border.

I have been on my own for 10 years, and I have owned my own vacuum for just as long. Despite this, my mother does not have a great deal of confidence in my vacuuming skills. For the most part, I vacuumed while she followed along behind me, telling me I was doing it wrong. First I vacuumed too fast, then I didn't vacuum at the right angle. Then I was down on the floor with a paper towel snagging spider webs from the corners of the floor. Even though all of my parents' dining room chairs are identical, I was told that I didn't put the "right ones" in the "right spots" when I returned them after vacuuming around the table.

When I mopped the kitchen floor, my mother stood in the dining room and instructed me not to make puddles. She told me I needed to ring out the mop before actually mopping. At this point, I stopped what I was doing specifically so I could put my hands on my hips and give her a look that said, "Really, Mother. I do have a normal IQ." She stopped herself and had to laugh. She realized she was being ridiculous. But after I mopped the floor, she handed me a paper towel and told me to mop of my non-existent puddles.

By the time we got to vacuuming the bedrooms, I was exhausted from dragging the donkey vacuum around and she was tired of being the gestapo. "Do you want me to move this and vacuum under it?" I'd ask, and she'd shake her head and say, "Just vacuum around it. Screw it."

On Wednesday, she offered me lunch. Liverwurst. On my way to her place on Thanksgiving day, I stopped at Sheetz for a hotdog.

When I arrived at my parents' place on Thursday, the turkey was already in the oven. I was a bit perturbed at first because I really wanted to learn how to cook a turkey. On the other hand, my mother was right - it was just easier for her to do it. I'm not sure how you can stuff a turkey wrong, but I'm sure I would have figured out a way to do it. I made a few things and mashed a cheese ball together and put appetizers in the living room in an effort to keep all unnecessary personnel out of the kitchen (it worked) and thought things were going fine. They were, actually, going great. It's just that everyone in my family has the patience and overall calm of a squirrel, and so my mother officially started freaking out about two hours before the other guests arrived. This was when my parents started bickering at each other, a la Frank and Marie Barone from "Everybody Loves Raymond."

I have learned that following my mother around saying, "Calm down, Mom!" doesn't help. It anything, it just lights her fuse. Pointing out that everything was ready and that the turkey just had to come out of the oven only made her chain smoke. I tried a shoulder rub but she told me to get off of her because she was sweaty. All I could do was sip my cup of my father's famous old coffee (he drinks the same pot for 3 days in a row) and listen to my mother tell my father that if he didn't go shave, she was going to lose it.

With nothing to do in our spare time but sit and listen to my mother stress over whether or not her turkey was going to turn out dry, my father  recruited me to help him fix his computer. My parents' computer was built somewhere around 1950 and runs on Windows 98. They still use dial-up internet. To be honest, I didn't think dial-up internet service still existed. My parents have regular computer problems because my father tinkers around with it and doesn't really know what he's doing. Oh, and also because it was built in 1950 and runs on Windows 98. Did I mention that? My parents are not techies by any stretch. My brother and his wife got them a cell phone a few years ago for Christmas and I think my brother was a little peeved at me because when my parents opened it, I immediately erupted into uncontrollable laughter. Nobody likes someone to tell them that they wasted their money, but I had to speak the truth. To date, the phone has been used about 5 times... by me, trying to show my folks how to use it. It now sits atop my dad's stereo, collecting dust. He has no idea where the charger is.

It took his computer about 30 minutes to load when I turned it on. Upon discovering that he had old AOL software slowing down his system, I attempted to open the control panel, which took an additional 30 minutes to load. After waiting nearly an hour to open the application to uninstall software, I declared it a lost cause and gave up. My brother - the same one who gave them the cell phone - said he'd stop by tonight to help him. Again, I dissolved into uproarious laughter. My mother pulled me aside and whispered, "You do know your father has no clue what he's doing, don't you?" I assured her that, yes, it was apparent. She rolled her eyes and cursed at her messy kitchen.

