The version I grew up with was the 1964 stop-motion feature.
Rudolph is a classic tale of child bullying, and shallow fame. Do you remember? Rudolph's own dad, was ashamed 'cause his kid had a red nose. A red nose! Instead of offering some Nyquil to soothe what is clearly a common cold, he forces Rudolph to cover his nose in black junk, just so he won't be different than the other deer at school. How...intolerant. (Insert a rousing chorus of Lady Gaga's: Born This Way here.)
It doesn't stop there! Whilst rough-housing with some friends at deer flying school, Rudolph's fake nose is knocked off, and the other kids see he is different from them.
What happens? They bully him of course. Santa, stops by, and does absolutely nothing to help this poor baby deer. Apparently Santa is not up to speed with his "North Pole Celebrates Diversity" curriculum that is probably federally regulated to prevent discrimination and harassment. Oh Santa. Next time you run for office, I can imagine the field day the press will have with this story...
Things aren't lookin' so hot for poor, Rudolph.
That is...until a great blizzard shows up, and suddenly Rudolph, and his shiny nose, are needed to light the way for Santa's sleigh. Rudolph saves Christmas and becomes super popular, of course, now only after he's deemed useful for something.
So children, we clearly learn in this folksy old Christmas tale to ridicule those who may be different than ourselves, unless we can get something out of them, or they save Christmas of course. Then we can be their best friend.
What about Suzy Snowflake? If you haven't seen this one, check it out! Basically, it's about a creepy snowflake fairy who stalks you. I kid you not. Every winter, she comes "tap-tap-tappin'" on your window paine to let you know she's in town. Freaky, right? My question is... is she breaking any sort of privacy laws?
Frosty the Snowman
Frosty the Snowman is another beloved children's story because, well, let's face it, he's a magical snowman! How cool is that?
But even magic, it seems, is not enough to protect this wonderful snowman from humanity's destructive tendencies. As I watch Frosty melt into a puddle of slush, I'm reminded of Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth and sadly shake my head.
I mean, lets be real here...Not even a magical hat will protect a snowman from Global Warming!
Frosty becomes an endangered species at the end of the show right along with the polar bear...
What about the Grinch?
Well, let's begin with what we do know.
We know that he has a record of breaking and entering. That he hates the generally happiness of everyone. Has no problem with theft.
The Grinch, it seems, can represent a hypothetical molotov cocktail of corporate greed, envy, and common criminal characteristics that one can see why he'd be an obvious choice of a main character in a children's film.
But then his heart changes.
I'm not kidding, it does!
At the end of the tale his icy heart melts, and is replaced by a heart of gold, which is actually a disturbing transition if I'm completely honest...
The Grinch's heart swells to an alarming size, which makes me really question how much longer he actually lived after bench pressing a sleigh full of toys on Mount Crumpet.
Some say it was the spirit of Christmas that caused this, I would respectfully disagree...
All the strain of his physical activities accompanied by the terrible food choice of roast beast would've probably caused the swelling, and a massive heart failure, to be sure.
I always wondered why his coloring didn't look so good. Now we know...
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." -Isaiah 9:6-7
As Christmas approaches, churches all over the United States begin their typical "Christmas message series."
Often what this will entail is a rehash of the Christmas story, the shepherds, the wise men, the heavenly hosts singing and such...
Such statements as "peace on earth" and "goodwill toward men" begin to crop up left and right. As if they were an option the rest of the year, till now...
Pastor Jason taught on the verse above, from Isaiah, this Sunday and he raised a profound question: "What is peace?"
Sure, it isn't the first time this question has been asked, and it certainly won't be the last time. But what is peace? Do Christians fully grasp the concept? And if they don't, how then can the world understand this peace that Christ supposedly gives?
As this Christmas season kicks into full swing, I'm left thinking a lot about this word because, admittedly, we Americans live a rather chaotic sort of lifestyle. A life that is planned, and scheduled till every spare minute is accounted for.
We're budgeting our lives.
And does peace mean an absence of conflict? Or absence of chaos? What is the peace that Jesus supposedly left us?
There was a story that my mother read to me when I was growing up that deeply affected me. It was actually about Christmas, I think.
It was a story about the Great War. World War I ravaged Europe for four horrible years. German against Brit, Italian against Austro-Hungarian. Trenches were dug and camped in. For many soldiers these trenches were their graves. Generals would send their men to fight and die over, literal inches of ground. Then the next day the opposition would push them back from the ground they just took. Death, disease, sorrow. The reality of war. But, in this story, something happened on Christmas Day. The guns stopped blazing, and both sides ran up a flag of truce. Men came out of the trenches, and joined together in "no man's land." and played football, shared cigarettes, and had a meal together. As the sun set, both sides joined in a chorus of silent night, knowing that the next day, they would once again be enemies. Fighting and dying over inches of soil.
I remember, in the final pages of that book, fighting back the tears. The lump in my throat growing, making it hard to speak. I remember thinking; "Why, oh why? Why do they have to die? Why does it have to be like this? It doesn't have to be like this..."
The peace Jesus gives one who chooses to follow him, isn't a peace you can find in this world. This world has conflict, heartache and sorrow. It will until it is renewed and made complete again. This world, even in its quietest moments will remain, in God's ears, as the screams and chaos of war. So, Jesus isn't a ticket around that.
Jesus claims to have brought a peace that surpasses this world, though.
Humanity, long estranged, and at war with the heavens, has been offered peace. Peace from a divine act. We no longer are separated from the heavenly realms, because of the incredible act of the divine in flesh. The original freedom fighter.
That's the peace he brings.
That's the reason that countless Christians throughout history have been able to endure hateful words, torture, brutality, and execution. Do you think they felt peace in that trial?
I think so.
I think they knew that there was something greater happening. I think that the sheer idea of peace being made with our Creator is nothing short of infectious! It is for that reason, that countless followers of Jesus went to their graves, with nothing that the world would consider gain in their future.
But it is those Christians who have found themselves, free of the trenches, war and destruction. It's those Christians who are now, sharing with their brothers, a meal prepared for them in celebration of the Savior that was promised!
