Showing posts from March, 2014

Soylent Green, Part Deux

This is a continuation of a previous post on this movie, see below.

I go to the imdb boards and read about other people's views of movies, more than I should, especially when I have just watched one for the first time and wonder how others liked it, or didn't.  I have a dream of teaching an intro to film course one day, maybe.  Most of the comments are inane, but some people really do know their film studies.

One recurring theme, though, is for some person on the board, sometimes being obnoxious, sometimes being sincere, to say, "Are X and Y gay?"  Fill in the blank with two characters in the movie, or sometimes just one.  In the case of Soylent Green, it was Roth and Thorn.  I find this question curious and disturbing, not because there aren't gay characters in movies, and not because sometimes there aren't subversive messages about it in Hollywood films, but because it gets asked so often and about characters who so clearly aren't but who are of the sam…

Reflections on Lent, March 29, 2014

Easter is three weeks away.  My life is so insanely busy (although the rain today has thwarted by plans to start digging up my garden) that I have lost track of this important goal.  My blog posts are even way off topic, and kind of silly.

Tomorrow I am supposed to teach from the book of Proverbs, and the quarterly's theme is "Don't be a Slacker."  That is fairly inappropriate for my class; my ladies work too hard rather than too little.  So why have we gotten this way?  Is part of our extreme work ethic a spiritual problem?  Where does God fit into our work?  Where does grace?  a friend of mine used the term "merit mongering" the other day, and I can't help but think that somewhere in our frenzied work all the time culture there isn't a strain of "This will get me some kind of merit with God." 

Why do we fall into the trap that our feeble, self-oriented actions have anything to do with gaining merit with God? why do we feel that if we are…

Soylent Green--Yes, Soylent Green

I had heard about this movie all my life, well, since the '70s, and it was on TCM last night at midnight, and I was up late writing doctoral papers and wasn't tired, so I watched it.  It followed the two excellent movies, Babette's Feast and Big Night, which are food-themed movies but which I don't think of as food-themed movies, really.  One is about the conflict of dualism and true spirituality, and the second is about family and love; they both have a lot of exotic dishes.  The wildness of the food prevents me from being hungry from the movies.  Even that timpano thing in Big Night makes me kind of nauseous. 

(On the imdb board, people were all upset about the quails, turtle, and cows being slaughtered in Babette's Feast.  I suppose they really were, which makes a difference from when people are killed in movies--we know they really weren't.  I doubt that turtle was really killed though.  He was a beauty.  These people don't understand history or cultur…

Bathsheba was a hoochie, and other musings on a Friday morning

I have not posted my Lent reflections for the last few days, and need to get back on the wagon.  However, this morning I have had some experiences that make me want to post some thoughts, although I have piles of doctoral work to tackle this weekend.

This morning I had an appointment at HRBlock for my taxes, and while this is not an advertisement, it is a statement of being pleased.  I thought I would have to pay at least $1000; I came out $300 ahead, so I'm happy.

I stopped on the way home at my favorite local nursery and bought my garden dirt and manure.  That is at least step one to getting into gardening.  I can't not get into the dirt and try to grow some vegetables.  It's a type of hope, I think, and a connection with my grandmother Josie.

Speaking of whom, I attended a reading and reception for Project Keepsake last night in Dalton at the Creative Arts Guild.  If you come across this blog because of the title (which is deliberative provocative), please check out thi…

Reflections on Lent, March 24, 2014

Quote from Eugene Peterson.  "And yet every day I decide to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do clumsily--open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride."

I am one of those people whose attempts to love are, or at least feel, often clumsy and awkward.  I don't know why.  Maybe it's the words, maybe I don't hug well.  I will take it as one of those things that just won't be perfect on this side of the divide between earthly life and eternity.   Even clumsy attempts are more heartening than depending on what I do well, those things that stoke my pride. 

