Sunday, August 31, 2008

Who Knew?

Michael Moore believes in God! Honestly, if an evangelical pastor said something like this (and some did after 9/11 and Katrina) they would be absolutely fried over it in the press. But I'm sure Michael Moore will get a free pass.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lars and the Real Girl

Lars and the Real Girl sounded like it would be an interesting movie when I first heard about it, but given the premise, I assumed it would be full of really awkward and gross sexual content. Then my mom told me it was the most amazing movie she had seen in a long, long time. Really, mom? A guy falls in love with a life-size sex doll, and you watched this?

So we put it in the other day and I waited for the cringe moment. And I waited. And I waited. And then I finally gave up and just enjoyed the movie. How Hollywood managed to produce a clean movie about a sex doll I'll never know, but they did it. Hats' off, Hollywood. Now if you could just do something with the other 99% GARBAGE FILMS YOU PRODUCE!!!

The most fascinating aspect of the movie, for me, was that it really felt like a postmodern sermon. At the beginning of the film, Lars goes to the church, and we hear the preacher say something to the effect of, "God wants us to love each other. Love is God in action." And the rest of the film fleshed this idea out. It was a brilliant exposition.

I really don't want to give away any of the plot. So I'll just say, as odd as it sounds, I highly recommend you see this film about a man and his sex toy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Go Buckeyes!

On Monday I took Cyrus to the Buckeyes' open practice at Ohio Stadium. It was the first time we'd been to the stadium together. He learned that the big red O means "Ohio State" and he yelled "Go Buckeyes!" all night. He also enjoyed running around on the bleachers and dumping the $5.50 cup of Sprite on the ground and then playing in the mess. It's a good thing Mommy wasn't there Daddy didn't let him play in the dirty Sprite and cleaned him up right away.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cyrus' Favorite Videos

My 2-year-old son, Cyrus, is totally amped about the drums. He equates church with drums, so of course he loves going to church. He also likes to watch drums on youtube. Here are two of his favorite videos:

A vlog from MUTEMATH regarding their upcoming album

and "You give love a bad name" by Blake Lewis.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm a Grill Master

There, I said it. But anyone who can grill regular store-bought hamburgers that are still juicy and delicious out of the microwave 3 days later is an official grill master. I am that man.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Everything is the Most Important Thing in the World

When you hear about the sex trade and child prostitution, what do you do? When you hear about human slavery, what do you do? When you hear about the AIDS pandemic, what do you do? When you hear about global poverty and starvation, what do you do? When you hear about Darfur, what do you do? When you hear about our own prisoners, what do you do?

The troubles of the world are overwhelming, and I am overwhelmed by my own crushing sense of guilt and over-identification with the "failure" of the Church to respond to these crises. (A "fact" which I think ought to be open for debate rather than used as the primary construct in the strawman-ification of the Church. But as you can see, I myself am conflicted.) I can't possibly solve any of these problems, and I don't have much faith that anyone else can, either. On the other hand, I can't just twittle my thumbs, claim inability, and wait for the Lord to return and I don't have to hear about these things anymore. (Again, I'm conflicted.)

But does knowledge necessarily demand action? Does information equal responsibility? How much can I be reasonably expected to do in these arenas? Just because I know about the sex trade, does that mean I am responsible for seeing it destroyed? Sometimes it seems that everything is the most important thing in the world, and the more I know about everything, the less I'm able to do about anything.

Honestly, how can I in good conscience say no to any of these things? And if I can't say no to any of them, then I wind up saying no to all of them. The evil in this world is so overwhelming that it becomes very tempting to close my eyes, shut my ears, and sit in my own safe corner of the planet waiting out death or Christ's return, whichever comes first. (There's irony in there, to be sure.)

But what am I really saying, here? Isn't what I'm really getting at my own insecurities, and the need I feel to cover my backside? Doesn't my guilt come from my desire to stand before the harshest skeptic and say, "Well you can't say those things about me. I did it all. I did more than you. I cared more. I helped more. I served more. I loved more. I've been to more places and done more things...." Somewhere inside of me, all of this is really about me. I may not be trying to earn the favor of God--I know I can't do that--but I am tempted to earn the favor of the most hard-hearted Christ-hater.

