Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The End, Has Come

Only days are left until my favorite show comes to an end. With that being said, I have to wonder... Are you LOST? LOST the television series, has been on the air for six long seasons filled with confusion, questions and very few answers. With only days left before the big finale, LOST viewers are more lost than ever. If you are not familiar with this amazing show, the story follows several survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, that crashes on a mysterious island. With hints of science fiction, spirituality and some bizarre geological occurrences, LOST has enticed its viewers with a plot line that always leaves you hanging.

An interesting aspect of LOST is the name selection for most of the characters on the show. From philosophers to scientists, authors to theologians, LOST provides an interesting parallel with their characters. Jack & Christian Shepherd are paralleled with, well Christian Shepherd. In the latest season of LOST, Jack is also associated with the number 23 and with his name selection its hard not to assume “The Lord is my shepherd….”.  LOST character Desmond Hume is associated with philosopher David Hume, Charlotte Staples Lewis with author C.S. Lewis and the list continues. LOST viewers still want to know the connections other than the obvious storylines paralleled in these characters, but hopefully resolve will come soon!

Probably my favorite aspect of this show is this ultimate push and pull between the good and evil qualities of every character. LOST writers and producers have truly mastered the art of capturing the humanity of the world in these characters. With themes of power, greed, love, betrayal, peace, faith and science, we as the viewers cannot help but reflect what we ourselves could be capable of doing.  I have been an avid fan since the first season when weird polar bears and a crazy smoke monster were among my only questions and as I have watched, I cannot help but feel bittersweet about the end of such a life changing show.

One of my favorite parts of this show, is how so many of the aspects of my spiritual walk with God are played out before my eyes in a way that I would have never imagined. One of the most intriguing characters on LOST is a man named Benjamin Linus. Over the years, LOST viewers have watched this man go from a well hated villain to a common hero. Ben will always be one of my favorite characters, because he depicts a man who just like everyone else, gets caught up in something far bigger than himself and loses sight of what’s really important. Ben truly was LOST. In recent episodes we have seen Ben transform into the leader that “the island” may have intended him to be, a humble and broken leader. But this came at a high cost and a huge lesson. In the following clip, you will see Ben at his most broken of moments and even more you will see one the most moving depictions of the power of Grace and Mercy ever displayed on national television.

I can sincerely say that this clip alone is the number one reason why I love LOST. This clip is one of the most honest and insightful views of human nature and the amazing power that Grace has when given freely, opening the door to the road of redemption.

For those of you have never seen the show, I would not recommend starting at the end, but rather head to a local movie rental store, pick up the first season and spend sometime watching the show that has transformed a generation of television. Watching the show for the first time during the series finale will definitely leave you confused and clueless. So don’t expect to understand what’s happening! Start from the beginning and enjoy it! For those who do watch already, I look forward to getting LOST with you this Sunday night, May 23rd. If anything, LOST tought us a few things about ourselves and hopefully, we can apply some of the many lessons these characters learn about Love, Hope, Faith and Grace to our own lives!

Embracing Your Fear

In my quest to live the life that God created me to live, the chain that holds me back the most I have discovered, is the chain of fear. I have a fear of rejection, a fear of failure and a fear looking stupid. These fears keep me from pursuing the life God has called me to live as I opt for the life I can arrange because it feels safer.

If we are truly going to live life, then we have to trust God and face the fears that haunt our lives. I believe that true life is found on the other side of our fears. Jesus said this about life; The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness (John 10:10; NLT).  Jesus promises His followers a full life, but before He makes that promise, He reminds us that Satan’s plan is to take away our life. So I ask you; What better way to take away our life than to cause us to fear the very path which will bring us to life?

Here is the problem we have to deal with in our hearts: How do we face our fears? I wish I had an answer to this, but I don’t have one. This is a question I constantly struggle with myself. I know that God has a life waiting for me on the other side of my fears, I know that God provides what I need to get me through my fears, but I feel paralyzed in my fear. I want so desperately to live a life of courage and to be bold, but I keep hiding in the shadows.

With that being said, let me offer a couple of suggestions in connection with facing the fears that plague our lives. First, we need to have companions. Solomon wrote: Two people can accomplish more than twice as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10; NLT).  Part of fear, at least in my experience, is the feeling of loneliness. In a fellowship we are able to encourage each other and to walk side by side into the uncertainty of fear. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego were able to stand tall when everyone else bowed because they had each other. Peter and John were able to stand before the Sanhedrin because they were together. It is not enough to have a pep talk before being sent on our way, but we also need companions willing to travel the journey of fear with us.

