Sunday, December 23, 2007

Life lessons from White Christmas

White Christmas is a classic. It can't help it. It has Bing Crosby singing, Danny Kaye mugging for the camera, Rosemary Clooney's temper outbursts and "choreography".

Basically its a romance and a comedy and a musical and a Christmas movie all in one, you can enjoy it for whichever or all of those if you wish. Our eleven year old watches it over and over, all year long, Christmas being a sidebar to the whole movie's plot.

Honour is a great theme of this movie. Honouring soldiers, or being honourable in our behaviour. Oh, and honouring those we hold debts too as well, Danny Kaye would remind us!

I don't know what else to say here. Maybe there is no life lesson here, just a reminder of what following some things that we already know may look like if we try.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Life lessons from Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands. It sounds like a horror movie, and in some senses it is pretty horrific. It shows the pressures to conform and their terrible effects. Visually it is an intriguing piece of art.

Edward Scissorhands shows that the perfect suburban life is not always the perfect suburban life. It shows what one woman in her naivete is able to do with one poor outcast. It shows how we as humans have an idea of how we are to be but how we often sell out. Similar to Its a Wonderful Life I suppose, but George Bailey sells out his own dreams to help others realize his own. In Ed.Sc. the pressure on Edward is to see a "doctor who could likely help him".

The most remarkable about the movie as art to me is the contrast between Edward's personality and his physical appearance. When matched up with the physical appearance of suburban life, in all its pastel "beauty", Edward's pale, punk appearance with metal hands that keep people at arms length and then some offers a stark reminder that you can't judge a book by its cover.

It is easy to find yourself in both camps. Edwardian backwardness, holding back because of fear. Angry because we're not like everyone else. Then again, I'm suburban, I want to be "normal", to blend in, to be socially acceptable. Why? So that people will accept my Jesus? Or, so that people will not notice him???

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Life Lessons from It’s a Wonderful Movie… oops, I mean , Life.

Does a life of sacrifice matter?

Can you give up your dreams and still have a wonderful life?

Is there more to life than pursuing your own desires?

This is one heart-wrenching, awe-inspiring movie. You can’t help but cheer for George Bailey. You can’t help but want something to go his way once along the way. But it doesn’t. He never wins. He never gets what he wants. He just barely gets the girl, okay, so in this case he really does win. He loves and loses all the way and in the end, he’s standing tall as the biggest winner you could imagine. In fact, and I just went and looked this up… “It’s a Wonderful Life” just last year won the award from the American Film Institute for the most inspiring American movie of all time. I thought “To Kill a Mockingbird” was it, but thankfully, this is number one, and I love “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Not bad for a movie that came out way back in 1946.

This movie has everything good about movies, but, most importantly it has an amazing lead character (have I ever mentioned here that I love James Stewart as an actor, I think when we’re done going through all of AFI’s top whatever list, I’m going to try to convince Sabrina that a James Stewart marathon would be a valuable thing!) When George heads home screaming to the Bedford Falls sign, the car, the savings and loan, and anyone in ear shot, chills run down my spine. One part Jimmy Stewart, one part great moment.

My only complaint with the movie is that the old banker, Potter, never does get his comeuppance. Not officially. When George tells him off, you certainly see him acting out the way you feel watching the movie.

The pain of watching George lose it at home is really sad and hard to take. You have to feel for the whole family who are now suffering the consequences of their husband and father living his life for others. This does not justify the man of the house going off on his own children, but to see such an honourable man turn so, well, I think the only word is “insane”, is painful and sad. It gives me pause as a George Bailey wanna-be.

I’ve also been looking for parallels in the life of George Bailey and the life of Jesus. I’m seeing two people living their lives for others, one a capitalist, the other, the Son of God. Both though, doing things for the poor, those the upper crust of society are ignoring or taking advantage of. They both come to a crisis; George faces death on the bridge, Jesus at the cross, both wondering if there is some other way. Jesus cry for Jerusalem reminds me of poor George heading home from the bank after 8000 dollars goes missing. Likely the one word that stands out to most people who have watched this movie would be the word, “sacrifice”. Sacrifice. Sacrifice. Giving up yourself for another. Sacrifice. Greater love has no man than this! In this, George Bailey is the poor shadow of the rich original in Jesus.

