Archive for September, 2007

The Gospel Stories

Posted on September 25, 2007. Filed under: Spiritual Musings |

Here was my first homework assignment from Lauren.  It stemmed from an IM conversation she and I had one night and since I just kept going on and I guess maybe it made sense to her or something (I honestly don’t know) it became mandated that I blog it.  So here is why I love and believe the gospels:

Why I Believe the Gospels

Now, let me start off with this:  I don’t like apologetics.  It makes my brain hurt.  If a subject makes me bleed from the eyes and ears I know it’s not good for me.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some out there who are giants at it, each with their own specialties.  There are some that would like to “prove” the existence of God, others that would rather show the historicity of the Bible.  Then there are those who would rather look at certain instances in life and tell you “Look, there’s a path through the trees there.  I don’t know where it will lead you but I can tell you it’s worth trying.”  But apologetics work and I mix about as good as oil and water.  I do remember my apologetics classes and some of the other works that I’ve read but I’ll leave that to the un-handicapped apologetics folks.

But I still have my reasons for loving the gospels and believing them.  Now, I’m not talking one hundred percent historically accurate or that they are in perfect chronological order or that things weren’t added later.  That’s not what I’m trying to get at.  I have my own personal reasons not attached to any sort of doctrine or dogma.  I believe the gospels because they are storied.

Myself, my friends, my family.  I remember the things that we say and do when we are together because they are in a context.  They are in a context of relationships working themselves out in daily life.  I can tell you about what happened when Marcia and I first met.  I can tell you about the day the friendship between myself and Maurice changed from acquaintances to good friends.  I can tell you about the day that my son was born.  All of these instances were life changing and meaningful.  Don’t get me wrong, I can’t recall exact details like who was wearing what or how things smelled or even what happened directly after the fact but I can still tell you things like:  Maurice and I were sitting in his lab, it was about ten o’clock at night, I was sitting on the floor and he was in a swivel chair and I was pouring my heart out while he laughed. 

In “Saving Private Ryan”, Private Ryan was reminiscing about his dead brothers and said that he couldn’t picture on of his brother’s faces.  Captain Miller explained that he needed to put his brothers in a context and that would help him to remember how his brothers looked the last time he’d seen them.  In reality, things are much the same.  If I was to talk about my friend Lauren, I could remember her face by putting her in context of a conversation we’ve had recently (or the night I ‘crashed/was invited to’ girls’ night out at a karaoke bar, but that’s a different story for another day.)  The one thing though is that we would remember different aspects of the time together but it would still be the same story and it still really happened. 

We remember stories, we remember events and conversations that we’ve had with people.  I’ve said talked with people and written about deep philosophical and theological issues but I’ll be honest, I can’t remember a word.  I remember classes I’ve taken and lectures I’ve been to but can only remember interesting little snipets of information from either.  But, if you told me a story, or I was INVOLVED in a story with someone (in the context of just living life) I would be more than likely to remember that.  Heck, I don’t even remember the last theology paper I wrote, but I do remember the latest stories someone told me (one had to do with a Tide bottle and the other was about eating organic).

The gospel writers or those that relayed the story as a gospel were relaying a story of experience.  A story like any other told from experience in which some things are recalled and some things are left out.  For example let’s take the Gadarene demoniac(s).  In one account there are two, in another there is one.  It’s not a matter of which is historically more accurate to me.  It’s a matter of two people trying to pass on a story to me.  Not a fictional one either.  It is a recollection coming years after the fact but still strong enough to have made an impact and with a message behind the story.  Jesus himself relayed spiritual truths in story form (aka parables) because people are more likely to remember a story that they can relate to.  If Jesus had expounded on the wonders of the universe using Greek philosophy or abstract terms no one had ever heard of before, it would have gone clear over their heads.  But instead he chose to use a medium familiar with the people he was with.  Look at the different ways in which Paul approached people in the book of Acts.  With the Jews it was one way and with the Greeks it was another.

