Thursday, October 22, 2009

To 'Zinzinnati' in 'Oktober'

Yesterday I started a four day trip, and the big H on the weather map meant mostly blue skies, sunshine, and generally smooth air all day long. Charlotte to Cincinnati was our third flight out of five. Out of the Charlotte area and headed northwest, we were climbing through 21,000 feet, I was flying with the autopilot engaged, and I took a few moments to enjoy the views.

What I describe won't match what it looked like, because this picture is from two weeks ago, but it was another flight from Charlotte to Cincinnati.  Differences: the clouds are below us, with cumulus formation, which means curved, rounded edges, and a little turbulent air inside them.  The white sun is in common, and the evening and autumn colors, though.  I like the long shadows the sun cast behind the lumpy cumulus jutting up from the top of the layer in the foreground.  I don't have a good picture from yesterday, but next is my description of it.

The long ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains, displayed in a blue-gray, darkening, almost pixilated tint, were in front of and below us, and the haze between them helped to frame their wavy washboard ripples. From the horizon, long, flat and gray stratus clouds raised above to a white reflection above our altitude, the top of the clouds being illuminated by our white sun above and to our left. It was still gleaming while the angle this section of the planet Earth gave it a few moments more to do so, in its ever-present spin. The blue skies above our present position wouldn't last much longer.

We were now at 24,000 feet, our groundspeed was 400 knots and accelerating, and we would be in Cincinnati in 45 minutes. Looking far below I see autumn, orange and yellow textures on the long, alligator spiny, arcing ridges, interspersed with snaking rivers in the valleys they are constrained by. The airplane is a great way to observe geological features. With my lack of knowledge, though, I have more questions that answers.

The colors, and where we're headed, reminds me of a good time I had once on an overnight, attending the Oktoberfest in 'Zinzinnati', as a co-pilot when we were flying for a different airline. Cincinnati hosts the second largest Oktoberfest in the world, next to the one in Munich, where it originated. Authentic German food, drink, dancing and songs, and culture can be found throughout it. I thought just maybe if the airplane broke on the way into Cincinnati this evening, we could perhaps repeat it. But here in the Columbia, SC hotel I found out while blogging this that 'Oktoberfest Zinzinnati' is actually held during the third weekend in September.

Yes, I'm writing about drinking beer, and yes, I believe a Christian can have an alcoholic drink in clear conscience. I like a good beer or glass of wine with a meal. 'Everything in moderation', right? To me, at least, Oktoberfest isn't about getting drunk, but about celebrating with others the food, drink, and culture Germany has brought the world. I happen to think that God want us to celebrate life. After all, wasn't Jesus first miracle when he turned the water into wine at the wedding party, after "the guests have drunk freely" and they had run out of wine? (John 2:1-11 ESV)

To be clear, I am for the responsible use of alcohol, whether by your own consumption, or by limiting your use in order to avoid tempting others. Jesus teaches this clearly in Matthew 18. After he characterizes new Christians as humbled children (not a condescension by the way) and as the 'greatest in the kingdom of heaven', he warns against temping these new creatures to sin. From Matthew, 18:5-7 (ESV): 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!"

Now, these words, directed straight to my heart do have an implication for me personally. I would never open a bar, for example. Jesus' teachings can be difficult to put into practice; we can only hope to do so in submission to God and in a heart attitude of receiving and following the Holy Spirit's guidance in our lives.

Here's a fellow blogger's good post on temptation.

This is another good post on 'Do not be drunk'; instead be filled with the aforementioned Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:17-20 (NIV) advises the same: "17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

It is worldly wisdom that drunkenness lowers inhibitions and increases temptation, and in a roundabout way, the good word agrees on this: From Galatians 5:19-21: "19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Drunkenness is actually part of the sinful nature; this is what we're really talking about here. In our lives, it seems that our hearts need to be filled with something, whether it is drink, the Holy Spirit, or something else. What fills your heart?


Richard said...

Well said, Brother Craig. Like you, I enjoy a good beer or two with dinner once a week or so (wine tends to give me a headache). And like you, I believe moderation is key. Paul cautions against folks being "heavy drinkers", not about drinking itself. For instance, in his letters to Timothy and Titus, he notes that elders and deacons should not be given to drink, or heavy drinkers. In Colossians 2:16a he even says "So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink." (NLT) He even instructs Timothy, in his first letter, chapter 5 verse 23, to "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities." (NKJV) I could find other references easily enough. But God gave us so many things to enjoy in this life. The key is to not take advantage of any of them, to not do anything to excess.

May the Lord bless you for your words.

Mark said...

Hey Craig,

I think if you think its alright to have a beer that's fine that's your belief I have a problem when you feel you need to defend your action. You don't defend yourself for drinking water or eating ice cream, I believe we only defend things we know to be inherently wrong. Just my opinion. Always good to see it from another angle but i know you, and i do believe you do drink responsibly. I just think condoning it might give weaker people and new christians a reason to drink

Craig said...

Mark, thanks for your comment. I defended my choice because it isn't scripturally unlawful to drink (IMO), but some brothers and sisters in our faith think that it is wrong to do so, and I respect their beliefs.

Furthermore, we're 'not under the law, but under grace, and we strive to not continue sinning, just so that grace will abound more'! (Romans 6:14 and 6:1, and I Corinthians 6:12)

I feel that we agree that "condoning it might give weaker people and new christians a reason to drink", but maybe not to the same degree. I don't condone getting drunk, but you seem to say that allowing one one drink is allowing many. For example, many times I've been out with a flight crew and have limited myself to 1-2 drinks, gone back to my room and left them there, or haven't gone drinking with them at all.

I'll consider your words, however; a good scripture to be applied here might be from Romans 14:21: "It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or if offended or is made weak."

God Bless you Mark!