Peace has been made. Peace has been given to us! Isn't that incredible?
This Christmas, you may find that you aren't at peace. That there is still war within, and that you feel there is no end to conflict...we've all been there. Me too.
I want you to know that there is peace to be found. It may not solve all of life's problems for you. It may not right the countless wrongs that you've endured. Jesus isn't a genie. It doesn't work like that.
This peace will keep you afloat is the raging seas. And it will see you safely through the fire. The peace you can have through Jesus lasts forever. It can't be touched, and it can't be broken.
It's a peace that will one day bring all forth from their graves in the trenches of life. It will be a meal. A song of harmony. A peace that won't end after a day, but will continue to endure.
We are now restored to the Creator of all, the one who holds this expansive universe in his hands. The one who cares for you, and walks with you, no matter how dark it may seem.
That, my friends, is why we celebrate the Savior's birth.
He was that quiet guy in the back, you know the one? Yeah, never offered any input in discussion, I swear he only came because his friends dragged him to our Wednesday night group...
These were my first thoughts about my friend Bryan. Flattering? Perhaps not...
Of course, I was anxiously anticipating the day where our study leader Dave said the wrong thing and he snapped and pulled out an AK and went all crazy on us. But you know...
I never really got to know Bryan during high school. I was very involved in the band thing and he went to a different high school. He actually went to the north side school, and it was pretty shady business over on that side of town. ;)
After my first year of college, I went on a project with a campus ministry to South Carolina. After that I returned back home to figure out the next move in my life. I decided to help the study leader co-lead some studies. Bryan was still in the area, and still coming to bible study.
Since we really weren't in the high school crowd any more, we decided to join forces (I think it was his invitation originally, but I'm not sure), and combat the boredom of being high school grads who were trapped in their hometown.
It went down something like this I think....
Bryan: (after a Wednesday night study): "Soooo......we should maybe hang out sometime. Play some video games or something....I don't care, whatever you want to do."
Me: "Uh, sure, yeah I 'spose we could do something like that."
Bryan: "Ok cool, yeah just let me know, or whatever."
Me: "Yeah sounds good man."
And just like that... an alliance was born!
One of the first cool things I learned about this guy, was that he is a movie connoisseur.
Walked into his place the first time we hung out, and we started the process of deciding the movie we were going to watch. My mind was blown at the sheer amount of DVD's were present. It was like...Best Buy or something. I thought to myself, my god this guy has to get a life!
But sure enough, I began stopping over most every night after and we would watch movies, play awesome video games and have whiskey and cokes (Bryan's weakness is Jameson, yeah...the good stuff). He's a top shelf sort of guy.
I thought I'd seen plenty of movies in my time. Hell no.
I felt like an apprentice Jedi learning the ways of one much wiser than myself. Bryan has a fantastic grasp on movies (and while we differ at times, I'll take a movie recommendation from him any day!). We share a love of horror movies, though he tends to prefer the classics, while I gravitate toward modern slasher films.
You ask Bryan about a movie, odds are he's seen it. Ask him his opinion on said movie, odds are he has one. It's kinda awesome really. I'm friends with a movie critic, but not just any movie critic....one who actually knows what he's talking about!
We would also embark on two player shooter game projects, which lead to many hours of swearing, heads being blown off, and strategy sessions (strategy was always needed, because my typical tactical maneuver in these games is to run in shooting, and get killed right away).
It was in this season of life that I began to re-realize the need for good guy relationships in my life. Somehow, doing stuff as basic as movies, junk food and video games was a very healthy thing for me. Guys need to bond with guys.
Guys need brothers.
I find it much easier to relate to women, but what I was missing out on by not having a brother to do "guy stuff" with was actually a huge need that I didn't know I had.
Bryan is one of the most genuine, and generous guys that I know. It was a friendship that just stuck. He's always right there when I'm having a rough time, and looking for practical tangible ways to help me feel better, rather than handing me cliches', which I actually despise.
He's always giving. Whether it's taking a friend out to dinner, or giving his time to help me change a tire, or donating to great causes. He has a heart for people, and when he heard about the organization Compassion International and the work they do, he was so moved that he sponsored a child himself.
The reason he never talked all that much at bible study back in the day is because Bryan actually takes time and thinks about things. He is a rare commodity in a world where everyone thinks their opinion is the shit. Everyone wants to be listened to, but Bryan listens. He thinks before he talks, which is why a lot of the things he says when he does share, are quite profound.
I don't think he really realizes how much of an impact he has on the people around him. I hope he does, but I'm not sure if he does. He's someone I can go to and bitch about life, and I won't feel judged. I've never felt that he tries to put any sort of pressure on me to "act" a certain way. A lot of Christian guys, when they hang out, they always have some sort of an "end." Do you know what I mean?
It's like their goal when hanging out is to have friendship to avoid doing certain things. Accountability buddies, if you will. And while accountability is great, I needed something more with my guy friendships. I didn't need a guy friend who just acts like I'm a project. I didn't need for someone to act like the only thing we do when we hang out is talk about our failures, and shortcomings and beat ourselves up because we're sinners.
I needed a guy who was just a straight-up friend to me. Someone who'd accept me, flaws and all.
He's definitely been one of the few guys friends I have had, who actually does that. That fact alone is an unmistakable blessing to me.
He recently got engaged to Natalie (another friend that I'm sure will have an entry in here, as they have both been huge blessings to me in the last two years!), and I couldn't be happier. They're both just fantastic!
I can't begin to do this guy justice in a blog post (or any of my friends for that matter), but it just so happens that My Friend the Movie Critic, was the friend I didn't know I needed, but the friend that I'm so glad I've found. :)
My Grandma Ellen is a remarkable and strong woman. She's been, and continues to be an inspiration to me.
Grandma Ellen is the grand parent that I've probably seen the most in my life. Her husband died when I was younger, and my other two grandparents lived in Florida. We'd visit them when we could (most every summer) but throughout the year Grandma Ellen was the one we'd spend the most time with. .........
