Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Friday, December 7, 2012
I've been absent from this blog for over a year, and while I've maintained a ministry-focused blog, there's something about the freedom I've had in publishing here that I've missed. I miss the discipline of writing essays and poetry about whatever strikes my fancy, and putting it up for the few who stumble upon it to enjoy or vilify. I've missed being a writer, in other words.
And rather than simply post an announcement that I'm resurrecting a dead blog, some thoughts on resurrection:
The movie Batman Begins centers around the quote recited by multiple characters: "Why do we fall?" "So we can learn to get back up."
Most of the time we think of failures as moments to reject, to throw out onto a scrap heap somewhere and hope the trash collector comes early. We try not to dwell on them, we try our best not to let them weigh on us, and we move on. We'd rather not examine too deeply whether the failure was a result of deficiency within ourselves, or a result of circumstances we can't control. We'd just like to pretend it didn't happen. So we'll file it away, and avoid circumstances as much as we can that might put us in a position to experience the same kind of failure. We don't expose ourselves naturally to situations in which we might fail.
What I'm saying in all this is, resurrection's a miracle any way you cut it.
Let's look at the big example: the dead coming to life. Dead things stay dead - that's the rule by which nature operates, and any of us are hard-pressed to find exceptions to that rule. Death, as much as we resist believing and saying so, and as unsettled by it as we are, is the normal experience. Everything dies, and new life replaces the former. What dies does not revive. Every once in awhile we'll witness resuscitation, where that which was almost dead is restored to health, but this is not resurrection. A man whose lungs are filled with water may be in danger of dying - seconds away, perhaps - but as long as the water is expelled, the man will be fine. He can be resuscitated. The dead cannot. The dead are dead.
But resurrection restores life to what is dead, no matter what died. Resurrection belongs to the divine. Resuscitation is what the mortals do.
We can resuscitate dreams: ones that are wheezing on the scrap heap, clawing for air. We can breathe new life into their lungs and rescue them from death. But when a thing is dead, it takes an act of God to resurrect it.
"Why do we fall?" And what happens if we fall so hard we die? What happens when the Fall kills all of us?
There's a God who walks among the body-riddled scrap heap of this world, who picks up the broken, lifeless souls and gives them His life, binds their wounds, clothes them with festal garments, and sets them on a path they wouldn't have dared to dream about. Whether we know it or not, we're all dead inside without Him. We need resurrection power from the fall we've suffered - we are broken unto death.
We can't learn to get back up. We are down for the count, because before the count stopped, we stopped breathing. And until we can recognize that, we can't go anywhere. A dead man can't resurrect himself. And a dead dream - for peace, for love, for fulfillment - can't be restored either.
But this universe is ruled by a God who love to restore. He is making All Things New. He is resurrecting men and their dreams alike. He has defeated Death, and will soon vanquish it forever so that it will be nothing but a distant memory.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
"If we cannot get sinners to Jesus by ordinary means, we must use extraordinary ones. It seems ... that roof tiles had to be removed. That would create dust and cause a measure of danger to those below, but where the case is very urgent, we must be prepared to run some risks and shock some people." --Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, on the paralyzed man lowered from the roof to JesusWhy is it we do not go to the "extraordinary means" to reach others with the gospel of grace? These friends of the paralyzed man cared so much about giving their friend the opportunity to be healed that they risked displeasing the owner of this house to be able to get the man to Jesus. They counted the cost of paying for a new roof, of upsetting the crowd inside, and decided that it was worth it if their friend could be healed.
What do we do? When we meet or interact with someone who may be lost, do we do whatever it takes to make sure they have heard the gospel? Or seen the love of Christ through our interactions with them? What ridiculously difficult thing are we willing to do to make sure our neighbor or coworker knows that we love them as Christ did. The man who was paralyzed knew the love of Christ before even seeing Him, through the love of his friends who took matters into their hands. What can we do to make that kind of whatever-it-takes love known to the people we interact with? Are we willing to go to the disagreeable neighbor for the fifth time to ask them to turn their music down, and oh, would you like a cookie we just pulled out of the oven? And would you like to come over for dinner? Or do we call the cops and walk by with our head down so we don't have to look them in the eye? (Guess which route I took.)
We are called to a radical, roof-demolishing love of our neighbors. God wishes us to chase down souls, to knock down walls with His love. I pray He fills me continually with the love I need to be able to do this.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Friday, May 6, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
- The speedster: This can be most easily defined as anyone who drives faster than you. The speedster immediately conjures rage in each driver they pass, the spray of ice and snow following in their wake the only rival to the spray of saliva from the mouths of their fellow travelers as they shout words we dare not repeat here. Of course, we all wish the speedsters ended up in the ditch, thus teaching them to no longer be speedsters, but rarely do we receive the satisfaction of seeing them spin out or crash and burn. Speedsters themselves can probably be broken into two subcategories: those who drive fast because they have a 4x4 and can get away with it, and those who are driving something sporty and don't know how to drive slow. Either one is equally annoying, though the reasons they're annoying are, perhaps, slightly different.
- The creeper: This is the person who seems like the only reason they're driving instead of walking is so they can stay warm and dry, because they're not going any faster than they would if they were pedestrating (pedestrizing? Not sure if there's a verb form of pedestrian, but there should be. Leave a comment with any other suggestions of how to "verb" it). They're almost as maddening as the speedster, and heaven help you if you get behind them going up the hill, because they're bound to lose traction and start sliding backwards into you. These people are usually driving an older model car, often a 90s Pontiac Grand Am or Mercury Tempo, with bad tires. The best way to deal with these people is park your car, walk up to their window (which you can do without much effort, since they'll be driving slower than you on foot), and hand them money for bus fare. They'll get to their destination faster, and you'll have done all the other drivers on the road a huge favor by getting them off of it.
