Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I'm Not Tone Deaf (Part I about tone)

My older son is about to turn six.  He and I are a lot alike and it leads to the butting of heads at times.  On more than one occasion I have uttered one of the all-time cliches of parents everywhere: "Don't use that tone with me."  When he has an attitude, I am much less willing to listen to his argument or ideas.  

I have heard a lot about the use of tone online.  Often when someone calls another person out he or she is then accused of being mean.  I have, on multiple occasions, seen the explanation that one should interact with the content of a post and not the tone of a post because to consider the tone is "tone policing".  I have to admit that I don't quite see the problem in addressing tone.   In my first intro to literature class in college one section of the anthology adressed tone in writing.  It was an important concept for us to learn then, and due to the nature of reading so much on the Internet, I think it's probably an important concept still.  The anthology says "But to try and describe the tone of such a story may be a useful way to penetrate to its center and to grasp the whole of it."  Tone helps us to understand what is happening in the written word.  Reading and writing is not just a mental exercise in which we only use our brains as a tool for looking at facts or logic.  Writing can and does evoke emotions in us.  That is probably what attracts us to some writers and not others.   

I often consider the tone of what I am writing and if I am especially angry or passionate about something I will often wait on posting it.  For me, it is important to consider my tone, whether in a blog post or comment, Facebook comment, or tweet.  I don't always succeed.  I can be cynical.  I am sure at times my tone is sarcastic or arrogant or dismissive of others with whom I disagree.  I remember posting a comment a few months ago on a piece about women in leadership in which I knew my tone was argumentative, and not just because I disagreed with the post but because I disagreed and felt that my position was superior and I wanted to change that person's mind.

It often seems as if it is an either/or situation:  Either ignore the tone and read the content only, or ignore the content based on the tone.  I often will default to the latter (but I do want to get to a point where I can read the content without being solely influenced by tone).  If I don't connect with the tone of an article or tweet or FB status, I simply won't interact with it.  I remember one time listening to a talk radio show and and commenting that I might actually be willing to listen to the host's point of view if he had a different tone  But to me, the tone of the host was arrogant, disdainful, and dismissive, and I wasn't interested in hearing the content of what he said because of how he came across.  

I don't think I've ever called anyone out because of tone, and I do try to remember that there's a lot more to the person that I don't know.  But I do know that certain tones discourage me from reading or paying attention to or taking seriously some of the posts I read.  If it happens here and there, I feel like I can overlook it.  But if someone consistently writes in an angry, rude, sarcastic, dismissive tone, I tend to tune out.  And I know that if *I* did the same, I don't think I'd really expect people to take me seriously either, because for me, using that type of tone consistently is at odds with how I believe the fruits of the spirit should play out in my life.  

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,  20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,  21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.  --Galatians 5:19-26 

In my writing--whether it is a post, a tweet, or a Facebook status, I try to keep in mind that I want to treat others how I would like to be treated.  I want the way I express myself to be honoring and loving to God and to others.  I sometimes see dismissal of others, of people basically being told "screw you", and I struggle to understand how that is helpful, loving, Jesus-like, Spirit-filled.  But I want to give them some grace, too, because all of us are on a journey and none of us have arrived.

When I am more interested in getting my way and demanding that people listen to me and dismissing others, then the Holy Spirit is not working in me.  Sometimes, we want so much to be heard that we do the same things that we accuse others of doing that we don't like.  We want so much to be able to express our voices that we then shut others out.  I think everyone deserves to have his or her voice heard.  I may not like what someone has to say.  I may hate what someone has to say.  But even so, I don't want to silence anyone else even though I may have been silenced as well.  In many ways I am privileged.  In some ways I am not.  I don't want to demand someone listen to me, get angry when they don't, and get angry when they do, and then refuse to listen back. 

And maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe those who, to me, seem to be angry or bitter are really loving, happy, joy-filled people.  I only see one small side of them, and as I have learned, what we see online is not the whole person (read this or this).  And often, it's not my place to accuse someone of being angry or bitter or hateful, because I have not developed the right personal relationship with the person.  And, when we start getting to know people as people, it is then that we can start to see beyond the tone.  This happened to me a couple of months ago in a Facebook group, and I'll tell you about it in Part II later this week.

