Friday, May 29, 2009

Grillenburg 2009

(A “Twitterized” rendering of the 4th Grade school trip May 25th-29th 2009 to Grillenburg, Saxony, Germany)

Forgot to take any cold medicine before leaving this morning… could present problems.
8:05am May 25th

4 km hike from bus to our hotel ahead of us… I might just faint, it is hot and sunny.
11:00am May 25th

Snickers really does satisfy you!
11:05am May 25th

The Theme song to “Little House on the Prairie” is playing in my head as we cross the fields to our lodgings.
11:55am May 25th

Wetland ecology lesson in an actual wetland. This is the way education should be.
2:10pm May 25th

Why is it Germans feel like sunny days at remote ponds requires one to remove all clothing?
2:30pm May 25th

Rather, why is it Germans over 60 and overweight feel like cavorting naked outdoors? Fortunately (or not) young attractive ones don’t.
2:33pm May 25th

Thoughts on vicious cycles: Why tan in such a way as to leave no tan line if the only time people will notice you don’t have one is when you are tanning?
2:35pm May 25th

It is hot, I am dizzy, and the medicine I took at lunch is wearing thin. I will run out of tissues and I thought 5 packs would be enough.
5:05pm May 25th

Grillenburg has been used as a way station in one way or another for 600+ years!
9:33am May 26th

There are no longer bears, wolves, or Lynxes in the Tharandter Forrest, just foxes.
9:55am May 26th

Glad to hear our guide point out that hunting is needed when an ecosystem has lost all its natural predators. (Wildlife Biology graduate soapbox.)
10:10am May 26th

Tharandter Forrest has been a center for Forestry education for over 200 years!
10:55am May 26th

Life List: Lanius excubitur
11:03am May 26th

Finished “Heart of Tardis” by Dave Stone. As SF goes it is pretty good if convoluted.
2:05pm May 26th

Made rainstickes. Coincidentally as we made them, thunderstorms rolled in.
2:45pm May 26th

Love the storms. Thunder! Cool breeze, not hot sunshine. Wish I could sleep. Hope they stick around until bedtime.
5:00pm May 26th

Life List: Hirundo rustica
5:45pm May 26th

The slugs here in Grillenburg look like the brown “poop-slugs” in Dresden, but jet black. Perhaps “Licorice-Slugs?”
7:30pm May 26th

Finished "Caribbean Mystery" by A. Christie.
10:00am May 27th

Saw a huge nest of Formica rufa or similar: Red Forrest ant. Pine needle mound over two feet tall.
11:04am May 27th

Jonah made a really good T Shirt today… Lego Batman game themed.
11:59am May 27th

Life List: Phoenicurus ochuros a pair with a nest in the barn, 4 hatchlings.
2:04pm May 27th

An intense afternoon of unguided hiking. Life List: Pyrrhula pyrrhula.
5:09pm May 27th

“Disco Night” was a highlight for the kids. Watching them at Disco Night was a highlight for the adults’ funny bones.
11:00pm May 27th

Finished “Small Gods” by Terry Pratchett
10:03am May 28th

Treasure Hunt and Face Cast making on the agenda today.
10:30am May 28th

More Rain, no Bonfire.
6:00pm May 28th

Had a 20-minute break in the rain. Just enough time for our rowboat ride before heading home!
11:30am May 29th

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Living Sent

(I can’t claim this idea as completely original. Many thanks to L. Reynolds for the concept that goes hand in hand with the ideas already posted about Salt and Light.)

People who have given their lives to God by trusting in Him and His grace and in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ are like letters. In 2 Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul calls believers his letters of recommendation. Just as Paul needed no documentation to prove his worth since he had people who were living letters, so Jesus has all His followers acting as letters sent out into the world, proclaiming His truth.

In the same way that salt is not meant to stay in the shaker and light is only light when it is shining out, letters are designed to be sent. Churches all too often act as mailboxes that have been overlooked. There is no collection date posted on the outside. As soon as people are saved, they are pulled into the church never to be seen among the lost again.

The problem is, the address written on the outside of every Christian’s envelope is that of lost people. If a Christian lives his or her life in such a way as to never come into contact with lost people, they are like lost letters. They have failed in their purpose.

