Saturday, January 29, 2005

Life As A Story

Dwayne recently wrote about life having a plot line and this same sort of idea popped up in my reading of my current book I'm swallowing written by a Portland local guy Donald Miller called Blue Like Jazz.

Donald Miller points out in chapter 3 that if life has a story, as any literary work it should have the four elements of story: setting, conflict, climax, and resolution. If this is the case, the setting is obvious. It's where we live, what we do, etc. Conflict is apparent in all of us, otherwise it wouldn't be essential in storytelling. We all understand conflict because we have experienced it. It's the climax that is important in our life and understanding of the Gospel, because in climax we are forced to make a decision. As Donald states it, "Climax is where a point of decision determines the end of the story", which he probably got out of a textbook somewhere, because this part of the book came from his being in college taking a literary course. He tells a great story that he heard at a Christian folksinger concert which is a perfect illustration of climax in a story (at least for him it is), whether or not it's true I don't know, but I'll just put it verbatum here to avoid butchering it:

"The folksinger said his friend was performing a covert operation, freeing hostages from a building in some dark part of the world. His friend's team flew in by helicopter, made their way to the compound and stormed into the room where the hostages had been imprisoned for months. The room, the folksinger said, was filthy and dark. The hostages were curled up in a corner, terrified. When the SEALs entered the room, they heard the gasps of the hostages. They stood at the door and called to the prisoners, telling them they were Americans. The SEALs asked the hostages to follow them, but the hostages wouldn't. They sat there on the floor and hid their eyes in fear. They were not of healthy mind and didn't believe their rescuers were really Americans.

The SEALs stood there, not knowing what to do. They couldn't possibly carry everyone out. One of the SEALs, the folksinger's friend, got an idea. He put down his weapon, took off his helmet, and curled up tightly next to the other hostages, getting so close his body was touching some of theirs. He softened the look on his face and put his arms around them. He was trying to show them he was one of them. None of the prison guards would have done this. He stayed there for a little while until some of the hostages started to look at him, finally meeting his eyes. The Navy SEAL whispered that they were Americans are were there to rescue them. Will you follow us? he said. The hero stood to his feet and one of the hostages did the same, then another, until all of them were willing to go. The story ends with all the hostages safe on an American aircraft carrier."

He became one of them so that they would trust him and know that he was one of them, but he was more than that. He did this to show that he was willing to do whatever it took to get those hostages to safety. This is what Christ did and does for us, and what leads us to the resolution of the story. It sounds sort of cheesy, and I don't agree with a lot of Donald Miller's philosophies. I don't know him personally, though it sounds like he protests and doesn't support president Bush. What I agree with, he wants to help the poor and be faithful, and on this story I thought of how simple such a thing as Christ humbling himself is, and the powerful effect it has on his followers.
5 Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. 7 He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. 8 And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. 9 Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~Phillipians 2:5-11

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Here's the Real Scoop

Ok, so back on the 12th I put up a short little poem thing that was unquoted because, well, I wrote it. Really what it was is part of a larger piece that I had written a few years ago that originally was to be song lyrics (since that's all I ever think about is music), however I never could find the right melodic line to go along with it. I thought this might be a great place to throw up some of my "poetry"/lyrics to let everyone experience my thoughts and either excuse it as tripe or accept it as something else. With the assumption that original ideas are pretty much a thing of the past, I hope that maybe something will make it through the noise and touch some grey matter or maybe a left ventricle somewhere.

Get your tomatoes ready!

I wish there were a person who cared enough to share
The feelings of emotions that would make me more aware
Of the comfort there in silence waiting for my call,
But instead I feel the tugging of my own will over all.

I feel the drag of fleeting seconds and struggle for control,
To overcome the pain I feel and replace it with a peace
That overcomes all confusion, yet leaves me with the reigns,
Yet I can't see it anywhere, and refuse to let it be heard.

So I go on in my desperate attempt to walk with my own legs,
And I stumble and walk on darkened paths only to return.
This place that is so familiar, that I can't stay away
Gives no sense of comfort, still, I feel no other way.

