Thursday, August 24, 2006

Psalm 80:16-19

Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire;
at your rebuke your people perish.
Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
Then we will not turn away from you;
revive us, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O LORD God Almighty;
make your face shine upon us,
that we may be saved.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Invasion of Alien Crustaceans"

No, that's not the title of a so-bad-it's-almost-entertaining 60's sci-fi movie, it's a quote from an actual BBC News article entitled "Norway Fears Giant Crab Invasion." That title comes from the philosophy that people who are thinking "huh??" are more likely to click. Hey, it worked on me.

Here are a couple of Italian geography trivia questions to brighten your day:

Which of the following cities is/are further north than Rome?

A. New York, NY
B. Dallas, TX
C. Memphis, TN
D. A and C
E. None of the above.

Venice is on the same latitude as which of the following cities:

A. Dallas, TX
B. Montreal, Canada
C. Washington, D. C.
D. Mexico City, Mexico

Hover your mouse here for the answers.


Friday, August 18, 2006

The Creation of a Masterpiece

mas┬Ěter┬Ěpiece n.
The most outstanding work of a creative artist or craftsman.

I got to have a long conversation recently with another friend about what kinds of things we look for and identify with in Story. If you have read my earlier post, you know how I feel about Story and what I think the stories we identify with can tell us about what we value. Something my friend and I talked about though is what a story says about the creator.

Personally, I don't think it's important whether I know what the writer of a book or TV show or movie was trying to say. Unless I happen to find out an author's purpose or intended message for a story and it's something I find particularly untrue or repugnant, what matters more to me is what effect the story has on me and what it means to me. (That specifically applies to fiction; non-fiction is an entirely different matter. In non-fiction obviously what the author is trying to say is the whole point of the work.) However, whether or not the author's message is my primary focus doesn't negate this fact: the creation can tell you a lot about what the creator values and believes to be true, if you know where and how to look at it.

When a writer creates a story, they are creating a world that exists and functions according to what the writer believes to be true. The heroes in a story behave the way the writer believes a true hero should behave, and villains in a story embody the characteristics the writer believes to be evil. Moral choices are made in the story according to the writer's beliefs about morality.

The worlds that writers create through Story are just an incomplete, two-dimensional copy of the real world. In the same way, this world and this life are mere reflections of the life God has promised to those who are saved, which we will someday live in the world he has prepared. This world we are living in now and the story he is playing out in it speak the qualities, characteristics and truths of the Master Creator and, like all non-fiction, the message the Author is communicating is of vital importance.

Watch a sunset and you get a glimpse of the glory and beauty of God. Take in a mountain vista from a hiking trail and you see a hint of his majesty. Every roll of thunder is a whisper of his power. When you hold your newborn child in your arms, you experience the merest speck of the kind of love God has for us, in spite of everything. Whenever you see someone do something amazingly unexpected and good, you get a glimmer of the kindness, mercy, and goodness that has its very definition in God. God's message was acted out for us by his son Jesus, who showed us the nature of a true hero by living sinless and dying and rising again to redeem us.

Don't miss what God is trying to tell you.

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.

By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.

Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Okay is the hardest thing.

I am going to admit something right now that is very difficult for me, as a man, to admit: there is a song (just one) that has an unfailing, almost inescapable ability to make me almost cry. Alright, so it wasn't that difficult to admit. It doesn't sound like much, but it actually means a lot, and there's not a single other song in the world that can claim anywhere near as much. The reason this particular song has that ability is that it cuts straight to the heart of who I am, what I have struggled with, and what I continue to struggle with, and it proves that the simplest (and most Right) answer of all is the hardest one to give.

The song is called "Hands in the Air," and it's by a band called The Waiting. The lyrics are below. If you could hear the music while you read the words, you would know that it is being sung by a man whose heart has been completely broken and defeated by his attempts to live apart from God, as he tries to learn the beauty of submission.

Hands in the Air

If I raise my hands just to lift the shade,
Will I reveal a sky heavy and gray?
Will last night be a memory sweetly fading?
How I hate a morning starting out this way.
On these lonely raging mornings I would whip you if I could,
But You're on the mighty side of strong and the perfect side of good.

If I raise my hands will you grab me by the wrists
And will you try to pull me from the fray?
And even if my fingers join together into fists
Will you hold me firmly anyway?
'Cause I would try to escape you but for everyday I'm sure
That You're on the huge side of big and the holy side of pure.

Okay, hear what I say
As I raise my hands and surrender today.
Okay, here I will stay
Hands in the air, singing have Thine own way.

If I raise my hands, so weak and thin and frail,
Will you reveal the light of mercy in your eyes?
If I cry to you faintly will my feeble whispers fail,
Or will it find its way to a reply?
Beause now that I'm exhausted I think I'm ready to admit
That I have spent all my resistance on someone I can't resist.

Okay, hear what I say
As I raise my hands, in surrender today.
Okay, here I will stay
Hands in the air singing have Thine own way.

Light from my window sill, make my way to the door
I hang my head and still I know you're wanting more
Over the threshold now, I move across the yard
Although my will allows, my every step is hard
Now in the garden I carve out six feet of space
There make my will comply, lie down upon my face
Been toe to toe too long, I'm tired of fighting You
I see You were too strong, 'cause I am black and blue
But now I understand what losers do to win
How every dying man is sure to rise again
So I raise my left hand, one, I raise my right hand, two
Under the morning sun, my spirit cries to You.

Okay, hear what I say
As I raise my hands in surrender today.
Right here under the sun,
Hands in the air singing Thy will be done.
I'm here under the sun,
Hands in the air singing Thy will be done.
Okay, here I will stay,
Hands in the air, singing have Thine own way.
Have thine own way.

Words like "And even if my fingers join together into fists / Will you hold me firmly anyway?" whisper grace and mercy into my my heart, but it's the "Okay" that gets me, always. It's so easy to "believe" that God's will is best and for our ultimate best, but the submission and surrender is so incredibly hard sometimes. To say "Okay" and not just believe but accept that what God wills is eternally better than what I want.

When I moved to Dallas I was black and blue from years of pushing him away, and when I first walked into my church (not mine at the time) almost a year ago, I was black and blue from months of continuing to try to ignore him. Even in my failures he continued to redirect my life, and he has blessed me in fantastically undeserved ways. I know all this, and yet I continue to fight him on so many things. Why is "Okay" so hard to say?

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Saturday, August 5, 2006

Leave a Penny, Take a Penny

That was the rather embittered version of the traditional penny-cup slogan I saw in a small used CD store on Friday. Perhaps the penny cup had experienced a little too much taking, and not enough giving?

I spent this weekend shopping. This vacation-planning thing sure is hard work. I also got a haircut, and I was astonished at what the lady used to cut my hair. Believe it or not, she did in fact use an actual live beaver. Oh well. I don't think the Italians expect much from us Americans fashion-wise anyway.