Friday, January 31, 2014

R2D2 (Star Wars Character Thoughts)

More Thoughts: Intro, C3PO, R2D2, Qui-Gon, Obi Wan, Anakin, Padme, Han, Chewy, The Emperor, Yoda, Vader, Luke

We all love R2D2. Perhaps it is because he is little and cute and makes funny noises. Maybe it is the way he argues with C3PO (and everyone else) or the funny stubbornness he exhibits. He is always in the right place at the right time and, even though it is his function to do so, he always seems to be able to overcome normal odds to fix any technological problem.

In the original films, he is always one step ahead of his counterpart. He has been given a special mission—whether it is to find Obi-Wan or to spring a trap on Jaba the Hutt or whatever—and he is going to accomplish it despite any hurdles or snags in the way. His extraordinary determination is especially visible in is introduction in “The Phantom Menace.” When he first appears in the overarching storyline, he is just one of many repair droids on Amidala’s ship. However, where all the others fail in an effort to repair damage to the ship, and are destroyed in the attempt, R2 survives and astounds the pilots with his unconventional solution. From that point on, R2 is a constant companion to our heroes. And he does not just provide solutions to technical issues. He seems to genuinely care for his masters, and exhibits a loyalty and self-sacrifice that is odd in a machine—albeit an intelligent one.

And that is what makes R2D2 a special and beloved character. He does not see himself as a tool designed to fulfill a function. He goes above and beyond that function to find purpose. He takes on the mission presented to him. He cares about the people in his life and fights for them and the good in their cause, without regard for the limitations of his programing or the safety of his own existence.

R2D2 is more than just a cute, cool character we all love and for whom we should root. He is a great example and a character we could all use for inspiration. Life is so much more than function. It is not just a series of impulses and drive that we slavishly follow. We have a purpose and plan to fulfill.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

C3PO (Star Wars Character Thoughts)

More Thoughts: Intro, C3PO, R2D2, Qui-Gon, Obi Wan, Anakin, Padme, Han, Chewy, The Emperor, Yoda, Vader, Luke

The first characters we are introduced to in the Star Wars universe, back in 1977, were the droids. R2D2 and C3PO are the characters we are meant to identify with in the sense that they are the ordinary “little” people caught up in epic events. C3PO more than R@ really embodies this role. Lucas was inspired to create these guys after viewing an Akira Kurosawa film that was a grand story told through the eyes of a couple, comical servant types. In fact, the way Lucas got away from this perspective in the prequels has a lot to do with what is lacking in the newer films.

C3PO is a good reminder that history is full of us “little” people. It is literally made up of common men thrust into uncommon circumstances. It is only through stories that certain people rise to the status of heroes, and even then normal, everyday folk have important roles to play in the big events of history. Without C3PO, Luke and Ben would have never hooked up, and our story would have turned out very different, if at all.

All along the way we laugh at the silliness, the fearfulness, and the small-mindedness C3PO spouts. In part that is because he is funny, but also because we know how he feels. We identify with him. Later on when Lucas tries to create a new “comic-relief” in the form of Jar Jar Binks, we hate him. Not because C3PO is less silly, but because Jar Jar is not annoyingly common but just annoying. In C3PO we have an ordinary “little” man rising to the occasion and doing his part to help move things forward. He is even courageous in his own way. Jar Jar literally blunders his way into helping. Dumb luck is not inspiring.

We all dream of being heroes in the stories we embody, but there is no shame in the fact that we are more often C3POs. In any event, we are usually “little,” but if we handle ourselves well we can aspire to be like him.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Star Wars Character Thoughts Intro...

More Thoughts: Intro, C3PO, R2D2, Qui-Gon, Obi Wan, Anakin, Padme, Han, Chewy, The Emperor, Yoda, Vader, Luke

Sometime in my late teens before I left home for college I began to see the philosophical and downright religious indoctrination that the Star Wars mythos was attempting to disseminate and I declared I was done with the franchise. Looking back on this now I am amazed at how my parents handled the declaration. They didn’t try to reason with me or change my mind. They didn’t point out that I was overreacting or try to show me a more positive way to interact with differing points of view. They let me have my moment, likely knowing that my opinions and maturity would change in its own time.

