Friday, March 23, 2012

Memo To Regina, Martina, and Me

(note: C.S. Lewis admits that he wrote the book "The Problem of Pain" under one condition - that people understood that he himself would most likely not embrace the truths of his own book. That didn't make them any less true, it just made him a failure. I write the following employing C.S. Lewis' hypocrite clause)

Some of the stories we hear are stories we keep hearing. They're stories that have been told and told and told through generations and cultures in some form or another for hundreds of thousands of years. So there must be something true about them, something that gnaws at us, sounds familiar, like a song we heard once but can't place.

For some, it's proof that the Bible is filled with myths. For these critics, the idea that there are other myths just like the stories in the Bible means that all of it is false. C.S. Lewis argues differently. In his book "The Abolition of Man," he argues that the fact that everyone keeps telling the stories means that the story happened. Now we must determine which was the true telling.

Some examples: the Flood - so many cultures from diverse places tell and retell the story of a great flood that destroyed everything on the Earth. Here's another: the hero separated from his parents - orphaned or otherwise - with special powers.

But here's another, and it's the reason I started writing this...the surrounded hero.

The situation is terrible.

There's way more bad guys and they have lots of guns. They have helmets and the night vision goggles, they've got the walkie talkie things on their ear and code names for each other, so they talk in bursts with lots of information about formations and their target.

Cooler still, they have the hand gestures. Silently they hold up their hand and gesture about further formations and strategic placements of their massive army, because their target is surrounded and they are going down.

The hero has no way out. But, he's not the least bit concerned. Instead, he's got some swagger and a smirk and he grimly loads his weapons or gets his mighty fists ready and then, at some time chosen by the hero, the battle begins.

And it turns out that despite the super awesome technology and superior numbers and the night vision things, the missiles, despite their ability to communicate with cool hand gestures, the hero just blows them all away, with this Zen-like stillness and confidence.

We could think of 100 movies that have a scene like this. We could think of 100 books that have a scene like this. I believe the reason this story is told and retold is not just that it's entertaining - it's true. We all want to be like that hero, we all want his super cool calm awesomeness. And, I think we all realize that if we had that ability, those gifts to kind of slow everything down, to make assessments at a heightened level, to know the fist/bullet/missile was coming and just when to duck, we could win the fight.

Here's what's crazy - we have faced similar situations, and won. We have faced odds and evil and terrible situations so far beyond our ability, so dastardly and villainous, and they have the law and they have the money, and they have the will of the people behind them, they have a medical test that will change everything, they have your insurance policies and they have everything they need to crush us - but just like the super Zen hero, we have been delivered.

We were delivered because even while we were blubbering on the floor like infants, the battle was fought and won by our Savior. And afterwards, we danced around, posted on Facebook how awesome God is, what a mighty deliverer He is.

So here's my appeal to Martina and Regina and me - next time - be the cool Zen guy. Stop acting like you don't have the mightiest of Gods standing right there. Stop focusing on their awesome nightvision goggles and their cool hand gestures and focus on the fact that God will deliver you. Trust in Him and let it shine from you. I think it might be time to have a little swagger. The battle is yours.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Christians Behaving Badly

Tertullian noted in the Third Century how the kindness of the Church was observed by those outside the Church: "See how they love one another!"

I'd like to think that back in the day, everything was better than it was today, but I have a feeling it wasn't. I bet you there were disputes over religion, war, politics and sex. I bet that families were stressed, money was short, and persecution was everywhere. 

In other words, I bet lots of things were the same. 

I also have noted a modern myopia - we tend to ignore the massive, unparalleled generosity and kindness of our own Church, to millions worldwide. I think of the big "religion" video where the rapper/poet tried to pretend that the Church WASN'T ministering globally, wasn't helping the poor. 

All said, I still wonder if in our lives, if people are seeing us loving each other. I just read this article about some Christian filmmakers and some filmmakers who are Christians getting sideways about...I don't know. Something stupid. Perceptions and perceived realities. But being rather public about not getting along. 