The other interesting aspect of the “living sent” concept is the difference between declared and appraised worth. All packages sent overseas have to have a declared worth written on the outside. It does not matter what the actual worth of the items inside is. All that matters is what value the sender declares them to have. The world and people around us can appraise us and our message all day long. None of that matters, because our worth as individuals is declared by the God who made us and then sent His Son to die for us so that we might live for Him.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I Saw God

I saw God once today,
In the presence of His praise,
Beaming with paternal joy,
In the offering being raised.

I saw pride in His face,
For that which He had made,
Freely being offered back,
A tribute to be paid.

I saw beauty in the child,
Spending time with her Father,
An instrument, a mirror,
Before His very altar.

I saw love in His eyes,
For His daughter made holy,
In her desire to love,
Praise and serve him only.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


“I was born. I was born to sing for you.
I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up.
And sing whatever song you wanted me to.
I give you back my voice.
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise…” –Magnificent by U2

A little late on the uptake here, but earlier this month a single hit the airwaves that may be the best worship song in years. U2’s Magnificent is a song (like so many of their songs) that has many levels, but at its heart is a song as worshipful as any praise and worship song sung at many a church today.

An interesting tweak lies in another of the nuances in the poetry. While it is clearly a song from the perspective of a creature wanting to glorify its creator, it also has a love-song aspect to it. When you hear the song all the way through, you get the impression that it is indeed a song about the love between a man and a woman.

It is the love, between a man and a woman who are created to be with one another, that is the act of worship in this song. And, after all, that is what true marriage is all about. When a man and a woman commit their lives to each other and live sacrificially loving each other… that is a picture of God’s love. It is a proclamation, a living sermon, and a song of praise to God.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Galatians 4:8-11 (True Villainy)

"Yes, but the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters," said Sirius with a wry smile.

The above example from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is just one of many from literature that highlight a truth that exists in our world. Not everything is easily divided into pure good and evil. It is not the same thing as talking about shades of grey either. This world is full of evil; every creature since the fall of man has evil as its nature. So, there are cases of pure evil and villains in our history. However, that does not mean that the rest of the world’s inhabitants are “basically good” or trying to be good. There are other forms of villainy, and unfortunately many of them are practiced in the name of good.

Religion has done more harm than good throughout history. It is only natural, as all religions are ultimately man made attempts to control. Sometimes it is done with good intentions, but all man made efforts eventually fail.

So, here in Galatians we see the outcome of these man-made religions when attempting to take the place of complete reliance on God’s grace. Legalism and religion enslave and are “by nature no gods” at all.

The story of the fifth book in the Harry Potter series is essentially this truth. While the whole world is in danger from an evil so great it has almost destroyed everything in the past, the very organization set up to defend the world is in complete denial. Instead it tries to impose legalism and rigid control over the little dangers. For most of the book, it is not Voldemort that is the great villain, but the supposed good guys: the Ministry of Magic.

How often does the same thing happen to the church? Instead of carrying out the mission of doing all it can to bring Jesus to every person on earth, it is usually more concerned with regulating and controlling every behavior of the people who are, by grace, free from the law, sin, and death.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Venting Hollywood Frustration

Hollywood has a surprising lack of creativity for an industry built on imagination. It has usually had to look outside itself for stories upon which to base its movies. This is why most movies are: based on books, sequels of other movies, or based on an historic precedent.

Now, it is understandable that more than one movie would be based on the same book. With time, the technology, the conventions, and styles change and a new take on a story can be justified. Certain historic events are always popular and have elicited new cinematic interpretations. And, when a movie makes a lot of money it is only natural to think that the studios will come up with new stories involving the same characters or building on the previous story. In many cases it is all about having a built in audience.

Nowadays there is a rather new development in moneymaking Hollywood-style: the reboot. Movie series and franchises have been around long enough to have petered out and the studios would rather bank on restarting the series rather than develop new ones. Bond, Friday the 13th, Star Trek, The Pink Panther etc etc.

Then there is the original idea. Every once in a while someone comes up with an interesting story or a new idea. Why does Hollywood have to insist on remaking perfectly good movies when they even admit they are not intending to change the story, but merely update the effects? The Never Ending Story (OK, based on a book) and Fright Night (a genre film) are just two perfect upcoming examples of this travesty. Both spawned sequels in their day but now are rumored to being remade. Supposedly it is to update the effects, but we all know the real reason… $$$.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fright Night: Extended Review and Analysis

“What would you do if you accidentily discovered that the house next door was occupied by something not human, something horrifying, something unspeakably evil?”(1) What if that evil that comprised a danger to everyone you knew and cared about? What if no one would believe you when you tried to warn them? If you take into account the fact that your knowledge was essentially un-provable, it made you look a little insane, and you only had a belief that you found yourself sometimes doubting, then you have plenty of reason to think that it would be too much trouble to do anything about it. Perhaps you would choose to just ignore the evil and hope it left you alone. Or you could decide to face the evil and fight.

