Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Shawshank Redemption

(If you haven't seen the movie, don't read this post. But go rent it and watch it right now. Seriously. I'll wait.)

What's your favorite movie? If I'd been asked that question 5 years ago, it would have easily been The Empire Strikes Back or maybe Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, but probably not Shawshank. It was so gradual for me to realize that this was my favorite movie that it was almost like falling in love. I saw it running on TNT for the 100,268 time, and thought, "This is a great movie. This is my favorite movie."

I love the reactions of the Warden and Red as they realize that Andy has escaped. I love the way that Andy becomes a part of the community of the prison. I love the relationship that develops between Andy and Red, but I got thinking the other day, "What's the deal with the title? Why is it called The Shawshank Redemption?"

Here's the question: Who get redeemed? Is it the Warden, the purported Christian? No, he gets a bullet through his head. Is it Andy? No, he escapes. He breaks out hanging onto the last shreds of his humanity, but hanging onto them, nonetheless. Here's what I think the title is referring to. I think the one who gets redeemed is Red.

Now, here's what you should do: go get your copy of the soundtrack. Put it in and go to track 19, Compass and Guns. Listen until the end.

Red starts off the movie as a hardened prisoner. He's become accustomed to life in Shawshank. He's the guy who can get things from the outside world inside. He makes bet on the first new prisoner to cry and on Andy's first night, he bets on Andy. Dusfresne doesn't cry at all. And from that, Andy and Red form a friendship and a bond that gives them something to hang onto, some dignity of life that allows them to be in prison, but not imprisoned.

When Andy escapes, Red is alone for the most part. Yes, he's got his other friends, but his closest is gone. But it's also because of Andy that Red stops trying to BS the parole board and tells them what he really thinks, of course getting Red out of prison. Red doesn't adjust well to the outside life, but better than Brooks who was released earlier in the movie, and commits suicide due to the difficulty.

But Red is different than Brooks; Red has something outside of himself in which to believe. Andy has told him where to go to find directions, directions to join up with Andy in Zhuatenejo. Red follows them and in some of the most hopeful scenes in any movie any where any time, we see Red as free. His face looking out the window of the bus, heading to the border. He feels something, he feels hope. Even though earlier in the movie, he'd said to Andy, "Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane."

Now though, in the closing moments of the movie, as Red is walking up the beach at Zhuatenejo, his shoes tied together over his shoulder, carrying his coat, he sees Andy working on his boat, and he narrates to us: "I find I'm so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I imagine it's the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at the start of a long journey, whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border... I hope to see my friend and shake his hand... I hope the pacific is a blue as it has been in my dreams... I hope... "(You should be on So Was Red on the soundtrack by now)

Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope gives us freedom to dare for something more. Hope allows us to look beyond where we are and believe that there is something better. Hope makes me look at the church and say, "Yes, it's screwed up, but Jesus chose this to be His body and the representative of Him until He returns. If Jesus could have hope for what we could be, so can I." Hope allows me to look at myself and think, "I'm not what I once was, but I'm not what I will be either."

God is at work. I don't always know how; I don't always know why; but I know He is. My life is evidence. My wife's life, my daughter's life. God gives me hope.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

God of Tragedy

This is a little piece I've worked on a couple of times. If you like it, great. If not, let me know what you don't like.

In the last couple of months, I’ve seen several tragedies befall families near me and mine. At church, we had one three year old who had to get his foot amputated after a lawn mower accident. Another child was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. A friend from high school and college gave birth to a baby that only lived a couple of days. And a couple of weeks ago, a neighbor girl was on a rope swing with a friend. The branch the swing was tied on broke and fell on her, killing her.

I can use my faith to deal with some. Disease and birth defects are part and parcel of living in a fallen world. Lawn mower accidents can be part of our increased reliance on “dangerous” technologies, but it’s the last one that has really hit me.

I can only imagine that the parents would be loath to hear about “God’s plan.” I know that I’d hate for someone telling me about God’s plan that included taking away my only child. I wouldn’t want to hear meaningless platitudes about how this all fits into His hands. I wouldn’t want to hear about how “all things work together for the good,” because they sure didn’t in this case.

I’d be asking where God was. I’d be asking why He didn’t make a gust of wind blow that branch away from her, why He didn’t touch the chromosome to make that baby boy “normal” or the little girl live without CF, or why He didn’t make the lawn mower run out of gas before it cut off that little boy’s foot.