She always came to our events in elementary, middle and high school. One of my favorite times that Grandma would come to school was for "Grandparent's Day." At our elementary school, we had a fundraiser-run on grandparent's day, and while I'm not one to run, I did. Why? Well, for one I got a free t-shirt. Second, everyone else was running, so naturally I conformed. But, mostly it was because after we finished our run, Grandma always took us kids to Baker's Square for lunch.
Oh, and the pies they had! I wish I could describe them to you... Grandma loved the Baker's Square pies. :) They had cherry pies, french silk pies, pecan pies, blueberry pies, banana cream pies...pies, pies, pies! My siblings and I would hover over the dessert case and practically drool at the blissful bakery on display. .........
Whenever we'd travel to her condo (30 minutes is a fairly long drive for young children), we would rush up to the outer door, and one of us would get to push the intercom buzzer. After a minute we'd hear her friendly voice..."Hello??" which would be greeted with a frenzied chorus of "Grandma!!!"
When she buzzed us in we'd always run down the hallway, into the open courtyard and we'd see her standing at her door smiling at us. We never could beat her, she was always waiting with that beautiful smile. .........
Grandma loved chocolate. She was actually a freakin' addict. Don't believe me? She liked chocolate so much, she owned a Hershey's sweater. I kid you not. A brown sweater with the Hershey's logo on it. I told you, addict. Yet, with so many things in this world to be addicted to, chocolate is certainly the sweetest.
When she moved into the assisted living and we were cleaning out the condo we found stashes all over the freakin' condo. A bag of chocolates in a drawer here. A couple bars in a cabinet there. Up on the shelves. Yep, it was pretty fantastic. ..........
Grandma was the first person that I had a serious conversation about death with. In middle school when I started thinking about it a lot, I realized that it scared the shit out of me. I remember after one weekend when I stayed at her house and she was driving me back home I asked her: "Grandma, are you afraid to die?"
A question asked in innocence, naivety and fear.
She said no. I asked her, "What about heaven and hell? Don't you ever worry about that?" My Grandma went on to tell me that God is good, that he takes care of us and that we have to have faith that he will look out for us in the next life, as well as this life.
While I became antagonistic toward Christianity in the future, that conversation stayed with me. The calm way that she talked about not fearing death, the confidence she said she had in God and his goodness, I knew she meant it with all her heart. That conversation stuck.
It was at that point that, as a young boy, I decided my Grandma wasn't afraid of anything... .........
Sometimes Grandma would take us kids to Chuck-E-Cheese. Chuck-E-Cheese is a child's dream, at least....for me it was. Running around in a giant, noisy playground. Tokens, tickets, pizza, giant mice singing and dancing...okay that last part freaked me out, but dreams are often strange and bizarre things.
I loved those little vacations. .........
All my girlfriends loved my Grandma. No, seriously, all of them. Grandma has always been a social butterfly. I haven't met a single person she couldn't charm. Everyone at her church knew her. She frequented the senior clubhouse to play her card games, and she always walked away with a decent amount of pennies. Even when she was moved to the assisted living facility, there wasn't one staff member who didn't know who Ellen was. And when she moved to a different unit, she wasted no time making new friends.
Now I know where I get it from. ;) .........
Grandma loved Cousin's subs. .........
Grandma always rocked the rollers too. Stereotypical? Yes, but she definitely could've started a real trend whenever she wore those rollers. Grandma's always been a stylish woman. One of those people who can make something out of nothing when it came to outfits. She always dressed modest, yet classy. She was very well put together. .........
As with most residents of Wisconsin, Grandma loved thePackers, Brewers and Badgers. Every Sunday during football season she would pull up in her green and gold. She loved the Packers the most. Win or lose, it didn't matter, she was a true fan. She was also a true fan of family. She was always our number one supporter, and not just my siblings and me, but to all her children and grandkids.
We have been blessed to have her on our team. She is the best fan anyone could ask for. .........
Grandma always embodied a spirit of optimism. She genuinely loved life, experience and relationship. She's left an incredible legacy, and she has taught me so much in this life that words cannot even begin to describe what she means to me. ........
On November 20, 2011, I received a text message from my mother. It said, 'Grandma isn't doing so well, it may be best to come back home for a time like this.' We only have a few days left, but I'm not scared anymore. For myself, or for her. We all have our time, and we are all in the hands of one who will always take care of us...
I have no regrets, and I don't think Grandma does either.
She's left an imprint on our lives, and isn't that why we're here? Isn't that why we live day in, day out, and work, sweat, cry, bleed and laugh? We all hope to leave something behind. We want to live in a way that people will look back and remember fondly the times we were able to share.
My Grandma did just that.
She's a hero to me. She's mentored me, she's comforted me, and she's given me life lessons that continue to help me stand today, even when the going gets rough.
I love you so much Grandma. I hope that I can live every day taking moments as they come, and making the most of them. I pray that I won't, even for a second, lose a second that could be spent appreciating those who mean the most to me.
We all have this opportunity. Legacy. Don't let it pass. Don't let someone leave without telling them you love them. We all have our time, so what are we going to do with the minutes we've been given?
"Aladdin? Come on Josh! What could possibly be wrong with a rags to riches story? True love winning out in the end? Even a Grinch like you should love that!"
But, as is often the case, I tend to look into a darker looking glass than you, my dear reader.
So I would suggest that if you wish to avoid having yet another classic movie ruined by my sarcastic cynicism, I would probably skip this entry altogether.
In fact, move right on to the next one where I'll tell you the charming, heart-warming stories about my Grandma Ellen. You can get your hug-fest there. But here, I shall continue to not only blow this Disney vault open, but to share things that you, the simple viewer, may have missed in your longing to create a picturesque world.
So sit back, grab some freakin' popcorn, and lets get going!
From start to finish this movie is more a tale of class warfare, rather than a cutesy love story. At the beginning of this gem of a feature length picture, the viewer is entreated to a sequence in which the Grand Vizier to the Sultan of Agrabah, Jafar and his evil sidekick Iago ( a parrot?! This is the freakin' middle east, not the rain forest!), use a hired thug to steal some treasure from the creepy, albeit cool looking "Cave of Wonders."
