Thursday, January 28, 2010

Movies I Want to See

One of the problems with life is that there is not enough time to do everything you want to do. My favorite T-shirt slogan is "So many books, so little time." That summarizes my life. There are too many books to read. Too many places to go. Too much music to hear. All of that can get very frustrating.

Movies are the same for me. There are tons of movies that I want to see, but do not have time for every year. And, just as I have a shelf of books that I am planning to read, I have a list of movies I need to watch. And although I always prefer films on a big screen in a theater, I am resigned to seeing most of these at home on video.
  • (500) Days of Summer
  • Inglorious Basterds
  • Up In the Air
  • Dead Man
  • The Book of Eli
  • The Lovely Bones
  • Nine
  • The Blind Side
  • Fantastic Mr Fox
  • An Education
  • Crazy Heart
  • The Hurt Locker
  • A Single Man
  • The Road
  • The Invention of Lying
  • Whiteout
  • Sunshine Cleaning
  • Synechdoche, New York
  • Rachel Getting Married
  • W
  • Smart People
  • Gran Torino
  • Milk
  • The Wrestler
  • The Informant
  • Burn After Reading
  • The Man Who Wasn't There
  • Billy

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Family Lists: Wives

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Ephesians 5.22

We began this series of “family lists” with a look at the biblical directives for husbands. I began with husbands because, as a husband, I feel like I have a little bit of experience in that area. It occurs to me now that I have been married to a pretty good wife for almost 23 years. I have a good idea about what makes her great and where she could use some improvement. But most importantly, I know what the Bible has to say.

One more disclaimer before we get to the list. There has been a lot of injustice done to women through the years. A lot of the oppression and inequality that women have been subjected to has come from men who are quoting the Bible. I pray that I do not continue that pattern. My prayer is that wives may be liberated by learning the truth of their position in God’s economy.

  • Wives are to love their husbands and be committed to them (Ephesians 5.22). Submission should be understood as voluntarily considering and following the wishes of the husband who loves the wife.
  • Submission is to be only to the husband. This does not mean that women must submit to men.
  • Husbands and wives are to work as a team (Ep 5.30-31). Although their positions and roles are not them same, they are complementary. Wives are not inferior or weaker than their husbands.
  • Wives are committed to their husbands for as long as they live (1 Corinthians 7.39). There is no allowance in Scripture for no-fault divorces. Marriages are to last forever.
  • Husbands and wives are to keep themselves pure for one another. Additionally, there is a requirement that they not withhold “affection” from one another (1 Corinthians 7.2-3).
  • There is a truth here that says, in essence, that husbands and wives are obligated to one another in physical ways.
  • Wives are to lovingly exercise authority over their husbands (1 Corinthians 7.4). Additionally, they are to lovingly receive the authority that their husbands have over them.
  • There is a great image throughout the New Testament that pictures the church as the Bride of Christ. This is a wonderful picture that helps us to understand the intimacy of followers of Jesus with our Lord, and of the love and commitment that husbands and wives should have for one another.

None of this deals with the seemingly problematic passages about women teaching in church, or being responsible for the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Although those are important passages in the context of the topic at hand, they are beyond the scope of this specific list. Another time we will deal with the place of men and women in the body of Christ. For now, suffice it to say that women/ wives are special in the church, in the home and to their husbands.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Weekly Prayer Thought

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Luke 18.10

A couple of years ago I went with my father to a seminar on prayer. It was at a church with a strong tradition of prayer among the members of the congregation. After a morning of teaching by the pastor of prayer ministries, there was a time of practical application led by two ladies. These ladies were volunteer pray-ers from the church. They told us of some of their experiences and some practical steps to take to make prayer more meaningful and effective.

At the lunch break, Dad and I reflected on the morning's activities. We agreed on almost everything. The teaching was excellent, practical and helpful. We were impressed with the pastor who led the sessions. But when it came to discussion of the two ladies, we were also in agreement. They were weird. They were so consumed with their prayer activities that they had forgotten how to be normal people. They spoke with a super-spiritual attitude that made them seem superior to everyone else. They fit perfectly that old saying, "They are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good." Dad said, "Why does it seem that spiritual people are so weird?"

