Faithful or Fusspot

Is there anyone in the Bible to whom you relate? Are you like Mary  of Mary & Martha and just can’t wait to sit at Jesus feet?  Or maybe you are more of a Martha, always busy and wanting everyone else to be busy too?  Are you an evangelist like Peter or Paul? What about a leader like Moses or Joshua?  There are lots of people to use as a yardstick for our Spiritual lives.  Throughout life, circumstances and/or decisions may change your view of yourself.

I often have used King David as an example.  He was “a man after God’s own heart” and he did some very questionable things.  His faithfulness was never in doubt, even when his human desires stepped in to take over the situation.  But lately, another well know name from the Bible has come to mind more and more:  Jonah.

Jonah was a Hebrew prophet that God told to go to Nineveh and preach for their repentance.  Jonah didn’t like the people of Nineveh.  He didn’t think they deserved forgiveness.  So he did what every faithful follower does when faced with a distasteful assignment:  he ran the opposite direction.  We are all familiar with the story of Jonah and the Whale.  A big storm, Jonah thrown into the sea, a whale swallows him, after 3 days Jonah is vomited onto the shore. God once again tells Jonah to go to Nineveh.  At this point, Jonah decides to follow God’s instruction.

“This time Jonah started off straight for Nineveh, obeying God’s orders to the letter.  Nineveh was a big city, very big—it took three days to walk across it.   Jonah entered the city, went one day’s walk and preached, “In forty days Nineveh will be smashed.”

The people of Nineveh listened, and trusted God. They proclaimed a citywide fast and dressed in burlap to show their repentance. Everyone did it—rich and poor, famous and obscure, leaders and followers.”  Jonah 3:3-5  MSG

Jonah was successful.  The people heard what he had to say and repented.   And God forgave the people of Nineveh.   This was a reason to celebrate!  But, not for Jonah!

Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, “God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of  forgiveness!  So, God, if you won’t kill them, kill me! I’m better off dead!”  Jonah 4:1-4  MSG

Jonah was not at all happy.  He did not like it one bit.  He fussed and complained because God had given these horrible people another chance.  He went out of the city and sat and pouted and sulked.  We never find out if Jonah reconciled himself with God’s forgiveness.

If I’m completely honest,  Jonah’s reaction is very familiar.  I know there have been times that I just wanted to tell God what to do and how to do it.  In fact, I have done just that on several occasions.  I’m pretty sure I know who should be punished and who should be forgiven.  I’m pretty sure I know how things should be done.  And I’m more that willing to fill God in on the appropriate processes, especially when it comes to my worship services at my church.

  1.  There are people who just don’t deserve forgiveness.  I have a hard time letting go of the past.  There are some people who have caused pain to my family that I do NOT like.  I’ve been very eager to point out how they did not deserve God’s forgiveness.  Fortunately, God didn’t consider whether or not I deserved His Grace.  He just forgave me.
  2. What’s wrong with the way “we’ve always done it”?  I claim that I don’t like changes.  But, I’m always ready for the next computer or cell phone or other technology that is out there.  So, why can’t I be as open about changes in the way God leads in my church or my worship?
  3. The kids aren’t being taught respect.  Just look how they dress in church. When I was a child, I had school clothes, play clothes and Sunday clothes.  I had dresses that were only worn on Sundays that were a bit fancier than my other clothes.  Through the years, the way we dress has changed for work, for school and for church.  Business casual is the norm at work.  T-Shirts and jeans are acceptable nearly every where else.  Dressing up is not the norm.  I did require my daughter to wear a “girl” top and my son to wear a collared shirt on Sunday’s.  The more relaxed clothing expectations has made it more comfortable for some to attend church.  I still object to short-shorts or work-out clothes at church, but I can only control my own reactions.
  4. I hate the music used in church worship.  It’s too old-fashioned (or modern).   Music has become one of the most divisive areas in our churches.  If you grew up with the hymns and hymnals, the new stuff is “too loud” or “too repetitive” or “not musical”.  If you didn’t grow up with hymns, then they are “old-fashioned” or “have too many word” or “don’t make sense”.  I remember the discussions that arose over changing from the Broadman Hymnal to the Baptist Hymnal and then  later to the New Baptist Hymnal.  There were too many new songs (like “He’s Everything to Me”  or  “Because He Lives”) in this newer version.  I may prefer the “old” hymns over the newer praise music. However, my preferences cannot be the most important ones.  God is in control.  He has a plan.  I need to follow His leadership instead of pouting on the sidelines.  And, I’ve learned to love some of the newer worship songs.  Especially the ones that include a taste of the “old” hymns.
  5. Real worship only occurs in the sanctuary of a church building.  Many of the  churches that are most successful at reaching the community are meeting in schools, strip-centers, etc.  The less “churchy” environment is more inviting some.  My church meets in a movie theater.  We have the most comfortable seats around!
  6. Real worship needs an organ and a piano.  I don’t like guitars & drums.  Some of my dearest memories are of the Mrs. Stapp playing the organ at church.  I’ve played piano in my several churches throughout my life.  Not every church can afford a piano and an organ.  Many churches have no one to play them anyway.  Piano lessons were a given when I was a child: everyone when through lessons and recitals.  That’s not the case any longer.  A well prepared band or even a single guitar player can greatly enhance the worship experience. God used the loaves and fishes to feel the multitude, can’t He also use a guitar to feel your spirit?

