Sunday, March 30, 2014

A story, A moive, An outrage The New 52 #14

So it seems like every person with a pulpit has an opinion on this Noah movie. So for what its worth here are my 2 cents. I'm really hoping that this is a little more of a fair and unbiased "review" of the movie. Let me being with this. I'm a fan of Aronofsky. I first saw Pi when I was in high school and I was hooked. I think The Wrestler is an amazing piece of story telling about the ungraceful aging of athletes and what it means to lose ones identity. I've been waiting for this movie since I first heard about it's concept, I believe some time around The Passion of the Christ.  Also I believe the story of Noah is a historical account of judgment, mercy, and grace. A story I love yet one that I never do justice to because its ingrained in my brain as a brightly colored children's book.

Now on to the movie.
I really like Aronofsky's work as a story teller and artist but this movie simple wasn't his best. The movie relied heavily on some real lame cg. I mean it seriously looked like it should have been on Syfy. That's right a multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster with the same kind of special effects as Sharknado. While the story had some really interesting meta-arcs it is ultimately held back by some predictable, contrived and clich├ęd story tropes. (The crazy-magical old man, the over protective mother, the fallen faithful, wickedness man abusing nature.)

Oh yeah it wasn't really that accurate and lets face it no one is surprised by this. Hollywood can't even retell a classic story, looking at you Peter Jackson and everyone involved with X-men Origins: Wolverine (I promise that is the last time I'm going to acknowledge that movie exist), without adding and subtracting from it. What is funny is the weird things they went out of their way to add, magical rocks that  burst into flame; a piece of fruit that looked like a beating heart, and the simple details they left out or changed. FYI props for including the waters from within the earth. It wasn't just rain ya'll. I mean seriously Noah ate meat and sacrificed animals. If they could have just presented this as an epic myth and distanced themselves from the name Noah it would have a completely different reception but then again controversy creates cash.

With all that said there are some things that I really appreciated from the filmmakers. I believe that there were  also some elements we as Christians can use to help us reclaim the truth of the story from the pastel walls of the nursery room. I like how they referred to God as "the Creator" considering that this was the biggest way God had revealed himself in the Genesis account thus far. Also big kudos to them for really holding on to the whole image of God stuff especially in the face of evolutional creation. I like how the ark was a big square box. I loved how they camped out on the idea that all men, even Noah, were wicked which is something that we need to reclaim from misunderstanding. In fact I really like the character of Noah a lot. I mean who single mindedly followed the creator even when it would have been easier not to and struggled heavily with the consequences. PTSD anyone? I like how they emphasized that the flood was a punishment of wicked man which is often something we lose as we remember Sunday school story time. The other  two big things I'd like to see reclaimed from the story besides the previously mentioned wickedness of all is that 1) the flood was an amazingly horrifically violent event; the amount of life lost is simply unimaginable of course Noah was messed up, everyone outside of his lineage was dead. 2) That sin has a wide effect. All though 2 of each animal were preserved to carry on countless were killed. People were killed regardless of an "age of innocence or accountability" or the mental capacities to understand wrong doing. Our sin effects our neighbors and our children we forget that often.

God was Just in wiping it all out, he was merciful by allowing a remnant, and he was gracious because he picked an unworthy man to build a box.

ps. they really could have used a giraffe.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The new 52 #13 (yes its still a thing)

This is a something I just wrote for Melissa. In the process of forging one life out of two friction happens. In these I need to be reminded just how much I need and love my wife. She is a treasure I don't deserve. She doesn't even know about it because she is sleeping in the other room. Its going to be a little surprise in the morning. I'm sorry baby.

When I said “I do” what I really meant to say is

I'll do my best to give you my all.
I'll sacrifice myself so that you won't have too.
I'll do all I can to provide for us.
I'll fight for this marriage in-spite of myself.
I'll say I'm sorry as soon as it hits me I need to.
I'll say I'm sorry a lot but mean it every time.
I'll set you up for success.
I'll take the blame for failing.
I'll sleep in the guest room because you need space.
I'll grovel at you feet when I forget to treat you with respect.
I'll need forgiveness daily.
I'll push the limits of your grace.
I won't every get being married figured out.
I'll love you more today than yesterday.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Hey you, You're cancer. The New 52 #12

(caveat this is ruff and barely edited but also the only way I was every going to pick this back up, sorry Jenna don't judge me too harshly)
How strange would it be if a doctor walked up to one of their patients and said that they were cancer, not that they have cancer, or are infected with cancer but that their identity is tied in to their cancer. Its a crazy idea right?
To label a person's identity to an infection they carry around. Yet if your going to label someone by their infection  you can understand cancer right. I mean cancer is so unpredictable and invasive. It consumes and destroys those that have; and while it may go into remission there is always that fear that it might come back, that it never really went away. In many cases cancer seems hopeless. While identifying some one as cancer may seem ridiculous think about sin.
Sin is a lot like cancer. Sin is invasive and consuming. It destroys things we love and hold dear. Its unrelenting and always waiting for us. Sin is hopeless. Sin, like cancer, is also an unnatural thing. While cancer is a mutation in health cells, sin is a mutation in our souls.
Yet so many time we have very little problem labeling some one a sinner. How many times have you heard some one begin a gospel presentation with "You're a sinner." We have no problem labeling ourselves as sinners, in fact its so easy for us it is mockingly called "worm theology"
 As humans we weren't designed to sin. While we may be born into sin, we aren't born to sin. We are designed to share in the likeness of God, to bear his image and radiate his glory. We are more than a hopeless walking infection, we are image barriers. From time to time we may sin, or live a life of sin, the good news is that we are more than our sin. There is a remedy to our infection and it is the person and work of Jesus. Through him we can be health, we can be made right, be made whole.