As I think about this, I realize that I feel entitled. That for some reason, because I follow God, the everyday tragedies that befall someone somewhere everyday shouldn’t happen to me or those close to me. But they do, and they happen to people that claim the name of Christ and those that speak against him.

I don’t know why things happen. I don’t know why families lose children, why husbands whose wives stay home lose their jobs, why marriages die, why any of them happen. But I do know that I think I’ve come to disagree with the old saying that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I think that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you weaker, more dependent on God. And when we’re at our weakest is when we open ourselves up the most to the supernatural. When all the natural explanations have failed, only the supernatural remains. In the hardest situations do we truly experience the supernatural comfort that God offers.

I don’t know why things happen. I don’t know if God allows them. I only know that in His comfort and in His arms is where our hope remains. And hope does not disappoint.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I just wanted to post a couple of things about my Friday excursion with Kinsey.

Sheryl started back to school last week and our babysitting arrangements didn't work out, so I took a day off and spent it with Kinsey.

First, we went to the zoo where she got a bit cranky. I ended up getting her a stuffed coral snake (named Corey) and a cheetah (named... wait for it, Speedy). Yes, I splurged. Yes, she has enough animals to start a distribution center, but I did it anyway.

We then went to Sheryl's school to have lunch with her which is always nice for all three of us. On the way home, Kinsey fell asleep in the van. I watched a movie while she was down, then she got up and watched Sleeping Beauty (one of her favorite movies beyond Robin Hood and Cinderella) and then I wanted her to watch one of the best Disney's in the last decade, The Emperor's New Groove (I love Kronk and so should you [Squeek Squeekin Squeek Squeekity])

We finished off the day by going to a park close to us and she and I ran around the wooden castles. It was a beautiful wonderful day.

Now, I think about deeper meanings a lot and one thing has struck me really hard since she's been around. I see so much of how God sees me in her: her obstinance, aggravating nature, complete tenderness, and undying love.

Now the flip side of that is this: Kinsey is going to base her idea of God off of me, as her father. Honestly, that scares me to death.

I love being a daddy. I cannot wait to show Kinsey so many things: Fall Creek Falls, the Original Star Wars Trilogy (not the Special Edition), a live Titans game, etc, etc, etc. But the idea that when she thinks of the analogy of God as her Father, I'm the template for that, is frightening. Me. Selfish, lazy, aggravating me.

But thankfully also, tender, loving, gracious me. Only by using God as my template for Fatherhood can I really exemplify to Kinsey what it means to be a child of God and a follower of his Son.

It's kind of a Circle of Life thing.

I think.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Church of the Redeember (Things that made me uncomfortable)

Early last week, I mentioned that I'd talk about some of the things that made me uncomfortable during the Church of the Redeemer service.

However, before I go into that, I want to state a couple of things at the outset. 1) I did grow up Church of Christ, but I didn't grow up thinking that we were the only ones going to Heaven (another concept I want to explore on of these days, Heaven, I mean). 2) When I talk about these things, it's not that I think they're wrong, they're just different and not what I'm used to. So having said that, here we go.
  • One thing that made me uncomfortable was that there seemed to be a lot of focus on the pastor, Father Thomas. He taught the sermon, did the announcements, conducted the Communion, et cetera.

    Now, I've thought about this over the last week, and tried to picture how someone would view one of Otter Creek's services for the first time. I've wondered if they'd see a lot of focus on the praise team or Brandon or Tim. I can say that I definitely prefer more people being involved, different ones for communion, the family prayer, and so on. It makes it feel like the whole congregation has more ownership in the worship service. Well, the men, at least.
  • There was also a lot of ritual involved. Father Thomas and the other laypeople entered to a processional song and left to a recessional. They held a cross above them and carried a large Bible (although it may have been a Book of Common Prayer, but more on that in a minute). It was very solemn and reverent, but made me wonder about why they entered the service in such reverence, and the rest of the congregation didn't.

    Onto the book. There was a great deal of reverence shown the book, which makes me think it was a Bible. It was kissed at one point, and held above someone's head to show the congregation. Now, I think the idea behind the reverence for the Bible is a great thing. It shows the intent of the heart to hold Scripture in such a high place, but I kept thinking, "It's only a book. Yes, we believe it holds the words of God, but still...."

Like I said, just a couple of things that made me uncomfortable. However, I did neglect to mention two other things that I really liked in their service.