This happens to be the plot of one of the more interesting vampire movies the genre has ever produced. Fright Night (1985) tells the story of one Charlie Brewster. A fan of cheesy B-horror movies, he discovers one night that his new neighbor is actually a vampire. When he tries to warn the people in town, he not only comes off as a grade-A nutcase, but he also raises much unwanted attention from the vampire himself.

The movie opens with a classic gothic cliché, a full moon and the howl of a wolf. There is some pretty cheesy dialogue between a Jonathan and a Nina, also the stuff of classic horror. The camera pans down the street and into a second story window. Instead of the couple heard before it is indeed revealed that a cheesy old horror movie is playing on a TV set. There is a couple in the room, which is revealed to be the bedroom of a high school boy named Charlie, but they are not watching the movie. Charlie is a fan of horror, but at the moment he is more interested in trying to get to second base with his girlfriend.

When she resists his advances, he notices two men carrying a coffin into the basement next door. His mother tells him that the long abandoned house has finally been sold. Charlie begins to notice that his new neighbor has something to do with the string of murders in town and begins to suspect that his neighbor is a vampire. When he tries to report him to the police, they simply think he is a crank. The actual vampire, however, is not amused.

Later that night he comes to pay Charlie a visit. He offers him a choice: forget about his existence or die. Charlie puts up a brave resistance and barely succeeds in temporarily fending off the fiend. As Charlie wonders what he can do, his favorite late-night horror host comes on the TV. As the vampire hunter in dozens of old movies, Charlie decides to turn to him in a desperate plea for assistance. After all, “Peter Vincent” claims that he really believes in vampires and evil.

In reality, Peter Vincent is a fraud. He is like the priest fallen from grace who teaches a doctrine he no longer believes. Charlie’s friends convince Peter to perform a bogus test on the vampire for money, and the vampire agrees. While there, Peter sees the truth and is scared away. The teens are left alone and in danger…

It is the best sort of vampire tale: classic good vs. evil with plenty of a surprisingly Christian understanding of the conflict.

The Evil in Fright Night is enticing, seductive, and presents itself as harmless or even good. Evil is also utterly dangerous. It tricks society into accepting it, encourages the belief that it does not really exist. Meanwhile it destroys people; killing some to feed off of, tricking other to find love and acceptance in its service, and converting others into servants of evil as well.

The forces of good, meanwhile, must rely on belief, community and the willingness to sacrifice in order to face and defeat the evil.

In this movie’s version of the genre, the weapons against vampirism require faith in order to be effective. Peter’s character develops this idea best. When he discovers the reality of what, all his life, he thought just entertainment and a source of fame, fandom and money; his first reaction is to run. He understands the evil and the danger and he is afraid. It is easy to be convinced of the reality of evil, but that does not naturally translate into the idea that there is also a force for good and a means of overcoming the evil. It takes a step of faith to accept that. When Peter first confronts the vampire for real, he tries to attack him with a crucifix like he did in so many movies. The vampire mocks him: “You have to have faith for that to work on me.” Charlie tries his hand at it with much more success. He is not merely acting. There is no proof that if you face the evil bravely, that you will succeed. You have to trust.

As with all the classic examples of vampire stories(2), there is also a need for a community of faith. It is not enough to face the evil alone. Fellow believers must band together to stand against it. When one of the hunters, usually a woman, is separated from the community for protection, she is instead left open to attack. In this film, Charlie’s friend (appropriately nicknamed “Evil”) separates himself from the group out of complete disbelief. Ironically, he is the most knowledgeable of the teens in the lore of vampires. On his own, the vampire is able to use his isolation and feeling of rejection from the group to seduce him. Later, Charlie's girlfriend Amy is isolated and partially turned.

The final aspect of the people who stand against the evil in vampire stories is that they have to be willing to die in the fight. Usually self-sacrifice, or a true willingness to die is needed to defeat evil. At almost any point in the story, Charlie and Peter could run away and likely not be followed. All the vampire wants is to be left alone to slowly kill off the people in the town. Instead, they stay and fight to save Amy and the other people in town.