Right away I see a problem, do you? Jafar's title. "Grand Vizier" is no more than a trusted advisor to the sultan. Problem? I think so! Already we have an elite class developing, which will undoubtedly oppress others later on in the movie. That sneaky little bastard!
The scene really doesn't end well, given that the thief gets eaten by the cave. You heard me right, he got eaten! Apparently Jafar didn't realize that this particular cave has a taste for "diamonds in the ruff", so common thief apparently didn't go down too smoothly.
Of course, don't tell the thief's parents that. They probably thought that he was all kinds of "special." Perhaps his public education even aided that a bit with special "self-esteem" classes for him as a boy in Arabian kindergarten....
The movie then cuts to the crowded market place in Agrabah, where the viewer gets their first taste of the "hero" of the story, jovially singing and cavorting, to and fro throughout the streets, while being pursued by a troop of royal soldiers. Think of it as "Cops" Agrabah style.
Aladdin sings a little catchy ditty about how stealing is cool, and how he needs to eat to live (of course, the idea of working a job must not have occurred to him), and interacts with various others throughout the song. Apparently multiple residents of the city are familiar with his thieving ways...
Alas, the police don't catch him and crime continues in Agrabah. But you know, if crime is accompanied by camaraderie and catchy music, it's definitely ok....
The tale then takes us to the introduction of the third main character, the beautiful, feisty princess Jasmine.
Now...I'll be honest, I find Jasmine to be, not only the hottest of the Disney Princesses, but also, by far the most intriguing. It's like a tomboy is trapped in a drop dead gorgeous shell! I get the feeling that she'd be cool shooting hoops, hunting, playing violent video games, and other essential life activities.
What I'm saying, is that Jasmine could definitely be one of the guys, but she's also really attractive which is pure insanity!
Alas, she is trapped in the pre-Women's lib movement, and isn't allowed to marry for love.
She, being a princess, is required to marry a prince, and the more well-off he is, the better (Again with the money thing, eh Disney?)! Problem is, she doesn't like any of her suitors, so she generally ends up sicking her pet tiger on them when she gets annoyed with their pursuits.
Did I mention Jasmine has a tiger? Yeah well she does. She has an 'effing tiger! How cool is that!?
Oh yes! So, not only does Jasmine dislike her filthy rich suitors ( the 1% of Arabia), but she is also quickly tiring of stuffy palace life. Hell, who wouldn't? Lots of food, servants, baths, cool clothes....yeah, I'd get tired of that.
So she seeks adventure outside the palace walls. So she puts on a bathrobe and scales her garden wall, and just like that she's free! Now she can see how the 99% live. You can imagine how well this turns out... Within five minutes (yes, I said minutes!) of leaving she is already in trouble. She starts trying to hand out free food, from a vendor's stand, to a little beggar kid in the street.
That's right my friends, yet another reference to class warfare, only now the government is getting involved!
It's at this point of the movie that I begin to fervently pray that Jasmine never seeks to become an entrepreneur, because she really has no concept of how businesses work. It's great to give out food, but not someone else's food!
Jeez. How rude! Typical government.
But the small business owner calls her on it, and moves to cut off her thieving little hand, despite her desperate pleas and promises to pay him back. Again, typical government. This is why we don't mess with (steal from) a taxpayer/business owner friends.
We begin to see that her state run, diplomacy courses are an abysmal failure, and it looks as if the pretty little lass will lose her hand, but just in the nick of time who shows up? Aladdin. He makes up some bogus excuse about how she's crazy and pretends to pay the shop owner back.
Then they run off together. They go back to Aladdin's crib, and he shows her the sweet view he has of the palace and tells her how awesome it'd be to be rich (again, not even hinting at the interest of getting a job) and you can tell they are growing quite fond of each other.
What can I say? The "99%" and the government have the hots for each other, I guess it's the common interest of hating the people who actually create wealth, but that's just speculation.
Suddenly palace guards show up to evict Aladdin (I imagine it's 'cause he hasn't paid his rent in....I don't know.... ever?), and Jasmine tries to use her executive power to get him out of jail free, but it doesn't work.
Long story short, Aladdin is that "diamond in the ruff" that Jafar needs to get him a special artifact from the Cave of Wonders. Aladdin goes into the cave, gets the lamp but the cave goes nuts and begins to collapse. Aladdin makes it to the mouth and Jafar tries to do a bait and switch on him. Aladdin falls back into the cave and it closes forever. Jafar is left out in the desert alone thinking he has the lamp. He doesn't.
It's not easy to steal from professional thieves. Aladdin rubs this beat up old lamp, and gets hooked up with a sweet genie.
Genie says, "Hey dude, you get three wishes." So Aladdin's like, "Sweet, hook me up with some money, and a cool title like that Jafar guy." Genie says, "I'll do you one better, I'll make you a prince."
So he makes Aladdin a prince, so he can get in good with the princess. Suddenly he's gone from the 99% to Agrabah's corporate whore. Nobody calls him on it though.
He begins lobbying for favor with the current administration, and gets it, big time. Jasmine decides to marry him, and he's in line for the next term as ruler of the empire.
Course if anyone bothered to follow the money behind his operation they'd see that he gained his wealth off the use of slave (genie) labor. But, ya know...he's just running for executive office. No big deal.
Ironically, it's Jafar (the original manipulator of the system) who blows the whistle on the whole thing. He calls Aladdin out as a fraud, and takes over control, with a new administration.
That's just politics as usual, I guess.
A big hoedown throw down dominates the rest of the movie, and essentially Jafar becomes trapped in his own greed, and gets knocked out of power, into slave labor, where he will spend the rest of his life working to make others rich.
Aladdin becomes the savior, not only to the people in Agrabah, but he liberates the genie from his servant status, and everyone lives happily ever after.
So what have we learned today?
1) Never trust establishment politicians like Jafar because they are greedy and evil.
2) Stealing is cool because the bread doesn't belong to just one person, the bread belongs to all of us. We should just share.
3) Don't get a job, you may end up being rich if you do little or no work, if you know the right people in government, and have a genie.