Dinner itself went well... apart from a niece who refuses to eat anything that isn't a goldfish cracker or dessert, and my mother nearly tripping over her own chair and killing herself. Like little sardines stuffed into a can, we sat elbow-to-elbow at the table, all 11 of us, pigging out as my mother's blood pressure slowly returned to a normal level. The turkey was perfect - neither raw nor dry, as my mother always fears it will be every year. Every year I slave over that stupid sweet potato casserole that nobody touches, but this year I just mashed them with brown sugar and put some marshmallows on top and there was barely a drop left after dinner. Note to self.

And now it's officially Christmas. I didn't shop today. I have never shopped on Black Friday and I never will. My husband was going to brave the crowds but opted to sleep in instead. My tree-in-a-box has been successfully assembled and my oldest niece is on her way to help me decorate it. This is the part of the holiday season I enjoy the most. Nearly every ornament has a story behind it and I get a little misty when I hang them on the tree. Maybe not this year, though - my niece will never let me live it down if she catches me crying over a Christmas ball.

Let the season take wing! Here's a clip from "Everybody Loves Raymond." This is par for the course in my family.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We Interrupt This Job for an Unnecessary Blog Post

What is WRONG with me?
Those of you who write for a living might know what I'm talking about. You know what you want to say, but it won't come out the way you want it to. It's like getting a Pez stuck in the little dispenser. I always tell people I'm much better at writing a story than I am at telling it off-the-cuff because I always forget important tidbits and have to say "let me reverse" and go back the parts I missed that are necessary to understanding what I'm trying to say. I very rarely have this problem when I'm writing, but I'm having that problem today.

I'm still 99.9% sure I have ADD. Nobody could be this distracted all the time and not have a chemical imbalance. I used to go to coffee shops to work, but I'd wind up spending the day people-watching or re-reading the menu 800 times. Now I write from home but I'm just as distracted. The cat needs to be fed, laundry needs to be done, the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, dinner needs to be figured out. Even taking a shower annoys me. Sometimes I walk by my art supplies and have to fight the urge to drop everything and paint.

I never did homework when I was a kid. Like, ever. I think I got into college because God knew my parents needed an extended break. It's not any easier for me now, except that if I don't do my work now, I don't eat, have clothes, or have a home. Twenty years ago, my only consequence was having to deal with my furious mother. Now, the consequences include homelessness and starvation. Homelessness and starvation are pretty good motivators, but they don't kill distractions.

I am getting better, however. I've learned that all necessary housework MUST BE DONE before I try to write. If not, they are little open windows in my brain that refuse to close until I take care of them. (Read Shaunti Feldhahn's book For Women Only for more on this concept.) If I know the kitchen looks like a war zone, nothing can be truly accomplished until I have cleaned it.

I have also learned that dry-erase boards are a wonderful thing. I have one on my fridge and that's where I write down my deadlines. Day planners are nice, but I usually lose mine or forget to look at it. I go to the fridge, however, on a daily basis.

And now I have run out of things to say and I know I need to get back to work. I have about 90 minutes left of quiet isolation and I need to make the most of it. Books don't write themselves... though that would be super awesome.

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Pin It

Monday, November 15, 2010

Inflatable Hell

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Class vs. Trash: Holiday Music

Christmas music and Christmas decorations have one major theme in common: they can either be really cool, or be really terrible. I always knew this to be true but never fully grasped the concept until the first Christmas my husband and I were married. When I think of Christmases past, I think of carols being sung by choirs, candlelight, and a lit Christmas tree. When my husband thinks of Christmases past, he thinks about working at Record Town and The Wall and all of the awful music they played over their speaker system. He grew to love this music; I try to find a hiding spot for said music every year.

Old Christmas music seems to be the best. When people try to write new classics, they usually either make me laugh or they nauseate me. Let's discuss laughable Christmas music first.

Much to my chagrin, husband is especially fond of the "Very Special Christmas" collections.

Not everything on these albums are crap, but most of it is, including Hootie & the Blowfish's 1997 version of "The Christmas Song" on volume 3. Either it's SUPPOSED to be off-key, or the producer fell asleep at the console while this was being recorded. It serves as a reminder to me that you don't really need tons of talent to get a record deal. You can preview the slaughter here.
It also includes Sheryl Crow singing a terrible version of "Blue Christmas," which is a song I never liked to begin with. This song made me briefly feel ashamed of being a Sheryl Crow fan.