When I read the gospels, I see the continuing story of God being played out on the pages in front of me.  I see people trying to pass on events that transpired with this man named Jesus and there best attempts at handing it down as accurately as they can manage.  Much like grandparents passing down family stories from generation to generation, some things get lost in the ‘telephone’ game that it partakes in, but, the truth is still there, the lessons are still there.  When we listen to a sermon or a homily, what is the first thing that we remember?  We can remember the lessons that are taught, the truths that are spoken but we are stuck with the stories.  I’ll never forget the first ‘story’ I heard at College Park Church, it was a sermon delivered by Rich Vincent.  I don’t remember what it was exactly that the whole sermon was about but the opening story was how those living in Northern Canada would hunt wolves.  That spiritual truth will stick with me forever.

This is why I believe the gospels.  They are another story passed down to us by our ever expanding family.  It is in our hands now to do the same to our children and all those that come after us.  This is our story now, and the way that we will present it to the future will ring throughout time.  God forgive us for our transgressions in the way we have handled the story in the past, and God give us the grace to not screw it up anymore than we already have.

Peace to all of you.

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A Meme from Lauren

Posted on September 25, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Okie doke, Lauren chose the letter ‘S’ for me.  Here are 10 things I love that start with the letter ‘S’.  Just as it was done for me, if you comment, I will give you your own letter and you can post it on your blog.

1.  School (I love to learn)

2. Spirituality (my faith and its growth)

3.  Sex (that’s a given)

4.  Self (I do love myself, in some ways more than others)

5.  Selflessness (I love people who will give of themselves w/o thought of their own well being)

6.  Superheroes (we all need superheroes in lives)

7.  Silliness (I can never take anyone or anything too seriously)

8.  Savior (I love me some Jesus)

9.  Stories (I love stories and that’s why I love the gospels)

10.  Sports (yep, I love baseball and football)

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OMGWTFFTWAYNE?!

Posted on September 24, 2007. Filed under: Me and only ME ranting |

OMGWTFFTWAYNE?! 

 

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the Ft. Wayne Juvenile Detention Center for 5 days of training.  Marion County put 4 people and me up in a hotel for a week while during the day we were trained in things like dealing with Mental Illnesses, crisis de-escalation, conflict resolution, juvenile rights, cultural sensitivity, etc. The classes were a whole lot of fun as well as the night life.

 

But I’m not writing this blog to talk about the classes (and I’m sure as hell not talking about what happened on those nights, we bumped and locked that stuff), I’m writing about the race related experiences me and my compadres had while we were out on the town.  Now most who know me know that if someone drops the race card on the table, I’m the first one to say, “You’re trippin’, just because they got a green arrow and you didn’t doesn’t mean that the traffic light is in a racist conspiracy against you.”  BUT, when it hits you smack in the face, no matter what color you are, it’s more real than American Idol (we remember are the articles that were written when the three black people were the only ones in the bottom three one week but Fantasia Borino went on to win the entire thing don’t we?)

 

Our second night in Ft. Wayne we all decided to go to a breakfast type restaurant for dinner (I won’t name the restaurant).  We were waiting to be seated so I just took the time to kind of eyeball the place and see how it looked.  It seemed that everyone was being seated over on the left hand side of the restaurant and it didn’t appear to be anywhere near packed.  Well, it came time for us to be seated and the manager asked us how many were in our group so I responded with, “We’ve only got 5, sir.”  Mind you, there are 3 white people and 2 black people in the group, we’ll call them Kisha and Joseph.  Anyway, the manager looks dead at Kisha and asks her, “And how many children do YOU have.” 

 

Now, I want to point out the fact that he didn’t ask any of the people in front of us, he didn’t ask anybody else in our group, just Kisha.  At that time, my eyes got as wide as they could possibly get.  Even Kisha took a step back from that verbal slap in the face.  I expected the next question to be, “And where’s your baby daddy?” or “You paying with food stamps tonight miss?”  Kisha didn’t react other than reeling from the impact of the absurdity of that question and kindly responded no.  We all looked at each other trying not to laugh as he took us to our table.  But, I noticed that something wasn’t right with this picture.  Everyone was going to the left side of the diner, while we were being taken over to the right.  Not only that but we were being taken to the very back of the section.  BEHIND A WALL!  NEXT TO THE KITCHEN PASS!