4) Parrots live in the middle east apparently.
5) Josh wants a pet tiger, 'cause that'd just be badass.
Thank you Disney for a wholesome, moral tale of the evils of money, wealth inequality and redistribution. I can't wait to see the inevitable follow ups when they're released from the Disney vault....
Occupy Agrabah and the ever popular... Slumdog-Street Rat- Millionaire
I was talking with my good friend Natalie the other day about a non-typical church experience we had in town. I go to a church called Water City Church now.
The easiest way to describe the place is....raw. It isn't a streamlined, production-worthy experience when you attend. I don't feel like I'm in an audience.
I feel like I'm a participant in the service.
It's a small, intimate environment. I've always grown up going to bigger churches.
Water City has one service on Sunday. It doesn't have a bulletin that is packed with all sorts of projects, or clubs. It doesn't offer all the good Christian extra cirriculars.
It's simple, and I like it.
The members can join and discuss points of the service. They can share experiences they've had during our Sunday time.
In America, we are trained well in our ideas of God, and corporate worship.
We become set in a specific order, and begin to believe that this particular order is THE way to do things.
If you asked someone to envision The early church doing a gathering, it would very much resemble, in our minds, a first century adaptation of what we know. Like Jesus and his disciples ate the little salty pellets and drank the gross warm grape juice for communion.
Or they sat in some sort of amphitheater for an hour on Sunday, listening to Jesus rattle off the 5 top reasons good Christians tithe, or don't have sex before marriage with their significant other before marriage.
What I'm trying to say is that, growing up in church, I realize that we have the church formula nailed. We know the right way to do things. It's quick, tidy and efficient. It's a system that pumps out good Christians quicker than McDonalds gives out fries.
But is an efficient faith really the goal of my life?
Is church really just a bullet point, 10 step, four week program?
Are we an audience that needs to be entertained on Sunday, as we are the other days of the week?
Or is following Jesus more than the mundane, rigor mortis routine that streamlines the path to a good life?
I didn't become a follower of Jesus to be a good Christian, as odd as that may sound.
I actually have an aversion to that. I think that it's because the day that I find myself being a good Christian, I'll no longer be me. I'll be an actor, a fraud.
The truth is far more messy.
It's unrefined. It's inconvenient.
The truth is that I need a raw life. I need spontenaiety, not a routine. I need to be a participant, not a viewer. I need a savior, not a self help model.
I don't want to be trained, I just want to be...
It is such a blessing to find kindred spirits within this body, this movement that actively seeks to bring a piece of heaven to earth.
Raw, not refined is helping me to understand that the life of one who follows the risen Christ will never, ever find itself falling prey to the predictable...
Was thumbing through some old Facebook notes and it made me smile. Just a kid trying to be philosophical, yet it's these writings that still have a deep impact upon me. The chapters that have been written since these pieces have definitely had their share of adventure, conflict, mystery and heartbreak. Perhaps realizing these things has helped bring about a special affinity to my previous naive, clumsy strains of consciousness. Or maybe I'm just getting old and ridiculously sentimental... Oh jeez.
We are the Architects. We are the masters or our life's construction. The Wise Architect like a spider constructs his web of destiny according to the natural blueprint. He does not possess all knowledge of what the future may hold, however his life is constructed in anticipation. To weather any of the storms this life may bring his way.
The learned architect does not just build his life however, but he also delves into his craft. He examines and analyzes this life and questions the principles of laying a sound foundation. Only through this process can one become enlightened. And only through this process can one become a master of his trade.
The foolish architect on the other hand does not question the blueprint handed to him. He is not concerned about the origins of his skill, or the purpose of constructing foundations. So he does not concern himself with delving deeper but rather pursues the construction of a grand life. A life adorned with fleeting pleasures, and the pursuit of the frivolous. And it is because of this truth that when the storms of life come to pound upon his door, much like the house upon the sand, the life laid without a foundation crumbles and he no longer remains the master of his life.
Ask yourself then;
Are you living a life of your construction, or a life that has been constructed for you?
I want to invite you to join me on a new adventure that I'm undertaking. :)
My friend Bryan is a big movie fan, and his passion actually inspired me.
It's a music, movie and book review site that I'm in the process of developing. I'm still figuring out my system for reviewing, but it's up and I'd love it if you followed, commented, or shared ideas for entertainment that I can review.
Oh! And if you even felt so motivated and wanted to do some reviews yourself, I would be interested in letting you contribute if you'd like! :)
Anyway, check out the Evil Toy Box, and let me know what you think!
As always, thank you for taking the time to read and share in my life. :)
Ah, Christianese. Such an eloquent language. The jargon that is spoken by many a young college student, who is super pumped about the weekly campus ministry meetings, and "devo" time.
The language that falls off the lips when talking with unbelievers, leaving them speechless, because they have no idea what you were talking about...
These are some of my favorite phrases used in the Christian subculture today, each with a significant meaning, yet they never fail to make me smile because of the images they do conjure.
10) "How is your prayer life?"
Apparently I somehow managed to create an alternate reality upon becoming a Christian.
9) "Can I pray over you?"
Well, no, actually. I would rather you pray with me, or equal to me. When you pray over me I tend to feel inferior unless, of course, you meant over me in the sense of different levels. In which case, would the height matter? Would this be more effective if you were in an airplane, as opposed to standing while I sit?
8) "Washed in the Blood of the Lamb."
Ah yes, sacrificial metaphor. Nevertheless, I cannot help but wonder what good a blood bath would do. Does the type of blood matter? Do we have to draw a bath, or can it somehow run through the shower head? How often should I wash myself in lamb's blood?
7) "Are you saved?"
I find it quite annoying to use a past tense word, in a present tense sentence. Makes no sense to me. Have I been saved, would be a more accurate question.
6) "I've been really convicted lately."
Apparently you frequent the local courthouse more than a beatnik does a jazz club. Maybe you should hire a better attorney.
5) "God put you on my heart."
Uhm, ok... if this were true, then your heart would be a nice lumpy pile of mush, 'cause I sure as hell am not the lightest person who has ever walked the earth.
