He died on the same day as JFK, so when the world remembers Kennedy, I often remember Lewis. Here's something I wrote previously about how Lewis -- a man I love -- changed my life forever:
Lewis, in A Grief Observed:
Aren't all these notes the senseless writhings of a man who won't accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it? Who still thinks there is some device (if only he could find it) which will make pain not to be pain. It doesn't really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist's chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.
And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn't seem worth starting anything. I can't settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.
C.S. Lewis is like a beloved friend of mine. Through all of my adult life he's been a source of wonder and encouragement to me, because he's a cerebral dreamer who could write a masterpiece for a child (The Chronicles of Narnia) as seemingly easily as he could write the most profound and weighty theological treatise (e.g. The Problem of Pain) and everything in between (e.g. The Screwtape Letters).
I remember being on my bed as a 17-year-old boy, reading the final paragraphs of Mere Christianity:
Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life.
Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. but look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
Those words pierced me. I was a snotty-nosed kid, dumbfounded by the words of a dead British man. I still had many years of duplicity ahead of me -- stormy waters to glide over before truly submitting to death. But I knew the way, and Lewis had shown it to me.
And now as a 37-year-old man, his words mean even more. So when he talks about pain and suffering, I listen. He is my master, and I am his pupil.
For all you know, I might have even watched Courageous.
Just thought I'd give our readers someone to blast away at today.
Have at it.
Dear Candy Bar Companies,
Chocolate Candy Bars that are small enough to fit in the palm of my hand are not "fun-sized". Every time I see the side of one of those packages and it says, "Fun-size" I think that you are insulting my intelligence or playing a cruel joke on me. It's like calling a really big bouncer "Tiny" or a chihuahua "Killer". It's funny because it's the opposite.
A Fun-Size candy bar would be one, I don't know, as big as my van. That would be a fun size. But something I can eat in two bites, one if I'm hungry...it's not fun. It's more like a tease. I understand that you don't want to call your candy bars "small". (Maybe the same marketing guys told you that who also changed the term from "used cars" to "Pre-owned".)
So I have some other, much more accurate suggestions:
Less Guilt Size
"First of Ten" sized
Snack Jar sized
"not quite enough" size
if I did, she'd be wearing something like one of these "fashionably modest" swimsuits that you see at the end of the video from Rey Swimwear. I'd also make her watch this video.
This is Jessica Rey talking about the history of the bikini and modesty. (By the way, if she looks familiar, it's because she was a Power Ranger.)
A series of questions:
Should Christians obey the law?
Does that include speed limit laws?
Should Christians help other motorists when possible?
I assume your answers were "Yes" to all of the above, now for the tough one. And I'm really not sure of the answer.
I mean it.
Be shocked if you wish, but I don't know the answer.
Should Christians warn other people there is a police officer down the road by flashing headlights?
What is the right thing to do?
Tell me what you think under comments. I want to hear from you! (It's something that has puzzled me for a long time.)
This is from World Mandate, Antioch Waco's yearly missions conference, from 2012. Our own Bird does the photojournalism for them every year.
This is just . . . amazing. I don't know how anyone can watch it and not be moved.
There’s an old joke about Baptists. “How many Baptists does it take to change a lightbulb?” Answer, spoken in an indignant tone: “Change? What do you mean change?!?! We don’t change.”
The truth is that we all change. The Bible is all about change. (2 Corinthians 5:17, for example.)
God changes a man’s name from “Abram” to “Abraham”, which means “father of many”. And then he fulfills that promise, and that childless man becomes the father of nations. He changes Jacob’s name to “Israel.” Jesus changes Simon’s name to “Peter”. Saul begins using the Greek name “Paul” after he begins preaching to non-Jews.
Names are important and even personal. Ancient people believed that to know someone’s name was to have power over them. A name represents a person’s character and nature. There are reasons that people think long and hard before they pick a baby’s name. A baby will often be named after someone positive, and will not be named with the same name as someone negative, like an old boyfriend or an infamous dictator.
There are good reasons to change names. In my own denomination, the "Annuity Board" became "Guidestone Financial Resources", "Baptist Book Stores" became "LifeWay Christian Stores", the "Sunday School Board" became "Lifeway Christian Resources". The Southern Baptist Convention recently studied its own name and finally recommended that churches be allowed to use the name "Great Commission Baptist" to refer to the denomination. Why? Because the names were no longer accurate reflections of what they did or who they were for.