Reflections on Lent, March 23, 2014

I have missed three days, and I don't want this to be some sort of legalistic, phony exercise.  Not everyday do I have the time or a word to post anything meaningful.  Yesterday I drove six hours, to go to a meeting related to my doctoral work.  My sciatic is excruciating, and I've taken a pain pill and am lying on a heating pad, hoping to get over this day rather than prolong it, as the week ahead is challenging.  Already today I have gone to early church and Sunday School, visited my mother, did her an errand and went to Sam's Club, and come home and done some housework.  That is not much but it seems like a lot considering my pain, and that is the theme of this post.

In the car on Sundays I often listen to one or two programs that are basically about New Age philosophy. I won't name them, but they are broadcast on the local NPR station.  Although I often roll my eyes at its talk of "spirituality," they often have interesting programs on the arts and creati…

Reflections on Lent, March 19

One of my favorite hymns about this season.

My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed;
I trust the ever living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.
Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him,
He’ll never cast me out.

My heart is leaning on the Word,
The living Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s Name,
Salvation through His blood.

My great Physician heals the sick,
The lost He came to save;
For me His precious blood He shed,
For me His life He gave.

Lenten Reflection for March 18, 2014

These will seem a bit random.

The frivolous, foolish, debauched, tragic--I'm going downhill here--nature of our society was seen yesterday in the so-called celebration of St. Patrick's Day.  From everything I have read, Patrick, who was actually English, was worthy of a day and the honorific (although we Protestants know all Christian believers are saints).  So how is his "day" celebrated by most?  Ugly green colors plastered everywhere and drunkenness.  In fact, this seems one of the most racist of holidays--all Irish are drunkards, so we will honor that by getting drunk no matter our background.  I am not Irish, but the stereotypes disturb me.  They come from the fact that Celts (and Scots) don't metabolize alcohol like some do.  Asians don't either, but we don't have a drunken Japanese person holiday.

For today, I am thinking about service, what it means.  Perhaps it is a wide enough concept that we can all make it what we want.  Is service about the o…

Lenten Reflection for March 17, 2014

I decided to stop numbering these reflections.  It's pretentious, a scorecard--let's see how many I can do!

Last night I was walking Nala at the high school.  At dusk the deer come out on the property around the school's parking lots.  There were at least a dozen of them, and they are small; some were does.  They are probably more tolerant of humans than they should be.  Nala wanted to chase them, badly, so I let her, since no one was on the premises--there was a misty rain and it was Sunday night.   She bolted as soon as I unleashed her, but she only ran to where they had been and then went to explore something else, eventually returning to my call.  The deer, of course, were gone in a second, but as we walked the perimeter of the parking lot, they returned.  I did not let Nala go again, much as she wanted to.  I decided doing so was mean.

So we stood and looked at each other, about 50 feet.  They looked at me with a mixture of expectation, fear, naivete, and ignorance.  …

Reflections on Lent, #10

The two themes that I keep coming back to this season are journey and worship, which aren't entirely separate or entirely connected.  It seems that worship should have more of a wholistic reality to it: the spirit, the mind, the emotions, the will, and the body engaged.  Most of what goes on in a worship service tends toward the mind, I think, and in some places the emotions, but the body, spirit, and will are less likely to be engaged.  It is the worship leader's responsibility to create certain conditions, but even the perfect conditions will not create worship if the will is not engaged, if the worshipers do not come with a will to worship.  Worship is not a show or performance for the watchers, although that seems like the norm today.  Worship should be the central act of our life, but as Peterson says, it is not to satisfy our hearts for God, but to whet our appetite for God. 

Reflections on Lent, #9

I am reading Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach.  He writes:  By identity I mean an evolving nexus where all the forces that constitute my life converge in the mystery of the self:  my genetic makeup, the nature of the man and woma who gave me life, the culture in which I was raised, people who have sustained me and people who have done me harm, the good and ill I have done to to others and to myself, the experience of love and suffering--and much, much more.  In the midst of that complex field, identity is a moving intersection of the inner and outer forces that make me who I am, converging in the irreducible mystery of being human.

