Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Tonight, the redhead and I attended a neighborhood Christmas Eve potluck in her hometown of Houston. It's an event she hasn't missed for the last fifteen years.

Halfway through the potluck, we took a moment to pause and remember what it's all about. We were asked to read the following commentary originally given in 1971 by Harry Reasoner on "60 Minutes." May it remind you of the wonder and astonishment of what happened that first Christmas in Bethlehem.

"The basis for this tremendous burst of buying things and gift giving and parties and near hysteria, is a quiet event that Christians believe actually happened a long time ago. You can say that in all societies there has always been a midwinter festival, and that many of the trappings of our Christmas are almost violently pagan, but you come back to the central fact of the day, ...the birth of God on earth.It leaves you only three ways of accepting Christmas. One is cynically, as a time to make money or endorse the making of it. One is graciously, the appropriate attitude for non-Christians, who wish their fellow citizens all the joys their beliefs entitle them. And the third, of course, is reverently.

If this is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless babe -- it is a very important day. It's a startling idea, of course, the whole story that a virgin was selected by God to bear His Son as a way of showing His love and concern for man. It's my guess that, in spite of all the lip service given to it, it is not an idea that has been popular with theologians.

It's a somewhat illogical idea, and theologians like logic almost as much as they like God. It's so revolutionary an idea that it probably could only have come from a God that is beyond logic, and beyond theology. It has a magnificent appeal. Almost nobody has seen God, and almost nobody has any real idea of what He is like, and the truth is that among men the idea of seeing God suddenly, and standing in a very bright light, is not necessarily a completely comforting and appealing idea. But everyone has seen babies, and most people like them. If God wanted to be loved as well as feared, He moved correctly here, for a baby growing up and learns all about people. If God wanted to be intimately a part of Man he moved correctly, for the experience of birth and family-hood is our most intimate and precious experience.

So it comes beyond logic. It is either a falsehood or it is the truest thing in the world. It's the story of the great innocence of God the baby. God in the person of man has such a dramatic shock toward the heart, that it, if it is not true, for Christians, nothing is true. So even if you have not got your shopping all done and are swamped with the commercialism and the frenzy, be at peace...The story stands.So, if a Christian is touched only once a year, the touching is still worth it, and maybe on some given Christmas, some final quiet morning, the touch will take."

Here’s praying that the touch will take in all our lives…and that the amazement will remain all year long. Nothing could make for a better Christmas.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Believe and See

The redhead and I were home Friday night, playing an intense game of Scrabble (I know, I know…we sound like an old married couple…but she was sick…and…never mind…). We had the TV on and between turns, we watched “The Polar Express.” I hadn’t seen this film in a few years and forgot about how much longing it stirs up in me (I’ll save that for another blog post). The film is about a boy who’s grown skeptical of the whole Santa Claus thing until one Christmas Eve when a train shows up in his front yard. The conductor invites him to take a ride on the Polar Express to travel to the North Pole to meet Santa himself.

I was intrigued by how the movie addresses the whole topic of skepticism. For the boy, seeing is believing. Until he sees Santa, he won’t believe.

Near the end of the film, the skeptical boy is at the North Pole, he’s surrounded by thousands of elves, stands within eye shot of the flying reindeer and is standing with a group of ecstatic children, all jumping up and down with excitement over the appearance of Santa. All of them can see him, except, that is, for the boy who won’t believe until he sees. The crowd is blocking Santa and he can't get a good, convincing glimpse of him.

Suddenly, he has a change of heart. He shuts his eyes tightly and vows that he believes in Santa. Upon opening his eyes, he finds himself standing before St. Nicolas himself. Believing leads to seeing.

The film reminded me a of a quote attributed to Blaise Pacal, a French philosopher and scientist who converted to Christianity and penned the Penses (sayings)…a collection of sayings that scholars believe to be the basis of a book he was writing. (Pascal died before the book's completion. but the sayings have been in print for a few hundred years). In the Penses, he states that “God has given us enough evidence of himself so that faith in him is a most reasonable thing…but you won’t get there by reason alone.”

The boy has a lot evidence for the existence of Santa: he’s at the North Pole and he's surrounded by elves and flying reindeer. There’s enough evidence to conclude that belief in Santa is reasonable, but he doesn’t get there by reason alone, he chooses to believe, and then he sees the Jolly Elf.