The world may be sick but there is a cure. We are so much more than the thing that ail us.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Sinful Justice The New 52 #11

What did you expect, scales?
  I like to think of myself as a man who loves justice. If you asked my family they would agree. During a recent contest between us all, I was the one that was easily the most strict person when it came to adhering to the rules. I love justice because God loves justice. In Micah 6:8 he says it is one of the few things that he requires from us and yet justice isn't always easy.
It is easy to dispense justice when you are the one wronged. As a boy, I remember when I got to spank my brother because he allowed me to be spanked for his crime. It was such sweet justice to be the one welding the paddle. In a perfect world, justice would always be easy because we'd always be in the right. But this isn't a perfect world.
We are in a world tainted by sin and wrong doing. Even ones who love justice, like me, do wrong things. A few weeks ago I made a series of poor choices the culminated with me sitting on the side of the road receiving a ticket. As I sat there waiting for the officer to finish up his task I couldn't help but put my love of justice aside and pray for mercy. I wanted so badly to be let off with just a warning, something less just than I deserved, but all I could thing of was the rest of Micah 6:8... to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.

Mercy shouldn't be something we long to receive, it should be something we desire to show. Just likehow justice isn't about handing out punishment to those that have wronged you, as much as it is about admitting your wrong doing to others and accepting the punishment. Because when we walk humbly with God, it begins with Him showing us mercy by giving us grace for justice.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Magic and the Prayer of Jabez The New 52 #10

While I was growing up a book was written and an empire spawned off a single verse. That verse was 1st Chronicles 4:10. The verse tells about a man named Jabez who prayed a prayer and God granted it to him. From that one verse nine books and a worship experience were created. The main point of the book was a challenge to pray Jabez's prayer for yourself everyday and watch as God would honor it. It was of course a best seller. Not long after that I remember movements in churches based of 2 Chronicles 7:14, possibly sparked from a certain song. When I got to college I was told about this thing called the "prosperity gospel" that was growing like wildfire in Latin America and lower sociology-economic groups. Along with that was the rise of the "feel good gospel", that preached that God wanted you to be happy, successful, and wealthy. It found its home in mega churches that didn't say the word sin and spoke more about living a good life then following God. The problem of all these thoughts is that they claim to have some sort of power over God. If you pray this special prayer, or do these certain things, then God is obligated to act in a certain way. That's why these thoughts are so popular. It turns Christianity into some sort of magical superstition were we have control over the powers of the universe.

When we buy into this, we forget who God is. I, along with a large number of scholars, believe Job was the first book of the Bible recorded. In it we see God's dealing with a just man. The final chapters of the book are made up of God's reply to Job's questions regarding his circumstances. God never answers Job, instead he reminds Job who He is. He gives Job Himself. God reminds Job that He is the creator and Job is the creation. In response to this Job repents. The first recorded book of the Bible serves to remind us that we don't have some special power over God, and that He doesn't owe us anything. Also, that we can't manipulate Him into doing our will. When we do our dealings with God, we need to remember that we are His and it is not the other way around.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Being Grafted In The New 52 #9

This past weekend Melissa and I were invited to attended a church with some friends. It was different. It met in an elementary school lunch room. They meet on a Saturday nights. Not only was it different but it was small and familar. I wasn't sure what I was doing, but the Spirit inside me did. As soon as we walked in we were met at the door. We weren't just greeted, but welcomed and brought in like family. It was like being a part of the same body. After the service ended, we were invited to share in the traditional post service ritual of eating out at the usual spot. It was an awesome time of fellowship. I'm sure that if any one was watching our group they would never have know that we had just meet a couple of hours earlier.

The week before that a dear friend came to visit us for a week. I marveled at how well she was brought into the family, from being spurred on to participate in her first Easter egg hunt, to being forced to find her hidden basket. Our family brought her in and made her their own. I was so proud to be a part of that.

I guess the trick about grafting a plant is that both stems need to be cut. It takes openness and willingness from both sides, one to embrace and one to be embraced, to make Spirit-led community happen. Have you been greeted and grafted in?  Are you willing to open yourself up to the lives of others?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Is grace gray? The New 52 #8

My wife and I have a special place in our hearts for the show Les Miserables. We have seen the Broadway production twice, own the movie and I think two copies of the book. My favorite character is Javert. I love how he is black and white. He sees himself as the law and as such things are either legal or illegal. To him it doesn't matter why a person broke the law but simply that the law was broken. He is summed up in this quote "Save your breath and save your tears, Honest work. Just reward. That's the way to please the Lord." He is a pharisee; plain and simple, some one who loves the law. The saddest thing about his character is that in his zeal for the law there is no room for grace. In fact when he is shown grace he can't understand it and is incapable of handling it. His only recourse was to deny the grace Val Jean extended him, and take his own life.
This has got me thinking about grace. As we seek to make more of grace, must our worldview become less black and white? Does embracing grace decrease the firmness with which we can stand? I don't know what those answers are... but I do know that the more I learn to embrace grace, the more grace must change me. The more I must rely on it. The more I must draw on it. The more grace must change how I interact with the world around me.