For Further Reading:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Worth Reading Wednesday

This week's edition of Worth Reading Wednesday is a mix of topics.  Enjoy!

I have lashed out, criticized, deconstructed, questioned and chided the religious powers that be. This was an important part of my journey and I honor it. But I made mistakes along the way and despite my good intentions, I have hurt people. I hurt myself.
I set out to organize! set right! cleanse! make all things new!
But I got entangled somehow. The weapons that were used against me I used against others.
10 Words That You've Probably Been Misusing by Tyler Vendetti (hat tip Rachel Held Evans)
There are so many words in the English language that it’s not surprising that the definitions for some of them have gotten mixed up over the years. It’s possible that you’ve gone your entire life without realizing your mistakes. I’m sure people have noticed. One day, you were probably walking down the street, casually chatting with an old friend, and one of these words slipped out of your mouth. 

Breastfeeding and Following Jesus: uninviting "modesty" to the breastfeeding discussion by The Leaky Boob
Doesn’t she have any decency?  Fine, feed your baby in public without being shamed into the bathroom but, for gosh sake, have some self respect and exercise some modesty!  Your body is for your husband alone and you don’t want to share it with the whole world.  I mean, good grief, there are other women’s husbands out, teenage boys, perverts… they can’t help themselves!  Hormones render their ability to not objectify women with the slightest sight of skin or shape and in a mere moment they will be overcome by their sexual urges!  The collective low view of the males of our species is that they are nothing more than animals that lose all control at the sight of a human female mammary gland.  The scary female feeding her baby will entice them like the harlot on the street corner in Proverbs.  Run, run away before all the men stumble, jealous of the child feeding at his mother’s breast.  And some women even do that IN CHURCH!
Remember when God said: “Thou Shalt Be Modest When Feeding Your Baby”?
And then proceeded to define “modest” as “having a light blanket, breastfeeding apron, or use the bathroom to feed child.”
Yeah, me neither.

Quit Worrying About Your Savings Plan: Jesus by Anita Mathias
The standard financial advice is to keep 6 months salary in cash at all times, and to have 10 times your final salary in cash or stocks by the time you retire).
In other words, save enough to ensure that you can live without God, without needing to trust him, without needing to lean on his ingenious ideas, and without needing to see his miracles and deliverances. 
Called to Lead...Someday by Lane Severson
We consume these pictures of leadership and then we consider our own calling and ministry—or lack thereof. We get frustrated, angry, depressed. Why do I have these gifts but no place to use them? I know God made me to lead people out of bondage. Why am I stuck taking care of my father-in-law's small business? Someone is to blame. If not me, then God. If not him, than me. The days are long working for your father-in-law. You have time to shift the blame back and forth. And there will be time tomorrow as well.
Young people who are called to lead tend to lack the perspective needed to see that this "wasted" time is not wasted at all. The formally anonymous advice columnist Cheryl Strayed ("Dear Sugar") wrote: "The useless days will add up to something. The … waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people's diaries and wondering about sex and God … these things are your becoming."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Judging Her Heart by Her Clothing

'Bathing costume, 1912' photo (c) 1912, University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections - license:

Summer is still in full swing, and so are the posts about modesty and bathing suits.  A few weeks ago, I finally bought a bikini.  I'd been planning on it since I wrote "Modesty, the Bikini, and Lust, Oh My!" Up until I was on vacation, I hadn't found one in the right price range that I liked, plus, I didn't want to order one online because I knew I would have to try on quite a few before I found one that looked right and fit well.  And, I almost didn't even buy it--I was hesitant because of the color.  I had it in my head that I was going to buy an emerald green bikini, and I ended up with an orange one!  I'm not one to wear bright colors so this was new to me, and when I wore it, I was actually more aware of the color than of it being a bikini.  

In a recent blog post I read, the author assumed that women in bikinis at the pool were deliberately strutting around for the purpose of getting attention.  She based this idea on the fact that she had done that in her past.  She explained that she craved attention and admiration from others and wanted that to come from her appearance, because she was so empty inside.