In the intervening years the mythos has grown and my opinions have changed. I own all the movies and watch them with my kids. I dislike the new films and some of the changes they introduced. My love of the originals has lessened somewhat. “The Force” has gone from being an insidious religious idea to being a silly idea involving symbiotic beings on a cellular level that makes no sense. Most importantly, I now approach these myths differently. I see stories like Star Wars and others as an opportunity to dialogue with people about philosophy, life and spiritual realities.

My boys and I got the Star Wars itch last week-end and we watched all six films in two days. This time around I noticed a whole slew of sub-plots and lessons to be learned on a character level. The result is a series of about ten or eleven insights based on the Star Wars characters.

More to come…

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Community (Season 3) Part 3

Episode 12: Contemporary Impressionists 

A bit of a set-up episode for the second half of this genius season. Jeff has been prescribed an anti-anxiety drug that causes his narcissism to go unchecked. The whole group has to impersonate celebrities to pay off a debt Abed owes to a celebrity impersonator company. Jeff’s journey learning to care about others has a bit of a breakthrough in this episode, and Evil Abed makes his first appearance in the primary reality.

Episodes 13 & 14: Digital Exploration of Interior Design/Pillows and Blankets 

The first episode in this two-parter has some interesting satire about out of control corporate politics. It is the second episode, however, that is one of the handful of perfect Community episodes. It is a perfect imitation of a Ken Burns documentary, but still manages to tell a compelling story in its own right, and remain hilarious.

Episode 15: Origins of Vampire Mythology 

Not so much about anything having to do with vampires or vampire mythology, but this is a story about the way some people seem to effortlessly control others. The secret: we seem to secretly want others to disdain us the way we do ourselves. We work hard to earn a love we can never atain from people who will never love us. That is a way we all exhibit our stupidity.

Episode 16: Virtual Systems Analysis 

This episode is a bit convoluted, exploring the interpersonal relations in the community of the study group.

Episode 17: Basic Lupine Urology 

Another amazing send-up, this time of Law and Order.

Episodes 18 & 19: Course Listing Unavailable/Curriculum Unavailable 

The group manages to get themselves kicked out as Chang makes a play to become a dictator of the school. It is a satire of all the crazy dictatorships through history. What is brilliant here is the way the second episode plays with that TV series trope where we are led to believe everything we have seen has all been in the characters minds. It is played perfectly, and then turned on its head the way this story-line always should be. The never-before-seen flashbacks are great.

Episode 20: Digital Estate Planning 

This episode was a fail.

Episode 21: First Change Dynasty 

The Heist, Community-style.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mark Outline Part 2

I. Introduction 1:1-115

1. Title Statement 1:1
2. John’s Ministry 1:2-8
3. Jesus’ Baptism 1:9-11
4. Jesus’ Temptation 1:12, 13
5. John Arrested, Jesus’ Ministry Begins 1:14, 15

II. The Public Ministry 1:16-8:26

A. Authority “New Wine” 1:16-3:12
1. “Fishers of Men” [A Disciple Story] 1:16-20
2. Jesus heals a possessed man. [Authority in teaching] 1:21-28
3. Jesus heals many sick. [Authority over natural maladies] 1:29-39
4. Jesus heals a leper. [Authority over supernatural maladies] 1:40-45
5. Jesus heals a paralytic. [Authority over sin] 2:1-12
6. The Calling of Levi [Jesus came for sinners] 2:13-17
7. Question about Fasting [Jesus brings a new message] 2:18-22
8. Question about Sabbath [Jesus is Lord over tradition] 2:23-28
9. [A note of rejection] 3:1-6
10. [A summary of ministry] 3:7-12