- You: You are, of course, the quintessential perfect driver. You drive at the perfect rate of speed that the conditions require, neither too fast nor too slow, and leave just enough stopping distance between you and the car in front of you. You are flawless in every way, and while some may judge you as a creeper, you can obviously dismiss them as reckless speedsters, and others may count you as a speedster, their creeper ways of course color their viewpoint. Congratulations on achieving what all other snow drivers strive for: perfection.
Friday, December 10, 2010
I’m not generally a big fan of most Christmas movies. I could never get into the old claymation Rudolph; I don’t think I’ve even seen Frosty the Snowman or A Christmas Story; I’ve always despised White Christmas; and most of the less classic tales (Home Alone, Jingle All the Way, the Tim Allen Santa Claus movies, etc.) hold little appeal for me. It’s a Wonderful Life, is of course, an exception to the rule.
That’s why I’m a little surprised at my deep love for the 1994 version of Miracle on 34th Street. Going in it already has two strikes against it: one, it’s a remake of an older movie I didn’t really like very much (though to be fair, I haven't seen the old one for a very long time), and two, it’s a newer Christmas movie, which almost unfailingly means that it’s going to be either cynical or shallow, its message focused on being nice and feeling connected to family and friends.
But it’s not either cynical or shallow. The characters are surprisingly deep, fleshed out, complex. Dory, Brian, Susan, and Kris Kringle are characters in their own rights, with their own actions and motivations for those actions. Dory Walker cynical, aloof, scarred from a failed marriage, now passing on that cynicism to her daughter in hopes of defending her from life’s disappointments. Brian Bedford is the faithful, caring neighbor who has taken an interest in Dory, and cares about her deeply despite her hesitation to commit to a relationship. He loves Susan and Dory faithfully, and is endlessly patient and optimistic about winning Dory over. Susan is the bright, intelligent young girl who, despite her mother’s attempts to make her an “atheist,” senses that there may be more to the world than what her mother has said.
And then there’s Kris. He’s essentially a theophany – an incarnation of Christ Himself into the story. He makes no pretense of hiding his identity as Santa; from the outset, when he’s seen by the judge and his grandson as he crosses the street before the parade, he tells the boy he is who the boy suspects – Santa Claus. And that claim doesn’t change as the story goes on. While Dory hires him to play “Santa” for the parade and for Cole’s Department Store, Kris agrees, because he’s basically being himself, to a greater degree than they realize. He follows the higher goal of Santa to serve people and share the joy of Christmas by sending customers elsewhere for cheaper gifts, even though his employment by Cole’s would dictate this as bad policy. He plays by a higher law, and influences the company to follow that higher law as well. And in as much as Cole’s puts their faith in Kris as Santa, they are blessed.
But then he is betrayed – by a counterfeit Santa. He willingly goes to trial, purposefully failing a mental competency exam, and is taken to trial for the claims he’s made to be someone that he can’t be – Santa Claus. And then, in a moment of triumph, he’s released through the affirmation of the law that claims he is who he is – the one and only Santa Claus, the genuine article.
The movie isn’t without flaws; there are two that come to mind immediately. One is the competitor storyline, Victor Landbergh and his attempts to ruin Cole’s Christmas. It’s overly hokey, and compared with the genuine feel of the rest of the movie, seems to cheapen the story. It could have been far better executed with a little more effort. The other is the one that nearly ruins the movie for me.
During the trial, Brian Bedford says in his closing argument to the judge something to the effect of, “You have to ask yourself which is better: a truth that draws a tear, or a lie that brings a smile?” This seems to erase the entire impact of the movie. Rather than make it a movie about having faith in the unseen, it seems to suggest that we all know it’s not true, but it makes us feel good, so why not believe it? It contradicts the message the rest of the movie seems to convey, and makes me cringe every time I come to that scene. I have to assess, then, what the rest of the movie means in light of this statement. It’s inconsistent, and saddens me that the writer felt like that was the message they were conveying.
But I can ignore the comment. It’s the one slip-up which seems to reveal more about the person who penned the screenplay than it does about the message of the movie. And there’s nothing like Judge Henry Harper’s impassioned speech at the end of the trial confirming that Kris is indeed Santa to bring a tear to one’s eye. And the rest of the movie is just pure bliss, as Santa, now come into his kingdom, grants the deepest longings of those who have put their trust in him.
The parallels should be glaringly obvious to anyone who watches this movie. It’s the story of Jesus – the one who came down and lived among us, making ridiculous claims of being God Himself until He eventually died for those claims, giving Himself up willingly. Yet He rose again, declaring once and for all that His claims were true. Then He proceeded to restore all that was broken in the fall. And it’s the beauty in which the story parallels this that moves me every time I watch it. I see the people around Kris slowly wake up to who he is, and I think about Jesus touching our lives and causing us to realize who He is. I see Kris fulfilling Susan’s deepest wishes – a home, a father, a brother – and think about how Jesus fulfills those for us, becoming our brother as God the Father adopts us into His family. I see Dory losing her cynicism in light of the genuine love that Kris shows to her and Susan, and think about how that unconditional love is what we all long for, what breaks down all our wall and draws us closer to Him.So take the time to watch Miracle on 34th Street this Advent season, and reflect on the ways that, like Kris Kringle in this movie, Jesus came and walked among us undisguised as well. If Santa can bring a family together, how much more can the Creator of the universe do?