The second idea is that we need to take it one step at a time. In the movie version of The Return of the King there is a scene when Frodo and Sam look over the final leg of their journey to Mount Doom and see that there are 10,000 Orcs which stand between them and their destination. Sam says to Frodo; “We have to go in there Mister Frodo, but let’s make it down this hill for starters” (paraphrase). Rather than focusing on the entire task of making it through the army of Orcs Sam decides to take it just one step at a time. In the end the Orcs are called off to battle Aragorn and the army of men which had marched to the Black Gate, so in the end the journey through Mordor turned was not as bad as first thought. I think the same can be said about our fears. If we take it one step at a time we will discover that the situation isn’t as scary as we first thought.

We have to face the fears that darken our hearts and rob us of life. The more we ignore our fears the bigger they grow inside of us. Only as we move to confront them do we discover that these fears diminish in size. It is also through the experience of facing our fears that we learn to trust God. The more we trust God the easier it become to move forward in obedience in the future.

The quest for life goes through the valley of our fears. To discover the full life God has created for us to live, we need to take steps to conquer these fears one step at a time . Only then can we really enjoy living life.

Friday, April 9, 2010

An Encouraging Thought

Take a moment and think about your life. Do you like you life right now? Are you hoping for a change? Is there something that is missing? Think about what your life is like and how that compares to your dreams. I know for many of us, our lives are not quite where we would like them to be. We find our current life a little boring and we constantly complain that there is nothing to do. Sometimes we are just plain lonely. We see other people with all these friends or with a companion of the opposite sex and we become a little jealous. We perceive that our lives don’t measure up to theirs. Other times, we desire to have this amazing relationship with God but our lives lack the promised peace and hope which comes from a relationship with God. We get depressed and begin to doubt whether or not God has really saved us.

Regardless of how you feel about your life right now, you are in the right place. God has put you in this place so that you will see Him. For those who don’t know Jesus, God has put them into a place so that if they would only open their hearts and seek Him, they will find Him. For us who do know Jesus, we are in just the right place to be used by God. God has placed into our lives experiences, knowledge, and the salvation we need to make a difference. We might think it is a small and insignificant difference, but it will be the difference that God desires.

It is no secret that I love The Lord of the Rings. It has many themes woven into the story that apply to our lives as Christians. In the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, there is one scene that I absolutely love because of the way it stirs my heart. The Fellowship has been forced to go through the mines of Moria. They come to a place where the tunnel splits and Gandalf does not know which way to go. The group sits to rest and think about their options. Gandalf and Frodo begin to talk about their task. Frodo confides in Gandalf and says, “I wish the Ring would never have come to me. I wish none of this would have happened.”

Gandalf replies, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to do is decide what to do with the time given to us. There are other forces at work in this world besides the one of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case you also were meant to have it, and that is an encouraging thought.”

God chooses not only the places but also the times in which we live. He has privileged us to live not only in the greatest expansion of human population but also with the greatest opportunity for the spread of the gospel. We all have a mission in our lives. How we carry out this mission is our purpose. The truth is, often times this mission can feel overwhelming. There are so many people who have not even heard the name of Jesus, and millions more who have heard and have rejected Him. The sheer numbers make this mission seem impossible. There are the people whom we encounter everyday of our lives, and despite our efforts they do not seem to be changed. The lack of response makes this mission to seem pointless.

When you are feeling like that, I want to encourage you, just as Gandalf encouraged Frodo. God has placed you where you are, for a reason. There is a purpose to your life, right now, exactly where you are at. If you remain faithful to God, you will experience the purpose of God in your life. Yes, things will not go as you would like them to, but regardless of what happens God will use it to change lives, most likely yours.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10; NASB).

God has created us and then saved us, for a reason. Before we were born, God had a plan for our lives. As we are faithful to God, that purpose takes shape in our lives, and that is when we begin to experience the life God intends all people to live. The good life of God is discovered in living out our divine purpose.

I hope that you see your life right now as a privilege. God has created us and placed us here, during this time, so we can impact our corner of the world for Him. We are perfectly suited for this task, because He has created us for this. When we grasp this truth our lives will have meaning and hope. God is at work in the world, He wants us to join Him, and that is a very encouraging thought.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The God Who Dreamed

In the beginning was the Word….
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
John 1:1, 14

Seated at the great desk, the Author opens the large book. It has no words. It has no words because no words exist. No words exist because no words are needed. There are no ears to hear them, no eyes to read them. The Author is alone. And so he takes the great pen and begins to write. Like an artist gathers his colors and a woodcarver his tools, the Author assembles his words.

He takes his quill and spells the first word. T-i-m-e.

Time did not exist until he wrote it. He himself, is timeless, but his story would be encased in time. The story would have a first rising of the sun, a first shifting of the sand. A beginning…and an end. A final chapter. He knows it before he writes it. Time, a footspan on eternity’s trail.

Slowly, tenderly, the Author wrote the second word. A name. A-d-a-m.

As he writes, he sees him, the first Adam. Then he sees all the others. In a thousand eras in a thousand lands, the Author sees them. Each Adam. Each child. Instantly loved. Permanently loved. To each he appoints a place. No accidents. No coincidences. Just design.