Likewise, our church's name was not an accurate reflection of who we are in terms of chronology, style or vision. Our old name was: "The First Baptist Church of Bulverde".
In the Bible, God changes names as a way of setting people aside for a purpose. He also names them according to what they are going to be, not what they were. We are changing our name for many reasons.
The first reason is that the name is not an accurate reflection of who we are.
We are Baptist, but we are not “first”, at least not in chronological order. Another Baptist Church was actually the “first” Baptist church in this area. Also when people visit a “First Baptist Church” they are probably expecting an older, more traditional type church. We no longer fit that image. We have been in the process of changing for several years now and we needed a name that was a better reflection of who we are and who God is making us to be.
A second reason for the change is confusion. Many people cannot tell the difference between our old name and our sister church. We love Bulverde Baptist Church and are thankful for them. There is very regular confusion between the two that causes problems, like when funeral flowers get delivered to the wrong place or when someone shows up for counseling at the wrong church. (Specific examples would make this a very long blog post!)
The third and biggest reason is that we need a name that says something about who we are now. This is an exciting time for us! Like a baptism, it’s a new beginning. Jesus was always God’s son, but when Jesus was baptized, he was leaving the carpenter’s shop and beginning the mission God had for him. Similarly, we are the same church, but we are a renewed community. We will always have our history, but now we enter into our future.
The new name is “Grace Fellowship: A Baptist Community.” This Sunday we will have a special service to celebrate the new name. On that day our new sign will be unveiled and we will “Go Live” with the new website and new identity.
Notice what our new name says. “Grace” is God’s gift of forgiveness and restoration given freely through Jesus Christ. We are a people who have experienced God’s grace in our own lives and want to share it with others. We are a church for all kinds of people. “Fellowship” refers to the meaningful relationship that we have with God and with each other because of God’s grace. “A Baptist Community” says that while we are proud to be Baptist, you don’t have to be Baptist to be come here. “Community” says that being here means that we live real lives together. We are much more than a place that you attend once a week.
If it were ever possible to describe a car commercial as "epic" this would be it.
I like to think in terms of themes and commonalities.(I know I'm weird.) So I was looking at my son's NFL Poster that had a helmet from every team on it the other day and realized that NFL mascots really aren't all that creative. Let me show you what I mean. There are only 5 types of NFL Mascots:
Wildcats, Birds, Speedy Mammals, Mighty Warriors and Local Yokels.
Birds with sharp beaks
Jets (Hey, it's a mechanical bird. This one name threatens my theory.)
And that's it...
What do you think of my theory? Do you think I miscategorized any, or should I change any categories?
When you look at it this way, you could almost narrow it down to three categories: Fierce animals, Warriors, Local Yokels. (By "local yokel" I mean some kind of reference, usually historical to the region of that team, which is why, of course, that the "Oilers" had to change their name.)
You can see what those who name teams are looking for: Someone brave and fast or fearsome. There are no "snails" or "fairy princesses".
I still remember seeing his smiling face from the inside of cassette tape covers. Founder of Sanctuary Church in California, Bob Beeman became the "Heavy Metal" pastor and a lot of Christian metal bands attended his church or were sponsored by it.
Bob's in Nashville, TN now and I had the privilege of running into him at the Christian bookstore where I worked. Bob is one of those people that makes you feel important just by talking to you. Pastor Bob is one of my heroes, and this recent edition of his daily podcast/video cast (called "Pastor Bob Daily") is yet another reason why.
Today is Reformation Day. I get great joy out of wishing everyone I meet "Happy Reformation Day" every October 31st and telling them that this is my second favorite Holiday of the year. (My favorite being Resurrection Day. Now if I could just figure out how to rename "Christmas" with a word that Starts with an "R" and ends with an "tion" it would be a perfect top 3 list. Add a poem and it's a sermon outline. :-)
Of course, when people ask me what I'm talking about (which is what I'm fishing for) I joyfully tell them about Martin Luther, I pause the required beat for politeness, and then say, "No, not Martin Luther King, JR. I'm talking about the original "Martin Luther". And I'll act all offended that the guy who bore that name originally isn't getting his due.