  • I loved that there was a dinner immediately after the worship. That seems so inline with the intent of the early church to not just worship as a family, but spend time as one too. I really love the Spirit that seems a part of that idea.
  • I also really liked the fact that all of the worship was lead from up in the balcony. It took the focus off the leaders of the worship and put it on the Lord. I'd like to see Otter Creek try that one of these days.

Anyway, if you have thoughts on this and I know a couple of Redeemer are reading this, I'd like your comments on it.

Also, look for a recap of this last Friday the 13th. Nothing unlucky. I just got to spend the whole day with my little girl, Kinsey.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Jen Lemen is an interesting voice in the Emerging Church deal that has been unfolding and that I've been aware of for about 8 months. Lemen is a member at the church where Brian McLaren preaches. McLaren is the author of the book I talked about back in April, A New Kind of Christian.

This is a very interesting article called evangelical hangover: the morning after I highly recommend reading it, whether you agree with her or not

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Church of the Redeember Worship Service

So comments on Sunday night.

The Church of the Redeemer service itself was a nice change from the typical "low church" setting I usually get at Otter Creek. It started off with responsive readings and singing with the congregation. One thing I did like was that the band and "praise team" were upstairs in the balcony, reducing the distraction to the congregation. There were readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Gospels. Father Thomas McKenzie preached the sermon. All of that was pretty standard and fairly familiar to Otter Creek.

Some significant differences that I liked: There was a time for prayer, during which Father Thomas opened up the floor for prayers from the congregation. Anyone could call out a praise or request at any time. Some were obviously prepared ahead of time and others were off the cuff. One thing it did was really give a sense of community, even in a group of 250.

There was also a time for confession of sin. It was done privately and an absolution of sorts was given by Father Thomas. That seemed a little strange to me, but I didn't dwell on it. The really cool thing was that after the confession, the congregation greeted each other and just this great sound of joy of conversation came from the floor.

Communion was also different in that we all went down front in groups and stood in a semicircle. Father Thomas brought around the wafer of bread and a layperson brought a chalice of wine from which you could drink or dip your wafer into it (which I did). People then went back to their seats and others came up in shifts. It was another time of community among the whole congregation.

We closed out by reading from the Nicene Creed. I know Churches of Christ reject creeds pretty much wholesale, but I've always liked this one, because it so clearly states the basics of orthodox Christian faith.

All in all, I enjoyed it and found it strangely comforting to be a part of a congregation that was doing the same thing that other congregations all around the world were doing. Different, but good different. Tomorrow (or whenever I post next), I'll talk about some things that I felt a little uncomfortable with.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

It was a long day. One of my two jobs is working as the AudioVisual guy at my church, Otter Creek Church of Christ I have to get there at 7:30 to get things set up for our sound check. Well, today I did sound for both services, which is a long day in and of itself.

Today was also the first day that Church of the Redeemer had their services in our sanctuary. Redeemer is an Anglican church that split from an Episcopal church. That meant being back at the church building at 2 PM after leaving at 11:45. We had to start from scratch in the whole set up, since they were up in the balcony instead of on the floor in front of the stage.

Once we got everything set up, it was interesting. As different as it was, there are so many unifying themes in the action of the worship service. I may do some writing on those ideas tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Yes, it's been a while. OK? Good. We got that out of the way.

I got an XBOX tonight. I love how the name has to be in Caps, just to remind me how important it is.

I've wanted a gaming system for a while, because naturally, I'm male and my genetic code determines that I have to want a fast car (I drive a beat up minivan), eat red meat (all right, I had a steak tonight), and get a gaming console. With the choices between the Nintendo GameCube (the only reason for that is Rogue Squadron), PlayStation2, and Xbox, I had a tough decision.

My brother has a PS2 and told me some horror stories about it. So, even though that was my first choice, I didn't go with it. I went to Sam's and got an Xbox package with the DVD adapter and a second controller.

Now, I know that I have an addictive personality. I can be playing a game and look up and it's 3 hours later (The first Deus Ex game), so I'm going to watch myself on this. I made sure that I did the laundry and put it away before I put the console together tonight. It's all part of that "Work before Play" deal I keep trying to tell Kinsey.

Kinsey update. The passy is gone and pretty much was when we got back from Florida. So now she sleeps without and does great.

On my things to do list is to update pictures of Kinsey on the site so that might happen in the next three months.

Stay tuned. If I can pry my fingers away from the Xbox, I'll do some posting on a new book I'm reading called Mere Discipleship by Lee Camp.
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