Tuesday, February 28, 2006

God Defines “Good”

I’ve been meditating on the goodness of God for a while. What Paul Cochran shared with the church on Sunday is something he’s shared with our care group and with me personally. We have these preconceived notions about what is “good” but God is the one who defines what “good” is. We automatically attribute pleasant experiences to the providence of God, but we are less quick to attribute trials to His sovereign care. And yet, what is ultimately good is not based on our circumstances, but on the grace of God working the character of Christ in us:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:28-29)

This is the first time I’ve seen the connection between the goodness of God’s workings in verse 28 with a more specific explanation of those workings in verse 29. God works all things for our good…FOR whom he foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. All the things working together for our good are designated as those things which affect us with Christ’s image.

At our last singles meeting, Leslie shared with our small group (and I’m paraphrasing here) about her desire to not just agree with God that He defines what is good; she wants to embrace what God defines as good. And how do we learn to do so? Leslie shared one way from Romans 12:2. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that GOOD and acceptable and perfect will of God.” As, by God’s grace, our minds are renewed through the truths of Scripture, we learn to better discern His goodness.

One specific point of application: for single people, the season of singleness may indeed be a gift (Paul himself says so), but how often do we really believe that? How often am I tempted to doubt God’s goodness in a “married person’s world”?

Here’s one thing that has proven to be an enormous help in renewing my mind. It’s actually from Bruce Ware’s closing remarks in the “Why Do We Trust God?” message I blogged about recently. My notes read as follows:

God’s love ensures that you will not be kept from any—and every—good thing that God can rightly give you that will be for your building up and growing. Do you believe that? His goodness is unsurpassed. Doesn’t God obviously withhold from single people the joy of marriage? The answer is no. He withholds from them the temporal joy of the shadow of marriage that is male/female union, but He grants them the reality of marriage that is Christ and the church. And no one has forsaken mother, father, sister, brother, potential spouse, but that he will be given multitudes more in this life and in the age to come. Never once think God has kept from you this wonderful, joyous gift of marriage. Take your hope in Him.

At work, I recently shared the above quote with Shaun (who got married a few weeks ago). After a contemplative pause Shaun said, “Wow, I’m glad to know I have a shadow of a marriage.” That made me laugh, but in a very real sense it’s true! Human marriage is a beautiful-but-dusty mirror image of the “real deal” that I already have in Christ!

So, the purposes of our good God are being accomplished for our good—as God defines it. His blessing is ever present because it is based on the finished work of Christ, not our faltering performance. Even in trials and suffering, the goodness of God is hard at work. “You have…seen the end intended by the Lord [in Job’s life]—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful [i.e., good]” (James 5:11). “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19). “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).

Monday, February 27, 2006

My Car is Tired

Or, to be more accurate, I could say my care is de-tired. Or, to be most accurate, I could say my car has another flat tire. Because it does (have another flat, that is). This time, it’s the front right tire.

The worse news: due to my procrastination, I haven’t replaced my old spare tire (which is now my front left tire). So now I need to buy two new tires. It’s my own fault. Idleness is indeed the devil’s playground…and I just got schooled.

At least, by God’s grace, I’m laughing about it more than anything else. I could be hopping mad…but that would just make me tired. And I don’t need to be tired when my car is tired...er, de-tired...tire-less...whatever.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Fundraiser Ideas

The weekly lunch meetings for CCK singles are turning into weekly “Cap and the girls” lunches. Not that I’m complaining. I grew up around a bunch of girls so I’m used to it. Anyway, we discussed (among many other things) fund-raising ideas for the singles ministry formerly known as SPAM. A couple thoughts we developed:
  1. Take the clichéd “host a dinner” and “car wash” ideas and combine them into a fundraising extravaganza. People could come to the church parking lot, where we would serve them a spaghetti dinner. They could enjoy the meal in their vehicles while we washed them (the cars, that is). The evening would be called “Sonic Flood.” (Get it? Ha! Creativity at its finest!)
  2. Host a singles auction. Instead of auctioning off used items (which wouldn’t rake in a lot of dough), we would auction off CCK singles for a date night. It would be called “Courtship Kickoff.” No, we did not get this idea from Josh Harris. Our inspiration came from the book How to Date Like the World Without Actually Conforming to It (Too Much), by Al Weys Dheting.
We have yet to run these ideas by the pastoral team but I’m confident they will see both the wisdom and moneymaking potential of the events.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Confessions of an American Driver

