Posted tagged ‘culture’

Acquired Taste

January 31, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       January 31, 2018

                                              

There are certain things in life that we partake of because…

Because of family tradition. Because we’ve always done it that way. Because it’s all we have. Because someone does it. Because we were told to.

For a few years at Thanksgiving I’d make oyster dressing. No one else in my household- spouse or any of the three kids- would even get close to the oyster dressing. I made it because…my mom always made it for Thanksgiving! I didn’t even realize that dressing/stuffing could be eaten without oysters! Christmas featured fruitcake. I don’t even like fruitcake, but we always had one for Christmas, so I’d munch away, pretending it was a natural act of mankind.

I acquired a taste for coffee during my last year of seminary when I decided to take a  Hebrew class. Late at night Steve Wamberg, Steve Shaffer, and I would drive over to The Golden Bear restaurant, drink coffee and study Hebrew flash cards. The Hebrew never stayed with me, but the taste for coffee did. Forty years later I’ve acquired a taste for Starbucks coffee, a brew that grew on me!

In recent years I’ve acquired tastes for Brussel sprouts, yogurt, and grits. Such notions would have made me break out in fits of laughter a few years ago.

There also seems to be “acquired tastes” of cultural ideas and trends. Last year the middle school where I coach was saturated with “fidget spinners.” Spinners were those handheld devices that were held by two fingers and spun. They became a “thing” that became classroom distractions. Teachers had nightmares because of fidget spinners. When they thought of the word “annoying” a picture of a fidget spinner would pop up in their minds.

What I noticed about “acquired cultural tastes” is that people sometimes follow along and partake simply because of others. It’s simply peer pressure shaped differently. There are issues or situations where following along is a good thing, a wise thing; and there are issues and situations where following along is ludicrous.

For example, towards the end of the 1800’s the overwhelming opinion in the United States was that Chinese immigrants were to be despised and discriminated against. Many businesses and corporations had policies that prohibited the hiring of Chinese. In fact, a person would be hard pressed to find someone who was sympathetic. The government sure wasn’t! People followed along in that “acquired taste” of hate and racism.

In the turbulence of our present culture recent “acquired tastes” have included national anthem protests, reefer gladness, consuming laundry detergent pods, and openly hoping that certain elected officials meet untimely deaths. They are like opinionated tsunamis that years from now will be looked upon, like the discrimination of Chinese immigrants, as making no sense whatsoever. For now, however, like flags blowing in the wind, people wave in the direction of the spouted opinion.

If a Hollywood starlet or recording artist makes a statement in the midst of one of the many award shows on TV you can be sure that numerous people will acquire the taste of that stance soon after. I guess that sounded somewhat opinionated, didn’t it?

Well, here’s another opinion! Most acquired tastes, with the exception of Starbucks coffee, should be un-acquired!

The Sound of Squeaky Shoes

August 10, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         August 10, 2017

                                   

A couple of Sundays ago I was walking up the sidewalk to my sister’s front door. She was trailing along behind me and she said “Your shoes are squeaky.” We had just come back to her home from church and I was wearing my “Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes”.

I hadn’t noticed a squeak until she said that, and then I noticed…yes, they do squeak! Of course, at that point all I could hear for the next few minutes WAS the squeak…every step…every high squeaky octave of their connection with concrete, carpet, or wood.

“You hadn’t noticed the squeak?”

“No, not until you called my attention to it!”

My wife and I have a similar situation at home. I like a fan on at night when I sleep. The coolness and the background noise helps me fade off into a slumber filled with dreams of dunking a basket, eating Vietnamese egg rolls, and winning the Pike’s Peak Ascent…well, okay, not really the egg rolls. I just threw that in there because I’m thinking about them right now! Carol likes quiet at night, meaning no background noise. She hears the sounds, but I don’t! Ironically, during the day if I’m reading I like quiet, whereas she likes the TV on during the day for the background noise. Call us weird, but we’ve been okay with our quirks for 38 years now!

All of us have “squeaky shoes” in our lives that go unnoticed. Being a retired pastor I now have the opportunity to visit other churches besides the one I had spoken at for so long. So I notice things that probably go unnoticed by the “regulars” of that congregation. For example, I notice the usher/greeter who is handing out bulletins to people who are entering the sanctuary for worship and seems like he put a “grouch patch” on that morning. Or how fast people seek to leave the building following the worship service! Or how much “insider language” is used in the worship service! Or if there is a clear understanding as to what families with young children are to do, or are they just expected to know! If there’s coffee available (And you usually know because a few people are walking around with coffee cups in their hands!) is a visitor invited to have a cup of coffee?