It seems like God puts us in a similar situation as the boy in this movie. It's not unreasonable to believe in him. There’s enough evidence. But we have to choose to believe before we see. Why? Why doesn’t he make himself more obvious?

I think God hides himself a bit because he wants more from us than the mere acknowledgment of his existence. He wants to be known. I know that in my own life, I personally could care less how many people on this planet are aware of my existence. I do desire, however, to be known and loved. Jesus said the greatest thing we could do was to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (loving our neighbor comes next). God wants our love, and that has to be freely given. He gives us the space to reach out to him or reject him. He doesn't leave us without evidence of his existence. He leaves just enough of a trail to follow if we want to find him. And if we hope on board the train, he provides us with more clues to his existence. But there's just enough of a lack of a trail if we want to reject him. His distance gives us the space and freedom to to either love him or reject him. The choice is ours…believing is seeing.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Getting the white stone rolling again

After a long hiatus...I hope to be writing on a more regular basis soon. Starting with a full entry on December 1st to start off the Christmas season...more to come on Monday.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Facebook Song

Have you checked out Facebook yet? The advent of social networking sites like Facebook is bringing enormous changes in the ways we connect with people. I first heard about the site a few years ago through my work with college students. I shrugged it off for a year or two but then decided to log on to see what all the fuss was about. Since creating my facebook page about a year ago, I've reunited with several old friends from high school, some whom I haven't seen in over twenty years.

Here's a fun introduction to Facebook from internet stars Rhett and Link, singing, "The Facebook Song."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Trapped in the Estrogen Prison

Last week, I dragged...I mean persuaded, the redhead to join me in a Spin class at our local gym. She agreed, under the condition that I would attend a yoga class with her the following week. "Sure," I said. How hard could it be...a yoga class? (Y-A-W-N). No weights, no grunting, and a room full of women stretching and breathing deeply to the sounds of pretty music. In other words, not much of a workout.

Sure enough, this morning I entered a dimly lit room filled with soft music and way, way too much estrogen. I saw another guy in the back of the room and a third who arrived to class late, wearing a pink bandana on his head (no comment). With the door shut behind me, there was no escaping to the weight room.

My rude awakening hit about twenty minutes later.

There I was, stretching out along to the tune of a Nora Jones song, breathing deeply, gulping down air, sweating profusely, and desperate for mercy. The soft spoken instructor sounded like she'd popped one too many valium that morning. Thirty minutes later, I was ready to the give the "sun salutation" a salute of my own and ready to kick the "crouching dog, hidden dragon" where the sun don't shine. I collapsed an hour late, begging to be set free from the estrogen prison.

Maybe I'll go again next week.

But only if I can bring a few dumbells.

Monday, July 14, 2008


On Sunday, the redhead and I listened to a pastor teach on the topic of joy and happiness. He talked about how our culture keeps us in a state of restlessness and dissatisfaction with our current situation.

In order to keep us consuming more and more, and thereby keeping the economy going, ad agencies work hard to keep us in a constant state of dissatisfaction with our present life. "Wants" turn into "needs" and "necessities" turn into "must haves."

The pastor then cited the following example:

A few years ago, Psychology Today magazine ran an article by Hollywood publicist Michael Levine, in which he argued that constant exposure to beautiful women has made single men less interested in dating and married men less interested in their wives. According to Levine, prior to 1950, the average man didn't have a television, and prior to the automobile and airplane, he was limited in travel. Today, the average guy is exposed to thousands of women through travel, television, movies, the internet, magazines, etc and as a result, he begins losing interest in the more "ordinary" women around him.

What is surprising about this article is his explanation for the average guy's loss of interest. It wasn't that a typical male thinks that "ordinary" women are less attractive. Instead, he thinks, "My wife looks good...but since there are so many beautiful women out there, I can do better."

The sermon led to a great conversation between the redhead and I as we talked about how the constant barrage of ads and images can really take its toll on the soul.

How do you protect yourself our consumer culture's constant pull on your life? How do you keep yourself from being dissatisfied with the good you have in your life right now?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Saturday night mind dump

  • Got to blow things up at a friend's 4th of July party last night
  • Saw the movie "Handcock" with the Redhead this afternoon. She liked it better than I did.
  • Doing a lot of summer reading right now. Several future blog posts brewing in my head.
  • My sweet wife woke up at 3am with morning with a major leg cramp/"charleyhorse." Does anybody know how to prevent these?