I get it. We're human, and we're opinionated, and we will not have great accord. But can we have love? Is this the best the Kirk Cameron people can do for their brothers? What would happen if they had swallowed their opinion and just loved? What would have changed? Would the Cross have been misrepresented? I don't think so. 

Happy Birthday Zoe

Happy Birthday to Zoe! A snowstorm had hit the day before she was born. So long ago. I would be lying if I told you how broken I still am about losing her.

It's a wrestling match of blessed confident assurance and just a dad missing his little girl. I am so glad you're there, Zoe. I'm so glad you can be free.

But the days drag on and I'm not there. I have more of the mission left and sometimes, missing you is part of the drudgery. God lift all our heads.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


This past Sunday at church, my congregation welcomed a pastor who hailed from central city Chicago. (I have retained my lesson from college courses to avoid using the racist term "inner city.") His sermon stood out because it was delivered passionately, in a style that usually is reserved for orators from the Central City. He was talking about "Shalom."

Shalom, which means peace, which as far as we know, is something like the Hebrew "aloha."

But Brother Kenety was not going to allow us to walk out of church without learning about the word, and hearing it pounded into our conscience. Shalom, it turns out, means so much more than just "peace." It goes deeper, is richer, and has a longer life than "peace." Here are some words that better describe "Shalom": completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.

Shalom. Shalom. To those struggling with loss. To those seeking but not finding. Brother Kenety mentioned that people in his parish, some don't even know who their father is. Shalom. Shalom. 

Many years ago, I contacted my friend and told him that it was the National Day of Prayer, and asked him if he needed me to pray for him for anything. Nope, he couldn't think of anything. He was fine. 

Shalom. Shalom for those who can't think of anything that is pressing, pulling, testing them. 

And then, Shalom for my home. Stretched and pulled and tested. 

Shalom to my sister Heidi. She lands in China tomorrow to begin a two week stay that ends, God-willing, with her returning with a little baby girl. Shalom, Heidi and Anna. May we all find it and seek it and hear it. Let it fill our homes.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Selah Turns Teen

My daughter Selah turned 13 yesterday and her birthday became a little bit of the old days. We grilled hamburgers and cheesedogs (Selah loves cheesedogs) and had pasta salad and cheesecake. Outside, Elise whipped the softball around with whomever she could find and Selah and Kellen played horse.

Entering this teen era with Selah gives me a lot more fear and trepidation than the other kids, who seemed to be breaking down a door together. Selah's age and the bizarre placement agreement* foisted on us has me more thoughtful about who she is and what's to come.

Selah is gentle and introspective. She's always been able to get herself worked up beyond what she needs to. She's almost always the best athlete on her team and the consummate little and big sister - respectful of her two older sisters and relentlessly bossy of her younger siblings.

Yesterday the big kids and I thought of the universe of words and terms she had created that we all still use: "match/match" to indicate, of course, that two things can be worn together; "fashion" (as in your clothes are so fashion, or Your hair is so fashion); she thought of imaginary friends like Libey (an unfortunate imaginary friend who kept, like Kenny, meeting an untimely death) and Kellen's nickname, Parmus.

Selah bridges the gulf between three adult kids and three tiny kids who haven't met the toothfairy yet and one kid who never will celebrate another earthly birthday. Sometimes I sense that she has a teen's world on her shoulders, and all of the tension of a divorced family. Sometimes, I see her free, laughing uncontrollably. And sometimes, I see her burrowed into the corner of the sofa, at rest. She's a curious, beautiful young woman I have had the pleasure to meet and watch grow.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Christa Returns From The Holy Land, not Germany. The actual Holy Land.

Despite threats from Israel's neighbors to "wipe Israel off the map," Christa was determined to return to the Holy Land, and set out about ten days ago with a group from her church.