I didn't know then. And I don't know now.

One of the problems that people who pray have is that they think their praying, their spirituality, makes them somehow better, or at least different, than other people. They become like the Pharisee in Jesus' story. The Pharisee was praying, yes. But his attitude was that he was better than the tax collector. Jesus' point was instructive, even for us. Approach God with humility. Do not think that you are better than someone else. We are all sinners. None of us deserve a relationship with God. But he loves us anyway.

Humble yourself before God, and he will meet with you and bless you.

Prayer: Lord God, draw me to you. Help me to realize how much I need you and how worthless I am without you. Keep me humble and in a good and deep relationship with you. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Even Cable TV Stinks

I remember the first time that I discovered AMC (American Movie Classics) on my cable system. It was at least 15 years ago. AMC quickly became my favorite station. There were great old movies, no commercials and fun "marathons" (Jimmy Stewart Day). But that was a long time ago. Things have changed on AMC. I don't even think that AMC stands for anything anymore. They certainly do not play classic movies. Tonight's prime time line up includes Alien Resurrection, The Matrix and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Not a classic film to be seen.

One time several years ago we were on vacation and our hotel included TV Land as one of its cable offerings. It was like heaven. We stayed in the first evening and watched Mr. Ed, The Patty Duke Show, The Donna Reed Show and Burns and Allen. It was chance to live in a time that was simpler and better. But alas, TV Land has changed too. Tonight on TV Land you can watch back to back episodes of Home Improvement, Roseanne and Married with Children. Thankfully, you can catch The Andy Griffith Show too, but there is very little classic TV on TV Land anymore.

On either of these cable channels you can find a seemingly endless variety of reality programs and new scripted series. You can also find paid programming, those perennial info-mercials that no one really likes. It is a shame that what were once my two favorite cable channels have become little more than purveyors of drivel.

I am sure that the changes in these two entities were well thought out and served a practical function. Thankfully there is Turner Classic Movies to fill the old movie void, but there is nothing bringing us television programming from the 50's, 60's or 70's. I have quit on both of these channels. And I am hoping that something will change soon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Best Shows on Television

I haven't seen everything that's on TV these days, but of the programs I have seen, these are the best. Each of them is worth watching. Take a chance.
  • 24
  • The Office
  • Glee
  • 30 Rock
  • The Daily Show
  • Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern
  • The Colbert Report
If I am missing a good one let me know. I will be glad to update my list.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Times, They are a Ch-ch-changin'

I realized an interesting thing a few months ago. I have changed a lot. I am not the same person that I was even two or three years ago. My priorities are different. What I do with my time is different. My values, politics and even my faith are different.

There are a lot of reasons for these changes.
  • I continue to change because I am constantly reading, studying, traveling, growing. I do not want to be stagnant. I want to experience new things. All those factors cause me to change.
  • I continue to change because I am always evaluating my life, actions and decisions. I want to make sure I am on the best course- the right course. There are constant adjustments to be made.
  • I continue to change because the people around me change. There are different people all the time, and the people who have been here for a long time are also dynamic, changing people.
  • I continue to change because of my Christian faith. The gospel calls me to grow in faith, to become more like Christ all the time. With faith as a priority, and in every attempt to live God's way, I change
The reason that this has become so important to me is because there are many people who never change. Bruce Sprinsteen sang about these people in his song "Glory Days." Some people are always living in the past. Do an experiment: Get out your high school yearbook. How many people wrote "Don't ever change"? Some people put a premium on staying the same.

Now there are people who do not know what to do with me because I have changed. I say, "Oops!" I will continue to grow, develop and change. I want tomorrow to be better, deeper and fuller than today. I want to change, to become more of the person that I am intended to be. I want to grow. Every day.