Identity, I am glad to say, is complex and shifting from a human standpoint.  The sages of the age say that life is all about change.  That is a good and bad thing; it is a truth I can embrace and yet one I reject.  Embracing it means I can change and I can have hope that what I am and how things are now don't and won't have to be this way. …

Reflections on Lent, #8

I have missed a day, I confess.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown. Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.Isaac Watts' classic poem about the cross, asks me to do what I don't want to do--really, really survey, examine, look deeply, understand the geography of the suffering Christ on the cross. "Sorrow and love" are what he asks us to see. The blood in itself represents both the violent death at the hands of Roman authorities and complicit mankind, and the sacrificial require-ments of the Old Testament. Here, the blood is also symbolic of the love and sorrow, which is an interesting thought. Love and sorrow come together at thecross. Love, that Christ was willing to do this for humankind, and sorrow, thathe had to and sorrow about all the evil and…

Reflections on Lent, #7

To continue the hymn from a couple of days ago . . .. 
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ, my God; all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood. See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown. Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine,  demands my soul, my life, my all.The second stanza (first above) is a scripture, from the writings of Paul. May the only glory in my life be the glory of the cross, which contradictsall human ideas of glory--it is glory turned upside down.All the vain things that charm me most. I think that Isaac Watts wrote thissomething like 250 years ago, or more. How many more vain, charming things do we have now? Sacrificing those to his blood (not a word choice I would make) seems too easy--why not sacrifice vain things that charm us? Becaus…

Reflections on (and for) Lent, #6

Last night on a popular news program that host talked about what Catholics give up for Lent.  I rolled my eyes.  Misinformed news people!

I am reading, finally, Parker Palmer's book, The Courage to Teach.  It is, well, not convicting, because I doubt that is what he wants and I am getting tired of framing everything in terms of sin or not sin.  But it is challenging, because while I am a teacher and it takes up the biggest amount of my time and effort, I do not reflect on "my self" as a teacher, the integrity and identity aspect of it.  I focus on creating conditions for learning, which is a good thing, but take myself out of the equation.  I dismiss it because I know I have the charisma of a Bic pen, and I don't want my students to remember me but the big ideas of the course.  I say that--but I do want them to remember me just as I want to, and try to remember them, which is very difficult since I've had well over 2,000, maybe 3,000 students sit in my classes ov…

Reflections on Lent, #5

I am reading Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.  Today, from p. 54, I quote:

"I have put great emphasis on the fact that Christians worship because they want to, not because they are forced to.  But I have never said they worship because they feel like it.  Feelings are great liars.  If Christians worshiped only when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship.  Feelings are imporant in many areas but completely unreliable in matters of faith.  Paul Scherer is laconic:  'The Bible wastes very little time on the way we feel.'

"We live in what one writer has called the 'age of sensation.'  We think that if we don't feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it.  But the wisdom of God says something different:  that we can act ourselves into a new way of feelings much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting."

Lent is not about feeling our way to the cross.  It is about a choice of fo…

Reflections for Lent, #4

Recently it seems that I have been surrounded by messages using the metaphor that life is a journey.  All metaphors are imperfect but informative.  Journey implies:  destination, a best path for getting there, temptations to get off the path, effort to move forward and stay on the path, need for companions (since no one in the ancient world, especially a woman, would travel alone wisely), places of rest, and sense of progression (we are getting closer).

If our use of the metaphor is missing any of these elements, what does that mean? 

We Christians think of the destination as heaven, but I could argue that.  Jesus spoke a great deal about this life; the whole Bible does, as well as speaking about heaven.  Our destination is spiritual as much as eternal.  Jesus is the way, not just the one who shows the way.  There are daily temptations to take detours or even more to stop and not continue the path; I think we are not usually honest about how tempting apostasy is.  We must make decisio…

Reflections for Lent, #3

This Sunday we observe Daylight Savings Time.  I really don't know why, when we've thrown out so many traditions that marked 20th century American life, we haven't gotten rid of this one.  Not to be a curmudgeon, but what is that point? If changing the times when we switched the clocks has made a difference in energy consumption--which I am all for--why switch the clocks at all? By the previous sentence I mean that when I was a kid we changed the Sunday before Halloween and the last Sunday in April--six months of each.  Now it's not even spring yet!