A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lessons from... The Life of Pi

Let me first say that I likely didn't give this book a fair shake, I got so bogged down in getting him "off the boat already" that I stopped focusing on what the author was trying to say. It was an interesting read, plodding but interesting. I know there is much more to this book than I'm pulling out here, but sometimes we miss the forest for the trees.

1. Search for truth brings joy and confusion. Pi dives headfirst into Christianity, Hinduism -and Islam simultaneously and those around him find themselves confused by his ability to concentrate on all three and his lack of conflict while practicing them. This of course shows ignorance of the tenets of the religions of Christianity and Islam, but in this anti-Muslim and anti-Christian society we live in, to see those two ideas living side by side in one person’s mind is interesting to contemplate and even to consider how two groups who disagree could possibly be able to work together, concentrating on the similar desires of each.
2. Having focus brings hope in hopeless circumstances. Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with a tiger. The focus of the remainder of the book is on whether it is possible for man to dominate a tiger…or is it about whether man is able to dominate their impossible circumstances. Hope (and an unbelievably well stocked lifeboat combined with the convenience of knowing about animal nature as Pi’s father was a zookeeper) help Pi to survive. The will to survive, hope for the future, are demonstrated by the ease with which he overcomes the realization that even when he is rescued, his whole family has been taken by the same sinking that left him stranded in the Pacific.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Life lessons from The Bells of St. Mary's

Bells of St. Mary’s is a classic movie of Father O’Malley and his efforts to turn around old St. Mary’s school and, in spite of, and because of his efforts, a “miracle” happens and all ends up right with the world. It stars Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman.

The movie poses several things to think about, I didn’t write anything down as I was watching it tonight, (the third or fourth time I’ve seen it, but I barely remembered the ending from before.) so its likely that I’m missing things.
1. As a teacher, it is difficult to know what is the best idea when wimpy little Eddie doesn’t fight back and Father O’Malley pats his more aggressive schoolmate on the back for being such a good fighter. This is followed up by a quiet debate on whether the world was better off for teaching people to stand up for themselves or whether people standing up for themselves is the problem. Though Sister Benedict does not agree with Father O’Malley she soon teaches young Eddie the art of boxing. Eddie later proves himself a worthy pugilist on the playground, but the obvious joy he has as he first bates his nemesis and then toys with him in the ensuing fight helps us to realize that there is something about his new power that is frightening and dangerous.
2. A second dilemma arises when Father O’Malley tries to help young Patricia, a girl with little help from home in the first 13 years of her life. Her final act of intentionally failing her year end \exams in order to stay at this one true safe place for her one more year demonstrates the importance of teachers, schools and that we need to get to the heart of the matter before we leap to logical conclusions, as in many cases, logic does not really come into play. Sister Benedict’s desire to adhere to the rules and standards of St Mary’s is commendable and right, but Father O’Malley is also right in his desire to show grace.
3. Lastly, we see Mr Bogardus and his struggle to say “no” to God. For a movie with main characters who are a priest and a nun, God rarely makes an appearance in this movie. The most beautiful part of the movie takes place in the grade one class as the children put on their own interpretation of the Christmas story. Here alone do we see Jesus, and one of the few times that God is referenced. In spite of this oddity, there is little doubt that God is chasing down the curmudgeonly old Mr Bogardus. It is a tip of the hat to both the sovereignty and love of God as we see the older man give in to God and experience the joy of generosity.

Does God show his face in this movie? Yes. Is there room for more of Him? Isn’t there always more place we can make for Him in our lives too? This is a movie of internal struggles, about trying to figure out what is right for others, about obeying God. All in all, it’s a wonderful movie to re-view as often as possible.

Monday, November 26, 2007

hehehehehe...hey honey I got on!