Jet-lagged, full of stories, and some snafus regarding her camera, back safe and sound. I'll work the trip into some kind of recorded conversation soon.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Phase 1 of Leaving Eden Completed

Jen and I worked hard on our performance of "Noises Off" that we produced, directed and starred in last fall. Jen, her brother Josh, and my buddy Dave Sapiro (heretofore referred to as "Sap") blew the roof off of the place with their acting. It was a great play done super well.

The overall reaction we got was: "Wow! That was good!"

See, they were surprised at the high level achieved because most thought they were coming to a cute little play put on by a nice couple and their friends. And it wasn't. It was actually good.

We're at it again.

I wrote a pilot for a web series we hope to shoot and produce called "Leaving Eden." I made sure to run it by a number of folks, and I really like it. We've even talked about the shooting style we'll employ, what it will take to shoot it, and discussed characterizations, the music, all kinds of things. We hope to start some test shooting in April.

The series will focus on a pastor of a Lutheran church, his wife, and a vicar that has just arrived. Our goal is to make it about the Bible like Friday Night Lights was about football - it's a necessary part of the story, but the goal isn't to make a show about the Bible. It's about these people and their lives.

I'm hoping to employ a variant of the handheld, documentary style used in Friday Night Lights (sense a theme?)...which means somehow figuring out how to get cameras that can achieve that look and feel.

We're really committed to this and I can't wait to share what's going on with it.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grace And My Father's Birthday

Today's my father's Birthday. He would have been 20. They count better in Heaven than they do here.

Once a month, I'm allowed to help lead worship at my church. It's an honor for a lot of reasons, and I'm confident it's also what I should be doing. God has given Jen and me the pipes to sing, a heart for worship, and I have a pedigree for it. My dad taught me all I know about theology, and my brother went to Seminary. And now I have a nephew in the Sem. It's the family business.

For those of you who knew my Dad, perhaps his greatest ministerial gift was teaching. Any one of his confirmands could conjure up the heart he'd draw on the chalkboard to represent God, breaking down the most complex concepts into simple images.

So, a few weeks ago I submitted the songs to be sung for that week's worship. I learned that the text was going to be about the Transfiguration, and after a lot of searching around, I found myself cornered. I really wanted to sing "Show Me Your Glory" by Third Day, but that would cause some work for us as a group. It would end up being a special music song, and that was something we had already decided on.

So Jen and I began searching for music that focused on revelation, seeing, opening our eyes. Jen began searching through versions of music, listening to types of songs and she stumbled across this video (I'd embed it but YouTube forbids it for this particular video.)

It was very different, but it solved a different dilemma we were encountering - no drummer - and it was just quirky and different and repetitive enough to work. Plus, it included a bit of eschatology in it with the inclusion of "I'll Fly Away." Might be fun. I submitted the service and set about prepping the group to do it.

A few days later, I received an email telling me the lyrics to that song were not appropriate for worship, because it implies that we choose to let Christ in.

I wandered so aimless
Life filled with sin
I wouldn't let my dear Savior in
Then Jesus came
Like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light

I saw the light
I saw the light
No more in darkness
No more in night
Now I'm so happy
No sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord
I saw the light

Just like a blind man
I wandered along
Worries and fears
I claimed for my own
Then like the blind man
That God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To a place on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away
I’ll fly away, oh glory
I’ll fly away.
When I die, hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away
I’ll fly away

hmm. I pulled the song, but I did let them know the author clearly chooses nothing but sin and to walk away from the cross. I quote scripture and Luther and made my case. I was disappointed it was dealt with that way.

It's an image my Dad drew for us over and over. Of a cross with a sinner facing away from it. The only direction the sinner would walk, Dad would draw, is away from the cross. He would never turn around.

I wandered along
Worries and fears
I claimed for my own

 "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. " 1 Corinthians 2:14
"The carnal mind is enmity against God." Romans 8:7

It isn't, Dad would draw/teach, until the Holy Spirit turns that person around that they can actually even see the cross. See the light.

So, yeah, I took and still do take it personally. My Dad taught me well. I know the difference. I'm glad I have his drawings of His love on my heart, and understand grace and Lutheran theology.


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