Every church has a few squeaky shoes that go unnoticed by the “wearers”, but are revealed to the new “hearers”. New hearers don’t know the history or the circumstances. They don’t understand why a congregation stands and reads the church covenant every first Sunday of the month, or why Baptists are prone to celebrate communion on the first Sunday of each month, or why only men seem to be the ones involved in positions of responsibility but those involved with children’s activities or care are always women?

Some squeaks just are, and others have reasons! Although ‘’squeaks” are rarely based on some kind of doctrine, once in a while a congregation’s “squeak” is the weirdness of the sermon or some kind of issue that the pastor just won’t let go of. There’s a difference between a driving force or a passionate cause and an annoying squeak! Many years ago I remember a pastor chastising his congregation over the fact that the wedding reception of a church family the night before had included alcohol. I got the feeling that he would have been annoyed by Jesus turning the water into wine. Forty years later I still remember the “squeaky sermon” that was excessively guilt-based!

That Sunday I went in and changed shoes right away, taking off my squeaky dress shoes and putting on my Nike’s. There was no squeak, although I always have to check to see if they are leaving a trail of mud. Slinging mud, however, is another issue entirely!

Believing In What I Like!

May 29, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             May 29, 2016

                                    

“The Apostles’ Creed” came into its fullest and complete form about thirteen hundred years ago. It has been the church’s statement of faith ever since…kind of!

The statement begins with the words “I believe in…” (I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son…)

In recent times, especially in American culture…in the church and in general…what is believed has taken a tumble. What is believed resonates with personal choice. With the beginning words of the Apostles’ Creed in mind, today’s statement of belief could very well begin with the words “I believe in what I like, and I don’t believe in what I don’t like.” 

Like a six year old staring with a turned up lip at a serving of spinach on his plate, we are prone to judge something as unlikeable. We lump the “unlikeable” together if they are even remotely connected to what it is we really don’t like. For example, if Chris Tomlin comes out with a new worship song that resembles a hymn there will be some people who won’t like it because…follow the flow here!…Chris Tomlin usually composes praise and worship music, and the person doesn’t like praise and worship music.

At both Trump and Clinton political rallies protestors have tried to disrupt the proceedings because they don’t like the candidates. Freedom of speech has been demoted to the back backseat with Grandma in importance, compared to what people like!

“Likes”, a very small word, has taken on prominence, as well as become confusing. Every day on Facebook I’m faced with responding to someone’s post by clicking “Like.” A young lady I know just got hired on for a new teaching position, so I gave her a thumbs up and clicked “Like.” But a little while later someone else mentions that his brother just passed away. I want to come alongside him as he journeys through this, so I once again click “Like.” I was confused by the whole thing. Clicking “Like” sounded like I was delighted by his loss, when I was really just trying to be supportive.

“I believe in what I like” is fickle. It’s like a girlfriend you had in sixth grade, totally awesome and soon to be replaced! I used to like knee-high athletic socks to go with my extremely short athletic shorts. Now I look at those pictures and chuckle, as well as try to keep them hidden from family and friends!

Try this on for size! If a person doesn’t have a solid belief system, he/she is like the Sunday newspaper left outside to be blown one way or another by the wind. When I say “belief system”, I’m not just talking about Christian convictions, but rather life convictions…life beliefs that anchor me from being carried away by today’s biggest “like.”

For example, do we believe, regardless of our disagreement about a political candidate’s stand on health care, military might, Social Security, or education…do we believe in democracy? Do we believe in freedom of speech, or just when someone is saying something that we like?

Do we believe in freedom for all, or just for those who we agree with, or we like?

Do we believe in the grace of God, or do we believe in limited grace, dependent on if we think someone deserves it…or we like the person?

What are the beliefs that we hold that are non-negotiable, that we will always hold on to regardless of the winds of circumstances? Carol and I are two months away from celebrating our 37th anniversary, and there are things we don’t like about one another! What!!!!

I don’t like it when she picks a crouton off my salad, but I don’t slap her hand. She doesn’t like it when I use a piece of dental floss multiple times, but she doesn’t slap me in the face. Our love for one another anchors us even when we’re not always on the same page. In the next election we may even cancel each other’s vote out!

But our love for one another has become like that old oak in the park that is strong, rooted, and consistent. It may sport some scars from the storms of the years, but it’s solid and dependable.

Perhaps that’s a good picture of where our culture and our churches are right now. That too often we resemble sixth grade romances instead of 37 year old marriages!