One final aspect of this film that it shares with most of the best of the genre(3) is that, in the end, the evil is not defeated by the hunters directly but by… well, that would be giving to much away.

Fright Night manages to be an engrossing horror-comedy, and still explores all of these aspects of the genre in a fresh (for it’s day) and intelligent way. Roddy McDowell does an excellent job playing Peter Vincent. Chris Sarandon is effectively low-key in his performance as the Vampire. The music is smooth and cool (especially for the eighties) and does a good job of expressing the seductive and creepy nature of evil. The effects, especially in the last act, are over the top and gory and decidedly pre-computer animation. That and it is just plain entertaining as well, in a cheesy-eighties-horror-movie sort of way.

A warning must be given however. Lest all the talk of Christian understanding and the fight between good vs. evil lead anyone to think this would be a good movie for Christians in general or youth groups: don’t read that here. This movie has scares, language, sensuality, talk about sex, and a brief moment of nudity. As with many vampire (and horror, fantasy and sci-fi) movies, a lot of truths can be seen here. That does not make it a Christian movie or mean that it really has Christian conclusions.

(1) from the original trailer for Fright Night
(2) See the novel Dracula. In most film versions, the community is usually reduced to a single hunter or, at best, an older expert and a younger apprentice.
(3) See in particular many of the Hammer studios vampire films. The supernatural aspect of vampirism tends to be emphasized and often the climax is also out of the hunter’s hands.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Darwinius masillae and the Ever Elusive Missing Link

The latest “missing link” was unveiled yesterday. It is an early primate and the media is totally missing the point. In the stories it is being reported as a find that unveils the earliest ancestor of living monkeys, apes and even humans. The problem is: it simply is not. A few years from now when enough study is done and everybody forgets to keep up with the research, D. masillae will find its place where every single other known species is—at the tip of a branch.

Here is the way modern taxonomy works. All animal species are placed on a “tree” locating them where scientists suppose them to be in their relation to all other animals. Monkeys and Humans and other primates are all placed at the tips of branches that are connected to the same branch, and other groups are placed on other branches. However, all species are invariably placed at the tips of their individual twigs. There are no species at the joint of two twigs or branches. That is because science has yet to find a species that is clearly an ancestor to another.

Take Archaeopteryx lithographica for example. It is taught in most schools to be the ancestor of modern birds. However, it is more correctly referred to as the earliest known bird, because it is at the tip of its own branch. No known bird species descended from Archaeopteryx.

That is why these “missing link” stories are meaningless and misleading. There will never be an “Aha!” moment when some clear missing link is discovered. It simply doesn’t work that way. For that matter, there should be millions of missing links out there, literally hundreds of links for every existing species on earth. Why have we failed to find a single one?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lily Allen and Postmodern's Fear

Every once in a while, popular music strikes a chord, surprisingly self-analyzing the culture it creates. Lily Allen’s song “The Fear” is one such song. For those who don’t know, Lily is a British singer who has released two albums and is known for her insightful social commentary and wit.

(There is some question as to how witty and insightful she is. What passes for wit seems to be the frequent use of the most adaptable adjective in the English language: “f---ing.” And as for insight, her idea for a song “critiquing” George W. Bush for his hatefulness is a song entitled “F--- You” where the entire chorus consists of her repeating the phrase over and over again at him.)

In “The Fear” she describes the current state of the culture as completely lost:

I don't know what's right and what's real anymore
And I don't know how I'm meant to feel anymore
When do you think it will all become clear
Cause I'm being taken over by the fear

Of course the context of the song reveals that she has missed the mark by selling her idea short. She claims it is a song about the current dominance of materialism, commercialism, and the high regard fame is given as a desirable goal. But really, her song is a perfect description of the entire Postmodern culture today.

In rejecting the (admittedly deluded) idea of Modernism that all truth can be known and understood, Postmodernism has left most people adrift in a sea of uncertainty and fear. It was one thing for academic Philosophers to reject a faulty understanding of the world by going to the other extreme, but now that popular culture and the everyday Joe are embracing that extreme it seems that, as is always the case, the pendulum has swung too far.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Galatians 4:1-7 (Trust vs. Fear: An Abstract Bit)

Children (in a few remaining families these days) are under the authority and discipline of their parents. They are heirs of their parents, but as children they are little more than servants. They have no rights and must obey and learn. In that way they are protected from themselves and their stupidity. Children experience a lot of fear: the unknown, the dark, dangers and even their parents. They fear that they could somehow lose their parents love or esteem by failing them. As time goes by they learn that their parents love is unconditional and at the same time learn correct behavior, even while that behavior is not the basis of their parents’ love.

