‘You Don’t Have to Be a Star, Baby, to Be in My Show’

It was Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. who sang that line, “You don’t have to be a star, baby, to be in my show.” It’s a good thing, too, or I’d be up the creak without a microphone. Indeed, I discovered last night that the best way to kill a classic is for me to sing it. But, oh, the “song-icide” can be so much fun. 

We’ll be hosting a birthday party for our son this weekend, and the main activity is a karaoke event with his friends. Last night he came over, and we set up the equipment in our family room to test it and make sure it all works. One thing led to another, so for nearly three hours we added song after song to the queue, and we sang ourselves raspy over the course of the night. My selections included:

  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Queen)
  • “My Heart Will Go On” (Celine Dion)
  • “Theme from the Brady Bunch” (Sherwood Schwartz)
  • “Footloose” (Kenny Loggins)
  • “New York, New York” (Frank Sinatra)
  • “Y.M.C.A.” (Village People)
  • “Climb Every Mountain” (The Sound of Music)
  • “Kiss the Girl” and “Part of Your World” (The Little Mermaid)
  • “Somewhere in the Night” (Barry Manilow)
  • “I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston)
  • “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” (Billy Joel)

And that’s just the tip of the iceburg of all the songs we attempted. Worse than my singing was the misguided attempt (by me) to dance during “Footloose.” All digital evidence of the spectacle has been destroyed. But the funniest moment was injecting Scuttle’s throaty little descant into “Kiss the Girl.” I may have ruptured something laughing at myself.

I didn’t realize how much fun karaoke could be, or how much I needed to blow off a little steam after the crazy schedule I’ve been keeping lately (not to mention the awfulness of the pandemic year). As King Solomon once said, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Prov 17:22). 

All my life I’ve wanted to be a singer in the worst possible way. I can finally say that I’ve reached my goal.

Image Credits: CuteWallpaper.org

Not Quite Home on the Range Yet

Last night I sinned. Multiple times. My son and son-in-law were with me at the time. They sinned, too, and we all had a great time doing it. Let me explain. We were celebrating my son-in-law’s birthday, so we went to a shooting range before dinner, cake, and gift giving. It’s something Micah enjoys, though he doesn’t have a lot of opportunity to do it, so we surprised him with a round at Enck’s Gun Barn. My son Drew also has more experience than I do in this area, making me the rookie of the bunch. 

I’ve shot pistols before, but only a few times in the distant past and only at Coke cans set up in the woods near my brother-in-law’s house in North Carolina. Last night we used a rifle—a Ruger AR-556, which is considerably louder than a pistol, though the kickback isn’t bad at all. Given my lack of experience, I was hoping to just get my shots on the paper target!

I didn’t get a bullseye this time, but all my shots were inside the 8 and 9 rings, and one even nicked the center circle. Not bad for a beginner. But all three of us kept missing the mark, which is one of the biblical metaphors for sin. There are many other images, too, but this one is prominent.

Judges 20:15-16 says, “At once the Benjamites mobilized twenty-six thousand swordsmen from their towns, in addition to seven hundred chosen men from those living in Gibeah. Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred chosen men who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss [ḥǎṭṭāʾṯ].”

The word ḥǎṭṭāʾṯ is a general word for sin, usually having the sense of missing the mark, going astray, offending, or ignoring something required by God’s law (e.g., Gen 40:1; Jdgs 20:16; Neh 13:26; etc.). It can also mean “sin offering” (e.g., Exod 29:4).

King David prays in Psalm 51:2, “Cleanse me [ṭāhēr] from my sin [ḥǎṭṭāʾṯ].” The word ṭāhēr means to “be clean,” “cleanse,” “purify,” or “pronounce clean,” as from a defiling condition. It can have a ritual context (e.g., Lev 11:32), or it can refer to the actual cleansing of impurities (e.g., Naaman’s leprosy in 2 Kgs 5:10). 

It can also refer to the removal of impurities from metal (e.g., refined gold and silver in Mal 3:3). Therefore, the word does not necessarily have a sacramental connotation (contra Goldingay, etc.) or even a ceremonial connotation (contra Wilson, the ESV Study Bible, etc.). Indeed, David’s hope of forgiveness rests on nothing ceremonial (cf. vv. 16-17). The sense of his prayer in v. 2 is, “Purify me from my defiling sin.”

Because of his mercy, grace, and compassion (Ps 51:1), God can certainly do that. And because David came to him humbly, he did. “The Lord has taken away your sin,” said Nathan the prophet. You are not going to die” (2 Sam 12:13-14). David later wrote, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven” (Ps 32:1).

Interestingly enough, all three of us last night were landing our initial shots low and to the right of the bullseye. That would seem to suggest a sighting issue on the gun. Our Range Safety Officer (RSO) helped us make the necessary adjustments to shoot more accurately. He also helped me with my stance and positioning vis-à-vis the target. He was patient, kind, and supportive, not condescending at all toward this novice.

Probably my biggest challenge as a shooter is the fact that I’m left-eye dominant trying to shoot from a right hander’s position. My impulse, then, is to use my left eye to align the sights, but that doesn’t work when you’re pressing your right cheek to the gun stock. Here again, the RSO was perceptive and gave me some suggestions to help me “not sin.”

Our night at the range caused me to think about the fact that we’re in this spiritual journey together. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), which is why judging and condescension are out of place in the Christian life. Smug self-righteousness is just a way to justify our anger at other people because they sin differently than we do.

Our natural misalignments and daily temptations to “miss the mark” don’t go away when others scold us, humiliate us, or impose their asceticisms on us (Col 2:21-23). They tend to dissipate when those with a little more experience help us learn how to aim higher. 

We are pilgrims on a journey
We are brothers on the road
We are here to help each other

Walk the mile and bear the load

The RSO actually showed me last night how to be a better pastor. Lord knows, I need ongoing training.

Image Credits: pexels.com; nationalinterest.org; aurrpc.com.