B. Teaching “The Kingdom” 3:13-6:6
1. “The Appointment of the Twelve” [A Disciple Story] 3:13-19
2. “Kingdoms and Family” [God’s people hear Him.] 3:20-35
3. Parable: The Sower [The Gospel is heard variously] 4:1-20
4. Parable: The Lamp [God’s people spread the Gospel] 4:21-25
5. Parable: Growth [The mystery of the Gospel] 4:26-29
6. Parable: Mustard Seed [The impact of the Gospel] 4:30-34
7. Jesus stills a storm. [Authority over natural realm] 4:35-41
8. The Gerasine Demoniac [Authority over supernatural realm] 5:1-20
9. Two more healings [Authority over death] 5:21-43
10. [A note of rejection] 6:1-6a
11. [A summary of ministry] 6:6b

C. Mission “The Call” 6:7-8:26
1. “The Mission of the Twelve” [A Disciple Story] 6:7-13
2. “The Death of John” 6:14-29
3. “The Feeding of the 5,000” 6:30-44
4. “Walking on Water” 6:45-52
5. Jesus heals many sick. 6:53-56
6. “Tradition and Defilement” 7:1-23
7. “The Syrophoenician Woman” 7:24-30
8. “The Deaf-Mute” 7:31-37
9. “The Feeding of the 4,000” 8:1-9
10. The Leaven of the Pharisees [A note of rejection] 8:10-21
11. The Blind man in Bethsaida [A summary of ministry] 8:22-26

III. The Passion 8:27-16:8

A. The Road to the Cross “The Cost of Discipleship” 8:27-10:52
1. The First Passion Prediction
“WHO AM I?” Peter’s Confession at Caesarea Philippi. 8:27-30
The 1st passion prediction; Jesus rebukes the disciples.8:31-33
The cost of discipleship, “take up your cross.” 8:34-38
2. The Transfiguration
Jesus meets Elijah and Moses on the mountain. 9:1-8
Jesus explains the prophecy to Peter, James, and John. 9:9-13
3. A Possession Requiring Prayer 9:14-29
4. The Second Passion Prediction
The 2nd passion prediction; disciples don’t understand. 9:30-32
Greatness in the Kingdom. 9:33-37
Competition in the Kingdom. 9:38-41
Hindrances into the Kingdom. 9:42-48
Saltiness. 9:49,50
5. Teaching on Marriage and Divorce 10:1-12
6. Blessing the Children 10:13-16
7. Riches
The Rich Young Ruler. 10:17-22
The impossibility of entering the Kingdom. 10:23-27
Sacrifices for the Kingdom’s sake. 10:28-31
8. The Third Passion Prediction
The 3rd passion prediction. 10:32-34
Service in the Kingdom. 10:35-45
9. Blind Bartimaeus 10:46-52

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Leaven of the Pharisees (Mark 7:31-8:26)

In this section we continue to see Jesus perform a lot of miracles among Gentiles, a deaf-mute, another feeding of a crowd… Upon His return to the Jewish territory, the Pharisees demand a sign from Him. This seems laughable in light of all we have seen Jesus doing. However, we aren’t much different today. Many a Christian has bemoaned the fact that God doesn’t just show Himself clearly. People would believe if they could just see.

The fact is, they wouldn’t. First off, just as in Jesus’s day, faith is required first to see what is going on in the Kingdom. In Jesus day, faith was required for the healings and miracles to occur. Secondly, faith with seeing—proof—isn’t faith at all. The Pharisees were not men of faith. They were religious. They followed teachings, traditions, and other men. Many Christians today are no different.

The danger of the leaven of the Pharisees is the danger of unbelief; religious unbelief. The Disciples didn’t have this problem. Their problem was lack of clarity; they didn’t get what Jesus was about. But they did have faith. Today we lay more value on understanding than faith. We flirt dangerously with pursuing an acceptable religion rather than pursuing a deeper relationship with Christ walking in a growing faith.