So it is with the law and God. Some people never really feel guilt or concern from doing wrong. They never benefit from the law—they ignore it. Others live in fear and try to fulfill the law. They also never benefit from it, even though they obey it as best they can. Religion—avoiding sins, does not justify. Religion, or the law, provides neither life nor reward; it merely punishes and brings sin and death.

The children of God, instead, realize that they are completely dependant on God for life and justification. They overcome the terror of the law (religion) by trust in God: faith.

How do we become a child of God? In truth, we simply realize who we are. We do not do anything. “But wait!” someone may say, “what about ‘the prayer?’” “Or, what about ‘confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord?’” Neither of these things has any more power to save than any other work. They can merely be reflections of a change that has already occurred within the person: the realization of their dependence on God.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

NonModern Movie List

This post has been converted to a separate page and is being updated there. See the tab above.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Three, Twenty and Eighteen

He who can do (and does),
More than in faith is requested,
More than in visions is imagined,
or conceived, or presented,

He is the one who we limit
with our capacity to comprehend.

So we miss the vastness
of His love.

It is wide,
wider than the edge of the east to the
edge of the west.

It is long,
longer than the peaceful
rest of the dead.

It is high,
higher than the crest of the
unknown universe.

It is deep,
deeper than the lowest level of
hell’s worst curse.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Questionable Stories

Wolfgang Simson says that Jesus lived a very questionable life. By that he means that Jesus lived and communicated in such a way as to raise questions in people. He told stories more than He preached. He told ambiguous stories that caused people to ask Him what they were about. It was a form of filtering the audience.

How questionable are we?

How questionable is our communication?

More often than not, Christians preach. We somehow feel that if we don’t give people all the answers to life (as we understand them) we are failing them. In fact, someone who always seems to have all the answers: (a) is very annoying, (b) highlights the fact that they really don’t know what they are talking about, and (c) makes people want to run away.

Instead, we have been tasked with telling stories. We are witnesses. At its core that means simply telling people what we have experienced. Not giving everyone the answers to all their problems. Not telling people everything they are doing wrong. We should share life with people. Share our experiences and the way God has made Himself real to us. We should tell stories that reveal our perspective on life, but not clearly. Raise interest. Getting people asking for more. Don’t throw undiluted truth at people before you know if they want to hear it or not.

The fault of most “Christian” stories (books, TV, movies, etc.) is that they preach, bore and repel. Our model was a master storyteller who inspired, intrigued and had people asking for more.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Textbook Example of Alarmist Fear Mongering

A spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund, Professor Ove Hoegh-Gulberg, revealed to a BBC reporter today, just how much the group is not about solid scientific information but rather about inducing as much fear as it can in the public. It must have something to do with the “Fund” part of their name. Whatever the esteemed Professor’s area of expertise is, it is not logic or clear communication.

“I must say that the report (the WWF released today) describes a ‘worst case scenario,’ but it is not as bad as the future we are currently headed for,” said Hoegh-Guldberg.

What? If the report fails to be as bad as reality, how is it anything like a worst-case scenario?

He went on to describe our situation by using the analogy that we are in a car driving straight for a cliff. The choice we must make is to switch to a path just as hard and bumpy as the one we are on that will lead us straight down the face of the cliff. Apparently, either way we are headed down a straight drop.

The report claims that a 0.7-degree rise of temperature has completely changed the way the world’s ocean currents flow. What will happen when we see a 4 or 5-degree rise?

What about a drop? Since 1998 the average world temperature has been dropping, and we are now at levels seen last pre WWII. This is why most alarmists who occasionally do read scientific information have ceased using the words “global warming” in favor of “climate change.” Seems like the WWF is behind the times.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A German Experience

Today a first aid seminar was conducted at a local kindergarten for parents who wanted to know more about how to save a child’s life in an emergency. It was quite a German experience…

The lady conducting the seminar began by giving a summary of all the topics normally covered in a full 8 hour course and then asked the parents to let her know what the most pressing, interesting, or important issues they wanted her to cover were. One mom raised her hand.

