Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Inventions


The SYSK podcast mentioned an old survey from last year where thousands of British consumers were asked what the most important inventions of human history were. It is a perfect example of what is so wrong/scary about trusting masses with something that requires careful thought. They pointed out how silly it is for the cheese grater to be included (#88) without cheese being included. Here are some other thoughts:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mourning the Past. Celebrating the Now. Reflections on this Information Age

We live in a wonderful age. Within my lifetime, I can remember futurists speaking of a day when we would have information and all of human cultural output at our fingertips whenever we require it. It is amazing to think that less than ten years ago, I would ask myself a question and that would be the end of it. I think it is what we used to call “wondering.” We don’t wonder anymore. All questions have an answer that is just a search-bar away. I don’t tell my kids about shows and movies I used to watch anymore; I show them what I watched.

On the other hand our information and art today feels less special.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Let's Kill Hitler, a Review (with Spoilers)


Doctor Who season 6 (or 32 if you prefer) resumed this weekend with an episode that was at once amazing and a bit of a letdown.

If you took this episode all by itself, as an independent bit of story-telling you would be forced to conclude it was a series of neat ideas that are never explored. You can imagine the story meetings:

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Ghost with the Most


Yesterday was one of my son’s birthdays. As it turns out, he shares that day with one of the more interesting directors of the past quarter century: Tim Burton. Burton is not an artist that delivers guaranteed great films every time out, but he does always bring a unique, creative, dark yet appealing vision to all of the stories he tells. Several of his stories are inspiring and worth revisiting; while others have been pretty awful. Even the bad stories tend to be popular: last year’s Alice in Wonderland is among the top ten most financially successful films of all time in spite of the disservice it did to its source material.

Then there are the middle of the road films; the ones that are not “classics” but still amazing in their originality and creativity.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First

Alone.
Behind the windows in my head.

I gaze out.
I see people
And yearn to cry out,
To let them in…

But no one sees the real me.

I’m a leaf,
Blown through the forest.

A prisoner
Condemned
Damned to life alone.
No one can get near…

Lest destiny throw them
Half a world away.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Person and Work of Christ (Colossians 1:15-23)

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church.
It sometimes seems simplistic, but followers of Jesus really are all about Him. There is nothing greater, more complex, or further to learn than Christ. In other writings, when Paul speaks about people being babes in their understanding and that they cannot handle “deeper” more substantial teaching, he is not implying that there is more to learn beyond the Gospel. The Gospel itself is the deep teaching. One could spend their entire life meditating on the person and work of Christ and not exhaust the topic.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 5c)

This post is inspired by the ongoing Buffy Re-watch being conducted over at Nik at Night. Check them out for a better, more detailed look at each episode every Tuesday.


<--Season 5b  Season 5d-->

12. Checkpoint


The Watcher’s Council makes its return as Buffy and company come to the end of their resources in trying to discover who Glory is. They agree to help, but try to regain their control over Buffy first. It takes her a while, but she eventually realizes that she holds all the cards in their association and takes control of the council for the first time in its millennial history, one presumes. Power—who has it, and who is controlled by it—is a big deal in all relationships.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Canine Christianity


My wife has a Yorkshire Terrier. He is a great dog for the most part. He is smart, easy to train and sometimes he seems to understand English. (A fact that is all the more amazing as he is a born Berliner.) The other day I was cooling off in the yard after a long run and he was out doing his patrol.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

1988 in Film

(Updated October 2013)

Not exactly a stellar year in film. As we look ahead to making lists of the best films of the decade, 1988 does not get much representation.

Top Ten Personal Films of 1988:

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Lesson of the Malfoys


He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.
(Matthew 13:28-29 ESV)

The Harry Potter story has earned its classic status in part because it is so rich in insight and truth. One of the many “minor” pictures we get thanks to the Malfoy family. The Malfoys are bad guys and in a way, they are some of the most visible antagonists throughout much of the story-line. However, as the years progress, we see that their evil is less the pure variety of Voldemort and more of an opportunistic cowardly

Thursday, August 18, 2011

As Beauty Sleeps

As Beauty sleeps,
I am amazed.
Is she for real,
Or am I dazed?
I love the way,
Hair teases her cheek,
Lips slightly move,
As, peaceful, she breathes.
God, thankful praise,
Is yours tonight.
For through the years,
I’ll be by her side.