Volume 1 includes the extremely popular Madonna tune "Santa Baby." I can stand the music, but I can't stand Madonna's baby voice, nor do I want the image of Madonna seducing Santa Claus to replace the visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. In defense of Madonna, this song came out in 1987, so she was already in the midst of her I-Want-To-Sleep-With-Everything-That-Moves phase. Hopefully she has matured and would now opt to give Santa cookies and milk instead of her body.

HO HO HO! Literally...

Stevie Nicks croons "Silent Night" on volume 1, as well. I love Stevie Nicks... when it comes to pop/rock music. Christmas music, though? Not so much. Her voice reminds me of a drunken wino singing flat Christmas carols through the alleys of the Bronx.

Volume 5's insult to Christmas is Tom Petty singing "Little Red Rooster." Apparently, dude has a little red rooster that wakes him up every Christmas morning. C'mon, that's not very realistic. Like the rooster knows when it's Christmas? That's ridiculous. We can sing about a fat guy in a red suit traveling by airborne sleigh who stuffs his great big butt down our chimneys and leaves us presents under our Christmas trees, but a red rooster that knows when it's Christmas? That's just baloney.

On volume 7 (released in '09), Miley Cyrus stops by to sing an extremely bubble-gum version of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" that is sure to please anyone who is under the age of 12, or deaf.  Sean Kingston sings "Little Drummer Boy" in a fashion that probably not only annoys me, but annoys the baby Jesus. If the Little Drummer Boy had ever tried to sing this to our Lord and Savior, I'm pretty sure He would have learned to walk then and there and would have booked it out of Bethlehem. Lastly, Carrie Underwood sings "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" on this album, and while I LOVE Carrie Underwood's voice, I have major issues with country Christmas music. (Read: I hate country Christmas music!)

Here are a few of my other least favorites:
Paul McCartney - "Wonderful Christmastime" MAN I can't stand this song! I know it's a classic that is literally as old as I am, but I still hate it. The synthesizers, the weirdness... It's too trippy. It's like listening to Pink Floyd, in a way. If you're sober it's just nonsense, but I'll bet if you listen to it while you're on drugs, it's really DEEP, man.

George Michael - "Last Christmas" Anything by George Michael should be considered an abomination to mankind. This year, to save him from tears, he'll give his love to someone special? Really? And by "special" does he mean some random dude in a public bathroom stall? 

Amy Grant - "Mister Santa" I'm sorry, Amy. You know I love you, girl, but it had to be done. If you look up "cheese" in the dictionary, you will see the name of this song right next to it. Amy set the Christmas bar pretty high with her 1992 release, "Home For Christmas." It was the ultimate in class and all others fall short. Unfortunately, that includes this album. But you're still my favorite, AG.

The holiday season without Amy Grant is like Christmas morning without a little, red, mind-reading rooster.

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When is it *OK* to Inflate Your Yard?

If I weren't such a nice person, I'd say "NEVER" and leave it at that, but I've gotten a few comments on my last post from people insisting their children want inflatable yard thingies in the yard this Christmas. How do I respond? First, I would like to ask you, simply:

Do you want your child to grow up to be this?

Or do you want your child to grow up to be this?

The choice is yours. Would you put moonshine in your kids' sippy cups? Of course not. Don't settle!

There are some cases in which inflatable yard thingies might be considered acceptable. I don't expect people in wheelchairs to climb their roof with lights. Midgets with a fear of heights might also get a free pass. If you live in the middle of nowhere, go for it; we won't see it anyway. Living in a trailer park is no excuse. I've seen lots of nice trailer parks. Set an example for the rest of the park dwellers and skip baby balloon Jesus. Elderly people, also, might be exempt. Even in these situations, I would say skip the air pump and hang a wreath.

I hope this sheds some light on the DOs and DON'Ts of inflatable Christmas yard thingies. Now get out there and start stapling 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights to your roof! Pin It

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Christmas is Coming! (Everybody Hide!)