I hear a voice deep in the darkness, yet with it comes a light
That drives away confusion, pain, and darkness in my life.
Still my life belongs to me, how can I let it go
To a voice that I have never heard, but still, I strangely know?

And so I let go of the reins that keep my legs in line,
And the paths that I thought were correct had been wrong all along.
My life is now much easier with someone else in full control,
And the comfort I was looking for now comes to me so strong.

Won't you give your life to Him? He knows which way to steer.
Just put the reins into His hands and let Him take you there.
Commence the chuckle-filled critique!

Friday, January 21, 2005

"Marveling" at Comics in the Movies

There seems to be a lot of stirring about movies, especially those having to do with comic books. The biggest complaint I see in most of the reviews on these movies is the lack of sucking on the part of casting and the overuse of CG. Still one of the greatest comic book movies is Batman and one of the worst being the more recent Daredevil. (Ben Affleck: grow some acting skills and stop letting Matt Damon carry you.)

My favorite comic book has to be Ghost Rider, which Marvel no longer makes, perhaps due to lack of appeal to a wider audience and the PC nature of the current culture. Apparently that means nothing to Hollywood for it seems they are turning it into a movie with the rumor of Nicholas Cage as Johnny Blaze. I can't say how disappointed I was in hearing this, even though I actually liked Matchstick Men, I am still trying to forgive him for his remake of Gone In 60 Seconds and The Rock. I couldn't think of a worse actor to play the role of a vengeful, dark, demon-posessed superhero than the twitchy, inane presence of Nic Cage, who was originally rumored as the lead role for Superman 5.

The one notable rumor that I have seen for a comic book movie is that for Iron Man with a possible Tom Cruise as Tony Stark. Normally I would stray away from star power due to the gagging caused from the overload in Daredevil and the later Batman movies but I think that Tom Cruise may actually be a good fit for this character, and is just good enough an actor to pull it off without looking retarded.

On a positive note, there is a comic book movie coming out that may not be of the superhero nature, and is much more obscure as it is from a series of comic book novels by Frank Miller (who wrote the "Batman: The Dark Night Returns" comics and is known for taking a suffering "Daredevil" comic series and made it the most gripping reading in comic books). The movie is called Sin City and is packed with star power, but the black & white filming with glimpses of color are true to the illustrations in his books and the color of the stories he writes. I'll be waiting for this one!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Purest Form of Fishing!

I don't even know why or how I got into searching for obscure sports today, but I did, and came across this timeless sport. Forget bait. Leave the tackle at home. It's one on one, man on fish. Grapple a fish with your bare hands in the amazing sport of noodling!

Since we're on the subject of popular culture...you can even order the DVD here!

Friday, January 14, 2005

I Am Oskar Schindler!

I took this test from my brother's blog. It's just for fun, is in no way a comprehensive list of my ideas, and should not be used to assume that I am German.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Voice I Hear

I hear a voice deep in the darkness,
yet with it comes a light;
That drives away confusion, pain,
and darkness in my life.

Still my life belongs to me,
how can I let it go;
To a voice that I have never heard,
but still, I strangely know.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Book Review: The Church In Emerging Culture - Five Perspectives - Leonard Sweet

I have recently finished reading The Church In Emerging Culture - Five Perspectives, which is a conversation started by Leonard Sweet. Sweet gathered five authors and cultural commentators to get together and examine their views of the church in relation to this culture and to critique and bounce ideas off each other. Each of the contributors represents a different perspective on church issues and cultural backgrounds.

The five conversationalists are:
» Andy Crouch - RE:GENERATION QUARTERLY editor-in-cheif
» Michael Horton - professor and reformed theologian
» Frederica Mathewes-Green - author, commentator, and Orthodox Christian
» Brian D. McLaren - postmodernist, author, pastor, and Emergent senior fellow
» Erwin Raphael McManus - author and pastor of the innovative and interethnic L.A.-based church, Mosaic

Sweet gives each of the contributors the analogy of an agricultural sense, since, as Sweet is quick to point out, "The word culture, which once referred to goo in a petri dish, is actually taken from the word agriculture. And agriculture is what's done to raw land to make it better than it was originally-it is ploughed, fertilized, and tilled-without changing its nature." While these analogies are nice, they don't stick very well, as each of the other authors quickly try to shake them.