While I don't doubt the author's own experience, one person's experience is not enough to paint every other woman in a bikini with the same broad brush.  Will some women wear a bikini in order to get attention?  Yes.  But others will not.  Some will wear a one-piece because it looks better and flatters her figure more.  Is that modest or not?  Modesty is not based on the type or amount of clothing one wears; it is a deeper and broader issue (and one I hope to explore further in another post).

I heard a sermon a few weeks ago in which in the section of Scripture that was read, one person admonished another person for being immodest.  The "immodest" person was wearing practically nothing, and dancing around with such exuberance that anyone could see anything on this person's body.  This person was then shamed for the actions that led to the "immodesty" and the "immodesty" itself.  But you know what?  That person didn't care, because the actions had been celebratory and had God in mind.  
2 Samuel 6:20-22  20 David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, "How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants' maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!"  21 David said to Michal, "It was before the LORD, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD, that I have danced before the LORD.  22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor." 
So, David was accused by Michal of not just being "immodest", but vulgar.  Vulgar!  Michal thought David should not be showing off his entire body.  But what she didn't understand was that it was not about David showing off or wanting attention from other people, but it was an act of worship before the Lord (there's a lot more to the story too, with political connotations, but for the purpose of this post, let's just think about his clothing choices--or lack thereof).

Think about that for a minute.  

David's lack of clothing, his "vulgar" attire and actions, were being judged by Michal.  She made some assumptions (and you know what that does).  She assumed that David was showing off.  She assumed that his clothing choices and actions were wrong and dishonorable.

And isn't that what a lot of us do when we condemn other women for their summer clothing choices?  We assume we know their motives and their heart issues, and we assume that the motives are wrong and their hearts are not pure.  We are Michal.

There is only one person whose motives I can accurately judge: myself.  There's only one person whose motives you can accurately judge:  yourself.  To continually berate women for making a particular clothing choice is not loving, can be harmful, and, as I've mentioned before, modesty in apparel has a wide range of interpretation anyway.  

Let's be a little bit less like Michal, and more like David:  celebrating and worshipping and honoring God with all that we are, including our bodies--which He created anyway.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Worth Reading Wednesday: On the Zimmerman trial, Trayvon Martin, and Race

I try not to write about topics that I know next to nothing about, and because there's a lot I still have to learn about race relations in the USA and because I didn't closely follow the trial, I have compiled a list of the following posts/articles I have read and found to be informative in various ways.  If you've read something good, add a link in the comments!

Privilege Says by Christena Cleveland
Privilege says the world’s problems would be solved if everybody were just like me.  Privilege says I’ll only listen to oppressed voices if they communicate in a way that’s easy for me to understand.
Based on my conversations with both blacks and whites, I’ve noticed a stark contrast in how the different groups tend to perceive these incidents. Blacks often perceive them as outrageously unjust, oppressive, critically important, and indicative of deep-rooted racial injustices in American society. On the other hand whites often perceive these incidents as relatively less important, as isolated events that aren’t necessarily related to larger societal issues, and/or the result of blacks engaging in “race-baiting” or “playing the race card.”
The Criminal Justice system is not good at moral evaluation. This piece by Andrew Cohen from today’s Atlantic makes the case brilliantly. When one considers the structure of the adversarial system, the limitations on evidence, and the difficulty of demonstrating clear intent on the part of the accused, it’s hard to make a clear case. Restorative Justice advocates like Howard Zehr observe that the victim (in this case Martin’s family) has little role in the criminal justice process. Their needs are irrelevant to the back-and-forth of the two teams of advocates (the defendant is also a curious bystander encouraged to show no reaction at all during months of trial). Victimizing the victim is a legitimate defense strategy used when the goal is to introduce reasonable doubt.

Unsafe in black and white America by Morgan Guyton
The third verse of “Sweet Home” always made me feel a little uncomfortable: “In Birmingham they love the governor / Now we all did what we could do.” What is that supposed to mean? Governor George Wallace? The one who stood up for segregation? What does it mean to say “we all did what we could do”? Were you part of the mob keeping the black kids out of the University of Alabama? How could a black person not feel unsafe hearing the words to that song with some understanding of their context?