Monday, June 30, 2008

One Year Later

Happy Anniversary baby,

How I managed to catch a beauty like you I'll never know.

Our wedding day flew by so fast. Hard to believe it was a year ago today that I watched you walking down the aisle.
Here's to the start of another great year together.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Smart Christianity

When my wife and I were on vacation in New York City, we made sure to visit Redeemer Presbyterian, the church she attended during the three years she lived in Manhattan. Amid much skepticism, Dr. Tim Keller launched the church in 1989, hoping to reach out to Manhattan's intellectual and cultural elite. Cynical New Yorkers scoffed at his plans to plant a church committed to classic, orthodox Christianity. Those on the sidelines encouraged him to water down his committment to the reliabilty of scripture and to classic doctrines such as the deity of Christ and the resurrection, believing that educated New Yorkers would only respond to a milder version of Christianity. 

Nineteen years later, 6000 people attend five different services in Mahattan. Most are single and in their 20s.

Part of Keller's attractiveness is his smart, thoughtful, brimstone-free sermons that appeal to the mind and heart (and not the wallet). His book, "The Reason for God" is a great introduction to Christianity and a much needed challenge to the recent stream of athiest books currently in vogue. A few months ago, Keller visited Google's corporate offices for a brief lecture and Q&A session on his book (which has currently moved to number 7 on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller's list). You can watch the lecture below.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Something Other and Better

"Strangely, virtually every death, even of the very old, feels like an intrusion and more or less surprises us. Tears and lament give witness to our basic sense that this is wrong and that we don't like it one bit. Death provides the fundamental datum that something isn't working the way it was intended, accompanied by the feeling that we have every right to expect something other and better." (Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: a Conversation in Spiritual Theology)

My father-in-law passed away Wednesday night. The last 24 hours have been a jumble of motion and emotion as we scrambled to find remotely affordable airline tickets, send out emails, call family, and pack.

My wife kept saying over and over, "I can't believe he's gone." I remember saying the same thing after my own Father passed away. For months I knew that this day might come but it still surprised me. Death is so unnatural. It's as if we somehow know instinctively that this is not supposed to happen.

Death confused me as a child. I didn't grow up in a religious home so we never really talked much about the possibility of life after death. I was relieved when I attended vacation bible school with some kids in the neighborhood and learned about the concept of Heaven. That made sense to me. Death did not. It still doesn't.

I don't think its supposed to make sense. But what does resonate with me is this intuitive sense that "we have every right to expect something other and better" as Peterson describes it.

That gut feeling that "somethin' ain't right" makes no sense if the world consists only of matter in motion. It's like we know deep down inside that something is broken both in us and in world. Our souls cry out for a redeemer even if our hearts and minds will not.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Telling Stories

Every Sunday night, four couples from our church join the wife and I for conversation and prayer (and sometimes dinner). We've been working our way through a discussion guide on marriage written by a psychologist and an Old Testament scholar. Last night's topic centered on the significance family stories.

When someone asks us a question about ourselves, we usually respond with a story. We love hearing and telling stories. Intimate marriages and close knit families are built upon a willingness to share stories. We reveal ourselves through our stories.

Last night, everyone took turns telling stories. Tales were told of acts of courage, heartache, or just plain silliness. Some of us grew up with forbidden stories that were never to be told. Some of us grew up with stories that were incomplete. That was certainly my experience. Growing up as an adopted child, I often asked my Mom to tell me the story about "the lady who had me" (my way of referring to my birthmother).

My adopted parents knew virtually nothing about my biological parents (times were different then). They passed on a few sketchy details that raised more questions in my mind than answers. My biological history remained shrouded in an unsolved mystery until just four years ago.

With the help of the archives unit of my adoption agency, I found the missing pages of my story and met the maternal side of my biological family. (It's a great story...I'll have to save it for a future blog entry). Not only did I get a birthmother, but I learned that I had three brothers, a sister (all "half-siblings" but we quickly dropped the "half), five nieces and nephews (now eight!), and a step-father (who now treats me like one of his own). Such great people...I felt like I won the "adoption lottery."

Before the reunion, I used to look in the mirror and see no one but myself. Now I see familiar faces from the past and present. It reminds me of a verse of scripture where the Apostle Paul contrasts a Christ follower's present relationship with God with his future one. He says that, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

What was once a hazy, vague part of my life is now filled with crisp details. The empty pages of my story now burst with prose.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

An unexpected gift

My father-in-law is dying.