4) "I was filled with the Holy Spirit."
Does this mean we can't go to Taco Bell? 'Cause I'm still hungry.
3) "My heart is burdened for so and so."
Well tell them to pull their weight! Jeez. There's nothing worse than a lousy freeloader burdening up your heart...
2) "I have a heart for the lost."
But should you find them do they suddenly become insignificant?
1) "He/She is on fire for God."
Never fails to make me ponder if God is partial to incendiaries, and if so is he in the business of using human soldiers who spontaneously combust to accomplish His purposes...if so, perhaps we want to be careful around "over spiritual" people.
I'll never forget the Saturday he showed up at my door.
We went to school together, I knew who he was and all, but we had never actually talked before this.
Yup, you hit the nail on the head brother.
"I'm going out of town for awhile, and I was wondering if you'd want to take my paper route..."
It was that simple sentence that initiated my second longest friendship.
His name is Dustin.
Dustin is incredibly smart. He is also one of the most sincere and motivated guys that I know. He takes the things he loves very seriously which is why, I suspect, that he is destined for incredible things.
We went to elementary school together, so we've known each other since kindergarten really, but when Dustin actually took the initiative by asking me to take his paper route, I never imagined that we'd still be friends to this day.
It was after elementary school the bonding began, really...
We would walk to jazz band rehersals at the middle school together in the mornings (at 6 am!). Since we both played the trumpet it was assumed that we were, by nature, just plain awesome people.
In high school we both joined the marching band, which became the equivalent to a full time job for the next four years of our lives. We both took it upon ourselves to take a leadership role in the trumpet section in just our sophomore year. He always had my back, and we started to whip the youngens into shape.
During these years we all shifted between houses on the weekends. This weekend it was my house, that weekend it was Dustin's, the next it was my buddy Logan's place. We always hung out. We were pretty rowdy teenagers at that...
We would hang out in my parent's basement, burn incense, and listen to all the old school Metallica c.d.s. I'm talkin' Master of Puppets, And Justice For All, and Ride the Lighting, baby! The classics, you know?
We also played cool board games like Axis and Allies, and talked a lot about girls. A lot. The sheer amount of inside jokes we had escapes me at the moment, but I certainly couldn't account for all of them without a calculator and some scratch paper.
We even tried to form a band once...but since you aren't sampling our music on your iPod, and I'm not on a world tour, you can imagine how long that lasted.
The really cool thing about having friends who are just as dorky as you, is that you don't have to get mixed up in the stuff high schoolers don't need to be mixed up in.
I never felt the need to drink or party with Dustin. We were just dorky high school guys, and that was cool.
Dustin is a philosopher at heart, I think.
He has a very analytical mind, and he is able to see multiple viewpoints to an arguement, and formulate a rational conclusion from the evidence.
Because his mind works in this fashion, he has developed solid convictions, based in reason. This is especially true when it comes to his faith.
One of the coolest things about this guy, to me, was his genuine belief in God. As an agnostic, virtually an athiest, throughout high school this was something that downright inspired me. While I thought it was a load of crap, Dustin patiently showed me that intelligent, sincere people could believe in this faith.
He helped me to see that it wasn't just the crazies who blow up abortion clinics, or tell gay people they're going to hell that believe in Jesus. In fact, when he talked about Christianity, and the God he believed in, it became apparent that those people who I had garnered immense frustration with, were actually missing the whole point of the Christian faith.
I think that this played an enormous role in changing many of my pre-concieved notions about Christianity.
It wasn't an instantaneous thing. It happened over time. One conversation at a time. It's amazing how much influence you can have upon someone, and never actually know it.
But the story didn't end in high school...
Dustin now serves with the in the Air Force as a Wing Commander. He commands about 80-100 men, and they couldn't be in better hands, in my opinion.
I also had the privilege of standing by him as best man, as he married another great friend of mine from our high school years, Taylor. It was a fantastic experience, and made me feel thoroughly old and grown up. :)
There is so much that I could write about this guy, but you'll just have to take my word for it. He is one of the best friends any guy could ask for. I'm just lucky 'cause I didn't even have to ask. :)
“A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.” -Rob Bell (Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile)
Christians and politics...
Odds are if you hear these two words in a sentence, it can bring up all kinds of negative images, and rightly so.
I've been thinking a lot about this quote, from the book Jesus Wants to Save Christians. It's quite a good read, and challenged me on a lot of different levels.
It is very important for the church to understand its role when it comes to politics, because this understanding will vastly shape the body of Christ itself, and what it is presented as to the countries it is in.
It occured to me that Christians in the early church were none too focused on the politics of their time. In fact, if Jesus had wanted to start a political revolution, he certainly had the clout to do so early in his ministry, but he didn't. He kept talking about the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is a recurring theme throughout the new testament. It's something that the early church pursued wholeheartedly. It's the establishment of something that goes beyond human systems, and governmental infrastructures.
So when we see members of the American body of Christ using their faith as a political tool, it raises quite a few disturbing questions.
Chiefly: "Does the American body of Christ's goals align with the early followers of Jesus?"
It's this political posturing on the part of many preachers that can actually drive people away from the central message of Jesus. A message that transcends current political trends.
Both sides of the aisle do this.
We have the so called "values voters" on the conservative side, a title which is really a misnomer, because it implies that those opposed to these particular views have no values. This is untrue. Everyone has a set of values. It determines how we think, act and interact with others.
There's also the radical left wing preachers who use Jesus and his message to promote a liberal political agenda.
But, in my understanding, the church wasn't formed as a political tool. Oh, yes, we are called as Christians to live in accordance to the laws laid down by the powers that be, to "render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser's." But that's about it...
The idea of the church is to begin to heal the world of its many injuries. How can we do that when we are tied up in political disputes that are actually quite petty?
Would our time be better invested in action, rather than trying to legislate a better world?
America is a Democratic Republic.
I find this fact exceptionally interesting, given the fact the all of the founding fathers were devoutly religious, and that the overwhelming majority embraced the Christian faith, or at least professed to.