I’ve done my share of complaining and pouting.  I understand Jonah a little more that I would like to admit.  I may want to be more like David and be recognized as one after God’s own heart.  But, I know that I am so much like Jonah in wanting things done MY WAY.  Unlike Jonah, I want the end of my story to be clear: I followed God’s leading regardless of my own preferences.

What about you?  Will you known as one of the Faithful or as the Fusspot who grudgingly served God?

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A Great Man

I have known a few great men in my life.  A great man teaches by just the way they live each day.  Today, the world lost another truly great man, James Streit.

I first remember Mr. Streit when we went to find out about band in the 5th grade. My mother and I were looking at the various instruments and someone asked “What instruments will you need?”  and he replied, trombones.  And that made my decision.  I was going to play the trombone.  When my own children began band, I realized how truly patient Mr. Streit was with we beginners.  We weren’t nearly as good as we thought, but Mr. Streit always made us feel like we were superior!

As a sixth grader, Mr. Streit was my home room teacher as well as my Texas History teacher.  That was the first year that the Crowell Marching Band made all  I’s at contest.  Our home room class made posters and had a little “coke” party for Mr. Streit that day.  I’ll never forget his bashful grin and little laugh when he walked into the room.

Mr. Streit encouraged all of us to go to band tryouts.  The first year I went to tryouts, there were only 5 of us.  By the time I was a junior in high school, we took 2 school buses to the tryouts.  Mr. Streit worked with every student.  It didn’t matter if you had a gift for music or if you couldn’t “carry a tune in a bucket”, he treated us all the same.

There are several things that immediately bring Mr. Streit to mind: 1) circles, 2) the songs “Light my Fire” and “Sweet Caroline” and 3) music stands.

We learned so many circle drills during my 6 years in the CHS band.  (Yes, 6 years.  We started marching as 7th graders.)  We did circles with crosses in the middle.  We did circles with bands running from one to the other.  We did a circle and a square.  We did a 4 circle drill.  While there were other songs that we used for circle drills, “Light my Fire” is the one that sticks in my mind.  When I hear it, I am immediately transported to the practice field with little flags marking our circles and the positions.  The time he spent prepping our shows was amazing.  We learned several shows through the season, not just one and he always stressed that we were a concert band that marched.  And, “Sweet Caroline”.  On my, how many times did we play that one as the band sweetheart or the homecoming queen and their courts were walked across the field.  I can almost feel the breeze and see the lights of the stadium even now.

One of my favorite memories involved Mr. Streit’s music stand.  One of the things that anyone that had Mr. Streit in band will always remember is his temper.  Mr. Streit was a very calm, very nice man.  But, as the stress level rose, so did his breaking point.  We all knew that at some point during marching season, the megaphone would go flying.  It was never thrown at anyone in particular, just at the ground in frustration.  There would be stomping and yelling.  Then, he would regain his composure (and we would try not to snicker) and rehearsal would resume with a new focus.  Similarly, during concert season, we came to expect a blowup.  When he reached the end of his patience with our antics and/or lack of attention, Mr. Streit would pick up his music stand and band it on the floor.  Sometimes, several times to get our attention.  There were several of us, including Mr. Streit’s son Scott, that spent our study hall in the band hall.  Sometimes, we practiced.  Sometimes, we sorted music or ran errands.  Usually, we just wanted out of study hall.  On this particular day, we knew that Mr. Streit was nearing his breaking point.  So, “someone” loosened the screws that held the music stand together.  That afternoon during our band period, we went out of our way to be annoying.  Finally, Mr. Streit had enough.  He picked up the music stand, but this time it fell apart in his hands;   the sound of metal pieces falling across the floor.  He stood there for a moment and then looked up.   For a moment, I thought he might throw the remains at us as tried to hold back the giggles.  He blushed, shook his head and laughed with us.

The highest honor that a band could received was to be named the state honor band.  In 1975-1976, the Crowell High School Band was the ranking Class A All State Honor Band.  In the fall of ’75, we began preparing for the marching season and our TMEA concert.  That meant, full rehearsals in the mornings before school started as well as our normal afternoon band period and our Tuesday night rehearsal.  We worked hard.  There were sectionals in our band hall as well as in  Wichita Falls.  We had clinicians that came and heard us and made suggestions.  The low brass clinician was Mr. Charles Enloe.  We went to Wichita Falls several times to rehearse with him.  After one session, we were back in our band and we began playing Chorale and Capriccio.  There’s a section that was all trombone.  Mr. Enloe had taught us to blast that section out.  The first time we did it in rehearsal, Mr. Streit stopped us and told  us “Not to do that!”.  The next time Mr. Enloe was around, he was quite upset when we didn’t play like he had directed.  This went on for a few sessions.  Finally, Mr. Enloe did a band clinic and we played the section like Mr. Streit had directed.  Mr. Enloe landed right in the middle of the trombone section giving us quite a tongue lashing.  I can still see Mr. Streit walking around the gym behind Mr. Enloe looking back at me rather sheepishly during this time.  He did admit to Mr. Enloe that we were following his directions.  We played it Mr. Enloe’s way from then on.

I am so blessed to have had Mr. Streit in my life.  I was an adult with kids before many of the things he taught me really came to light.  He taught me that people will rise to your expectations.  He taught me that you treat everyone as if they are the best.  He taught me not to play favorites.  There are students that Mr. Streit touched that had never felt important or valuable.  He instilled value in his students.  He invested his time and energy in building the best students he could and built the best program in the area.  I can only try to impart the same things to the people who come across my path.  Thank you Mr. Streit.  You were more that just a band director.  You were an example of goodness and kindness.

Our world is better for having known James Streit.  He will be missed.