You see, people change and change is good.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wild Things and Mild Things

I recently saw "Where the Wild Things Are," finally. It was a Sunday afternoon matinee in a bargain theatre. The surroundings and atmosphere were not ideal, but I was ready for a film that I had been wanting to see for a long time.

I had further complications because I had already had a negative review from a good friend. She said that the movie was not as good as the movie. (I have yet to see a movie that lived up to the book it was based upon.) I had a deep desire to see the film, but I was apprehensive.

I was not disappointed. This is the best movie I've seen so far this year, and I am fairly certain it will make my year-end best of list. The question of whether or not this movie is better than the book is relatively moot. The film is only based upon Maurice Sendak's classic children's book. It is a completely different story. The characters are familiar. Max, a small boy, gets in trouble with his busy mom. She has a man over for dinner and does not have time for her son's shenanigans. An over-excited Max gets sent to his room, but instead makes a run for it. Max finds a boat, hops aboard and his adventure begins.

When Max arrives at the land where all the creatures live it is a revelation for the viewer. It is not cartoon-ish and story-book like. It seems like a completely realistic world with wild things who are more realistic than any puppet/muppet/ animatronic thing we have seen to date. Each wild thing has his own personality and name. They are not generic filler, or extras, in this movie. The Wild Things are intricately involved and intrinsic to the plot.

In one sense the Wild Things serve as playmates for Max. They are peers for Max. The island is filled with 8-year olds, it just so happens that some of them are giant, scary-looking monsters. But everyone is sweet, gentle reminder of the humanity of all of us.

While watching Where the Wild Things Are I was struck by several things.
  • All of us has an 8-year old somewhere inside of us. I wanted to go play with the wild things. I wanted to sleep in a "big pile." I longed to get to know the real KW. I wanted to have Max's group of friends.
  • Sometimes the greatest idea has tragedy as its inevitable end. As soon as Max recommended the dirt clod game, we knew that someone would get hurt. Someone was going to get angry. Someone would go home mad.
  • There is a bully in every crowd. Carol is a sweet, lovable creature who bullies others to get his way. In fact, he may be a racist. Either way, he is not all that he seems. There are always people who feel that they have to get their own way. We have to learn how to deal with difficult people.
  • Mom is always there and she loves us. The enduring story of the book and the movie is that in all our alone-ness, in all our running away for difficult circumstances, in every way we try to take care of our own problems, someone (Mom? God?) loves us and will make sure that everything turns out alright.
Go see this movie. Right now. Why are you still reading this. You should be on your way to the theatre.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Weekly Prayer Thought

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 2.20

Did you catch the importance of those words? Come, Lord Jesus! This is the perfect example of an invocation. Invocations call for God’s presence. This is why we typically begin worship services, meetings, meals and such with an invocation. We want to start with God’s presence, for if we start with the presence of the Almighty, we can be more certain of his work throughout our gathering.

When we are at a church service we expect it to begin with some form of prayer. Someone will say something about God and our desire to meet with and worship him. Church board meetings, Bible studies, youth groups and Sunday School classes all begin with an invocation. We wouldn’t have it any other way. We want to remind ourselves that we are committed to God and his work. We want to welcome him to our gathering and submit to his authority.

But there are other times that we should offer an invocation, asking God to be present.

  • We should pray an invocation first thing every morning.
  • We should pray an invocation at doctor appointments and other personal events.
  • We should say an invocation at family gatherings.
  • We need to ask God to be with us when we get into the car for a trip.
  • We need to pray for God’s presence as we have conversations with friends, acquaintances and co-workers.
  • We should be praying for God’s presence all the time.

And notice one more thing: The invocation in this passage, Revelation 2.20, is one of the last verses in the Bible. We need to not limit our invocations to the beginning of a day, event, service or meeting. We need to be praying for God’s presence all the way through. Pray for God to be present even to the end.

Prayer: Be present with me today, Lord. Stay with me. Reveal yourself to me. Work in my life. Help me to live in your presence, even as I continue to invite your presence in my world. Amen.