Now in truth, I think it's pretty cool that a man who brought a different kind of reformation to our country was also named Martin Luther.
But did you know that wasn't his name originally? The man we know as "Martin Luther King, Jr." was born "Michael King, Jr." ON January 25, 1929. Little Michael was named after his father who was an influential black preacher. Read more about "Michael King, Sr."
In 1931, at the age of 32, Michael King, Sr. became the new Senior Pastor of Ebeneezer Baptist Church. After a trip to Germany, where he was inspired by the life and work of the original Martin Luther, he came back and changed his name to "Martin Luther King, Sr." and changed his son's name (then 5 years old) to "Martin Luther King, Jr."
HE CHANGED HIS NAME. As an adult. After he had been in ministry for years, and the lead pastor for 3, he changed his name. That's a big deal. Can you imagine doing that yourself?
And what a name he picked. What a legacy to live up to. By choosing that name he was saying something, both about what he wanted to become himself and what he wanted his son to do.
His ceiling became his son's floor.
His father pointed his son toward ministry and towards the struggle for civil rights. (For more detail on how the father inspired the son, read the first comment of this post.)
Wow. Martin Luther King Jr. lived up to the name of his father and their mutual namesake.
Our church is also changing it's name. As I look back through history, I am appreciating more and more name change is a significant tradition, both Biblical and Historical.
Our church name change has been a long time coming. It was the right thing to do. For a long time I've been dwelling on the old name and why we needed to leave it behind. Martin Luther King Senior and Junior remind me that it's time to look forward to the new name and what it means about who we are and who we are becoming.
Steve Bezner has written a compelling analysis of the film Gravity here. An excerpt:
I recently saw the film Gravity, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Several viewers of the film have noted Cuarón's assertion that the film is about "rebirth," focusing on this quote, "That was the point, for us, of the film. Adversities and the possibility of rebirth. And rebirth also metaphorical in the sense of gaining a new knowledge of ourselves. We have a character that is drifting metaphorical and literally, drifting towards the void. A victim of their own inertia. Getting farther and farther away from Earth where life and human connections are. And probably she was like that when she was on planet Earth, before leaving for the mission. It's a character who lives in her own bubble. And she has to shred that skin to start learning at the end. This is a character who we stick in the ground, again, and learns how to walk."Read the rest, but understand that his post contains some major spoilers.
Certainly there's something to that.
But I think there is something much more. I think that Cuarón is not simply talking about some sort of generic "rebirth" but is specifically telling the Christian story through an allegory of the story of the apostle Peter. Yes, it's a bold claim. But I think it is the best way to interpret the film. I think that Cuarón's explanation would work with this allegory, at least if told on his terms, but I'd like to explore the film using the story of the apostle Peter as the interpretive key, seeing if by "rebirth," he meant something closer akin to "salvation."
Sandra Bullock's character—Ryan Stone—is Peter. Stone has no business being in space. She is outside of her comfort zone. She is a doctor, not an astronaut. The mission is stretching her into a place that she has never been.
George Clooney's character—Matt Kowalski—is Jesus, or at least a Christ-figure. He is exceptionally comfortable. He is in complete control at all times, and he is the one who gives Stone a fighting chance.
The only other character of significance is Mission Control—Houston. Houston is voiced by Ed Harris (a clever nod to the Tom Hanks/Ron Howard Apollo 13) and represents God the Father. He is sometimes exceptionally easy to hear. Other times he is very quiet.
By the way, I saw Gravity this weekend in IMAX 3D and I highly recommend it.
- A desire for seriousness in worship. While it's often appropriate to "shout to the Lord" and to "dance before Yahweh," some evangelicals have a problem with a church-as-playground mentality.
- A hunger for deep roots. Many evangelical churches do not claim a link to any historic denomination or movement. The Roman Catholic Church claims apostolic succession back to Peter. That resonates with some evangelicals.
- A need for intellectual and artistic richness that is too often lacking in an often superficial, consumer-oriented evangelical arena.
- A desire for clear cut authority. Sometimes this is due to intellectual laziness: "Just tell me what to believe."
The reasons evangelicals should not go Catholic are numerous. Listen to my source for this post for more information.