It looks like his hard-fought battle with skin cancer is coming to an end. The wife and I were on vacation in New York city last week and instead of flying home with me to LA, she took a detour back to Texas for what could be her last visit with her Dad.

I know this scenario all too well. Fifteen years ago, I made the same journey. My Dad's battle with skin cancer was also coming to an end. An unexpected phone call from my Dad's boss, informing me that "we almost lost your Dad today" resulted in a rush trip to Atlanta to be at my Father's side.

Cancer, as horrific as it is, also comes with...for lack of a better word...a "gift." It provides you with an opportunity to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done.

My Dad was a good man in many ways. He provided for us in a material sense. He taught me how to water ski, how to drive a boat, and the value of a good work ethic. But, like many men of his generation, he was emotionally absent and distant.

My encounter with him at his hospital bed was different. Within 24 hours of my arrival, my Father miraculously rallied and was alert and clear-minded. We had one of the most honest conversations I'd ever had with him. My detached, emotionally distant Father was vulnerable, open, and honest. I saw a side of him I had never seen before. I finally got a glimpse of his heart.

Cancer had given my Dad the gift of clarity. The opportunity to consider what was really important. It gave him the opportunity to make peace with God, with my sister and I, and with his ex-wife (my Mother). It gave him the courage to open his heart to us.

He passed away a week later.

The wife's conversation with her Dad was similar in it's significance. No doubt it will be a conversation to savor and cherish for the rest of her life. Cancer's clarifying power continues on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Giving away power

Last week,the wife wrote a blog entry about feeling misunderstood and the desire we all have to "fit in."

It reminded me of an experience I had when we were first dating. During that nervous season of our relationship, I inited her to attend a seminar held at my church. Knowing that the room would be full of dozens of friends and acquaintances, my stomach was tied up in knots as we arrived. Eight months earlier, I ended a relationship that left me feeling unsettled about my newest venture back into the dating world. Representatives from nearly every facet of my life filled that room: a group of young college men that I mentored, grad school classmates, a favorite professor, a mentor, and many close friends. What were they all thinking? Did they "approve" of my newest female friend? Did they disapprove? I felt like an insecure American Idol contestant in a room full of Simons.

Panicking, I quickly introduced the wife to my friend David and his wife Jenn while I dashed off to the bathroom to hide.

Unfortunately, staying in the bathroom wasn't an option. I gulped down a couple of deep breaths and returned to the room. Somehow, I managed to make it through the rest of the evening while carrying a knot in my stomach the size of a grapefruit.

A few days later, I unpacked the experience with my psychologist. I'll never forget what he said. "Why do you give people so much power?", he asked.

Great question. Why do I give people so much power? Do I really want to go through life giving people that kind of authority over my life? Who cares what they think? Besides, they're not thinking about me anyway. They're too busy wondering what the rest of us are thinking about them. While input from others is valuable, especially when entering the uncharted waters of a new dating relationship, I realized that I give away way too much power. I learned a great lesson that night.

(But of course, I'm now wondering what all of you think about the fact that I met with a psychologist).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Question Authority

I love to learn. I have an almost insatiable appetite for knowledge and information. I rarely go anywhere without a book in tow. As I child, much to my athletic sister's chagrin, I loved school and always did my homework. You know the type.

(I can't help but wonder if she got her master's degree before I did just to spite me!).

Our country was built on the freedom of speech. You have the freedom to say what you think, even if people disagree with you. Our current presidential race only underscores this basic tenet of life in America. This right to speak freely, to ask questions, to dissent, to follow the evidence where it leads and to think outside of the box leads to incredible discoveries and opportunities.

Tragically, the institution founded upon free inquiry ain't so free thinking anymore. I'm talking about the American university system.

Last night, had the priviledge of attending a public gathering at Biola university to hear Ben Stein (Bueller...Bueller) talk about his upcoming documentary film, "Expelled." Stein was joined on the stage along with two of the scientists featured in the film, Dr. Caroline Crocker and Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez. Both of these noted experts were kicked out of school for daring to think outside the box and question the prevailing orthodoxy of Darwinism.

I was stunned as Dr. Crocker described what happened to her in the aftermath of her expulsion from George Mason University. A lawyer from a major D.C. law firm offered to represent her, only to later be fired from the firm shortly after the firm received a lucrative contract from George Mason. Unbelievable.