A few years ago, while driving down a major Pennsylvania route, I encountered the Christmas insult to end all Christmas insults. There was a large green house on the corner of one of the intersection - overgrown brush, trees in need of trimming, and paint chipping off every inch of the home. Even more disturbing than the landscape were the 6 inflatable yard decorations nailed into the lawn. Take away the ornaments and you would immediately assume this was a poor family trying to cover up their shack; however, I did a little research online and I found that inflatable yard thingies are actually quite expensive. That was when I knew these people were not poor, they were just lazy.

It's funny how my idea of "lazy" has changed over the years. I used to think people who took a single string of lights and haphazardly threw it on a tree were lazy (eh hem, Dad...) but inflatable yard thingies have taken laziness to a whole new low. Just plug in, inflate, and voila! And if there is a wind storm, it looks like your yard thingy is having an epileptic seizure, so I guess that's kind of cool. But still lazy.

Anyway, getting back to the green house of laziness...
As I sat there in my car, making fun of of the green house of laziness and its occupants, I realized I needed to get out there with my digital camera and start ridiculing people publicly. I never got around to it last year, but this year I'm determined to hide in the shrubs and snap pictures of people inflating Homer Simpson dressed as Santa Claus on their roof. It has to be done. This injustice to all things Christmas must be brought out of the darkness. People who inflate nativity scenes...God help you. I hope God has a sense of humor and a little bit of redneck in Him because I'd hate to hear my Lord ask me on judgment day, "Why did you nail my only Son to your yard and inflate him like a Wal-Mart basketball?" An inflatable nativity scene in a wind storm has got to be 20 times more offensive than Homer Simpson Claus or even one of those awful inflatable carousels that not only inflate, but spin, light up, and play music. It's just wrong to think that I could be driving past your house in a storm when the baby Jesus decides to deflate and detach from the rest of the nativity. Picture it - inflated baby Jesus flies off, lands on my windshield, and I crash into a tree.

It's wrong. It's unholy. If nothing else, it's more hillbilly than Larry the Cable Guy.

All this isn't to say I haven't seen worse decorations, because I have.
At our last apartment, new neighbors moved into the house next-door. We were a little stunned when they uprooted their lawn, paved it, and proceeded to park no less than 10 vehicles on it, but the "shock and awe" phase came when the holiday season rolled around and they put what must have been a 15-foot, faded, plastic Santa Claus on top of a lawn chair on their front porch. That was when we realized we weren't in Kansas anymore. How I wish I'd had a digital camera back then. It would probably be my profile picture on Facebook right now.

If you're feeling lazy, just don't decorate, OK? Inflatable yard thingies may be expensive but they don't say "class" they say... "GIT-R-DOOOOOOONE!" And, no, I don't mean that in a nice way.

So Merry Christmas. Enjoy the holiday season.
I'll be watching you.

I know God is bigger than we could ever imagine, but c'mon...
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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Perfect Christian Women

I don't know if you've noticed this or not, but a lot of female Christian authors are blond, thin, and pretty.
Every now and then, life throws you a curve ball and you see a brunette wearing a size 12. Let's face it, though... blond and perky is the norm.

I took note of this many years ago, so when my book was published in 2005, I dyed my hair blond and went on a diet. I also decided my hair wasn't stylish enough by simply being blond, so I got it cut super short. I was trying to be retro, but I ended up with what my friends now jokingly refer to as "the lesbian haircut."

I also decided that female Christian writers - well, Christian women in general - should never use sarcasm or quick wit. After all, we know from watching "Jesus of Nazareth" that Jesus was never jovial. Also, he never blinked.

I also found that many of the "church ladies" I knew said things like "thank you, Jesus" and "oh, my heavens" on a regular basis, so I tried to incorporate this into my own vernacular. I never got the timing quite right. My inability to be somber 24 hours a day really messed with this concept. I'd be driving down the highway and some wonderful gentleman who was created in the image of God would cut me off, and I'd find myself saying stuff like, "THANKS A LOT, JERK! I mean, um... oh, my heavens! Perhaps you should drive more carefully, sir. Amen! Praise Jesus!" I tried not to blink but I ended up spending a lot on eye drops, so I gave that up.