The final miracle in this section illustrates that need. As believers, our faith should grow. We go from a myopic understanding to clarity as we are touched by Christ. We need to seek that touch on a daily basis. Whenever we are comfortable in our understanding of who God is, we need to ask ourselves what we are missing.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Oscar Nom Thoughts:

I am used to being disappointed with the Oscar announcements each year, both because I usually am let down about what didn’t make the list and don’t like a lot that did. This is the first year in a long time, though, where I have yet to see ANY of the major players. Even worse, there are some I have no intention of seeing, alongside others I am merely willing to see. There are just a couple I for which have anything approximating an interest

First, those I won’t be seeing. I have problems with the way these “true stories” are being presented:

“The Wolf of Wall Street”
“Captain Philips”

Then there are those that could be great, but look like a lot of work to get through:

“Dallas Buyers Club”
“12 Years a Slave”

A couple look interesting, and I usually like these directors, but am fearing let-down more than usual:


Finally, the two I am genuinely interested in seeing:

“American Hustle”

We’ll see how invested I manage to be in the ceremony this year…

"Keeping Mum" (2005)

A subversively dark comedy came and went back in 2005-2006 without much fanfare. Its anonymity is not surprising, both due to the dark subject matter as well as brief, unnecessary, miss-them-if-you-blink nude shots and harsh language. It is one of those unfortunate R ratings that hurt the film’s chances, because it could have been more successful if it changed a mere 9 or 10 words in the script and snipped about 10 frames of film out of the final cut.

That being said, the merits of the film’s message would still be up for debate. The story is summarized pretty simply. A pastor’s family is falling apart right under his nose, but he is too absorbed in his mundane ministry to notice. His wife is on the verge of having an affair with her golf instructor. His teenage daughter seems to be sleeping with every boy her age in their little village. His son is being bullied. It is the perfect set-up for a problem solver like Mary Poppins or Nanny McFee. What we get in this film is a crazy woman who was locked up in a mental hospital for the criminally insane for killing her husband and his lover.

Sure enough, once Grace shows up, things begin to change for the better. The annoying dog across the way disappears. The bullies are taken out. Any threat to the family seems to suddenly go away. Grace also helps the family see the things they have been missing, particularly the father. His sermon on “The Mysterious Ways of God” really comes together as he comes to accept the unfathomable ways of God’s Grace.

All summed up this film is not as funny as it could be, and in many ways too dark to really work. Plus, no one wants to go so far as to have this take on God’s sovereignty working our lives out using the evil aspects to His purposes.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Community (Season 3) Part 2

Season 3 of Community is strong not only for the funny comedy, sharp satire, and pop-culture inside jokes. It has some great philosophical, almost spiritual concerns that it addresses. Carrying on from the look at the book-end episodes last week, we see some more material worthy of interaction:

Episode 2: Geography of Global Conflict

Annie’s competitive nature is awoken when another student steals her idea for a student UN. The competing United Nations must vie for existence. Annie’s wins when Abed thinks outside the box and takes cooperation to a whole new level.

Episode 3: Competitive Ecology

A bit of a scatter-brained episode, but it does finish on a well edited montage of coalescing story lines.

Episode 4: Remedial Chaos Theory

A die is cast at a house-warming party for Troy and Abed, and with it seven different storylines are born. We are introduced to “The darkest of timelines” that will make appearances from time to time as the series goes forward. It is one of the most entertaining alternate universe stories I’ve seen. It highlights the aspect of the importance of our choices in life.

Episode 5: Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps 

Brita has reason to suspect that one of the group is a homicidal maniac, and has them tell scary stories to see if she can suss out which one of them is. It turns out she had simply ran the personality tests through the grader incorrectly. Once she does it the right way they discover only one of them is really sane: Abed. This is a wonderful insight into the series, since Abed is the slightly strange character who thinks they are all a part of a TV show.

Episode 6: Advanced Gay 

The show has always poked fun at homosexuality. This gay-themed episode is all about “Daddy Issues.” Somewhat appropriate.

Episode 7: Studies in Modern Movement 

Annie moves in with Abed and Troy to escape her dangerous neighborhood. Along the way she learns that the deeper a friendship grows, the more challenging it becomes.

Episode 8: Documentary Filmmaking Redux 

A humorous study of artists and the obsession to communicate our ideas to the world. More often than not our message is not nearly as strong as our desire to be heard.

Episode 10: Regional Holiday Music 

One of the best episodes of the series, this season’s Christmas episode is all about the evils of Glee Club culture. Harmless fun, or is it?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Religion Fail (Mark 7:1-30)

Here we see three accounts that Mark shares to develop a theme about tradition, defilement and the true way through our sinful natures to God. I prefer to think of this topic in terms of religion, the problem of the Human condition and what the real solution to our problem is. (Since religion is not the answer.)