That's a sin in me that needs to die and be resurrected. I desire credibility for myself, not glory for God. The glory of God is the most important thing in the world. Ending the sex trade, freeing the slaves, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, stopping AIDS, ministering to the prisoners, and everything else like them are important because they give glory to God. They are not ends in themselves (although they are some of the best ends I can think of), and they are not the most important things in the world. The end of all of our work, small or great, is to give glory to God. And I have to trust that, if I pursue God's glory, then he will give me, in my smallness, some small thing to do that will someday bring him great glory.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Back to Craig Groeschel's message from the Leadership Summit.

One of the questions that a leader ought to ask him or herself, Craig claims, is, "What is God trying to show me through my limitations?" This, of course, assumes that the leader is familiar with his or her limitations. Do you know what your limitations are? Do I? I have several limitations that immediately come to mind.

I am helpless in a group of people with whom I am unfamiliar. Put me in a crowd of people that I don't know, and, like water, I will immediately flow to the lowest point, or nearest corner/wall. Despite the biblical mandate that every good Christian leader feels most at home in a group of people he or she doesn't know, I just can't seem to deal with this excruciatingly uncomfortable situation. (Yes, you did detect a hint of sarcasm in that last sentence.) Now, if you put me in front of that same group of people, particularly to preach the Word of God, I am completely at home. I can say anything from the pulpit, but I can't seem to find words before or after the service. For an aspiring pastor, this is a serious limitation.

I am naturally passive. I am not a self-starter. I am not a go-getter. I am not high-energy. In fact, I can't think of a single hyphenated adjectival phrase that applies to me. (Maybe, stick-in-the-mud, or, finely-bearded.) I am not a man of action, a fact which shames me to my core. Again, for someone who wants to be a pastor, particularly a church-planter, this may well signal the death-knell of such dreams. Perhaps this is why I abandoned the church I felt God called me to plant.

I do not have a big heart. I do not love others well. People don't feel great about themselves after talking to me. In fact, I have to try very hard not to ask questions about someone else's life. I tend to be far more interested in what I'm doing than in what you're doing--and when you talk to me, you can probably tell. Of all my limitations, this is the greatest character deficiency, and the one that most disqualifies me for the ministry.

So, what is God trying to show me through my limitations? (Believe me, there are more, but this post would have gotten insanely long had I continued--not to mention what would have happened to my emotional state.) I can't even begin to answer that question until I have prayed and meditated. What I can say is that my gifts and sense of calling seem to qualify me for ministry, while my limitations and character deficiencies seem to disqualify me. Perhaps this is a common experience.

I believe that God has given me a mind (and heart) for Scripture and theology. I believe he has also given me the ability to preach and, primarily through preaching, to lead. But why has he given me such overwhelming limitations? Why does my character not match my gifting? And what is he trying to show me through this?

This, in a strong way, has been my core question for the past two years. Why am I so limited? Why is my character so lacking? The answer, I believe, is not simple. Which is why I continue to ask the question. Or rather, why God continues to press the question on me.


This morning Craig Groeschel gave a message at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit that really rocked me. He talked about it. He admitted that he didn't really know what it is, but he knows when someone or some church has it. You know when it's there, and you know when it's not. You can just tell when someone has it.

I used to have it. I used to get it. It was all that I had at one point, before my brain was filled with knowledge. (Not that knowledge is the culprit in my losing it.) But something has happened to me in the years since I had it. My life has become mediocre. My fire has cooled. My calling has quieted. Even my mind has become dull. I've become, as Craig said, "a full-time [minister] and a part-time Christ-follower." I'm not in love with Jesus like I was six years ago. I'm not in love with people like I was. I'm not passionate about anything of eternal significance.

I want it back. I can't move forward without it--I'm only moving laterally. I've grown cold and hard without it, and I want my heart to melt in the flame of God's love for me and everyone. There's nothing special about me without it. I'm not going to make a difference in the world until God brings it back. I'm a vapor without it, because it is the substance, the backbone, of my life in God.

Oh Jesus, take me back and take me forward. Bring it back--bring me back to life in you.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Back to Work

For whatever reason I've gotten back to work on the screenplay. I've resolved myself to the fact that this draft will be far too long, and I'll have a big editing job once I'm done. This revelation allows me to write with the sense of freedom I need to be creative. It's easier to edit after it's on the page than before.

One of the most difficult things for me to do is let my characters be unlikeable. I don't want to create characters that can be emotionally written-off because they're mean, awkward, or evil. That seems two-dimensional. But the alternative is just plain chaos. Not every character can have the opportunity to explain or redeem him/herself in a screenplay--there is simply not enough time. But, as in life, I'm having a difficult time being disciplined with my character development.