 

Now I’m beginning to think to myself, well, at least we’re done with the manager.  OHNONONONO!  The waitress was worse!  Joseph and I both ordered waters for our dinner.  Throughout the course of the meal mine was refilled three times, she wouldn’t even wait until it was halfway empty before she refilled it.  Joseph on the other hand must have looked plenty hydrated because he didn’t get a top off even once, even though his glass remained empty.  Napkins apparently became an issue too.  When the nice young white girl at our table asked for napkins it was, “Sure hon’ I’ll get those in a second.”  When Kisha asked for those same napkins (they hadn’t come and it had been about twenty minutes, not to mention it took 35 minutes for our food to get out) it was, “Yeah then she brought an overloaded amount to be kind of a smartass about it.

 

When it came to ordering our food, it was more of the same.  Kisha would get talked over by the waitress, she would get skipped, and food would get forgotten.  Joseph didn’t order or say much so he stayed out of the waitress’ crosshairs, thankfully.  And it wasn’t like Kisha was being demanding or asking for lots of different things.  Those of you who know me know I can be a restaurants worst nightmare when I’m not even trying, so I can recognize the warning signs of a restaurant terrorist.  Kisha was no trouble at all.  She was always polite, always sincere and a perfect lady.

When the checks came, the waitress doled them out and we were all in agreement that it was a fine time to leave; no after dinner conversation for us thank you very much.  We heard, “Here you go hon’” and “That’s for you dear” as our server handed us our checks.  Kisha spoke for all of us when she asked, “Ma’am may we please have receipts with these?”  very politely, I would almost say demurely.  The waitress shot back with, “You’re just going to have to wait.”  My jaw hit the greasy table!  I couldn’t believe what I’d just witnessed. 

 

There was nothing overtly racist about this experience.  There were no uses of the n-bomb, no one called Joseph “Boy”, there were no crosses burning on the front lawn of the restaurant and guys with white hoods weren’t jumping up and down on our van (well, our van WAS white).  But it was the piling on factor of it all.  The consistent rudeness to the only two black people in our group (who are what people would say, “well spoken”) was what set off my race-dar. 

 

The learning experience came later when I asked Kisha why she didn’t say anything.  I can’t remember exactly what she said but it was something along the lines of, “If I did respond to her actions, if I did trip on what she was saying and doing, all I would be doing is validating what her prejudices were.”  So Kisha and Joseph both kept their cool.  Joseph later told me that it happens sometimes and you just get used to letting it roll off your back.

 

The next day, Joseph had his own direct experience while we were in one of the Ft. Wayne malls.  We decided to go shopping after our lunch was over and we kind of went our separate ways.  Joseph and I went down one leg of the mall and he found a store with sports jerseys and hats and other memorabilia.  I went into Spencer’s while he took a look in the other store.  While he was in there, he happened to see this little pink Indianapolis Colts Jersey with Jerome Addai’s number on it.  Joseph really wanted to get it for his daughter and asked the lady working the counter how much it was.  She ignored him so Joseph asked again, this time in response she picked up the phone. 

 

Joseph is a gentleman.  He’s funny, he can get loud and rambunctious but he is an absolute gentleman.  He trusted that the woman may not have heard him and wasn’t simply trying to ignore THE ONLY CUSTOMER IN THIS SMALL STORE!  He asked her one more time how much it was and she finally looked up.  She didn’t look up to pay attention to Joseph, she looked up to make sure the security guard was walking into her store.  He walked around the store pretending to window shop, in full uniform, while peering at Joseph.  Joseph may be a gentleman but he is a human being and has limited patience. 

 

Disgusted with this treatment, he walks out of the store and over to a fountain in the middle of the mall.  At about the same time I began to walk out of the store I was in and down to his location.  That’s when I see the security guard follow him out of the store and practically stand over him while Joseph took a seat on a bench.  The guard didn’t leave until I walked over and sat down with Joseph. 

