Tag Archives: read the Bible

Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: Why Old People Like Strange Things

I think I have figured out why old people like strange things. In part, of course, I am discovering this because I am getting older. But I think the chief reason that I have discovered this is because I have been rereading the Acts of the Apostles, a book of the Bible that few people read at all these days.

The chief reason for that is, I believe, because few people read any of the Bible at all. They are content to recognize it as “the good book” (when in fact for Protestants, at least, it is comprised of sixty-six separate books), instructions and guidance from on high, from “the Man upstairs,” or the like. That metaphorical description of God is, of course, less than dignified, even unbecoming. And at any rate fits with a no reading of but “general respect for Holy Writ.”

But old people, perhaps because they are themselves getting closer to the “top floor” (if I may indulge the societal predilection for undignified religious metaphors), would seem to be more inclined to read the Bible. Now most do it through something called a devotional book, which means some author has preselected bits and pieces of the Scriptures and then explained them. But some old people (and some young people, too, of course) prefer to read the Bible the way country musicians normally purport to drink whiskey—straight up.  And if they do that, then they eventually read, often for the first time, the book of Acts.

Which brings by back to why old people like strange things. For the book of Acts is not normally one’s favorite book of the Bible. It is action-packed, geographically challenging—one really needs a map to read it—and religiously complex (e.g. Acts 21:21 ff.). But old people really like this book anyway. Why? I think I figured it out. It is because the Church described in that book is so very unlike any church they have ever attended. The Church of the book of Acts is active, vibrant, exciting, spiritual, robust, bold, faithful. The church that the old people are members of tends to be just the opposite of these things. In fact, they have sat in their pews and from time to time wondered why people still come to church, when the liturgy is all that there is, and Holy Communion, of course, the latter of which in and of itself, they rationalize, justifies the fairly limited attendance. But then they get gloomy and wonder, when they see a young couple or, worse yet, a young family, whether that family’s child, when it grows up, will actually come to this church or attend any church. And then they think of their own children and wonder if they ever go to church any more, for they don’t ask their kids too much about that, as they are all grown up and it’s true: they have to make their own decisions. At least they come with them to church on the holidays. “Sally’s kids won’t even do that much,” they mutter to themselves before they head off to the after-church cake and coffee.

But when they read Acts, those old people really get excited. Their imaginations run wild, in fact, for they imagine a time when the Church was vibrant, was engaged in society, had meaning and was connected to something bigger, Someone much bigger. Not the “big guy in the sky” or the “man upstairs,” but to God himself.  And they ponder whether it could ever be so again. And that’s why they like the book of Acts. And so do I, and I know that it can be so and actually is in some churches.

Now that does not explain why old people like bad coffee—for they do, it’s a well-documented fact—or why they get unduly excited about a slice of apple pie, of which I am still not a fan, which means I must not be that old yet. Or why they love babies inordinately and feel encouraged when they see one—I am not there yet either, for I still think the world is in a tough spot and I do not become instantly optimistic by seeing or even holding a baby. Or why elderly men have such a penchant for t-shirts. I don’t think I know a single elderly gentleman who doesn’t wear a t-shirt or, for that matter, carry a handkerchief.

But they all love the book of Acts. And you don’t have to be old to read it. But if you’re not a Bible reader, I would advise you to read it only after you have first read a gospel (like Luke), for otherwise you might not understand what all the old folks are so excited about. But they are excited, and they are, strangely enough, inspired by nothing less than the very book of Acts.

Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: Rhythm

Nuzzo's drumset

“I had no idea you were a drummer,” she said. “You seem to me to be too… .” And then she broke off.

“Boring?” I said.

“No,” she replied, “Well …” she hesitated again, “Yes, a little. I don’t mean that in an unkind way. Just, too, well, conservative, grown up.”

“Well, I just play in my church.”

“What kind of church do you have?”

“Lutheran,” I responded.

“Lutheran?” She was dumbstruck. “They have drums in a Lutheran church?”

“Well, they’re not evil,” I said jokingly. “They are just drums.”