So, I sound like a curmudgeon, what I don't want, although I'm curmudgeonly today due to an annoying experience in my doctoral class yesterday and the fact I lost an hour of sleep.  I do like lots of sunshine, though.  DST is exacerbated for us by the fact that we are fifteen miles, as the crow flies, from the next time zone, which puts us in our own strange little time vortex.  Curmudgeonliness is a step away from …

Reflections on Lent, #2, March 8

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died.
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.

This is a song, a verse we should examine.  "Survey" is not to just look.  I think of "survey" as what a surveyor does, to understand a geography.  What is the geography of the cross?  It is where the Prince of glory died.  All the depictions of Christ on the cross in movies or TV shows are just overdone, bloody scenes because they cannot depict him as the Prince of glory.  When we understand who is dying on the cross, we are in a place to count our so-called great accomplishments what they are. 

I am working hard to get a doctoral degree.  It is meaningless to me unless I know its value in comparison to the Prince of glory. In light of such, it is not hard to pour contempt on my pride, which is what we give up at Lent.

Reflections on Lent, #1

Yesterday was the first day of Lent.  My original plan was to post a reflection every day.  I am of course behind, as usual.  But if I do this for personal reasons, so be it.  I hope it is meaningful to others, and not just the spammers.

The first question is always 'What are you going to give up for Lent?' Nothing.  That's missing the point.  Lent is about repentance, not dieting; about looking toward redemption weekend, as you might call it, not self-discipline.  It's not about talking about what we give up either.

We should give up our self-sufficiency and self-focused.  We should give up prayerlessness.  We should give up apathy.

Lent is about a daily walk.

Gullible Christians

I consider this one of the biggest sins of the church in the U.S. today. 

Gullibility means we are like children.  We don't question, we don't discern.  Proverbs, which I am teaching this week. is not about living a good life; it's about a life of the mind that leads to a good life.  Judging, evaluating.  At no other time has a call to repent from gullibility been so necessary.

Why are we so gullible?  So taken up with fame, whether it's a movie star who says they are Christians, or a megachurch pastor, or a politician who wants us to live a way he/she does not?  So quick to believe the worst in people, or the best?  So influenced by pictures and music, so emotionally driven without a basis in fact and reality.

North Korea: What took the UN and media so long?

While this is an incredibly serious subject, I can't help being just the least snarky about this post.  Finally, finally, the UN has finally acknowledged what the Christian world has known and said for twenty or more years--the unnameable atrocities committed by the ruling family of North Korea.

Shame on the UN and media for taking so long to report this and doing nothing about it.  Bravo that they finally did.  Now, what do we do about it?

Several years ago I decided to pray daily (which I have often failed to do, but the goal still stands) for the "persecuted church," which is a code name for oppression of Christians in North Korea (the worst), Middle Eastern countries, South Asian countries, parts of Europe and Africa--well, I could go on.  I would encourage, call, admonish all to do so.  I only wish I had more wisdom about what to do practically.  I wrote a book about it.  Big w…

The Son of God Movie--Can't We All Just Get Along?

Since Rodney King uttered those words in the aftermath of the riots that followed his abuse at the hands of LAPD in 1992, two people have used that plaintive cry.  One, to ask honestly why we can't put aside petty differences and find peace, and two, those who use the plaintive phrase ironically.  In other words, as smart butts.

Which category do I and this post fall into?  Well . . .  keep reading and decide.

Because I am in the middle of a doctoral program and teaching two new classes this semester, my blogging has been minimal.  However, we are coming up on Lent, and I like to post daily during Lent and Advent--odd for a Baptist, I suppose.  What I "give up" for Lent (what a joke, as if middle class Americans really give up anything) is media for more time for spiritual pursuits, one of which is blogging reflections about the redemptive season, as I'll call it.  I am also on spring break (yes, I know, it's not spring and it was 20 degree wind chill in North Ge…