First we see Jesus confronted by His greatest naysayers, the Pharisees. They confront Him on the fact that He and His disciples do not conform to the religious practices of the day. They are not carefully and symbolically cleansing themselves before they eat. In doing so, the disciples are not breaking Mosaic Law, but they are not following the traditional rules that had developed over the years to help people avoid error. (Or simply to control people further, depending on how you look at it.) Jesus certainly shared the latter perspective. He accused the religious leaders of forgetting the spirit of the law, even worse, they were teaching man’s laws as those of God. Whatever was in their own best interest; that is what they would teach.

Later Jesus addressed the other side of the religious problem. Rules and laws are all set up to avoid sin—to avoid defiling one’s self with wrong. Sort of like the old Baptist stereotype that calls dancing wrong. Such rules are not set up to avoid actual wrong, but rather the stuff that leads to wrongdoing. Jesus argues that sin does not affect us from the outside; it is already in us. We are the source of sin. There are not sinful foods that corrupt us, we hold the source of corruption within.

This fail—the Religion Fail—has been around longer than actual sin. In Genesis we see evidence on man’s attempt to protect himself from wrongdoing by creating additional rules. Adam is told the one rule by God in the garden, but by the time Adam has taught Eve about the rule, we see she is led to believe that touching the tree would be just as bad as eating it. Good intentions on Adam’s part to be sure. If Eve never touches the tree, the she won’t be able to eat from it. The problem is, once she does touch it without any consequences, how can she trust the validity of the actual rule?

Christians today are often little better than the Pharisees of Jesus’s day. It is often easier to judge one’s progress as a disciple by ticking off lists (Did you pray before every meal? Did you read your Bible every day) than actually being introspective (Am I consciously living the presence of God? Am I learning from God and obeying what I learn?). It is certainly easier to hide from sin than it is to engage the culture with truth and love.

Mark caps off this portion of His story with a seemingly strange account. The Syrophoenician’s woman request and Jesus’s reaction is—on the surface—hard to reconcile with the rest of the Gospel story. However, it does help when it is seen in this context. God set up a religion, not to rescue people through a list of conduct regulations, but to expose our sin problem. Jesus’s mission on Earth—beyond dying to pay humanity’s sin penalty—was to advance the revelation of God’s plan through His chosen people. However, this woman’s faith is a perfect illustration of faith’s success in the face of Religion’s failure.

Our rules cannot save us. They don’t protect us from the sin in our hearts. They don’t make us any more acceptable to a holy and just God. But our faith and trust in God succeeds where our rules don’t

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Missional Reading

On my FAQ list of things people can do to be more Missional, one of the higher positions is reserved for, “What should I be reading as a ‘missional believer’?”

Here are three types of reading material one should (or shouldn’t) be reading:

1. The Bible (duh)

It seems obvious that a Bible believer should read the Bible. Unfortunately that is not the case. If it were, more Christians would be reading. Instead, Christians tend to read “Christian” fiction, self-help books, or conservative political pundits. Even when they say they are reading their Bibles, what they are really reading are devotional books. (Books collecting the thoughts of other Christians who used to read the Bible.) Or, if they are really serious, academic works. (Books that tell Christians what a secular study and deconstruction of the text means.)

2. What the Culture is Reading

If you want to impact a culture, you have to know what it is thinking. Once again, obvious. However, most Christians avoid the “world” like the plague. They prefer to read sanitized, poor imitations of the popular art of their day. Preferable with sermons introduced in the ill-conceived hope that some non-Christian will accidentally read it and get saved. Actually, this is probably better since so many Christians are not reading the first item on this list. Without a clear understanding of what they believe, they are likely to mistake something like “The Hunger Games” as inspirational pre-teen literature instead of the cultural gauge that it is.