There were a few things I could not remedy, no matter how hard I tried. I didn't have 2 kids, a house with a white picket fence, or a dog. We could have adopted a baby from China, but what if the book failed? Adoption agencies don't have return policies and you can't put kids on layaway.

Fearing that I wasn't good enough to hold the title of Christian Author, I concluded that writing my book in my own voice would not suffice. Instead of writing like Julie Fidler, I tried to write like Beth Moore, Shaunti Feldhahn (my mentor of 8 years, no less), and a combination of several other authors I liked better than myself. It all backfired like a '75 Chevy on cinder blocks in front of a beat-up trailer.

Five years have past since that book came out and I've been struggling to write another one ever since. All of my experiences with the first one only showed me that I couldn't play in the big leagues. Until recently, that is.

As it turns out, I've not been comparing myself only with other authors, but with other Christian women in general. I have spent many Sundays sitting in a pew at my church, watching the other women around me, convincing myself that they have it all together and I don't. Worse yet, I thought they could see right through me and just KNOW that I was 'messed up.' If imperfection could be worn like a tattoo, mine would be scrawled on my forehead.

Maybe it's age, maybe it's life experience, maybe it's just growth in the Lord, but...I have decided this is craziness and I'm not going to allow it to creep into my life any longer. I say let's see each other for what we really are - messed up people who need God's grace every day so we don't have to be messed up anymore. I have a tattoo and so do you - "SINNER SAVED BY GRACE." I used to think I was the only woman in the world who felt this way, but as I shared my own struggles and doubts, I found out that a lot of us, if not most of us, either struggle with it now or have struggled with it in the past.

All this to say, we're so busy studying our cuts and scrapes, we forget to look at the holes in the hands of the One who can wash all of that away.

If our idea of perfection is the woman sitting two rows down from us on Sunday morning, we are going to be so totally disappointed. We'll never reach the mark, and if we did, it wouldn't be a mark worth reaching. If I try to write a book like one of the 'perfect' authors I've admired for so many years, I would be overlooking the very real truth that those books were written based on difficult life lessons that the authors learned, walls they climbed, and demons they conquered.

I'd rather compare myself to the man on the cross up at the altar. My imperfections will be made perfect. My sin has already been washed away. If we crawl deep into the hearts, minds, and lives of the people we look up to, we will always find sin and corruption, but not if we crawl deep into who Jesus is. There is the mark. Let me reach that one.

To steal a line from a great Switchfoot song, "We are crooked souls trying to stay up straight."
So I vote we cling to the only One who really holds us up. Anything less is gonna drag us down. Pin It

Friday, November 5, 2010

So You Want to be Pentecostal

Note: This is an attempt at satire. Don't take me seriously. I do love God's people.

Church life got you down, huh? Tired of music that reminds you of somber Civil War encampments? Sick of trying to keep your kids quiet during a rousing off-key rendition of "How Great Thou Art"? Maybe you've decided to become Pentecostal... or you're thinking about it. I say good for you! I became one myself about 3 years ago and I haven't looked back since. I feel it would be irresponsible of me not to give you a taste of what you are in for, since Pentecostals are very different from Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists... and pretty much everyone else you can think of. We all share a love for God, and that's what really counts, but I think any denomination deserves at least a brief orientation. Here is Julie Anne Fidler's guide to all things Pentecostal. May it serve you well.

#1.Appropriate Pentecostal Attire
Most Pentecostals will tell you that it doesn't matter what you wear because Jesus isn't interested in outer beauty. This is in stark contrast to many other churches, who teach you that you have to dress up, though they don't really tell you why. Maybe your parents, like my own, told you that it's "just the right thing to do." Well, most Pentecostals I know find a nice middle ground. This isn't Yoga class (remember: Yoga is evil!), so it's probably not a good idea to come dressed like you're ready to hit the treadmill. On the other hand, God was nice enough to create a pretty earth for all of us, so the least we can do is show up for God in something business-casual. Keep in mind, ladies, that short skirts run the risk of making men lust after you even as they hold their cup of Welch's communion grape juice, plus you're going to need plenty of room to dance, flop down on the carpet, and kneel.