Sometimes, interesting things happen when you’re driving. Below are a few incidents that have taken place in the past couple days. Actually, one of the items below is not true. Can you guess which one? (I’ll eventually let you know.)
  • On my way to work, I must not have been as awake as I thought I was: I came to the four-way stop at Gleason and Gallaher View with no other cars in sight. Nevertheless, I just sat there waiting for the light to change. I finally remembered that there was no light and went on my merry way. When I did reach a stoplight less than a mile down the road, I didn’t immediately realize the light was red. I’m sure the driver of the car I almost hit is thankful I decided to stop.
  • At another red light, I pulled up behind a truck that was filled to almost overflowing with dogs. Yes, dogs. I couldn't count them all. The things is, they were all dead. (Living dogs don’t lie upside down with their legs stiffly raised in the air.) At least, I’m assuming they were dead—either that or they were the most lifelike doggy mannequins I have ever seen. I was officially weirded out.
  • Heading to lunch, I caught a glimpse of a poor squirrel trying to imitate his flying relatives in Australia. He jumped out of a tree by the road at the perfect time, allowing his body to collide with my side mirror. I guess you could say he did fly…sort of.
  • I pulled out of my space in the Wal-Mart parking lot only to be confronted with a truck barreling towards me. At the last moment, he swerved to the left, coming to a stop right next to another parked car. As I headed out of the parking lot, musing on the stupidity of the driver, I almost failed to stop at a stop sign, nearly hitting a poor teenage driver in the process.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Pain and Pleasure of Trusting In God

“Patience is a virtue.” Now there’s a cliché that should be avoided like the plague. Er…yeah. I guess the saying “patience is a virtue” is a cliché because most people are prone to minimize its importance. At least, I know I am. In all honesty, patience is something I have consistently refused to cultivate in my life. Now, in His providence, God has declared my refusal to no longer be an option.

If I was God and I looked at Cap, I would say, “Oh gee, he’s having trouble trusting me. I think I’ll make things easier for him.” That would be the extent of my “wisdom.” God’s wisdom, however, is exhaustive. And based on a gazillion factors I can’t readily see (and may never readily see), He has decided to make things worse.

I’ve been suffering from a particular physical ailment for the past couple years or so. It might be a form of psoriasis, although it doesn’t exactly fit the dictionary definition of that particular disease. I have yet to visit a doctor for a diagnosis because of insurance issues, but that should change in the near future, Lord willing. Severe flare-ups haven’t occurred all that often, but this past Friday the disease spread to parts of my neck and the inflammation became more severe.

Stressing over this sickness in particular, I had what might be called a “mild nervous breakdown” Sunday evening—not one of my better moments in life. (Don’t look for February 19, 2006 to be included in the Cap Stewart Hall of Faith.) By the time Monday morning rolled around I was almost reduced to tears because of the pain.

As Monday progressed, and as the rash failed to recede, I thought I was doing better in handling the situation. But about an hour before work ended, I started to notice just how drab I was feeling. It didn’t occur to me immediately, but as I left work I suddenly realized that I had sunk into a state of depression.

In my car, I tried preaching to myself. That didn’t help. I begged God to show me mercy in this situation and help me avoid a prolonged battle with despondency. My feelings only seemed to worsen.

Providentially, I had recently discovered John Piper’s article Don’t Waste Your Cancer. This is the best article on cancer I have ever read. My problems pale drastically in comparison with what Dr. Piper is going through, but the principles can be applied to almost any sickness.

Monday evening, I pulled out John Piper’s article on cancer and started reading through it, substituting the word “sickness” for “cancer” (where applicable). The first part that stuck out to me was under his fifth point:

Satan’s and God’s designs in your [sickness] are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. [Sickness] does not win if you die [or fail to see a cure]. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ.

As I continued through the article, God helped me to see more clearly what really mattered. This particular trial wasn’t overcoming me because I couldn’t find a way out; it was overcoming me because I was failing to treasure Christ.

The more serious issue at hand was my sin, not my sickness. For example, one sin I was struggling with was the fear of man (“Now that this rash has spread to parts of my neck, I can’t fully conceal it; what are people going to think?”). So why not, as Piper proposed in his article, use my sickness as an ally in combating sin? Why not let it propel me to pursue what really matters: the glory of God (whether I am healed tomorrow, a year from now, or never)? The article didn’t immediately make everything better, but it did cast a beam of light into the darkness.