A Humble Suggestions on How Not to Shoot Our Neighbors by Ed Cyzewski
When I prepared to move out of the area and the prison was slated to close, I should have been praying for Frank since he didn’t know where he’d end up, but he offered to pray for me first.
I’ll be the first person to tell you that my years of prison ministry didn’t correct all of my mistakes and misconceptions about people.

The Race Card of the Early Christians--What They Can Teach Us Today by Frank Viola and Derwin Gray
The church of Jesus Christ was a classless society. It’s members didn’t regard social status, color, or position. For them, there was no Jew or Greek in the body of Christ. There was no slave or free. There was no rich or poor. 

Woe to Those Who Make Unjust Laws by Sharon Hodde Miller
Ever since Trayvon Martin was killed, I have listened to my African American friends share similar stories. What I have learned is that my black brothers and sisters are experiencing America much differently than I am. On a daily basis, Americans of color witness the fear and prejudice that continues to attach itself to race. Whether it is overt racism, or subtler looks of suspicion and distrust, my African American friends are experiencing our society in a fundamentally different way.

A Look at the Outspoken Christian Faith of Trayvon Martin's Mother
On the day Zimmerman was found not guilty, she tweeted, “Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control.”
No matter what your opinions are about the jury’s verdict, George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin, the public faith of mother a who has lost her teenage son in a tragic shooting offers an example that speaks louder than debates about gun control, politics or the legal system. Her second to last tweet, the morning before the verdict was announced, read, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” …
Stand Your Ground by Jamie Calloway-Hanauer
While the NRA may believe that Holder “fails to understand” the fundamental human right to defend against an attacker, the NRA’s statement fails to recognize the Christian principle of turning the other check and responding non-violently, even in the face of violence. Of course, the NRA is not obligated to consider these principles. Christians, however, are.
Jesus taught us how to respond to violence. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
Juror B37 from the Zimmerman trial told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Martin was, in part, responsible for his own death. He should have, she said, run away. She also said she will be praying for those who can repeal the Florida stand your ground law that, in her words, required her to vote for Zimmerman’s acquittal. “My prayers are with all those who have the influence and power to modify the laws that left me with no verdict option other than ‘not guilty’ in order to remain within the instructions.”
In other words, both Zimmerman and Martin should have left the situation and avoided confrontation.

George Zimmerman and the Myth of Post-Racial America by Jonathan Merritt
Personally, I’m conflicted about the verdict. I don’t know if George Zimmerman was a racist. I don’t know if he started the fight or threw the first punch. I don’t know if this was a simple matter of self-defense or if the killer was made out to be the victim in an egregious failure of the justice system. Like everyone else, I only know what Zimmerman claims. The other side of the story is dead.
What I do know is that American’s reactions prove yet again that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to racial reconciliation.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Celebration of Discipline: An Experiment in Simplicity

'All That Was Salvageable' photo (c) 2007, Jewish Women's Archive - license:
This post is part of an ongoing series on Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline , posted monthly (usually) on the second Tuesday of the month.  This month it's the third.   This was originally a monthly series for Soul Munchies, but as Soul Munchies is on hiatus right now, the series will continue here.  The other posts in the series are:

     * Celebration of Discipline: An Experiment
     * Meditation Results & Intro to Prayer
     * Undisciplined Prayer
     * Celebration of Discipline:  An Experiment in Fasting
     * Celebration of Discipline: An Experiment in Study

It's felt like anything but a simple month.  From mid-June to mid-July, I've been away from home three times, and am currently away from home as I write this.  It's been packing, unpacking, laundry, packing again, flights, long car drives, little routine, kids falling asleep in the car at night before we get back, etc.

But there's also been something simple about it.