 

To me, this was all unbelievable.  If I hadn’t seen if for myself, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.  I probably would have told them, “You’re trippin’” and been done with it.  But I’ll be damned it was right before my eyes.  For as colorblind as I want my child to be, for as colorblind as I try to be it’s still real, even in larger cities like Ft. Wayne (pop.  500,000).  Whether or not you like someone else’s cultural differences is one thing, I don’t like the Hip-Hop culture myself, but I don’t lump all black people in it.  I also don’t like the Country Music subculture that is starting to rise up either, but I don’t lump all white people in it.  But not liking someone or disrespecting someone for something they’re born with, something that they had no choice over is the supreme ignorance.  The stereotype that they are putting on someone else, they have become themselves.

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The Red Star: The Battle of Kar Dathra’s Gate – A Comic Review

Posted on September 24, 2007. Filed under: Reviews |

 The Red Star Cover

The Red Star:  The Battle of Kar Dathra’s Gate – A Comic Review

It isn’t often that a comic book truly shows what this medium is capable of.  Christian Gossett’s (Art of the Darkness) book The Red Star: The Battle of Kar Dathra’s Gate goes above and beyond what a comic usually is.  From writing that reads like poetry to the tale of an epic battle to visuals that you can hear, this tale of love and loss, war and redemption does not let you down for a moment.  In this futuristic story a new/old style Soviet Union has arisen in Russia called the United Republic of the Red Star.  This new republic is more than willing to send its young men and women off to fight its wars.  The government sends out hordes to die as it attempts to put out any resistance or rebellion.

The people of the URRS are taught that whatever they do it must be done for the good of the nation.  One of the many proud members of this nation’s immense and technologically advanced military is the young woman Sorceress Major Maya Antares, Warkaster of the Red Fleet.  She is a weapon used on one of the Red Star’s great warships to devastate enemy vessels.  We meet her 9 years after the last war as she is riding a train through a giant cemetery to visit her husband Marcus Antares’ grave.  Marcus lost his life in the last battle against the Nistaani at a place called Kar Dathra’s Gate.  On the way to the gravesite, Maya meets an old veteran of the Great Patriotic War.  As they sit together (next to a sign saying, “Silence Equals Respect”) she begins to recount for the aged soldier, the story of the last few hours of the battle, the time in which her husband died.

  Red Star 

As we are taken through this field of memories the visuals that are captured in every panel come to life.  As the huge warships hover overhead, the stunning illustrations allow for you to hear the thrumming of their engines.   As tanks roll across the battlefield, you can feel the ground tremble below you.  In close quarter combat, you can smell the cordite and sweat.  Sometimes, even Computerized Graphic Images (CGI) can look messy and incomplete but each panel, every visual, leapt off of the page bringing you right into the battle fighting your way through hordes of Nistaani warriors.  There is one panel showing a man as he is firing his weapon, everything in the illustration is in perfect focus except for the barrel of the gun.  Just that small part of the entire picture is blurry, lending to the illusion that it is actually being fired at high rate.

To be honest with you, I don’t even know where to begin with on the writing.  There are so many elements in play at one time it’s hard to imagine that a writer could be so talented as to expertly weave them together so seamlessly.  Writing style aside, I’m stunned by how prophetic it was; I only found out after reading it that it was written Pre-9/11.  There are so many messages, so many truths to these pages that if I were to write on each one I’d have at least a 12 week sermon series.  The story could be seen in many, many ways:  as the struggle between Light and Darkness (God and Satan), the struggle between the Western World and fundamentalist Islam, the struggle between progress and the status quo, etc. 

There was one thing that continued to haunt me as I read this fantastic comic.  While narrating the story of the battle, Maya rails against the government’s use of propaganda to convince the populace that sending its young people to slaughter is the right thing to do.  One line of narration still sticks with me, “…The perfect slave is the one who believes he is free.”  To begin with, a slave has been bought, traded or born into slavery and no longer owns his own life.  Slaves cannot choose to come and go as they please, they are there for their master’s every beck and call.  They are trapped with few solutions for release and the way out is almost always unpleasant.

We allow ourselves to be trapped by temptation time and again.  In Romans 6:12 St. Paul states, “…do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”  Our own desires can make us a slave to all sorts of different things, meanwhile we’re convinced that we are free to come and go as we please. 