True, they did base much of our current government's framework on Judeo-Christian ethic, that is indisputable. But, America is nota Theocracy. It wasn't designed for the institutionalized church to govern its people.
Why is that?
I think the founding fathers understood that church and government have two vastly different functions. I think the founders, having come from a religious monarchy to begin with, also understood that there is just as much potential for a church, when given this kind of power, to become an oppressor, rather than a vessel of freedom.
When the flag and the Bible start to hold hands, we see systems set in place which can actually take away freedoms, and render life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness useless.
The church is not a governmental vessel. The Bible was not designed to be legislated onto those who don't believe as the Christian does. The power of the Bible comes from individual revelation, and inner change. The power of God's word is how it interacts with the individual, and how the individual responds.
Politicizing the scriptures actually can end up trivializing the message of Jesus.
I can't tell you how many of my friends, who don't believe in Christianity, seem to think that all Christians vote Republican.
I can't even begin to describe how difficult it is to explain that Christianity is more than just heterosexual soccer moms who tote their kids to soccer practice in an American made minivan, that is plastered with pro-life stickers.
The message of Jesus is so much greater than the American experiment. It is more than a political agenda. It's more than legislating morality onto others.
The message of Jesus calls for the institution of the kingdom of heaven, on earth.
A kingdom of charity. A kingdom of love. A kingdom with a citizenry that cares for their neighbors. The widows. The orphans.
A kingdom where we delight in creation, and cast our worries on the one who created all because, after all, he cares for the sparrows and the flowers, how much more than will he care about us.
Christianity and politics should be like oil and water. Separate.
We do have a blessing in this great country where we can choose and elect our leaders. A luxury many in this world do not have. But when we go to the polls, I pray that we can remember that America isn't the point.
It may seem un-patriotic to say. I don't, by any means, harbor contempt for this nation. Trust me, I love America, and what it stands for, but it isn't the point in the grander scheme of things.
Many throughout human history have placed their faith in great nations. In reading about the Assyrian empire yesterday, I found out that they named one of their palaces the "Palace without a Rival."
The Palace without a Rival now lays in ruins now just outside of the Iraqi town of Mosul.
Rome was considered the world's shining light. The eternal kingdom. It too fell.
America isn't the point.
The kingdom of heaven is the point, and as citizens of this great kingdom we have a responsibility to move for what matters.
To see the last become first. To free the oppressed. To rid ourselves of hatred. To become all we were intended to be.
Our glory is not in a system. Our glory is being the progeny of a Creator, who is love and who deserves all glory, praise and honor.
"The Church. Some go as a Sunday obligation, others to socialise, and some to actually worship God, hear his word and share fellowship with each other. Today I was thinking about the latter group. In the church today, we sing lots of songs, many of which are good songs, praising God and what He has done. But how much do we think about what we are singing? Sometimes I feel like aspects of the gospel are romanticised and dramatised in our songs, as if they need dressing up, to make them more palatable (not just in songs, but that is my main area of focus at the moment). Sometimes I feel like we are focusing on a few aspects of God, the ones we feel comfortable with, like His love, mercy etc (which is great, nothing wrong with that) and forgetting that His love meant sending His Son to die on a hard wooden cross... "
[You can find the rest by clicking the entry link above :)]
It occurred to me that this is a common phenomenon in Church history. The body of Christ (the people that God works through to meet humanity's many physical needs), is referred to countless times in the Bible as "the Bride of Christ."
While this may be slightly confusing to some within or without the church, it means simply this...this bride, this group of people are supposed to represent a marriage of humanity with the divine. They are supposed to represent the world that God intended before things went horribly awry.
But, what I am coming to understand is that this particular bride is exceptionally forgetful. What RJ notices, is that often in the church the reality of Jesus and his work in this world is glossed over. If you have been raised in a church then perhaps you can relate to this. If you hear something often, the depth and weight it carries with it can be reduced into a small bumper-sticker worthy statement.
"Jesus died on the cross for our sins."
Cute. Now it can go on my car, so other people can read it as I swerve angrily in and out of traffic 'cause I missed my alarm and am late for work...
But a slogan doesn't really do the act itself justice. It doesn't help a teenager growing up in America understand the agonies of crucifixion, or the conviction or fortitude it must've taken Christ to follow through with it. The above statement, whilst it works well on a billboard, or a bumper sticker, doesn't help the bride remember the great lengths that the groom went to prove his undying (literally)love for her.
RJ goes on to ask the haunting question: "Are we becoming wishy washy Christians?" And I would say, absolutely.
To clarify, I don't mean that Christians should be more militant in the interest of avoiding "wishy washy-ness." There are plenty who identify as Christians in this world who are quite zealous, and I really don't believe that is how Christ wanted his bride to treat others.
However, I do think that we are becoming wishy washy in knowledge. We're wishy washy in understanding.
When the reality of Jesus' sacrifice penetrates the heart, and seeps into the bones of his bride it is a catalyst for some of the most beautiful work this world could ever witness. Because you can't stay the same. It is nearly impossible for someone to receive the revelation of God's love poured out over us, and not to be moved.
The church doesn't need to dress up, or make palatable the concepts of Christ, because He is quite possibly the most inspiring person who has ever lived.
So then what do we do?
It is my personal belief that revolution only comes from within an individual. It is only when the hearts of Christians worldwide change, that we'll see a shift from staleness to freshness, from wishy washy to assertive and confident. We have this power within us, and it is when we light up in this way, when we choose not to forget, but to meditate, reflect, and celebrate this extremely compelling story, well...
Then we will see not a forgetful bride, but a bride in all her radiance and glory. A brilliant beauty that will leave all who behold her in awe. The marriage of the human and the divine.
For all the ugliness that humans can create, the bride of Jesus Christ is one of the most beautiful, and awe inspiring communities this world has ever seen!