“What do I do when my kid won’t stop holding their breath?”

This was a very popular question. Several parents chimed in. “Yes, that happens to me a lot!” “Is that dangerous?” “What can I do?” They were all relieved to find out that it was nothing serious, but were warned. Turns out kids figure out that it is not serious as well, but will use this method repeatedly if they get what they want. (Thus the apparent epidemic of breath holding in German culture.)

The next topic of choice was poisoning. Several related questions and situations were addressed. Turns out that soaps and shampoos in Germany are not toxic. However, one should never induce vomiting when a child swallows some… this will cause the soap to suds-up and the resulting suds will come out of the mouth, nose and ears and could cause respiratory problems. Also, alcoholism begins as early as the age of ten in Germany. Many parents seemed shocked to hear this, but many of these same parents already reeked of alcohol and it was only four in the afternoon.

Another helpful bit of information directed against old German remedies: only apply cold to bumps on the head; don’t try to push them back in.

Monday, May 11, 2009


“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” –Matthew 5:14-16

What does it mean to be light? Light is one of those neat little aspects of reality that is hard to describe. It is not a particle or a wave but exhibits properties of both. Photons… We all know what light is, but rarely really think about it. C.S. Lewis once wrote a story about a man blind from birth that was medically given his sight. Anticipating the procedure all he could think about was seeing light for the first time. In the story he is never able to understand what light is. Is it the light fixture, a candle, or the sun?

Light is none of those things. To be light is to emanate from the source. As a Christian, or a church, we are not candles or lamps. We are light. We are supposed to shine.

It has been said, however, that often churches act more like black holes. We suck all the light in and trap it. When a person becomes a follower of Jesus, they slowly become absorbed in a Christian sub-culture. They cease to interact or know people who do not know Jesus. They cease to be light in the world.

If we are merely light emanating from a source, and that source is Jesus, we ought to emulate Him. He spent much of His time among the non-religious. He made waves by hanging out with sinners.

Friday, May 8, 2009

1986 in Film

In Temuco Chile, in 1986, you paid about two dollars to get into a movie theater. Not only that, but you got to see two features for the price of one. As a thirteen year old, I was beginning to occasionally have the freedom to go to the movies by myself. At the same time, I have no idea how I got permission to attend the one double feature that to this day stands out as one of the best movie going experiences of my life: Aliens and Big Trouble in Little China. I had no idea exactly what I was in for as I entered the theater. Greatness.

Top 10 Personal Movies of 1986
1. The Mission
2. The Great Mouse Detective
3. Labyrinth
4. The Three Amigos
5. Big Trouble in Little China
6. The Name of the Rose
7. Highlander
8. Hoosiers
9. Aliens
10. Crocodile Dundee

Bottom 5 Personal Movies of 1986
1. Howard the Duck
2. Back to School
3. Iron Eagle
4. Delta Force
5. Little Shop of Horrors

Top Movies I Still Most Want To See
1. Peggy Sue Got Married
2. Manhunter
3. Pirates
4. The Mosquito Coast

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Our Books: Do They Age, or Sour?

This is probably a common question heard across many fields of expertise. Have you read… ? (Insert the latest, greatest book.) It can be a full time job for most of these experts: simply reading the amount of books published that supposedly present the best that the topic has to offer. When do any of these people have the time to do their expert task?

The work of a “spiritual community generator” is no different. (Or, considering the Christian publication monster, maybe it is.) Every week a new spin is published, supposedly revealing the best way to accomplish the task that all Christians should embrace… that of telling a dying world that there is life available for the taking. The funny thing is you have to be abreast of the latest book. If you are caught talking about a book from ten years ago, you will be laughed at in many cases. It is perhaps more about trends and styles than substance.

Reading is not a bad thing. Being informed about how others are doing something that one is trying to do as well can be helpful. However, at some point there has to be a way to narrow the homework and reading list so that the actual task can be carried out. Why not make time a determining factor?

Let us assume that all church planting/missions experts will already be reading the most important book on the list every day. How long should one wait after a book comes out to see if it stands the test of time and has true insights and is not just a fancy repackaging of something already known or even worse a waste of time popular simply for its novelty? Is twenty years enough? How about fifty?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


When I was a kid, eating in the school cafeteria, there was a practical joke that you had to watch out for. We had those saltshakers with the screw-on lids, and if you weren’t careful, someone would loosen the lid and wait to see who would use it next. If you were the unsuspecting victim you would try to make your cafeteria spaghetti taste better and end up with an inedible lunch.