I, for one, can't wait to see this film. I hope it will underscore the importance of academic freedom and the right to ask questions, the right to think, to dissent, to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Drama and Redemption

You say you see no hope,
you say you see no reason we should dream
that the world would ever change
You're saying love is foolish to believe
'Cause there'll always be some crazy with an Army or a Knife
To wake you from your day dream, put the fear back in your life...

Look, if someone wrote a play just to glorify
What's stronger than hate, would they not arrange the stage
To look as if the hero came too late, he's almost in defeat
It's looking like the Evil side will win,
so on the Edge of every seat,
from the moment that the whole thing begins

It is...Love who makes the mortar
And it's love who stacked these stones
And it's love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we're alone
In this scene set in shadows
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it's love that wrote the play...

(David Wilcox, "Show the Way")

Good Friday...what a strange name for the day we remember Christ's death. Yet it's a good descriptor for the irony that something extravagant and unbelievable happens in the midst of something so bleak and tragic. How a playwright could stage a scene with such ugly elements that ultimately leads to something glorious is beyond my comprehension, yet that is what Good Friday is all about. The Playwright wrote a powerful story where the hero comes though, but only after the evil side demonstrates all of its strength, a strength that seems unconquerable for awhile, only to be seen as pitiful and weak just a few days later.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Relationship challenge #2: The First Camping Trip

The redhead and I headed out of town for our first weekend camping trip. This former boy scout was pleasantly surprised at the wife's willingness to brave the outdoors for 48 hours, given that her idea of "roughing it" involves campgrounds such as the Hilton or the Marriott. Of course, this was camping in Southern California, meaning that the only dangerous animals spotted were the two jaguars that cruised into the campground on four wheels and the afternoon of hiking was scrapped for a drive to a nearby vineyard for some wine tasting. In similar fashion, the Saturday night of card playing around the campfire turned into an outing to Starbucks, convieniently located just five minutes away from the wilderness.

At any rate, the weekend was a blast and the menacing rain clouds hanging overhead didn't amount to much. Though my bride claims to be quite delicate and not the camping type, she scored major points in my book with the creative way she faced many of the challenges of camping. She never ceases to amaze me.

(For those of you interested in reading about relationship challenge #1, you'll find that located here.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

My wife and I have a friend who makes a living as a professional photographer. Though most of her work comes from photographing weddings, her favorites subjects are children. When I asked her why she loves photographing kids, she told me it was because children aren’t self-conscious and as a result, they aren’t afraid to be themselves.

She’s right. Little kids make great subjects for photography. Though they're great at playing hide and seek with their bodies, squeezing into a closet or under a bed, they haven’t yet learned how to hide their souls. As a result, kids are incredibly photogenic. The soul of a child captured on film is a work of art.

Tragically, hiding the soul is a game that adults play.

We wear a mask, hoping it will shield us from guilt, shame, or rejection. Hoping it will save us and bring us the love we desperately desire. Years later, we forget all about the mask. As a result, we end up losing ourselves. We forget who we are. The light of our true self is dimmed, sentenced to a half-life roaming in the shadows.

No wonder Jesus said we have to lose our life to find it. We have to lose the identity constructed out of self-control and self-protection in order to discover the true self fashioned by our Creator.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Block Dog

The wife is out of town for the week. She’s back in Texas attending baby showers for her very pregnant sister and spending time with her cancer stricken father. It’s a strange time for her, a mixture of joy and sorrow.

For the first time, I’m experiencing what its like to be the one back at home when the spouse leaves. She’s had to endure this several times but this is the first time the tables have been turned and it’s really strange. The condo feels so empty. I spent the first forty years of my life on my own and after only eight months of marriage, living alone again feels unnatural.

Granted, there are a few advantages, I don’t feel the need to shave every day, I don’t have to share the remote, and I get to leave the toilet seat up, but that’s about it.

Recently, I’ve been listening to an old David Wilcox CD on my ipod. A good friend re-introduced me to this little known artist that I had forgotten. I ran across a song he wrote that well expresses the changes brought about by my upgraded marital status.

Block Dog:

I had a long talk with the block dog
All summer he runs with the kids
He's happy as a block dog
Every day the choice is his

'Cause they all feed him when he's hungry
They all keep him from the cold
But he don't wear their collar
He makes the neighborhood his home

There'll be a fireplace in the winter
There's lots of houses down this street
Summertime he'll catch your frisbee
Beg the best of your dinner meat

I had a long talk with the block dog
All summer he runs with the kids
He's happy as a block dog
Every day the choice is his.