They made a movie from the novel Ender's Game! Woohoo! I can't wait to see it...though I trust it will be a great movie, I'm not going to reread the book until after I see the movie so that I'm not disappointed. Movies are not normally as good as the books. They're movies. :-)
Have you read Ender's Game? I read it in High School for my Senior English class. (I know. Cool English teacher, right?)It's about a boy named "Ender Wiggin" who gets recruited for Battle School. Battle School is on a space station that orbits the earth and they train children for eventual leadership and combat in the war against the "Buggers". Most of the book takes place in Battle School and young Ender must learn battle tactics, strategy, as well as surviving his peers and the faculty. There's much more to it than that, but you would have to read it to understand.
It's one of the best books I've ever read and I would highly recommend it. If you haven't read it, I would suggest you read it BEFORE you see the movie or read any reviews or talk to anyone about it. I can't explain it now. Just trust me. If you talk to anyone who has seen it or read any and I mean any review, there will be a major league spoiler. Because the movie chooses to let the audience in on something that the reader doesn't know until the end.
If you have read it, you know what I'm talking about, please preface your comments about it with a "Spoiler Warning".
Go read it.
You'll thank me.
You're welcome in advance.
The Long Walk is the first novel that Stephen King wrote. He started it when he was just 18, but it didn't get published until after he had achieved some success. It was the second book published under the pseudonymn "Richard Bachman".
I have only read it once...when I was in High School and I have never forgotten it. A classmate loaned me a paperback compilation of "The Bachman Books".
Set in a dystopian-future Alternate America, 100 teenage boys are selected for the most popular sport in the country. Everybody tunes in on TV and large crowds come watch. From the starting line the boys must keep walking until only one remains. There is no finish line and there is no stopping. If one falls below 4mph, he gets a warning. After 3 warnings, the 4th time he falls below 4mph, the soldiers following along next to the road shoot him. They will walk until there is only one left. The winner gets "The Prize", which is anything he wants for the rest of his life.
It's a brutal book. As the characters walk, and their numbers dwindle, you get to know them. I still remember being so amazed by how much I came to care about these characters. I felt like I was there. A helpless and invisible participant to the story.
So when "Hunger Games" came out, I wasn't exactly impressed by the premise. It had been done. The satire of the bloodthirsty public watching "reality" TV. People cheering at the deaths of others. Characters who are too young to fully understand their own mortality or what "there can only be one winner" really means. It's a story of perseverance against brutal circumstances.
I'm not recommending it to you. I will never read it again. If it is that real to me now, a quarter century later, I can only imagine what it would be like to read it again. I don't know how to describe how I feel about the story. The experience of reading it (and remembering it) was wonderful and terrible all at the same time. It haunts me to this day.
What about you? Is there a book or story like that in your past?
It’s shocking and scary every time we hear about another shooting at a school. No matter who did it or why, it is almost unthinkable horror. Yet, we do have to think about it. It’s happening. It’s real. And it’s getting worse.
It's not just the school part that bothers me. It's the fact that children are committing these crimes.
Here is a list of the number of school shooting incidents by decade - 1850’s 2, 1860's -3, 1870's-4, 1880's- 4, 1890's-11, 1900's-26, 1910's-9, 1920's-4, 1930's-12, 1940's-13, 1950's-21, 1960's-16, 1970's-21, 1980's-24, 1990's-34, 2000's-40, 2010’s -46.
You can see that the numbers fluctuate between 4 and 26 per decade until the 1980’s. Then in the 90’s, there were 34 incidents. In the 2000’s, there are 40 incidents. And now only 3 years into the 2010’s, we are already up to 46. What is going on?
In truth, there is probably a variety of factors, and I’m sure you have some theories. (Who doesn't?) And we seem to be a long way from solving the problem.
Here I want to focus on one thing: the sanctity and value of human life. What is going on in the mind of a 12 year old boy when he takes a gun to school and starts shooting people? I submit to you that human life has become too cheap in the minds of too many of our youngsters.
Probably no one who reads the thinklings will have a child commit murder. According to studies and statistics, children who kill have usually experienced violence in their own home. As a rule, kids who kill don't come from stable loving homes. Nevertheless, I am concerned about a culture that devalues human life. I want to plead with you to teach your children to value human life.
Please pass along the stories and concepts I am about to share. After Noah emerges from the ark, God says to him and his sons, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Genesis 9:6). The reason that murder is wrong is because it destroys a Divine image-bearer.