Ever since my first son was born, I've been determined to pack lightly, and use as my guree ide.  I pack everything I need for a trip in a carry-on size bag.  I don't even own a suitcase anymore that is larger than carry-on size, and I packed for my kids in backpacks.  We've stayed with family, on air mattresses, in guest rooms, and currently are staying in a dorm room--we're at an FCA camp.  My three year old kept saying "now is it time to go camping" and I'd have to explain to him we weren't exactly camping.  It's likely it's as close to camping as we'll ever get though, as we are not exactly outdoorsy people!

There is something freeing about living out of suitcase though (I'm not trying to romanticize it, however, because there are certainly annoyances as well).  There are so many things I don't have to worry about right now, like cleaning the house, preparing meals, going grocery shopping.  Because I only pack a few changes of clothes, I don't worry (as much) about what to wear; outfits are quite repetitive.  I even only have taken two pairs of shoes on all these trips.  Yes, really!  Only two!  That's kind of a miracle, don't you think?

Foster explains that "The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style. Both the inward and the outward aspects of simplicity are essential.  We deceive ourselves if we believe we can possess the inward reality without its having a profound effect on how we live.  To attempt to arrange an outward lifestyle of simplicity without the inward reality leads to deadly legalism" (81).  He also writes about how attached we are to things, in our need for security. 

Now, I do like my "things".  I like the decor on my walls, the furniture I buy at garage sales and repaint, my hundreds of books, the carved wooden box on my dresser, the small plate-holder-turned-scarf-holder on the wall next to my closet, the wineglasses from my wedding, the tea set my inlaws bought and then carried all over China so it wouldn't break before they got home, the China plate that belonged to both sets of my grandparents, and so on.  Looking at these things does make me happy (especially when the house is clean and organized).  

But I am sure that there are a lot of things that I could do without.  The problem is that I have convinced myself that I need them.  I need to have decor on the walls and have the house look pretty for visitors.  I need to have a large variety of clothes and shoes and jewelry and accessories so that I don't always look the same.  

The problem is, I often don't notice my own decor.  I default to wearing my favorite clothes and let others languish in my closet until I finally decide they can be donated.  Each time I have thought to myself that I am going to get rid of stuff and have a smaller wardrobe, I briefly succeed...until I replace those things with newer things that I just can't seem to live without.

Foster explains that our security from our things comes from the lack of a Divine Center in our own lives, and that our modern culture contributes to our perceived need to buy new cars or clothes before our current ones wear out, and that we generally have an unbalanced culture that feeds the "mammon spirit within ourselves", and that "defines people by how much they can produce or what they earn."  

We participate in that whether we like it or not, and whether we realize it or not.  

However, he also warns about simplicity becoming an idol itself, and that we should take care not to seek it, but rather, to seek first God's Kingdom, because that is "the only thing that can be central in the Spiritual Discipline of simplicity". 

I'm not there yet, not by far.  But living so simply for this past month has made me more aware of this concept of simplicity than I ever have been before.  Whether or not the awareness will stick around once I'm back in my comfortable routine of life is yet to be seen, but at least I am no longer as ignorant about it as I have been.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Some Clarifications on Church Attendance

'302/365 ~ Perfect Attendance #award' photo (c) 2013, Ray Bouknight - license:
I have a guest post up at Anita Mathia's blog, Dreaming Beneath the Spires, about an attitude towards Sunday morning worship that, I feel, can lead to making church attendance a form of idolatry.   Some pushback was expected--that attending is not about us, that we shouldn't give up meeting together, that we need to have a focused time to think about God.

I agree with those sentiments and I wonder if I just wasn't clear enough in my original post.  I am not saying that we should live our lives in isolation.  To do so would, for me at least, bring loneliness.  However, I also think that attendance on Sunday morning doesn't necessarily bring about community and deeper relationships.  One can feel extremely lonely even as one worships with hundreds or thousands of others.  I think that we should definitely meet together (and really, I am a very regular church-attender on Sundays and I also usually go to something else once or twice during the week--a class or a Bible study--in addition to a Sunday morning class too).  