3. Christian Profession How-To’s by current Christian Celebrity Pastors.

We read the material that the people we want to talk to are reading. If you want more than anything else to interact with pastors, missionaries and other Christian professionals; then read the stuff they are reading. If you want to BE Missional and interact with non-believers, then don’t. (At least not until such a book has been around for a couple of decades and people are still singing its praises. Anything more recent than that is likely already yesterday’s news.)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Oldboy" (2003)

“Oldboy” is a work that flirts with merely being a piece of (well crafted) shock art. Like a really well made crucifix placed in a fine toilet. It is truly well made film, but those are a dime a dozen these days. What has launched this film into the stratosphere of well-respected films is likely just that fact that it is dark. Very dark.

Spoilers ahead, but you have either already seen this film or you don’t want to. Trust me. “Oldboy” is the story of a man kidnapped and held prisoner for 15 years in a room. When released his whole life is driven by the desire to find his captor and avenge himself. That, and an unexplainable relationship he quickly starts with a young girl. Turns out, he had been kidnapped, held prisoner and been hypnotized to fall in love with… his grown daughter. She too had been hypnotized. This whole over-the-top plan to induce incest was in itself revenge for something the man had done years before. He gossiped about a couple of students he had seen having sex without knowing they were brother and sister, and the girl had later killed herself. Like I said, dark.

What does almost rescue the art here is the way it is a study of the way we are all imprisoned in the cages of our own making. Someone like me—a believer—would call that being a slave to sin. Even the innocent mistakes we make have a huge impact on the people around us. It almost saves it, but doesn’t make it worth the time to subject yourself to this movie. Even if it is on that unwritten list every serious film lover has to see to be taken seriously.

Hollywood remade this film last year. It has no doubt been seriously sanitized, but in many ways that likely makes the American remake even less redeemable.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Community (Season 3) Part 1: The Bookends

As “Community” enters its fifth season, in my usual lagging pace I am preparing to watch the fourth. That led to revisiting highlight episodes from previous seasons this week and I realized that season 3 is an even more cohesive, thematic effort than the first two seasons. It did continue the nods to various film and television genres, but there is a lot of connection and continuation between episodes and most of the characters have a developmental arc throughout the season. This is especially evident when viewing the entire season in quick succession, especially in the bookending episodes that kick-off and end the season:

Episodes 1 & 22: (Bookends) "Biology 101"/"Introduction to Finality"

The theme of the season, according to the main writer/show-runner, was all about the cost of loving others. More than that, there is a theme of unselfish, sacrificial love trumping the cult of self. Especially in the story-arch for character Jeff Winger, the lesson presented is that the self-centered, narcissistic, “looking out for number one” attitude of today’s culture is an empty, unfulfilling lie. In the first episode, we have our familiar Jeff from the first two seasons, more determined than ever to get out of school and back to his “good life.” He is more willing than ever to use others. Even the community of the study group is a means to an end. At first he is willing to throw it away, and only seeks to regain a place in the group when he sees his need for it. It is not the friendships so much as the benefit that draws him to community.

By the end of the season, through all the lessons learned, Jeff reaches an epiphany. In defending Shirley’s ownership of a sandwich shop idea she developed with Pierce earlier in the season (Episode 11: "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts"), he runs the risk of ruining his future. Her response to his dilemma is to tell him to stop. Her rights are not worth him risking his future. Jeff learns that the key to life is to “stop thinking about what is good for you and start thinking about what is good for someone else.”

This epiphany has been coming for some time, and the relationship that solidifies this shift in Jeff is his friendship with Shirley. The moment where this is really seen to start is Episode 9: “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism.” In it Shirley and Jeff bond over foosball, an activity that they both used to love and no longer participate in. Unbeknownst to them, they share the moment that ruined foosball and dramatically changed their lives. For Shirley it meant turning away from being a bully and eventually to her faith in Jesus; for Jeff it was made him determined to be cool and, essentially, a narcissistic pig of a man.

Shirley is the Christian in the study group. What that means comically—and also in the constant examination of the failings of people that the show examines—is that she is prone to be religious and judge everyone around her. But what it also consistently means is that she is the most selfless of the group. She genuinely wants to do good, be good and help others. It is her self-sacrificial example that leads Jeff to learn what real love is all about. At the same time Jeff is learning this lesson, Troy is experiencing a parallel revelation in the Air Conditioning School and the evil Abed from the darkest of timelines (more on that in a later post) is coming to see the good in this, our reality.