I'll tell you how to post on your blog for the low low price of a really good leg rub :)

Love you :)

Monday, April 09, 2007

He is Risen

I was thinking about Good Friday and Good Sunday in terms of the word "good". It really struck me that the use of the word "good" just wasn't "good" enough. I would have guessed it was attached before there was a stronger word. Then someone said that likely the word came from a derivative of "God", that the saying likely at one time was God's Friday and God's Sunday. That struck me as "good enough". What could be a more appropriate name than God's Friday. Above all other Fridays this one showed the justice of God meeting his grace, the crux of what makes God, God and not a god. Above all other Sunday's that God's Sunday was the one in which He conquered the curse of man once and for all. 1 Corinthians 15 implies that all of human history can be summarized into two days. The day man died and the day death was conquered! Praise God for God's Sunday!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mark Heard

I want to talk about Mark Heard.

Mark Heard was a tremendous Christian poet and artist who died back in 1992 or so. He was underappreciated, in my opinion I guess, and therefore his influence was not really seen at the forefront of anything. He was a folky, guitar-playing, angst-ridden guy who was too honest for his own good. Now, that might be considered a compliment, in this age of Blue Like Jazz, anything goes, as long as you’re trying to be honest. He once said, “I’m too sacred for the sinners and the saints wish I would leave”. It was his melancholy take on the desparate state of his own existence, his struggles to love as he should, his sorrow for the plight of his fellow humans that made him stand out. Plus amazing lyric writing. I’ll post a few lines here, but I’ll add more later as well. It seems amazing to me that those who are important in the music industry, important to me, die too young… Keith Green, Gene Eugene, Rich Mullins, Mark Heard… it makes me worried for a few others…though God is in control.

All the unsaid words that I might be thinking
And all the little signs that I might give you
They would not be enough
No they would not be enough
So we nod over coffee and say goodbye
Smile over coffee and turn to go
We know the drill and we do it well
We love it, we hate it
Ain't that life
I get lonely sometimes
It's not your fault
I'm a man who follows his own tracks until he's lost
I'll keep on going round and round until I'm found
I get wounded sometimes
It's not your fault
I keep on shooting arrows up until they fall
They stall and turn, a narrow miss until I learn
It's not you,
I'll be okay,
I'm just a jerk is all
It's alright, it's just my foolishness
It's not your fault
I can melt the clock hands down
But only in my memory
Nobody gets the second chance to be the friend they meant to be
I see you now and then in dreams
Your voice sounds just like it used to
I believe I will hear it again
God how I love you
Treasure of the broken land
Parched earth give up your captive ones
Waiting wind of Gabriel
Blow soon upon the hollow bones

strong man strangle universe
he drown the stars
blinded by the mission of a thousand wars
he fit and dominant
not wonder why
he love the battlecry
strong man is survivor
he live to pound
little wooden crosses in the bloody ground
he fit and dominant
he stand a chance
he not bow to circumstance
and the world keep on turning
and the sun keep on burning
and the children keep learning
how to grow up big and strong

Monday, March 26, 2007

Attracting Flies

If I post a picture will people post, if I post anything will people comment? I finally got into my blog, I had to take a roundabout route, but I'm in...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Does God want anything from us?
Or does he just want to give to us?

Any thoughts or discussion would be greatly appreciated.
Even from you!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Too busy

Exams and report cards. More needed to be said? Maybe next week I'll have a real post, I'm certainly having real thoughts.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Checking in on those who are checking in.

I see from my counter at the bottom of my blog that there are about 10 people a day checking in. A comment from my dear wife on the last post made me wonder "Who are you?" I know Brenda and Sabrina and Valerie are here quite often, but who else is here? I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Life Imitates Art...?

I can't say as I actually understand the depths of human sadness. I used to think so, and today reflecting on those days, I don't really know what took me there and why.

I think depression is an easy place to get to. It reminds me of my cannon post a couple of months ago, that our minds take us places even without us as willing participants. That is, we take the journey of each step willingly, but we don't have the map as to where we're heading and if we've never travelled that way before, its easy to end up in a place we didn't even know existed, let alone want to visit...or move to.