As Beauty sleeps,
I lift up praise.
She’s mine for keeps,
All doubt is erased.
I have died,
For her I breathe.
In God alone,
I her trust receive.
Help me, Lord,
Love to her be.
Take me, Lord,
And live through me!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

All Missional is Local


One of the problems with certain segments of the Missional conversation is the way that it approaches the global mission of the church. The Missional emphasis is a healthy one over all. Believers and churches today need to be reminded of their role in obeying the last command of Christ. We need to relearn how to be a positive and active influence on the culture and people around us. We need to bridge the cultural gap that exists between the Christian ghetto and the culture around us. The problem arises when churches place the focus of their efforts exclusively half a world away at the expense of the next block over.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An Adventure in a Valley in the Shadow of Death

(The above photo is actually mine. Click on the picture for a full view)

Around the Salzburg area, the hills may be “alive with the sound of music,” but head east and you get to another of the 26 mountain ranges that make up the Northern Limestone chain of the Eastern Alps: the Totes Gebirge. Literally, the Dead Range, it is named that because of the fact that there is little vegetation on much of the range. Even so, or perhaps because of that fact, the range is impressive and beautiful.

If you ever make your way into the dead mountains, a little known (You won’t find it in many if any of the guide books for Austria or on English websites.) but fun excursion is the three lakes tour to the source of the Traun River, high up in the Kammersee, a lake that is only accessible by foot after a boat ride across the incredibly deep Toplitzsee. Toplitzsee is one of many such deep, mountain lakes rumored to hide vast Nazi treasures, dumped there at the end of the War and inaccessible even with the most advanced technologies today.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Head vs. Heart (Colossians 1:9-14)

“…asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,”

(Colossians 1:9b-11 ESV)
In writing this letter, Paul is speaking to congregations of people he had never met. However, we have already seen that he tells them the same sort of things he told communities everywhere he went. Here, his correspondence is prompted by reports that the believers in Colossae were being exposed to false teaching—something that was and is an ever present danger for churches everywhere. So in this circumstance Paul gives some advice that is universally applicable as well.

Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is for spiritual knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is something that our current Western culture—including the communities of believers in this culture—prize highly. However, the knowledge we hold in high esteem is nothing like the spiritual wisdom of which Paul is speaking.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

About NonModern

One thousand posts in seems like as good as any time to write an “About” blurb. Here you go:

What is NonModern?

NonModern is a blog of ideas, thoughts and observations. I started this project a few years ago to have a voice on the internet, and to satisfy the desire I have to write things down. If someone finds what I write interesting or helpful, then that is a bonus.

NonModern is a part of the Missional conversation. How do believers interact with the culture from a position of faith? Sometimes I write about that process, but what I try to do more of is actually interact with the culture around me.

Who is behind NonModern?

My name is Jason, and I live in Europe. My perspective on life and the world around me is a little different, because I am not European. I was born American, but spent much of my formative years living in South America. All of that combined with where I am today makes my perspective that of an outsider, pretty much anyway you look at it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Lost Horizon" (1937)


Every once in a while the fact that art reflects and illuminates our understanding of the world in which it was made is so clear it appears prophetic. Such is the case of Frank Capra’s “Lost Horizon” from 1937.

Based on the novel of the same name from earlier in the decade, it reflects the frustration and fatigue of a British diplomat faced with the world the way it was in the thirties. Less than two years after the film was released, the vivid descriptions of a self-destructive humanity would come to fruition.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Potter's Passivity

Some have complained that the Potter series is ultimately unsatisfying because Harry as a character is passive. He does not do so much as stuff is done to him. He is constantly getting into trouble and then being bailed out by others, or by things that were done to him that protect him.