People talk themselves into believing that they have control over a situation when they do not.  Those  who practice promiscuous sex or who continue to indulge in internet pornography are fed (or even feed themselves) the lie that they are completely free to do as they like.  But, in reality they can quickly become a slave to their own desires, ebbing and flowing with the tides of their passions.  The propaganda used by the URRS government to convince its young men and women to throw themselves into battle is not unlike the media we are subjected to everywhere we turn.  We even propagandize ourselves, making us think that one can “Quit if I want to.”

Sometimes it takes a traumatic experience such as the Battle of Kar Dathra’s Gate to wake us up to the reality that there is something else controlling us.  A life changing experience that helps to open our eyes to the fact that we are not the ones with the power.  And when that life changing experience comes, people (just as Maya in the story) have to step forward in that new-found understanding.  As the chains slip free, we must resist the urge to slip those shackles back over our wrists and continue with the status quo.  Allow the experience to teach you, to mold you, to help you grow as a human being perfectly made.  Green Flag

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Unearned Love

Posted on September 22, 2007. Filed under: Spiritual Musings |

For those of us who know Lauren, we love her.  She posted this on her own almost two years ago today.  I think it’s important enough and cool enough for those of us who haven’t read it to read it and for those of us who have read it, to read it again. 

Some things are meant to be read more than once.  Sometimes you read a book or an article and just because you like the entertainment factor that it gives, you must read it until the cover falls off.  At other times, things need to be read and reread for the simple fact that with the hustle and bustle of our lives, or weaknesses and strengths, our sorrows and our joys, our hurts and our healings, we need a reminder of certain simple truths.  It’s the simple things that go unheard in the noise.

 God bless you Lauren and peace to you

“Once Upon A Time…”

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30 Days of Night – A Comic Review

Posted on September 11, 2007. Filed under: Reviews |

30 Days of Night – A Review

30 Days of Night Cover Art

Not another vampire story.  If you could hear my voice saying those four words, you wouldn’t hear any of the exasperation that usually accompanies that phrase.  Written by Steve Niles (28 Days Later:  The Aftermath, Batman:  Gotham County Line) and illustrated by Ben Templesmith (Wormwood:  Gentleman Corpse, Singularity 7) this story is an original take on the Vampire mythos that makes you wonder why no one had thought of this before. 

 

The story takes place in Barrow, Alaska where the sun doesn’t set from mid-May to the beginning of August and doesn’t rise “…between November 18th and December 17th.”  Niles uses this locale as the scene for a vampire invasion where the antagonists have no sun to drive them away.  The takeover of the small town begins with the vampire horde disrupting all means of communication and taking out the town’s electricity.  The vampires go on a killing spree feeding on every human they come across removing the heads from the corpses to ensure that none of their victims can become vampires themselves.  Only a handful of the town’s residents survive (due to the extreme cold of the Arctic Circle, the vampire’s senses have been dulled) and end up taking refuge in an enormous unused furnace. 

 

One of the survivors is the story’s main character Sheriff Eben Olemaun.  He and his wife Deputy Stella Olemaun have just watched the last sunset for a month when the mayhem begins.  After taking shelter in the empty furnace, the frightened townsfolk begin to realize that they don’t have much time before starvation/dehydration set in or the vampire’s close in for the kill.  Eben knows that something must be done quickly and decides to sacrifice himself by becoming a vampire so that he may be able to take advantage of their natural strength.

 

This is a well thought out, original story.  Niles takes the average vampire story of the undead attacking the living while trying to keep it a secret from the rest of society and puts it into an ingenious location.  This adds new variables to the classic story which had been left untapped for years.  It makes one wonder why this hadn’t been done before.  The story does not have tons of dialogue nor does it have pages of narration.  There is no need for it.  Ben Templesmith’s artwork is mesmerizing, filling in the gaps telling the story through mesmerizing visualizations.  I found myself time and again just staring at the artwork, taking it all in, astounded by the creatures Templesmith had created and the beautiful environments he illumined.  I never realized that gray could be so colorful.  Even the sepia tones used for the New Orleans scenes were magnetic.  Obviously this is a read I would suggest to any comic or horror fan.