All that to say that there was a time that I might have been depressed. Maybe I should ask Mom or Dad about it. Maybe they have insight. I didn't know what it was then. I thought it was realism.

I read a really good book about 1991 or 1992. Inside Out by Larry Crabb. You may recognize the title. It was really good and realistic. I'm not knocking the book. For a guy like me though who was reading and not discussing or having any real human connections with regard to life at that point, not even really knowing that that was healthy, it became a little dangerous. What it left me with was a sense of self-loathing. I was sinful, my whole life was tainted by selfishness and motives based on my Calvinistic sense of total depravity. (Today, Calvin speaks to me more in a comic book with his pet tiger than he does in "The Five Points".)

At the same time, my mind was also being filled with Christians who were tainted by sadness for the first time. Before this, the first 20 years of my life, Christians were only sad at funerals, or, they used to be sad, but now they had Jesus. That was my impression, not the law, not what I was taught, maybe it was the sheltered Bible-belt upbringing, I don't know and I don't really knock it, I just was surprised that Christians were getting divorced, feeling lonely, getting angry with God, feeling tired and like their finances were ruined. I knew they got sick and sometimes died, but they were always old with grey hair and grandkids too. I was introduced to bands like 77's, Daniel Amos, Mike Knott and LSU, Undercover, Mark Heard, Bruce Cockburn, Altar Boys and a few others, all claiming to be Christians but with a different outlook on life than I'd ever heard of. They seemed to be experiencing pain and still holding on to their Christianity. Ric Alba, a guy from the Altar Boys sang a song that included the words,

Don't pat me on the back and ask if its all better now,
When I'm torn in two I don't mend so easily.

I thought I heard a baby cry, it was the man next door
I heard somebody say, hey big boys don't cry anymore.
Well, I used to think so to, but I think I know better now

Now, I think that's beautiful poetry, now I know where he was coming from when he wrote those words, I still ache that it is some people's existence. But it doesn't have to become me. And that is great. That was great art, but lousy life philosophy. It takes a while to get past that adolescent angst of having to have your life imitate art, fitting into some goth, punk, emo, preppy, popular kind of category. I missed one of the finer points of art, letting it beautify and paint your world a little better than you'd decorated it yourself. I tried to move into the gallery.

There is more to say, but real life is calling me...

"Yes, little man?"

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Simply because I've had so much fun here lately...

I thought I'd add a few quotes... drop a comment and let me know you're here. Love to hear from you and meet you if we don't know each other.

Annie Dillard
We are here on the planet only once, and might as well get a feel for the place.
• Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you.
• There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by.
• You can't test courage cautiously.
• The dedicated life is the life worth living. You must give with your whole heart.
• No; we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?
• I would like to learn, or remember, how to live. I come to Hollins Pond not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it. That is, I don't think I can learn from a wild animal how to live in particular...but I might learn something of mindlessness, something of the purity of living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive.
• The extravagant gesture is the very stuff of creation. After one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with fresh vigor. The whole show has been on fire since the word go!
• If we were to judge nature by common sense or likelihood, we wouldn't believe the world existed.
• Trees have a curious relationship to the subject of the present moment. There are many created things in the universe that outlive us, that outlive the sun, even, but I can't think about them. I live with trees.
• A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
• Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.
• Why are we watching the news, reading the news keeping up with the news? Only to enforce our fancy -- possibly a necessary lie -- that these are crucial times, and we are in on them.
• As soon as beauty is sought not from religion and love, but for pleasure, it degrades the seeker.
• It is ironic that the one thing that all religions recognize as separating us from our creator -- our very self-consciousness -- is also the one thing that divides us from our fellow creatures. It was a bitter birthday present from evolution.
• I have never read any theologian who claims God is particularly interested in religion, anyway.
• Starlings are notoriously difficult to "control." The story is told of a man who was bothered by starlings roosting in a large sycamore near his house. He said he tried everything to get rid of them and finally took a shotgun to three of them and killed them. When asked if that discouraged the birds, he reflected a minute, leaned forward, and said confidentially, "Those three it did."