#2.Raising Your Hands Makes Your Praise Reach Jesus Faster
You have probably already noted that Pentecostals sing with their hands raised in the air. This is because Heaven is really high up in the sky (some say it's even beyond our solar system), therefore reaching up towards the ceiling will make whatever song you are singing shoot up through your fingertips and reach Jesus faster. Not EVERYONE does this, and that's OK. It just means they're lazy and they don't really care, and since God gives us all free will, this should be accepted. They'll grow up someday.

There are various levels of raising your hands, and these mean different things. Raising your hands as far as they can go means you REALLY love Jesus and you want your praise to get there faster than anybody else's. Some people raise their hands only part-way, and this is called the Half-Staff Method. It means, "I love Jesus, but I haven't quite accepted that HE loves ME. I'm kind of scared He'll throw it back." Some people merely open their hands in front of them, palms showing. This is sort of like when people hold aluminum foil under their chin when they are sunbathing. It's more about catching the rays than sharing it.

It should also be noted that there is not ALWAYS a spiritual element to people who sun-bathe worship, keep their arms at their sides, or employ the Half-Staff Method. It could simply mean they sweat excessively and/or forgot to shave their arm pits that day.

#3.Crying Shows You "Really Mean It"
I like people who cry in church. I do it myself sometimes. It can mean any number of things, mostly obviously that you love God so much that you're willing to walk out the door looking like Joan Rivers after she has taken the bandages off from another face lift. Women, use caution: never wear mascara to a Pentecostal church. Don't waste your money. It will only disintegrate and drip off your face. Save it for less emotional affairs, like funerals and weddings.

Some people cry because they have been hit with the reality that they really are scum in need of a perfect Savior. Some people cry because Jesus saved them from a crack addiction, alcoholism, depression, or an evil mother-in-law. Sometimes the music is very emotional and that alone makes you weep. You can expect to cry during acoustic sets, congregational a capella singing, and heavy drum solos. A few people cry because they think they should, plain and simple. Why you do it is up to you, but don't think you can escape it. A true Pentecostal knows when let loose like Lindsay Lohan being sentenced for another DUI.

#4.Pentecostals Like to Sing the Same Verse Repeatedly for at Least 20 Minutes
Forget fast-moving songs that jump from one emotion to another. Pentecostals must be willing to delve into worship for the LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG haul. If the congregation seems bored/disinterested, oftentimes the worship leader will pick a particularly meaningful song verse and sing it until everyone catches on and realizes: If we don't get up and act interested, this song is going to go on forever. Sometimes this means changing the tempo of the song, or adding an electric guitar. If the worship leader starts jumping up and down and commanding everyone to clap/sing/jump/cry/fall on their faces, you know you are being too subdued.  Other times, if the Holy Spirit seems to be working and people are really "into it" the worship leader will thereby assume that the chorus must be repeated until the kids in the toddler room have grown up and moved into junior high youth group. It is not appropriate to take a nap or chat with your friends during this time... but I do it anyway. Sometimes you can only say "Jesus" so many times before you start counting the dots on the ceiling. Do your thing for God... and then feel free to take a bathroom break.

#5.Pentecostals Don't Know Many Hymns
My friend, Gary Chapman is a legendary Christian music artist and songwriter. He has a website called A Hymn A Week and it's dedicated to reviving the hymns of yesteryear. Many young people don't know a thing about hymns. Neither do many Pentecostals, myself included. Hymns have stood the test of time and often say things about God that simple, quick, modern praise music can't. My theory is that Pentecostalism is so bent on being emotional and "feeling" the Spirit, they need new, simple, basic worship songs on a weekly basis. Often, worship leaders will throw an electric guitar and a drum solo into an old hymn and we'll all be fooled into thinking it's the Newsboys' latest hit.