Some thought needs to be given to this idea, but it could actually be one of the great messages of the story. Rather than the active hero that we tend to root for, Harry is someone who comes to be more and more at peace with who he is and the way things need to be. He starts out rather active in the first couple years—chasing adventure and trying to solve the mysteries around him—but as he grows and matures he becomes more and more aware of what is good and what is evil and he trusts the good in his life. Even when he discovers the darker sides of his heroes—their humanity and failings, he chooses to trust their advice and leadership.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 5b)

<--Season 5a  Season 5c-->

As season five continues, we see the trend strengthen—this is a season with a strong, interconnected, overarching plot. So where previous seasons have more “stand-out” episodes than five, this season is stronger. The theme of Buffy maturing and coming to terms with her calling grows. She is no longer the slayer because she has been told so, but because she is coming to terms with what that means to her. Looking at the next six episodes, here is some of what we learn:

Episode six, “Family”



Tara has given subtle hints this season that not all is right with her, and in this episode we get to see what is wrong. She is about to have THE birthday, the one where—in her family—women develop their demon half. So she is part demon, she is a bad guy and everyone is about to find out. To make matters worse, her family has shown up to take her home where she can be controlled and hopefully not fulfill her evil potential. To make matters worse, Tara casts a spell that makes it so her friends can’t see demons. Maybe they won’t discover her guilty secret.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Faith, Love and Hope (Colossians 1:3-8)

[3] We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, [4] since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, [5] because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,
(Colossians 1:3-5 ESV)

This is one of the many places in scripture where we see the pattern of Faith, Love and Hope in the believer’s life. This pattern is too common to simply be a coincidence. In the case of Paul’s writings it seems to be an intentional pattern that he taught everywhere he started churches, that he talked about with the leaders he disciple and trained, and—as in this case—that he highlighted for churches he had not yet met.

Faith in Jesus is what brings us into a right relationship with God and changes who we are. Love for each other is what characterizes the new creation we are, what governs our behavior and relationships. Hope for the future God has planned for us—both here in time and later in eternity—is what helps us to stand firm in the many trials and difficulties that God’s people face in life.

The rest of this letter to the Colossians will—just like Ephesians—follow this pattern of teaching. Look for it as you read this epistle and the other writings of Paul as well.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cars 2: Somebody Keep Me from Driving Off This Cliff!


The latest film from Pixar Animation Studios, Cars 2, is in some regards exactly what we have come to expect from the company: it is visually stunning and entertaining. However, it does make this fan of the studio a little nervous about the future. Not that it has to be as bad as it looks. After all, we have had a Cars 2-like film from Pixar before, um… called “Cars,” and things turned out alright.

This is worse though, for several reasons. Cars 2 is a sequel. Sure, not the first sequel from Pixar, but Toys 2 was forced upon them by Disney and they really worked to make it a worthwhile story. Cars 2 looks to be a move to cash in on the studios most easily endorsable effort thus far and it is not the exception but the trend setter. Monsters Inc has a prequel coming next year and there are other plans to tap into the previous films. Of all the films to start the sequel trend, Cars was Pixar’s worst film (on a Pixar scale, to be sure) so far.

The pre-film short was also a cause for worry. Up until now, Pixar has used the short to push the boundaries of animation and experiment. This time around, we get the tie-in short that we would usually see on the DVD release of the previous film.

All this adds up to Pixar becoming the big corporate property of Disney and no longer the young, independent force in storytelling that we have come to expect. Pixar has had a film in the NonModern top ten, often in the top 3, for all of the past years they released a film save one—in 2006 when the first Cars came out.

Hopefully, Brave will put my fears to rest, and Monsters University will be more of a Toy Story 2 than a Cars 2.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Yard Lessons 2

When we moved from Germany to Austria, we decided to get rid of our old, small grill. (The fact that it finally, fell off its own legs had something to do with that decision.) However, having a yard and loving to grill, we decided we needed to buy another one. It was the perfect time too. Being mid-summer and the weather already turning a little cool, the stores were knocking down the prices on all their grills. So we chose the biggest one we could get for the least amount of money and we were set to go…

…Aside from the fact that we still had to build the thing. This grill came as disassembled as it could. There were not any two pieces already attached. To make matters worse, there were no instructions. Well, unless you count a drawing of the grill in a state of explosion, with every piece drawn just sort of separated from the other pieces it should be attached to. And there was no indication of how many pieces there were, or which of the various screws should be used to attach the various pieces together.

