August 21, 2012

Web Letters

It Takes Two
Regarding Andrews McChesney’s column, A Pastor’s Big Mistake (July 26, 2012):
There may have been a bigger mistake than dropping out of school for a year. When the church issues a call to a pastor, the call is to his entire family. There is much behind the scenes in the statement, “Pavel started studying Farsi.” For a Christian family to move to a Muslim country requires that both husband and wife be sure of God’s call.

Life for women in a Muslim country is not easy. It is even more difficult in a “Middle Eastern country hostile to Christianity.” There is no indication of the reasons why Pavel’s wife did not want to go. But the needs of the family are paramount; and if a mother’s instincts say, “This is not for my child,” the father must listen very carefully.

In successful marriages, either partner has the right to veto life-changing decisions. Thirty-seven years of marriage have convinced me of the wisdom of this plan.

When both husband and wife seek God’s will, He leads them in the same direction. We are given “a helper suitable” to help each other in all things, especially major decisions (Gen 2:18). A suitable helper works both ways in a marriage.

--Cary Corbin
Hamburg, Pennsylvania

I Would
Regarding “Would You Do It All Over Again?” (July 26, 2012): It is difficult for me to understand why we fail to value what we have. Both my daughters went through the Adventist education system, from preschool all the way to Oakwood College and Walla Walla College (as they used to be called back then). One of my daughters went on to medical school at Loma Linda University. Having exhausted her options in the Adventist education system, she is now a sports medicine fellow at Harvard University.
When I made the decision to send my girls to Adventist schools, I was in an abusive marriage. When the divorce came, my oldest daughter, 8 years old at the time, looked at me and said, “Mom, promise me no matter how bad things get, you will never take us out of Adventist schools.” At that moment I promised her, myself, and God that my kids would always be in Adventist schools.

A few years later, as a single mother I started dental school, so I could afford my children’s future. Finances were truly tested, but I’d made a promise I could not break. As my oldest daughter finished elementary school, I had to register her into academy. I remember praying as I entered the academy grounds, “Father, outside of church these grounds are dedicated to your service. This is the only holy ground on which I can trust my children’s lives. I don’t have the money, but the world is yours and the fullness thereof; please keep them in your schools.” He did.

Adventist education is not a stand alone entity. Parents play a huge part. We can’t just throw our children in Adventist schools and walk away. . . . If parents are not fully committed to their own kids, if they even question the education system, why should we expect teachers to do miracles with our kids?

How expensive is Adventist education? First, ask, “How much is my child worth?” If we focus on monetary value, an Adventist education may look like it costs a lot of money. So ask, “How big is the God I serve?” If we focus on the value of a child, and dedicate our children to God, He never fails to meet His end of the deal.

I am a director of dental services in a prison. The minimum cost to house one inmate is $30,000 per year. What is the annual tuition in the most expensive Adventist school?

Adventist education goes far beyond academics. Words are inadequate to describe how well my children were prepared for the daily grind of life. My younger daughter ended up as chief resident for three years in a row! She is now at Harvard. My oldest daughter has worked for immunization programs, as someone who credentials occupational therapists, and other positions in health care. I owe all this to Adventist education.

In the early years of her residency, my younger daughter used to say, “Mom, you could have done better; you could have put us in better schools.” But by the time she finished her residency she was saying, “Mom, thank you for sending us to Adventist schools. The teachers loved us and treated us like we were their own kids. They taught us at our own individual pace. When we were irritable they would just love us and read us stories. At Loma Linda they treated us like humans. They didn’t verbally abuse us or put us down. You should hear the horror stories my fellow residents tell about how they were treated. On Sabbath the [Adventist] campus closes down! At most medical schools [Saturdays] are the busiest days. Most students are catching up, doing homework, studying, etc.”

At Adventist schools my children made lifelong friends and support systems. When my older daughter was making a decision where she should send her daughter for school, she didn’t consult me she called her fifth grade teacher!
Last but not least, if anyone doubts the value of the Adventist education, look at it through the eyes of the article written in the Christian Science Monitor, “For Real Education Reform, Take A Cue From The Adventists” (Nov 15 2010). . . .
I value three Adventist institutions: schools, hospitals, mission fields. For me, this is what the church means.

