USA Today weighs in on “The Shack”

William_paul_young_shackoverI have to admit…I loved this book!  It was refreshingly raw…pain, redemption, suffering, agony, insight, prophetically challenging, and as Eugene Peterson says on the cover, bond to be around for a while.  This book has legs as is demonstrated by the fact that it went from relative obscurity (I ordered my copy months ago off their website since it was being self-published) to achieving "rock star" status. 

Anyway, the USA Today newspaper did an article on it we would expect, this book gets people nervous.  Without pointing fingers, let’s just say that it shakes those who have presuppositions of righteousness (Martin Luther term) and a strong sense of theological arrogance.  So, here’s the link to the USA Today article…enjoy!

Moving from minimalism and utilitarianism toward honoring a life

Tombstone0719Since I’ve been working at a Funeral Home over the past few months, I’ve noticed a profound and disturbing change in our culture.  You need to know a bit of my background first…as a pastor of local churches for over 25 years, I’ve performed and officiated at my share of funerals – over 400 to be exact.  In other words, I’m not a neophyte in this realm and the comments I make below do not come from some detached perspective.  I’ve walked the valley of the shadow of death with many, many people…many who I loved.  One of the things I always tried to tell people as they faced the death of a loved one was that every created individual not only deserves but is entitled to a celebration of their life when they die.  Since I believe so strongly in the incarnation, I have viewed the individual life of each person as a special creative expression of a loving and gracious God into the world.  In other words, there is something that God is saying to the world, to you and to me, through each individual that could not be said in any other way.  So, to celebrate a life is to focus on the uniqueness and giftedness that is a person’s life journey.  In other words, what is the legacy of a life?  How can we, at the time of death, stand back for a reflective moment or two and ask ourselves what God is saying to us about our lives through what He accomplished through the life of the person we knew and loved?  Without focusing on the uniqueness of each life and having some sort of celebration of what occurred during the years of their journey, all we have can succumb to is what is growing ever more popular in culture – the minimalism and utilitarian perspective of the human being.  I’ve been noticing more and more that people are not having funerals any longer…they want to move on past a person’s death quickly…spend as little money as possible…get the person cremated or buried with "ritual" or discomfort.  It is a very deep issue…something that theologians and philosophers can articulate better than I…all I’m saying here is that without some celebration, without some time to mourn and look not only at loss but also at the wonder of life, than life CAN become reduced to something that only is for the benefit of productivity in the world.  As you minimize life and see humanity from a purely utilitarian perspective, you can more easily justify abortion, euthanasia, and the reduction of segments of society and the world specifically because they don’t measure up in one way or another.  I’m seeing less and less emphasis on celebrating a life and more and more emphasis on sweeping the life under the rug as quickly and cheaply as possible.  Could we be running from more than a denial of death?  Yes…I think so.  Should there be more and more emphasis on even the most painful of life’s experiences, death, and how to mourn and celebrate a life?  Most definitely…more to come… 

A sudden return to the good ole days?

1019588124_88a590ab58Everyone who gets a bit on in years starts to reflect on the "good ole days".  Well, in reality, the days gone by were never that good…we just remember them that way.  Our memories are selective depending on the pain or joys of life.  Well, it is interesting to me that suddenly we are being thrust back to the "good ole days".  With rising gas prices and the rapidly escalating costs of owning and running a car or truck, the ole days may be returning…for some of us, that will bring a smile to our faces…for others, this will be the beginning of new struggles and a ton of painful change.  Remember, for those of you old enough, when the average family in the USA could only afford one car?  Hey, when I was 16 years old, as a child of a middle class family, we had access to one family vehicle.  It was a Ford LTD…big sucker.  When I received my driver’s license, I had to ask for permission to drive the family car…I was third in the priority list.  My dad used it for work or my mom drove my dad to and from work and used it for errands.  It was stated very clearly that if I was to "borrow" the car from my parents that I was responsible to fill the tank with gas with money I earned by having a part-time job.  No money, no car.  Simple as that.  Now, I remember the days when gas was 35 cents a gallon…that’s right…I’m old!  Anyway, it was still a struggle for gas money then.  Of course, we were working for $1.65 an hour…so economics were different.  You see, OWNING AND DRIVING AND USING A CAR WAS NOT A RIGHT…it was a PRIVILEGE.  It was an expensive privilege because even with what seems like "cheap gas", gas money was hard to come by.  I remember many times when my buddies and I had to chip in to buy a buck or two worth of gas just to drive around for a night.  You see, transportation for kids in those days was simple – walking or riding a bike or bus.  Well, without waxing too nostalgic, it looks like the rising cost of gas and the very rapidly increasing cost of automobile usage might be suddenly throwing our whole society back old school.  I tell you, if my kids were home right now (all of them are adults struggling with car payments, insurance and gas as well), there would NOT be personal cars unless they could own them, insure them and run the costs themselves.  Figure it out here – the cost of gas alone runs $50-60 tankful.  Insurance for a teenager is about $100 to $150 a month.  So, let’s be conservative…without even taking into account a car payment and maintenance, you are looking at about $350 a month.  At $8 per hour of working a part time job, the kid would have to about 11 hours per week…add that to school, sports, church activities and the like and you have a family "in stress".  Truth is, some families I know try to get a car for EACH teen.  Well…times are a changin…and I have a feeling that there are going to be TONS of families that are going to be having to make some tough decisions.  We might be seeing economic realities that throw us kicking and screaming back to the good ole days…one car per family…kids walking to school…and other alternatives being considered.  I wondered today as I was thinking about this post…if we only had one car per family how much less burden we would be putting on the "supply and demand" for oil?  Wouldn’t our decreased demand lower prices?  mmmmmm…that’s worth some thought!  Maybe the good ole days weren’t so idealistic…maybe they were "good" for a reason!  More to come…

Oh my! It happened in California!