I said Rusty, I'm gettin' married
I used to like your kind of life
But life's different now, it's like a garden
I'd like to tend it with my wife

Dig in one spot make a straight row
You're only diggin' to hide the bone
But when I lived so free alone
I had an empty harvest

I had a long talk with the block dog
All summer he runs with the kids
He's happy as a block dog
Every day the choice is his

Rusty looked up, sad at me and said
Dave, I understand
'Cause we're different now, I'm still a dog
And you're acting like a man."

I had a long talk with the block dog
All summer he runs with the kids
He's happy as a block dog
Every day the choice is his

I ain't nothin' but a hound dog
I ain't nothin' but a hound dog

Thanks for the harvest you’ve brought to my life sweetie. Come home soon. We’ve got a garden to tend and a life to build.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Red Carpet Mania

Did you catch the Academy Awards the other night? The wife and I joined some friends for an impromptu Oscar Party. (We all promised that if anyone made it to a major awards ceremony, all of us would be attending as a group!)

Is it just me, or has the notion of celebrity taken on a cult-like status in our country? Admittedly, I’d love it if the wife became famous and hit the big time in her acting career. But I couldn’t help confess to her the other day that I hoped she would have a “successful, fulfilling, and satisfying career as an anonymous B-list actress.” While we both laughed at my statement, I really do hope my redhead achieves great success without the accompanying zaniness that currently surrounds much of Hollywood. People today pay an insane amount of attention to celebrities. Why are they so important to us? What is with the fascination with celebrity?

Recently, I ran across an article on Time magazine’s website that left me scratching my head. Apparently, there’s a company in Austin, Texas that, for the hefty price of $1500, will provide you with four photographers who, for two hours, will chase you down and harass and photograph you as if you were a real life celebrity. Crowds will gather on the street as people stop, stare, and ask each other, “Who was that?”

This escalating fascination with celebrity reminds me of an article I read in graduate school by Dr. Philip Cushman, a psychologist at Berkeley, on the topic of the “empty self.” He states that “the empty self is filled up with consumer goods, calories, experiences, politicians, romantic partners, and empathetic therapists…[The empty self] experiences a significant absence of community, tradition, and shared meaning…a lack of personal conviction and worth, and it embodies the absence as a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger.”

One of the tell-tale signs that our culture is rampant with empty selves is the current obsession with celebrities. Well known people provide us with the opportunity to fill our empty souls with the drama surrounding their lavish lifestyles. Surely our hunger for drama points to the fact that we were made to live for something larger than ourselves. Without a transcendent purpose to life, the temptation to sign up for the cult of celebrity is hard to resist.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Losing my manhood, one chick flick at a time

I knew that marriage would change my life but whoa…I think I’ve seen more chick-flicks in the past eight months than the last ten years combined. I can’t even begin to remember the last time I saw a good act of senseless violence on the silver screen.

Here's my rundown of the some of the flicks my bride has forced me to watch, I mean, invited me to enjoy with her:

Enchanted: This movie features a vivacious redhead who spontaneously bursts into song the moment inspiration strikes. In other words, I paid $11 to watch a movie about my wife.

In the ensuing weeks, I endured countless moments of scrutiny regarding whether or not any of my freely offered kisses were “the kiss of true love.”
Rating: one chainsaw

27 Dresses: A film about every wedding but my own. A major testosterone reducer. I could feel the estrogen rising in the movie theater as the film’s opening credits appeared on the screen. 27 hours too long.
Rating: one chainsaw

Pride and Prejudice/Sense and Sensibility: These are listed together because I can’t remember which one I slept through and which one I saw in its entiretly.
Rating: 2 chainsaws (I can’t give Jane just one chainsaw, poor Jane needs an extra one to sell so she can live off the proceeds until the right wealthy suitor comes along).

(Dear God, please spare me from having to sit through the BBC version).

Definitely, Maybe: Two hours of watching a recently divorced man tell his nine year old daughter the story of how he slept around with, I mean, dated three women and finally chose her Mom.
Rating: one chainsaw

Bridget Jones Diary: I can’t remember what it was about. Something about a woman who falls in love.
Rating: no chainsaws

How long ‘til the new Indiana Jones movie is released?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mandibles pressing together

What exactly, is a kiss?