 

Again I have to compliment the ingenuity of using a town which experiences 30 days of darkness to allow the bad guys to run wild.  The thing that I have to give to the hero Eben Olemaun is that he didn’t give up the town just because one month out of the year is “working against them”.  Too often Christians here in America give up too easily without looking at the bigger picture, without realizing how big our own hero is.  One example I can think of is the whole Halloween debacle that rears its ugly head every year.

 

It’s getting to be that time of year again and every year I hear the same questions about Halloween, “Do you celebrate Halloween?” “Are you going to let your kid go trick-or-treating?” “You do know that it’s the devil’s holiday right?”  And every year I end up biting my tongue for about 28 days.  By October 30th, I’ve had all I can take and end up lecturing someone on how not letting their children go get free candy is some odd form of child neglect. 

 

When I worked for a Christian bookstore I would see books being printed (and bought) about how Halloween is when the demons come out and play.  Thusly, we should spare our children from this day and huddle together with our immediate families or with our church communities in our locked little homes and churches and pray that the demons don’t come and get us, just like the townspeople of Barrow, Alaska.  I think that we have forgotten that “This is the day the Lord has made.”  If the devil has a day, it’s only because God’s people handed it to him on a silver platter,  “Here you are Mr. Satan, would you like me to refill your soda?” 

 

We have forgotten that Halloween is celebrated because November 1st is All Saints Day in the Catholic Church and All Souls Day is November 2nd.  Halloween is a warm-up to the remembrance of all the holy ones who have paved the way for us, those who have fought the fight and finished the race.  Halloween is a day where we can look ahead to the celebration of those that have gone before us.  Christians have one up on the townspeople of Barrow, Alaska.  Their time out of night was taken from them and had to be taken back by force.  We just simply need to stop giving it away.

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Clever Little Book Titles

Posted on September 6, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Clever little book titles

I was asked a question recently by my friend, the good man, Mark Johnson.  Now Mark is one of those unassuming types (at least on the phone and online) who now and again says something that will make the milk come flying out of your nose (or bourbon depending on what time of day it is).  Anyway, Mark and I were talking one day about Genesis (the book not the band) and he was asking if there were any good books on the subject.  Somehow we got around to the Canaanite genocide that occurs in the bible and I recommended a book I had once read entitled Show Them No Mercy:  Four Views on the Canaanite Genocide, edited by Stanley Gundry.  It’s a book that allows four different views of the Old Testament’s accounts of the military takeover of the Promise Land by the Israelites and its relation to the teachings of the New Testament in light of Jesus’ teachings on peace and love.  The individual views are put to the screws by the book’s other contributors (which are C. S. Cowles, Eugene H. Merrill, Daniel L. Gard and Tremper Longman III) as they discuss why they disagree with the previous viewpoint.  It’s a great book if you get a chance to pick it up.

Anyway, Mark couldn’t remember the title of the book and he asked me one day via a Personal Message on my friend Maurice Broaddus’ Message Board if I could tell him the title of the book again.  After I sent him a link to the book on Amazon, he informed me that he had wracked his brains trying to remember the book’s title.  This started a small flurry of Personal Messages between himself and me of alternative titles for the book.  They were funny enough that I thought I should share them.  Now presenting for some brief entertainment, book titles for a book on Canaanite genocide if Rob and Mark Johnson were to write one:

“Kill Them All”

“Make Sure Nobody Gets Out Alive”

“When God Attacks!”

“Die Hard:  The Beginning”

“Crouching YHWH, Hidden Dragon”

“This is the Day the LORD Hath Made, Get Ready to Kiss Your Ass Goodbye”

“If God Be For Us, Then Who’s Going to F**k with Us?”

“Let God Sort ‘em Out”

“They’re just Ay-Rabs”

“Psalm 137”

“The Purpose Driven Death”

“I Guess Payback’s Gonna be a Bi**h!”

“How are we Gonna Explain this One?”

“What do You Mean You Said, ‘Don’t Show Them Percy?!”

“When God Gets Pissed” (thank you Lauren)

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