Let me put it another way. One day when the Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus they asked him publicly if it was lawful to pay taxes or not. If Jesus answered “Yes” then the crowd might turn against him. If he answered “No” then he could be subject to arrest by the Roman authorities. Jesus asked for a coin. When it was given to him he asked, “Whose image is on that coin?” The answer came back, “Caesar’s.” Jesus responded, “So give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
Typically people think of this story as a taxes story or an example of Jesus’ wisdom. But this story is even more profound. What has the stamp of God’s image on it? That’s right. You and all people were created in God’s image. (Genesis 1:26-27). Therefore, all people belong to God. Give yourself to God. And don’t you dare even think about harming a precious unique creation that bears the image of our maker.
Like most writers and musicians, Bono writes from his personal experiences. Consequently, if you listen to U2 and don't know much biographical information, you may at times be scratching your head. Here are three examples I thought of today. Head scratching lines are in bold.
1. "Ultraviolet" from Achtung Baby. 1991.
I remember when we could sleep on stone
Now we learn together in whispers and moans
When I was all messed up and I had opera in my head
Your love was a light bulb hanging over my bed
2. "Lemon" from Zooropa. 1993.
Lemon, see through in the sunlight
She wore lemon, but never in the daylight
3. "Unknown Caller" from No Line On The Horizon. 2009.
I was lost between the midnight and the dawning
In a place of no consequence or company
3:33 when the numbers fell of the clock face
Speed dialing, with no signal at all
Read the rest of this entry . . .
If you say things on the Internet for any length of time, you will eventually discover that there are other people on the Internet WHO DON'T LIKE THOSE THINGS. In fact, what you may discover is that actually these people DON'T LIKE YOU AS A PERSON. (Aside from what is being said, the use of all-caps and bold in saying it is one helpful way to distinguish strangers who don't like you from the people who know and love you and other normal people.)
In the early days of Internet tongue-lashings, I would take a lot personally. I wasn't used to having my eternal security, mental capacity, psychological well-being, gender identity, and sexual proclivities dictated to me and about me by little pixels on the web. It was, shall we say?, disturbing. It's still disturbing, but in a slightly different -- less personally offensive, more curiously ludicrous -- way, in that for the most part these days insulting random strangers on the Internet is basically the actual currency of the Internet. (I mean, how did we tell complete strangers we hated them before the Internet?) You can go almost nowhere online without wading through the froth of personal outrage. It's everywhere.
Accusations hurled over the web are cheap and easy. (Like your mom probably. See?) They are unrelational, low-investment, context-less, no-impulse-control, thoughtless. Rather than take them personally any more, however, I've decided to take a step back, look at the big picture, and systematize how I process criticism in general.
It's not that accusations from avatars on the world wide web don't count. It's just that I need to count them according to their approximate value determined by the relational context involved. So here is a scale you might find helpful -- I certainly have -- in determining whose feedback, whose criticism/complaint, whose valuation of you as a human being should matter according to degree. In descending order:
1. My wife.
2. My kids.
3. My church family and my church elders.
4. My friends (that are not in my church family).
5. My extended family.
6. My local neighbors (that I see in the flesh on the daily).
7. My readers and "virtual friends" on the Internet.
8. My publishers, colleagues, and other occasional employers.
9. The people sitting next to me on airplanes.
10. The people in line with me at the coffee shop.
11. My dog.
12. The guy in the next stall or at the next urinal in a bathroom.
12. Joel Osteen/Oprah
13. The government.
14. Strangers on the Internet.
My 12-year-old son and I have been playing through a season of the greatest sports video game ever, Tecmo Super Bowl.
I first acquired this game back in 1991, played it like a fiend, and subsequently didn't touch it from roughly 1996 until recently. It's still great!
This game really captured a golden era of pro football. Off the top of my head I'm just going to list some "legends" who were playing in 1991 and who are, therefore, in the game:
- Joe Montana
- Bo Jackson
- John Elway
- Dan Marino
- Barry Sanders
- Lawrence Taylor
- Warren Moon
- Jerry Rice
- Ronnie Lott
- Jim Kelly
- Troy Aikman
- Emmitt Smith
- Marcus Allen
- Thurman Thomas
- Howie Long
The list keeps going and going. Studs all up and down this game.
This game is also beautiful because you can actually run through a single game in roughly 15 minutes. ;-)