I looked in the dictionary and found the following entry

Kiss: noun
1: a caress with the lips
2: a gentle touch or contact
3: an expression of affection

My favorite definition of a kiss (tongue firmly planted in cheek) is the following:

“A kiss is two mandibles pressing together for a certain duration of time, with the possible exchange of some digestive fluid”

Sort of misses the mark, doesn’t it?

Science, for all of its enormous benefits and unquestionable help in improving much of our quality of life, sometimes oversteps its boundaries. When it tries to make sense of parts of the world for which it is completely inadequate, we sense and feel its insufficiency. The constant scientific reduction of everything to the merely physical leaves me feeling empty. It reduces life to the equivalent of an IRS 1040 tax form. All the facts and figures are present, but it no longer takes your breath away. A kiss turns out to be nothing more than two mandibles pressing together.

That’s one of the reasons why the world needs artists, poets, storytellers, actors, and filmmakers. They remind us that we live in a world teeming with beauty and wonder.

The scientific world at times feels to me like a raging river that swells dangerously beyond its banks, crushing any who block its attempt to explain reality. Like the proverbial tale of a boy who discovers a hole in a river dam and then plunges his finger into the dike to prevent disaster, the world’s artists prevent the destruction of beauty and goodness. They keep the wonder from leaking out. They remind us that the world is bigger than grander than what can merely be seen and discovered with our five senses.

So Happy Valentine’s Day sweetheart, and thanks for helping to keep the wonder from leaking out.

“In delay there lies no plenty.
Then come kiss me,
Sweet and twenty”
(Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Seeking congruence

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." Frederick Buechner

What do you love to do? Ever since I can remember, I've loved to learn. Books fascinate me. I can wander a bookstore for hours, scanning shelves full of ideas, information, knowledge, perspectives, and opinions. I love people, too. Yeah, yeah, it sounds trite, but I really do. People fascinate me. Each soul is unique. Each personality distinct. And I love a good audience. I started performing in front of audiences in elementary school, with plays and magic shows. Now I love to speak and teach. I love getting a response from a group, helping them think, causing them to reconsider something that they might have ignored or overlooked. And few things are more fun than getting an audience to laugh, especially when they (or you) least expect it.

I firmly believe that fulfillment in our vocation has much to do with finding jobs that allow us to do the things that we love to do; the things that energize us and bring us fulfillment. No job is ever perfect, but given the amount of time we spend at work, finding a role that correlates with who we are is essential.

That's why I'm in the midst of reconsidering my current job and looking for one that's a better fit. I don't know exactly where I'll be in the next six months, but I have a feeling it will involve all the things I listed above, along with a few other passions. Time will tell...

Friday, February 1, 2008

Searching for a name

A few weeks ago, I caught the movie "Into the Wild" on a flight to Europe. The film tells the true story of Chris McCandless, who, after graduating from Emory in 1990, gave away his $24,000 life savings, vanished from his family, and spent the next two years working his way up to Alaska, where he lived in in the wild, away from human contact.

I found his story compelling and moving. Who doesn't at times wrestle with the struggle for a true identity?

Though my own story is quite different, I resonated with McCandless's search for an identity. I grew up adopted, knowing only the faintest traces of information about my biological identity. How do we find ourselves? How do we wrestle with the quest for an identity?

McCandless grew up in a web of lies. His parents were not who they claimed to be. His discovery of their deception contributed to his own deep struggle with his identity. After fleeing the confines of his life in Atlanta, he gave himself the name "Alexander Supertramp", and headed off in search of himself.

Can one really find one's self in this way? Do we create our self and our identity, or do we discover it? It seemed like McCandless's newly created identity was no more real or unreal than the identity given to him by his dysfunctional family. We are all given names by the people around us. Some of those names are terms of endearment, these are the names we cherish. Some of those names wound us deeply ("stupid", "fatty", "lazy", etc.). But who can really and truly name us?

Can any self we create for ourselves be real? It seems that the only self that is real is the one known and created by God. Who else can truly name and identify us other than the one who created us?

God is described in the Bible as giving those who overcome a white stone with a name written on it, known only to him who receives it (Revelation 2:17). I wonder what that name will be? It seems like part of life's journey is spent discovering hints of what God has written on that white stone and then living out that identity. At least that's how it seems to me.