Beautiful Bride- Flyleaf
Beautified diversity, functioning as one body Every part encouraged by the other No one independent of another You're irreplaceable, indispensable You're incredible, incredible
Beautiful bride, body of Christ One flesh abiding, strong and unifying Fighting ends in forgiveness Unite and fight all division, beautiful bride
Strengthen your arms now, train your fingers for battle Urgency's here now, train your fingers for battle Fighting this violence with your feet wrapped in peace Sad tears and silence, now screams of joy, victory
Beautiful bride, body of Christ One flesh abiding, strong and unifying Fighting ends in forgiveness Unite and fight all division, beautiful bride
Beautiful bride, body of Christ One flesh abiding, strong and unifying We're not gonna fall and forget How far you went to pick us up If one parts hurt the whole body's sick If one part mourns we all mourn with him
Rejoice, we'll sing with you Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
Beautiful bride, body of Christ One flesh abiding, strong and unifying Fighting ends in forgiveness Unite and fight all division, beautiful bride...
Recently, my blogger friend Laena began a "friends" series. I thought this was really cool, so I thought I'd do my own. :) So before you tell me how brilliant I am for thinking of this cool idea, I just want you to know that it was Laena'sidea first. ;) I've been extremely blessed by each of the people I will post about, and a simple blurb won't really, truly do them justice, but it's a start...
Meghan is my oldest friend.
She's smart and beautiful. She also has a great, and very sarcastic, sense of humor, which kind of makes my life to be honest.
She likes the Chicago Cubs, and probably knows a bit more about football than I do. She's also engaged somewhat politically, which I find incredibly respectable and noble.
I've known her since...oh, I don't know, third grade?
Back when you could color with crayons, or bring legos into school for show and tell, and it'd still be cool.
I don't know exactly why we hit it off...
Maybe it was because we were bookworms, and were placed in the higher reading groups. Maybe it was because our favorite book was Roald Dahl's "The BFG."
Or maybe it was my boyish charm and babyfaced good looks...
Whatever the reason, we became friends.
She was the first girl, that I remember, I thought was cute. Yes, that's right folks, third grade crush. It was actually in late middle school that I resigned myself to the fact that we weren't going to get married. Her mom, on the other hand, still thinks it's going to happen...
We managed to be in the same fourth, fifth and sixth grade class too which, if you didn't know, is exceptionally rare. In the fourth grade Meg and I were on the team that won the prestigious "Battle of the Books" reading contest, in which, I was forced to read the incredibly dull book, Tuck Everlasting.
We both went to the Celebrate the Writer festival at Carrol College in Waukesha. It was for the kids who could write well, and had exceptionally over active imaginations.
Some things just stick, and Meg stuck like glue.
In middle school, I hit a new phase. I had my first encounter with depression. I didn't really know how to handle this new flood of emotions and, often, these feelings manifested themselves in anger or frustration, though I didn't even know why.
It was in one of these particularly scary episodes that she brought this craziness to the attention of the school counselors, who then contacted my parents. This, I believe, was the first step (and a big one at that), in the process of identifying and fighting clinical depression in my life.
And isn't that really what friends are for? They bring you awareness of the things that you can't see on your own. Friends help you to help yourself.
There were some good times in middle school too, though. Meg and my friend Sam would always come over after school, and we'd hang out, listen to techno and play video games in my parent's basement. Those were great times. Just a bunch of middle school kids, being extremely dorky and not caring about the outside world.
Then there was the hormone stage of middle school...
There was a point in middle school that we had a super awkward "like each other at opposite times" faze. Perhaps you can relate?
We just look back on that now and laugh. I'm beginning to see that sometimes certain things don't work out because there is something better in store.
I think God definitely knew that Meghan and I would be much better suited as friends, and for that I'm grateful, because girlfriends have come and gone, but she's still in my life to this day.
Have you ever had a friend that you aren't able to see for long periods of time, and then sit down to reconnect with them at coffee or something, and find that you can have a conversation just as easily as if the last time you had seen each other was yesterday?
Meg is that type of friend to me.
In high school we both became heavily involved in different types of activies. She pursued athletics, while I did music. As is evidenced by our vastly different physiques.
Our paths crossed rarely, if ever, but when she took up about five pages in my yearbook at the end of that year I realized that she would've been there in a heartbeat if I ever needed anything.
I realized then, that I'd do the same for her too.
Meg and I still talk, though the subjects have changed from recess and gym class to politics, sports, relationships, and relationships...and a little more about relationships.
It is truly a blessing to be able to know someone for this long. To have someone see you at your best, your worst, and your absolute worst, and still say; "Hey, you're ok with me."
We've been through a lot of shit, but to this day my oldest friend Meg is still an important part of my life, and for that I'm grateful.
"“It is by helping others that we are helped, it is by giving that we receive, and it is by loving that we are loved.” ~John Harricharan (Morning Has Been All Night Coming)
We are each gifted with both the blossom and the spikes.
Which we choose to use creates our lives.
We may use our blossoms to delight the eye or soothe the soul.
We can use our thorns as a protective layer to keep others from getting close and penetrating the surface..." I often frequent this spot when I am looking for little nuggets of wisdom. Check it out, you won't be disappointed! :)
A broken relationship is quite possibly the most painful thing any human can experience. The loss of love. A breaking heart. As Corey Taylor sings this song, I can actually feel what he's feeling. I know what it feels like to lose something. Trying to forget, yet finding yourself visiting that place over and over, reliving the pain.
It's only when you allow that person to die within you, that you can find hope again.
I love this song, it speaks to so much of me, so I thought I'd share it with you today. :)
Imperfect- Stone Sour
Some things are better off forgotten We bury them in places that we really only visit by ourselves Oh you were a version like no other Oh they never tell you what to do when all you see is gone What's the sense in anything when what they say is wrong?
Oh what do you want to hear? Do you know how many times I tore myself apart cuz you're not here? Oh why do you want to know? Does it make you feel alive? I had to die to finally let you go
Stop me... I find myself believing A story gets rewritten so a blasphemy's permitted once again Oh and you were so perfectly imperfect Oh they never tell you what to do when all you have are lies What's the sense in anything? It's just one more goodbye
Oh what do you want to hear? Do you know how many times I tore myself apart cuz you're not here? Oh why do you want to know? Does it make you feel alive? I had to die to finally let you go