Sunday mornings are very structured, especially if a church has multiple services.  It's always some kind of liturgy, whether one realizes it or not.  Even churches that claim to not have liturgy still structure their worship.  They may not have all the "old-fashioned" or "boring" parts, but they still do everything in a specific order:  music, announcements, greetings, offering, sermon, etc.  It's meant to move along at a certain pace, constrained within a certain time, in order to get everyone in and out and home for a nice family Sunday lunch.  

Our Sunday morning service is our main attempt at community, but it does fall short.  Even our prayers are not really communal.  Usually it is one person who prays, and the rest of us listen to that prayer that is coming from that person's heart.  Two examples of prayer that is more communal stand out to me:  churches where "The Lord's Prayer" is recited together, and a church where people are allowed to speak up with their prayer requests or statements of praise.  To me, that has a more communal feel to it.  When one person is praying, especially if it is long, I have a hard time focusing, and I don't often connect (but I stink at prayer anyway, so maybe that's just me!).  

We don't really talk with each other and get to know each other during a church service.  There isn't time.  We have to do the standard "greet your neighbor" small talk during the greeting time (probably timed so the band can get back up on the stage) and it's more small talk during coffee hour.  There are opportunities in most churches to get to know people during Sunday school classes or "small groups" or mid-week Bible studies.  Some churches might take it even further and break it down into even smaller groups of two or three--I've heard them called "accountability" groups.

There are some great things that happen in each of these types of groups, from the largest to the smallest.  But I think we do it backwards.  Why do we start with the largest group and then have to get involved in progressively smaller groups?  Why not start with the smallest and then work up to larger ones? This is a concept I learned either from Neil Cole's Organic Church or the LK10 Community's teaching on CO2 (church of two), or it could be a combination of both places.  

When I am in a large group, or even a Sunday school class that I know is temporary, I am much less transparent and much less willing to be me (I'm getting better at it).  But when I am with just one or two other people, I am more likely to find that to be a safe place to share my thoughts.  A few years ago, when I was just getting to know my friend Karen, we got together almost every single week for a couple of hours to have coffee and talk and get to know each other while our kids played together.  To me, that was a form of "church".  When I go back to the dance studio in Albuquerque where I learned to dance, and I see how tight-knit, yet welcoming, it is, and how the people there care deeply for each other, I think, "that is what *church* is supposed to be like".  And I am not saying Sunday morning can't be that way--just that community and worship and spiritual growth is found in other places, and that is just as--if not more--important than a specific set service time.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Has Church Attendance Become An Idol?

'worship - christadelphian hymn book' photo (c) 2010, khrawlings - license:
The following is an excerpt from a guest post I've got up at Dreaming Beneath the Spires.

Often, the Sunday morning worship service is the Christian's high point of the week.  It's considered the most important part of the Christian life.  Church attendance is taken, because denominational headquarters like to see numbers.  A chapter in a book I recently read was about the Sunday morning worship service, as was an an article I also read recently.  This chapter and this article both had a similar feel to it--that the Sunday morning worship service is extremely important in the Christian life and most other events should not interfere with it.  One time, I even heard a sermon about how there is really no excuse for not going to church on Sunday mornings.

Here is one quotation from the book I mentioned.  I'm not listing the title/author because overall I think it is good and don't want anyone to think too negatively of it.  If you'd like to know what book it is, please contact me.   The author writes: "Though the form of worship is not the main focus, this does not mean form is unimportant.  Form matters.  There are basic elements of Christian worship that have been found useful in the development of our relationship with God and others.  Though not all Christian groups engage in all of these elements of worship, many groups use use some or all of these practices consistently in their gatherings.  We will look at each of these briefly in order to explain how they form us spiritually.  I will write the following as if I were writing to my son to explain why worship is worth it." He then goes on to list and explain these different parts of a worship service:  Greeting; Confession and Forgiveness; Creeds, commandments and the Lord's Prayer; Scripture and Sermon; Communion or the Lord's Supper; Singing; Silence; Offering Gifts; Benediction or Sending Forth.

It seems somewhat hollow to me to put so much emphasis and importance on our typical Sunday morning church service, especially when I think of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:

19 The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet.  20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem."  21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."  --John 4:19-24

You can read the rest at Dreaming Beneath the Spires.