That final speech has been posted online.  For some reason it is only on in four 30 second clips:

Monday, January 6, 2014

How Dumb Can You Be? (Mark 6:45-56)

Pretty dumb apparently. There is some comfort in the way Mark reveals the disciples’ utter thick-headedness. These guys were trained by the best, they walked with God incarnate, they were given authority by Jesus and experienced success in ministry that they found astounding themselves, and yet… they kept missing the point.

The comfort here goes beyond the comfort in knowing that, as much as we so often don’t “get it” in our walk with Christ, the twelve disciples—the best of the best—might as well have been worse. We can also rest in the fact that our place in the Kingdom of God is not about our knowledge, understanding, or wisdom. The relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ is all about trust and very little about comprehension.

True, Jesus does want His people to understand the ways of the Kingdom. He did and does teach, after all. And you could never accuse the Bible of having one of those, “It doesn’t matter WHAT you believe just THAT you believe” nonsensical messages. But, when all is said and done, our capacity to grasp all that Jesus is and what God has accomplished is limited, finite and incomplete.

The goal is not to be amongst the most-clever of disciples, but rather amongst the faithful.

Friday, January 3, 2014

"Mud" (2013)

I was told that “Mud” was the best movie of the year by a friend, so I had to go into it with careful expectations.

It is indeed a masterfully crafted piece of art, both as a film and as a story. The cinematography is beautiful. The acting is wonderful. The story is carefully structured and told to convey a message, and it succeeds. The viewer is left thinking about the story and its meaning for days. Unfortunately, the viewer may also be left let down when all is said and done.

The story is all about the dangers of love, as seen in a classic doubling of characters. One is a boy, Ellis, living with his soon to be separating parents in a riverboat. The other is a man, the titular Mud, who seemed to have a similar upbringing and who is now hiding out from the law on that same river. The reason he must hide is that he has killed a man, all for the love of a woman. He has loved this woman since he was the boy’s age. Ellis sees in Mud an ideal of love that he aspires to imitate.

Unfortunately, Ellis also has to learn that the romantic ideals Mud has about love are not practical nor safe. You can love another person completely, sacrificing everything for them, and be left with no love in return. This is not a story of ultimate Love as it superficially may appear, not the Love illustrated in Hosea. This is a very human perspective on love. Mud is not God, faithful to His wandering people. Mud is just a man who, like Ellis, needs to learn to be wiser in relationships.

Maybe I am a hopeless romantic, but that is not the lesson I wanted from this story.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

From a Royal Subject

The enemy of meaning
Is not aimlessness but pride.
We fail not through weakness but
Through lies of self-improvement.
The enemy of grace is
Not judgment but false comfort.
The greatest hurdle to joy
Is not grief but happiness.

What kills vision is not blindness…
but subjectivity.

Don’t settle for excuses,
Education, nor addled
Contentment in your broken
Little principality.
Trade your knowledge for wisdom
And guilt for true forgiveness.
Surrender and become what
You were always meant to be.

Not a puppet head of state but…
a subject of the King

True Kingdom is come, hidden
In this prison camp of war.
One wherein slavery is called
“Freedom” and lust is deemed “love.”
I dwell in that same prison,
But so too in the Kingdom.
No longer prisoner,
No longer slave to so-called “freedom.”

As to kings I have discovered…
my subjectivity.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking at NonModern for 2014

I haven’t given much thought to the next year of blogging, other than it will continue. It has become a good discipline. That being said, I will approach 2014 as I did 2013: no demands for daily or even goals about numbers of posts. I will continue to post regularly about Films new and old, the cultural stories on TV and in the news. I will toss out ideas on Missional ministry, and I will continue to work my way through Mark. That commentary will likely continue into 2015. If I have any goals this year they will be to be more disciplined about poetry and to complete the Deep Space Nine marathon, with hopes of getting into the Original Series.
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