So the conversation went until finally she was convinced either that I was not as grown up (was that code for boring?) as I seemed or, at least, that Lutherans had more rhythm than she had ever imagined, if indeed she had happened to think of Lutherans having rhythm, which is, of course, unlikely, as Lutherans are known for a lot things—the catechism, the liturgy, the creeds, the occasional beer and, unquestionably, the piece de resistance, the mother of all rebellions, the big “ninety-five,” that is to say, the Reformation.

ocean-wavesBut all of this got me to thinking about rhythm, more than simply the rhythm of a drum. For the steady rhythm of my drumming, I thought to myself, in some way reflects the rhythm or even rhythms that I try to create for my life.

My wife and I begin our day by reading through the “Bible in a year,” though we don’t do enough per diem reading quite to make it in one year. It usually takes two. We read the old-fashioned sounding King James—it’s just more aesthetically pleasing, to be honest—rather than some more recent rendering. Sometimes, when we’re in the New Testament bit, we will read from the Greek, but not consistently, as we’re often under time constraints. Then eat breakfast. Then walk the dog; then pray. Then feed the dog. Then take a bike ride. Then read; then write. Then go for a jog. Then write some more.

It’s a pretty consistent pattern, a pretty consistent lifestyle. Someone might say it’s boring, or perhaps just grown up. But it’s a rhythm. And in that rhythm, patterns of good habits evolve.

How? You begin your day by listening closely to the words of holy writ that, for all its violent wars, struggles of faith and even “wrath of God” business, contains rich moral lessons that (should) inform your life and (can) inform the very day in which you’re living. And when you go to the next step and actually pray for somebody, even (especially) an enemy—thpraying-handsat wearisome co-worker, irascible interviewer or truculent bank teller—you conceive of them in a different way than when you just think about them, or try not to think about them.

And exercise—need I say anything about that these days? I think everybody knows about that. Now, someone might say, “you’re a writer, so you have all day long to exercise.” That would be true insofar as flexibility of scheduling it goes, but I don’t have all day long. Rather, I have to build it into my schedule like anyone else. I confess, perhaps too freely, that it’s easy for me to use the excuse of “I’m in the writing zone now so I don’t’ have time to exercise today,” when in fact I have to make time to do it, zone or no zone.

Which brings us back to rhythm. We each get a drum to bang on when we get an adult life. Good drummers try very hard to find the right tempo for the right song, and they try to keep the tempo consistent so that the other musicians can concentrate on their roles as music makers. It seems to me that life is like that, too. We must find the right tempo for each song we play, and, like a good drummer, we should try to keep it as consistent as possible. We don’t want to play too loudly or too softly. We don’t want the wrong beat for the wrong song. And, of course, we don’t want to concentrate so much on the tempo or the volume that we don’t have fun making music with those around us.music

Most of all, we have to recognize that we can either just bang on the drum we’re given or we can, indeed, make music, participate in this beautiful thing called life by keeping the beat, our own beat. We can be the different drummer with a good beat for others to walk to. To do that, we need to create the right rhythms in our life. It might mean that we have to get up a bit earlier in the day than we like. It might mean that we have to get into some good habits of exercise. It might mean eating thoughtfully, maybe even taking vitamins, or the like. It might mean—dare I say it in these times of self-indulgence and self-fulfillment and self-development and never-ending selfies on cellphones?—self-denial. But good drummers know that to be good drummers takes practice. And practice is, for the most part, kind of boring.

Ah, that word again. Perhaps that’s what my acquaintance really meant when she found it surprising that I was a drummer; she did, after all, come dangerously close to admitting as much. Boring. But sometimes boring can surprise you. To wit, I am a drummer in a Lutheran church where one can find a mini concert every week, hopefully consistently exclusively nullum praemium quaerentes, sed solam gloriam et voluntatem Dei,…. (“seeking no prize but only the glory and desire of God,” to quote from Luther’s own De Servo Arbitrio ad Erasmum). And perhaps quoting Latin in a blog is boring, too. No, I admit it—it is. Still, even if you don’t really like contemporary Christian music, I doubt you’d say that it is boring, though you might say de gustibus non disputandum—oh no, Latin again! However that may be, here’s hoping you find your life’s true rhythm. And if you do that well, I highly doubt that, when you find it, it will be boring.