The Author makes a promise to these unborn: In my image, I will make you. You will be like me. You will laugh. You will create. You will never die. And you will write.
They must. For each life is a book, not to be read, but rather a story to be written. The Author starts each life story, but each life will write his or her ending. What a dangerous liberty. How much safer it would have been to finish the story for each Adam. To script every option. It would have been simpler. It would have been safer. But it would not have been love. Love is only love if chosen. So the Author decides to give each child a pen. “Write carefully,” he whispers.

Lovingly, deliberately, he writes the third word, already feeling the pain. E-m-m-a-n-u-e-l.

The greatest mind in the universe imagined time. The truest judge granted Adam a choice. But it was love that gave Emmanuel, God with us.

The Author would enter his own story.

The Word would become flesh. He too, would be born. He too, would be human. He too, would have feet and hands. He too, would have tears and trials. Most importantly, he too, would have a choice. Emmanuel would stand at the crossroads of life and death and make a choice.

The Author knows well the weight of that decision. He pauses as he writes the page of his own pain. He could stop. Even the Author has a choice. But how can a Creator not create? How can a Writer not write? And how can Love not love? So he chooses life, though it means death, with hope that his children will do the same.

And so the Author of Life completes the story. He drives the spike in the flesh and rolls the stone over the grave. Knowing the choice he will make, knowing the choice all Adams will make, he pens, “The End,” then closes the book and proclaims the beginning,  “Let there be light!”    

Max Lucado - A Gentle Thunder

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lines kann uns trennen, aber die Hoffnung wird uns vereinen

"Childhood is measured out by sounds, smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows" - John Betjeman, British Poet (1906-1984)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a fictional story that offers a unique perspective on how prejudice, hatred and violence affect innocent people, particularly children, during wartime. Through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy largely shielded from the reality of World War II, we witness a forbidden friendship that forms between Bruno, the son of Nazi commandant, and Schmuel, a Jewish boy held captive in a concentration camp. Though the two are separated physically by a barbed wire fence, their lives become inescapably intertwined. The imagined story of Bruno and Shmuel sheds light on the brutality, senselessness and devastating consequences of war from an unusual point of view. Together, their tragic journey helps recall the millions of innocent victims of the Holocaust.
While the film’s conclusion will certainly leave you in stunned silence, once you recover your composure, there will be a lot to talk about. You’ll find references about duty and human nature, good and evil and what a world without hope looks like. Take a chance, grab a friend and see "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". This movie is emotionally jarring and its implications are profound. However, after watching it you and your friend will no doubt want to go out, grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a real conversation about what really matters in life.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Twinkie So the Creepy Zombie Clowns Won't Eat My Brains!

I love movies. I have loved movies long before I started my love affair with books. I have a very broad range when it comes to my taste in movies. Eclectic, some could say. Don't get me wrong, I have or I like to think I have very good taste when it comes to movies. However, there are some that I love just because. I know that they are complete crap, but I like them all the same.

Yesterday I rented three movies to watch. 2012, the SciFy mini series Alice and Zombieland. I rented 2012 because it looked like a good disaster movie and it had John Cusak in it of whom I am a huge fan. Alice I rented because I never got to finish watching it while it was on TV and lets face it, who doesn't like an Alice in Wonderland tale revamped? Now for Zombieland. I rented this movie for no other reason than my daughter and her boyfriend went on and on about it.

2012 was very good. A little on the long side and I'm glad I just rented it and didn't go see it in the theater, but all in all a good flick. Alice was great! This one I'm thinking about adding to my collection. Zombieland, well this one is added to the ones of "I like just because." I don't think I'll be adding it to the collection, but still a very funny twist on a zombie movie.

What about the twinkes and creepy zombie clown you ask? Well, I have a slight fear of clowns. If there was anything in this movie that really creeped me out, it was the Zombie Clown. The twinkies are my daughters attempt to make up for me having to experience the trauma of the zombie clown. What some daughters will do for their mothers eh? If you want the background of the whole twinkie thing, you will just have to rent Zombieland and see for yourself. The bottom line is, all three movies are, in my opinion, worth your while and the $3.00 rental fee at RedBox.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Smooth Like Mike

It is amazing to me some of the things that one can find on the internet. There is a lot of questionable content out there sure, but every so often you come across something that is just really, really cool. I was surfing around YouTube last night, as I often do, and I found this video. I've been on a Michael Jackson kick the last few days. One of his songs and dances that I have always enjoyed is Smooth Criminal. There are alot of impersonations of this dance out there, but this one I just found amazing. It is very professionally done and for me, just a very cool thing to watch. I give massive props to these guys who put on this show! So, for your viewing pleasure, I give you the MIT Chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity performing a rendition of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal music video. Enjoy!