 #6.Pentecostals Love Caffeine
I've found that just about every denomination has their own views on alcohol. Some say it's wrong just because it has the potential to be addictive (growing up in a Mormon family, I heard about this often... even though everyone in my family drank.) Some say it's OK to drink as long as you don't get drunk. I don't actually know the official Pentecostal stance on alcohol, but from what I've seen and experienced, if you DO drink, you don't tell anyone. And if you SMOKE, Heaven help you, you hide it. I had a friend who used to smoke on her roof out of fear that a a fellow Christian might spot her. All of these things can be considered harmful to your body, which is, of course, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Caffeine, however, is fine. This is interesting, considering it only takes 250 mg (read: 2-1/2 cups of coffee) for caffeine intoxication to set in. So, let's think this through. My church hands out coffee for a donation, it could be $5 or a piece of gum, just as long as you put something in the little box. In addition, they also sell specialty coffee drinks. Let's say you have a cup of coffee when you first get to church. Then, you have a cup of coffee during the break when all the kids go to childrens church. Then, you order a mocha cappuccino with a shot of espresso when you leave. One must ask themselves... do I feel the Holy Spirit, or is my heart just racing? We are God's people, walking around church stoned off of our rear ends, but it's OK because all the money from the coffee shop goes to feed orphans in Haiti. Drink up!

#7.The Point-And-Hope Method of Bible Reading
It should come as no surprise that a group of Christians who believe that God can zap you right in your pew and make you flop like a fish out of water would also believe that God can and frequently does speak to us simply by picking up a Bible.

Now, for the record, the vast majority of Pentecostals I know study and meditate on the Word fervently and seek to have a rich prayer life; however, Pentecostals are big on warm, fuzzy Jesus feelings, too. Many of us wake up in the morning seeking "a word" from God. (Translation: we want God to talk to us somehow.) So rather than choosing a book, chapter, or topic from the Bible, we have been known to flip it open to a random spot, close our eyes, and point somewhere on the page in the hopes that it will reveal something wonderful about the coming day. Sometimes you land on something wonderful, but sometimes you land on... other stuff. And that other stuff should not be taken entirely seriously when it comes to how you should go about your morning. Blindly picking Bible verses can really backfire on you. Here are a few examples.

Genesis 25:30
He said to Jacob, "Let me eat some of that red stuff, because I'm exhausted."
This does not mean you should grab a fork and try that red gelatinous blob that has been in the back of your fridge for 6 months.

Job 19:17
My breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own brothers.
OK, actually you might want to take this one to heart. Toothpaste is cheap, you know.

Psalm 137:9
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
Don't go there. Just find a babysitter.

Deuteronomy 23:1
No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.
Yes, you can still bring your husband to church if he has had a vasectomy.

Ezekiel 23:19-20
Yet she increased her prostitution, remembering the days of her youth when she engaged in prostitution in the land of Egypt. She lusted after their genitals as large as those of donkeys, and their seminal emission was as strong as that of stallions.
 Whatever you do, don't take this as an invitation to a mid-life crisis.

I hope this guide to Pentecostalism has helped you. There is more that I should probably add, but I think this is enough to get you started on your journey to holiness. Pin It

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Would You Vote for a Klondike Bar?

Nothing strange happened to me at the polls yesterday. Nothing strange has EVER happened to me at the polls, other than getting half of my shirt tucked into my jeans on my way out of the bathroom. This was not the case for everyone yesterday.

My mother told me that at her polling place there was a smorgasbord of sweet goodies laid out for voters - cookies, brownies, cake, drinks, you name it. Some lady in line was throwing a fit, wanting to know who paid for all of it. I don't know about you, but when someone offers me free brownies, I eat first and ask questions later. I guess this woman thought it was some political party's way of swaying voters.

I find this ridiculous because I have way more confidence in the American people. I like to think Americans know better than to switch their political affiliation because someone offered them a double-fudge chocolate chip brownie. And what nut would switch their vote for a cookie? Come on, now. We're better than that, aren't we? You want me to vote Democrat in exchange for baked goods? No way! It's going to take more than that - a gift certificate to Red Robin or something, at least. Maybe a gift card to Target. But certainly not a miserly, stinking whoopie pie.

Outlawing baked goods in the polling place? Unnecessary.
Outlawing the exchange of viable bodily organs for a straight ticket vote? OK, maybe that's a little different.

No, we're a better people than that. Brownies won't make us change our votes. Now an egg roll... that's another story. Pin It
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