It was doable. I was particularly proud of the fact that I never once had to take any pieces apart, and I got it assembled on the first try. It just took patience, study, planning and care.

Contrary to what a lot of believers think, that is a lot like what the Christian life is like. The Bible, by design, is an instruction book that often does not give a step by step outline to every aspect of life. There is a right way to live, and God does reveal that to us, but it takes a bit of study and care, and some trial and error at times to go through life the way God wants. Instead of waiting paralyzed for the next explicit instruction regarding which foot to put forward, many Christians need to step out in faith and live for God unafraid of making a mistake here or there.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Yard Lessons 1

For the next year we will be having a bit of a luxury (for Europe) in the form of a yard. As a result, I went out and bought a couple of “luxury items” that go with my idea of a yard: a grill (my little grill finally died back in Germany) and a Badminton set. We thought about croquet, but it was a little too luxurious for our pocket book and the short season that a yard is usable in these parts. As with anything in the thinking person’s life, these purchases served to teach us some things…

Badminton is a great game for a family with kids. It is relatively easy to play, it does not require a whole lot of space, the equipment is cheap and you don’t really need to have an elaborate court or room like some of the other racquet sports require. Basically, as in our case, you simply hand your four kids each a racquet and turn them loose. Or so I thought.

The easy game is only easy in relation to tennis or racquetball. It still requires a certain mastery of skills and a little patience while learning those skills. That is where our problem began. One of our children had an idea of how one should hit the shuttlecock, and it wasn’t working. Instead of taking advice or letting anyone show him how to do it, he repeatedly attempted to do it his way to no avail. Repeatedly. We’re talking dozens of attempts. All the while he got more and more frustrated and angry. He was in danger of deciding he hated this stupid game.

That is a perfect picture of human nature. We often never realize our potential in certain areas of life because we think things should come naturally or that they appear easily done only to discover that we cannot do them our first time around. The question that will determine how our lives proceed after that discovery is: will we allow ourselves to learn, or give up deciding we are simply not cut out for that particular task.

Worse are the people who try something, do it wrong but achieve a modicum of success and decide that that is simply the way they will do a task. It is their way. In Christian ministry this can be especially bad, because a person often confuses calling with gifting and think that they do not have to learn or improve upon their “natural” way of doing anything. There are a lot of pastors, teachers, and church planters out there convinced that they are doing things the way God intends them too who have never bothered to be teachable or achieve their full potential.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Colossians: Outline

Here is the working outline that will be used here for the meditations and posts on the Epistle to the Colossians:

The Person of Christ and the Believer’s Walk in Christ

Introduction (1:1,2) post

1. Opening Greetings (1:1, 2)

I. Thanksgiving, Prayer and Hymn: Teaching about Christ (1:3-23)

2. Thanksgiving for the Colossian Saints; for their Faith, Love and Hope. (1:3-8) post

3. Prayer for their knowledge of God’s will, and a walk worthy of the Person of Christ the Lord. (1:9-23) post post

II. Paul’s Apostolic Ministry (1:24-2:7) post

4. Paul’s suffering is in service of the Body of Christ everywhere. (1:24-2:5)

5. So they are to walk in Christ. (2:6,7)

III. False Teaching and Its Antidote (2:8-3:4)

6. Live according to Christ, not philosophy, empty deception and traditions of men. (2:8-15)

7. Religious practice and symbolism does not compare to the reality and substance of Christ. (2:16-19) post

8. Having died to the sinful world, why follow legalistic attempts to control sin? (2:20-23) post illustration

9. Having been raised with Christ, set your mind on heavenly things. (3:1-4)

IV. The Christian Life (3:5-4:6)

10. Put off the old, worldly way of life. (3:5-11) post

11. Put on the things of Christ: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, love, peace, and the word of Christ. (3:12-17) post

12. Practice the “Household Rules” of love and submission in Christ-like relationships. (3:18-4:1) post

13. “Devote yourselves to prayer” and live wisely in the world. (4:2-6) post

V. Personal Notes (4:7-17) post

14. Personal affairs and arrangements. (4:7-9)

15. Greetings from fellow servants. (4:10-17)

Conclusion (4:18)

16. Final Greeting and Benediction. (4:18)
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