Along the same lines, I remember thinking at McDonald’s one day when I was little that, if I liked salt on my fries so much, that one of those little paper packets of salt had to be wonderful all by itself.

Salt is not good in too large a quantity. It is not good by the mouthfuls. It is necessary to life, but not that good for you in large quantities.

In Matthew chapter 5, when Jesus compares people in His kingdom to salt, He did not have this idea in mind, but I think it is still valid. The Church was not meant to be stored in a shaker. When we gather and gather Christians into ever-larger “containers” and just keep all the salt together, we fail to flavor the earth. In fact, we become unpalatable.

Salt is meant to be scattered. As the church, we need to do the same. Spread around and fill up every corner of the world; giving people a taste of something they will want more of.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Muse

She doesn't come to me,
By night or day,
She's a part of me,
All that I say,
Not all beauty,
But happiness and sorrow,
Pain with the laughter,
And all that I live for,
Drawn to her,
I cannot escape,
An inspiration,
A compelling,
But not a mission,
A poet in spite of her,
A love just the same.
The muse draws me,
Ever again.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Galatians 3:3-29 (Walking Backwards)

“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” –Galatians 3:3

At some point when kids learn to walk, they realize that they can do it backwards as well. It usually doesn’t take long for them to figure out that they don’t do so well when they can’t see what they are walking towards though.

Somewhere along the way, Evangelicals have gotten the Christian walk backwards as well. They do a good job of proclaiming salvation by faith. However, after that… it is all about works. They don’t call it work, though, it is termed discipline or discipleship. The idea is that in order to grow in the Christian life you have to work.

This is a distortion of discipleship. We are teaching that the people who put in more effort will advance faster in the Christian walk, becoming more holy while the slackers will lag behind. We are making Sanctification dependant on human efforts. Paul here in Galatians teaches just the opposite. We are perfected not by our efforts, but by faith.

That is not to say that the Christian disciplines are bad; we have just got the emphasis backwards. Anyone who thinks their growth in Christ is dependent on how disciplined they are is doomed to frustration and failure. Our growth, just like our salvation, is totally dependant on God. We have to believe that He will change us. When that is understood, we can allow ourselves to enjoy the disciplines and grow in them, instead of working at them and beating ourselves up when we miss practice.

Its just like the difference between someone who shoots baskets in their driveway because they enjoy Basketball, and someone who drills everyday because they want to live up to some outside expectations from a parent or a coach.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Pop Trotters

We live in a hugely mobile culture. People today have the ability to fulfill the desire to see the world more than ever before, and they are taking advantage of it. There is almost nowhere in the world that cannot be reached within a 24 hour period for a reasonable price, considering the feat that is being paid for. How rich a life we are presented with!

And yet, going places and experiencing world culture is not the same thing. Some times it seems as though the American traveler of today is simply a “pop-trotter.” They are interested in being able to say they have been here and there, but not interested in the actual being there. Perhaps they are not quite as bad off as the stereotypical oriental tourist; those that drive from site to site and hop out of the tour bus just long enough to snap a picture to be viewed and experienced later. The American tourist disorder is another one:

Witness the Starbucks mug collector. They have traveled to city after city, all around the world. Have they experienced the cultures of these cities? Do they know the unique ways that people in these cities eat or interact? Who knows? All you know for sure is that they have been to the Starbucks in each place they have been. Why bother? You know that every one you visit, anywhere in the world is essentially the same. Starbucks, Pizza Hut, TGI Fridays, Coke, Hard Rock, etc. etc.

Not to say that these places are bad or wrong; they are successful for a reason. It is just frustrating that an exported brand name is the destination everywhere the modern tourist goes instead of seeking out the unique interpretations of culture every country has to offer. Or maybe this is simply the frustration of a world traveler with four little kids.

At least you know who to ask when looking for a McDonalds anywhere in Europe.
NonModernBlog written content is the copyrighted property of Jason Dietz. Header photos and photos in posts where indicated are the copyrighted property of Jason and Cheryl Dietz.
Promotional photos such as screenshots or posters and links to the trailers of reviewed content are the property of the companies that produced the original content and no copyright infringement is intended.
It is believed that the use of a limited number of such material for critical commentary and discussion qualifies as fair use under copyright law.

  © Blogger template Brownium by 2009

Back to TOP