Fox News and other news outlets report that the California Supreme Court overturned the Law that was passed by the people of California regarding the definition of marriage.  It isn’t enough to have a domestic partnership law on the books…now, marriage will be allowed.  Watch this go to the US Supreme Court…better yet, watch this go into the Presidential Debate NOW!  If you thought the political discussion was hot in the past, watch it now.  Oh yeah!  Personally, redefining marriage to anything other than that between a man and a woman is a huge mistake on numerous levels…even so, this decision was one that most of us anticipated.  To have it happen at this point in the political calendar makes it very very interesting.  More to come…

American Idol “too safe”

AmericanidolSome national newspapers are now quoting "Simon" with American Idol saying that it has become too stale and safe.  Now, you need to know…I don’t even watch the show.  There’s many many many reasons why…we all know what will most likely happen – the show’s producers will spice it up with MORE celebrities, MORE "skin", MORE Idol "worship", more of what they are already doing…it will simply be a bit more risque.  You know the problem with media in general…you get acclimated to a certain presentation and need a more intense presentation to keep interest and to keep the "buzz" alive.  But that’s another issue…don’t get me started!  For now though, here’s some ideas for making Idol a little more risky and maybe more interesting:

Top 10 Ways of Making American Idol more interesting and less safe:

10.  When a contestant is voted off, put them before a firing squad and shoot them
9.  Have the contestants sing at a cowboy bar with 100% of the customer’s throwing beer bottles at the stage.
8.  Have each contestant juggle chainsaws as they perform
7.  Switch the roles of Simon and Paula – have her be the bad cop and Simon be the sweet, "I’ll say anything I can that’s positive" judge
6.  Have an age limit of 75…all contestants have to be old and, preferably, overweight
5.  Have all the celebrity coaches be "one hit wonders" and watch as they share their incredible "lack of success" with each contestant as they are coached
4.  Give audience members paint ball guns and have them "vote" by plastering the constant with paint
3.  Fill the live audience with opera and symphony lovers who won’t cheer or hold up dorky signs during the taping of the show
2.  Have each contestant sing the extended version of Inagodadvida by Iron Butterfly
1.  Cancel the show!

Controversy! Oh no! Narnia might be talking about God!

Prince_caspianposter2_smallUSA Today

In today’s USA Today, there was a "nice" article about the young stars of the upcoming Narnia movie.  Like I said, nice piece.  BUT, as is usual in some aspect of media or culture or even the Christian world, someone has something to say to stir up some sort of controversy about a movie.  Remember, I’ve said this before, NO form of art is value neutral.  EVERY work of art is an attempt to communicate the artist’s worldview.  So, of course, Narnia would allude to God!  What do these people think, "What happens in Vegas" communicates?  I can see someone not agreeing with Narnia’s worldview…that’s their prerogative…but just get off it.  Unless someone wants to take the time to start discerning what EVERY movie has to say about who God is (er, gods or idols) and what it says about the purpose and meaning of life, then we just ought to stop it and behold the work of art on its own merits.  No one says that we have to agree or succumb to the artist’s worldview…just give them an opportunity to share it!  So, I got that off my chest…feeling better!  By the way, below is the quote from the article that got me going!

One Narnia constant: controversy over
possible Christian symbolism. Groups such as Americans United for
Separation of Church and State have criticized the tales, calling them
just a retelling of the story of Christ, but the filmmakers see
universal themes.  "I really believe you see whatever you want to
see in the film," Johnson says. "It’s about faith, whatever kind of
faith you have. The first movie was about finding faith, and this is
the loss of faith and regaining of it. And that faith is whatever you
want to make of it.  "That’s one of the things that pleased me about the first film, that it was successful everywhere — even in Muslim countries." USA Today, May 14, 2008

Laziness or Wisdom? I’m apt to go with the latter!

I was reading a blog today…22 Words.  At first, I thought, "what a lazy butt"…just doesn’t have too much to say.  Then I thought, especially because it is always a struggle to daily post on a blog, "hey, that’s wise".  So, in my typical fashion, that being, loving the "paradox", I thought I would continue to ponder these apparent opposing truths…then I saw a graph studying the fact that most people will read a post IF it is less than 25 words…the more words, the less readers.  So, I’m back to considering the wisdom of this blogger’s post.  Take a look yourself:

Economic Slowdown? Apparently not in Politics

I’ve heard about enough of the millions of dollars being raised, solicited and spent by the major candidates in this Presidential race.  Apparently, nobody has told the candidates NOR the contributors that we are in economic hard times.  Millions are dollars are being given and utilized by these meglomaniacs…people who don’t tell the truth…people you can’t trust…people who will say and do anything to get elected.  The drama of it is fascinating…but the process is getting me a bit sick.  Its very ironic that while the candidates are saying how hard the economy is on the one hand, they are reaching out their other hand for millions in contributions.  Just makes me mad…more to come!