My take on what each of the authors say is pretty simple. Crouch attempts to say that postmodernism is actually a deeper form of modernism, which he renames "ultramodernism": a grasp on uber-individualism and consumerism. While I can see where he may be coming from, it is in a sense defeatist in suggesting that the modern church has succumbed to consumerism instead of allowing for the power of God to overcome culture and create His church (or as McLaren might say, a "new kind of church").

Horton in most ways seems to agree with Crouch, that postmodernism "is little more than the triumph of popular culture."

Mathewes-Green also mostly agrees with the first two, and has more of a pre-modern view including some sense of mysticism and ancient faith (which ironically has been attributed to postmodern ideas).

McLaren suggests that since the message changes its context, the message itself is actually changing as well in order to meet the needs of the context/culture. This reminds me of the chicken/egg argument, which can be shaky, but I think he does a good job saying what he means when he says that the more he has changed methods, "the more experience [he has] gained sharing the good news with what are often called 'the unchurched'".

McManus suggests that since we are to be Christ in the culture and see Him as the living gospel, that we are to actually create our own culture where He is alive. He shows this in his belief that whatever will come after the postmodern era will be "whatever we choose". He encourages us not to place "too much confidence in the power of knowledge to transform."

The most wonderful thing about this book was the ability of five different views to come together lovingly and express ideas without divisiveness or malice. It is a hopeful paradigm of what is upon us. As Sweet points out: "For the Christian, of course, times of shifting paradigms take us back not to zero, but to origins. Our time is overdue for an original look at the relationship of Christ and culture-not 'starting from scratch,' but 'starting from origins.' True originality is a homecoming; not overturning doctrines but returning to the origins of the faith and letting the primeval forest reseed."

Sunday, January 02, 2005

My Christmas

This year for Christmas, my sister and I flew to our parents' new place in Stockton, CA. For those who don't know, I was born and raised in Stockton, and after I went away to college my parents decided they wanted to move to Everett, WA. Well, my father just got a new job in Lathrop, and they ended up moving three minutes away from where I grew up. This also aids in illustrating that we don't "end up" anywhere on this earth, that we are always in transition until that final day here. We will finally end up somewhere!

Which brings us back to the story at hand...

Thanks to my parents and their desire to see their children I was able to fly to California to be with more than just my sister for Christmas. On Christmas day we drove to Martinez (Bay Area) with my aunt and two cousins (seven people in a six-person car!) to the grandparents' house on the hill. I can remember in my childhood visiting grandma and grandpa Bond. They live on the top of a hill up a steep driveway. I remember great times of playing in the yard and grandpa's toolshed, or running down the hill to get the mail and losing breath all the way back up. I recall playing games with grandma and sleeping in the front bedroom. I also remember quite a few Christmas mornings in the living room that hasn't changed much other than the size of the television and the technology involved in it.

My grandmother's two daughters and their husbands, each of their children were all there. Aside from my parents and grandparents, these are all people that I haven't seen in years, so my perspective of all of them at this point in my life is so much more different than it has been in the past. Every is older, some seem a lot more grown up, some haven't changed, and some appear to have taken a step back in life (or at least a missed step or stumble).

The greatest thing to know from my experience there was that with all their strengths and all their deficiencies, all the obvious flaws and the hidden ambitions, these people are my family. I can know that they care for me, and even more importantly love me, and inversely I love them.

This time gave me more insight into the love that God must have for me. If this is true, then the people that I encounter every day are my brothers and sisters, and like the love experienced with my earthly family, the love between my heavenly brothers and sisters too must exist. In fact, to a much greater degree than our earthly families, this is the love that God calls us all to have and to show to all sinners. This includes our earthly family, but is not limited to the people we see in the house on the top of the hill.