--Gladys Randolph
Tacoma, Washington

More Than Music
I found Herbert Blomstedt’s insightful address “Present Truth in Music” (July 12, 2012) refreshing, challenging, and overdue. Only a musician of Maestro Blomstedt’s level of professional attainment dare point out the lack of integrity in the mutilation and misrepresentation of composers’ intentions so widely practiced in our worship services.

Sentimentality has always been the foe of truth, and gospel songs with their emphasis on the individual have too often crowded out the great hymns of the church with their focus on the worship of God. And in this electronic age fake has become the norm: miked voices, [electronic] keyboards, taped accompaniments.

The search for truth, including music, is all-inclusive and never ending. Blomstedt calls it an obsession that must not be treated as a possession. It is a sign of humility to realize that truth is and always will be beyond our grasp. But the quest must not be abandoned.

--Margarita Merriman
South Lancaster, Massachusetts

Maestro Blomstedt views “Present Truth in Music” from his perspective as a professional musician and a bit of an elitist. It is not particularly present truth for the average church-goer, musician, or congregation.

The average Seventh-day Adventist congregation in the United States has about 50 members. To call its electronic organ “makeshift” and “a big fake that just imitates” is a step too far. It is a judgment that does not square with reality.

To say that “many singers use microphones to cover up their lack of voice training” is outrageous. Acoustics in most churches are far from perfect. Microphones add to or enhance vocal selections rather than distracting from them. Projected sound makes it possible to be heard, understood, and appreciated by all present.

Most parishioners are not sophisticated enough to miss the message of “Tell Me the Story of Jesus” (Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, no. 152). The music does not come across as trivial, nor the harmony as monotonous. That is a much too critical assessment that sounds a bit arrogant and overstated to the average parishioner.

Music is a subject that defies absolutes as Blomstedt makes assumptions for individuals with different backgrounds, tastes, and cultures. Technically, what he wrote may be correct, but the final decision about the worth and value of a hymn will be made by individual listeners. They do not have the education, training, and experience of a professional musician and conductor for 60 years.

Other things than music largely shape how we develop our faith. God the Father, His Son, the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, Bible study, prayer, sermons, and daily interaction with others help shape our growth as Christians. Blomstedt overstates the importance of music and understates our ability to gain truth from familiar and favorite hymns.

--Thomas Flynn
Punta Gorda, Florida

Share the Health
After reading Mark Finley’s article “The Gospel of Good Health” (July 12, 2012), I made copies for sharing--as I sometimes do--knowing straightaway that it was a real winner.

One of the people to whom I gave a copy is the survivor of a massive, brain aneurism that struck while she was at church some months back, and to whom God continues to be most wonderful as she is at home recuperating. She read it and was so inspired and blessed by it that she had the idea to copy it and pass it on as well. Not only that, to ensure that she remains in the pathway of similar future blessings, she has taken steps to become a subscriber to Adventist Review.

If I may be permitted, in my humble view the Adventist Review is one of the best kept secrets of the Adventist Church. Were the choice mine, Finley’s article would have been the cover feature for that particular issue. Thanks to Finley and to all at the Adventist Review offices--and beyond, whose contributions make the paper a winner.

--Sterling M. Cox
New York City, New York

Truth for Our Time
To Beast or not to Beast” by Shane Anderson (July 19, 2012) has a timely message for Adventists. In a day of political correctness, our evangelists, ministers, and lay members are putting themselves on the line for the sake of truth as it is Jesus.

I am heartsick at the apparent “dumbing down” of Adventism by some. How sad that some are ashamed of the message God gave this church. We are, above all people, privileged and blessed; let’s not hide our light under a bushel.

When I was involved in a Bible study with several lovely Catholics, they were thrilled to the point of tears when they heard the truth of the state of the dead. Two of them got tears in their eyes when they realized that their deceased mothers were not looking down on them because they hadn’t been to visit their graves for a while. It’s just one small example of how the truth will sets us free. When the whole truth is revealed in love by the power of the Holy Spirit it will impact the world.

--Bonnie Eichman
Roseburg, Oregon