"If it seems a childish thing to do, do it in remembrance that you are a child."
"In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints."
"Religion points to that area of human experience where in one way or another man comes upon mystery as a summons to pilgrimage."
"It is as impossible for man to demonstrate the existence of God as it would be for even Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle."
"The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you. There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too."
"Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality--not as we expect it to be but as it is--is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love."

GK Chesterton (because there are just too many to include, I’m simply cutting and pasting in a few and you can read all you like here…
"Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before." - Tremendous Trifles
"A change of opinions is almost unknown in an elderly military man." - A Utopia of Usurers, CW, V, p396
"The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice." - A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant, 1901
"A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." - Everlasting Man, 1925
"Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions." - ILN, 4/19/30
"Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance." - The Speaker, 12/15/00
"An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." - On Running After Ones Hat, All Things Considered, 1908
"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - Sidelights on New London and Newer New York
"He is a [sane] man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head." - Tremendous Trifles, 1909
"Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it." - A Miscellany of Men
"Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity." - The Man Who was Thursday, 1908
"The simplification of anything is always sensational." - Varied Types
"Complaint always comes back in an echo from the ends of the world; but silence strengthens us." - The Father Brown Omnibus
"Customs are generally unselfish. Habits are nearly always selfish." - ILN 1-11-08
"I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid." - ILN 6-3-22
"The center of every man's existence is a dream. Death, disease, insanity, are merely material accidents, like a toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel." - "Sir Walter Scott," Twelve Types
"The person who is really in revolt is the optimist, who generally lives and dies in a desperate and suicidal effort to persuade other people how good they are." - Introduction to The Defendant
"To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it." - A Short History of England, Ch.10
"All the exaggerations are right, if they exaggerate the right thing." - "On Gargoyles." Alarms and Discursions
"The comedy of man survives the tragedy of man." - ILN 2-10-06
"We have had no good comic operas of late, because the real world has been more comic than any possible opera." - The Quotable Chesterton
"When learned men begin to use their reason, then I generally discover that they haven't got any." - ILN 11-7-08
"The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog."

Friday, January 05, 2007

troisieme fois

Well the last blog has me thinking about other books I've read that have influenced me. ... In case you are wondering, there is no plan with this whole sequence of events here, no one should be offended because they have not yet been mentioned. There is no subliminal order of significance or any such thing!
I must say that much of my most recent reading, the past 10 years lets say, has been influenced by two things, one being music... the other being a need to take a break and read something disconnected from where I am at.
So in light of that, the first category...
Terry Taylor, who will surely take the whole subject of one of these blogs some day, has introduced me to literary music lyrics. Those have made me head for the source of his creative writings, the original books themselves. For that matter, Philip Yancey does the same thing for me, he too quotes so many interesting other authors that it makes me pursue them. The most shocking thing to me is the extreme overlap between Yancey's sources and Taylor's inspirations. They either think alike ( and I like them) or there is something to these writers worth pursuing... or both, or some other option I don't care to consider right now.
Yancey's book Soul Survivor introduces us to some of that overlap. There he goes into the lives and writings of a few of my personal favourites. In no particular order here they are.

Frederich Buechner. A Presbyterian minister from Vermont, he looks for and finds God in extraordinary places. He looks at life and the Scripture from a very human perspective, honest to a fault you might say. And refreshing.

Annie Dillard. No one writes like Annie Dillard. No one I've ever read anyway. I wish her books would never end, even if she had nothing to say, just seeing how she says it makes it worth the time. She laces in black humour and a unique perspective as a Christian on the fringes of mainstream Christianity. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is her most famous book and affected my thinking like no other written by mere mortals.

Fyodor Dostoevsky. Russian novelist of the 1800's. Writes the dark human heart and the struggle for redemption like no one else. Crime and Punishment is likely one of my favourite books, certainly as far as novels go.

GK Chesterton. A British newspaper guy and I believe Catholic. Humour and theological depth intermingled. Writes novels and non fiction, he reminds me of CS Lewis with a lot more earth thrown in than Lewis who is a little more mystical.

I think that's enough for this post,
more to come... for what its worth.