I have been memorizing Romans 8:28-32, which deals with God’s sovereign will and overwhelming love, and I decided to meditate on that passage as well as Piper’s article. The subtitle above verse 18—“From Suffering to Glory”—caught my eye, and an amazing thing happened as I started reading at verse 18: the Holy Spirit began to overwhelm my soul with the glory of God. The entire passage came alive, but a few verses in particular stuck out: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (v. 18). “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (vs. 23-26). “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (v. 28). And finally, I came to the mind-blowing promise of verse 32: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” God was holding nothing back from me that I needed!

In that moment, the Lord miraculously and completely lifted the depression. Despair gave way to hope—and not just a temporal hope for healing. I had hope in my God—that He knew exactly what He was doing and all things in my life were working for His ultimate glory and for my ultimate good. What a testament to the AMAZING power of the GRACE of GOD!

Shortly thereafter, the inflammation began to diminish. It’s obvious that this psoriasis—or whatever it is—hasn’t gone away, but ultimately that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am, by God’s grace, growing in my desire and ability to treasure Christ above all else. As long as that happens, no sickness or trial will be wasted.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Highlighter

I just realized something: this yellow highlighter, which I have had in my possession for over a year, is an aromatherapy highlighter. That’s right, it smells fruity. We’re talking lemony freshness at its finest! How I never recognized this before is beyond me. Now my problem is…I can’t stop sniffing! At least I know it’s “nontoxic” and “conforms to ASTM D-4236”…whatever that means.

FIREWALL (2006) – Film Review

I saw this movie on opening weekend (I just haven’t had a chance to complete a review until now). I mean, why not? I’m a big fan of Harrison Ford, I’m a big fan of suspense thrillers, and I really liked the trailer. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed with the actual movie. If I had to sum up the film in one word it would be “predictable.” That’s a problem, because Firewall is meant to thrive on keeping the viewer in suspense. The movie isn’t boring, but it’s hard to be emotionally involved in a story where you can always tell what’s coming next.

For those not familiar with the plot: Harrison Ford stars as Jack Stanfield, the head of security for a bank that’s on the brink of a merger. Jack’s not the biggest fan of this business move, but that soon becomes the least of his worries. It’s not long before he meets businessman Bill Cox (Paul Bettany). It turns out that Bill’s associates have infiltrated Jack’s house and have taken his family hostage. In exchange for his family’s life, Jack is ordered to break into his own bank and steal 100 million dollars. As his situation gets more bleak, Jack tries to outwit the villains while making sure they don’t kill his family in the process.

My favorite aspect of the film is the family dynamic, especially regarding Jack’s marriage. The relationship he has with his wife is refreshingly strong. (The kids still need some work, though.) In a rare cinematic display of humility, Jack lovingly tells his wife, “I don’t deserve you.” Jack also cuts meetings short at the office to make sure he’s home at a decent hour. I found these elements of the story to be intriguing. Alas, they fade into the background as the suspense—or what’s supposed to be suspense—comes into focus.

The acting is functional. Harrison Ford has done better and Mary Lynn Rajskub (as Jack’s secretary) evidently has only one face she can make when acting: the I’m-so-constipated-I-could-die expression. Paul Bettany is a good villain, but we’ve seen so many other good bad people (that is, people who have played bad characters well) that his evil nature isn’t all that shudder inducing. Virginia Madsen (as Jack’s wife) turns in the best performance.

To be fair, there are a lot of thrillers out there that stink worse than skunk roadkill, and this is not one of them. Most elements of the film are competently handled. Kris Bailey, my friend who accompanied me to the theater, found the movie to be quite entertaining. So maybe it’s just me. I guess the drawback to studying films is that you enjoy them less often. So be it. It also means that on those rare occasions when you come across a film that is both well made and personally engaging (such as King Kong, Batman Begins, and Flightplan were for me), you enjoy them all the more. I’m willing to live with the tradeoff.

Artistic Merit: 7/10
Personal Marks: 5/10

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Matter of Trust

On Monday I posted about my struggles in trusting God’s providence. Shortly thereafter I came across an mp3 file I had downloaded from the New Attitude website but had forgotten to listen to. It’s a message by Bruce Ware entitled, “Why Do We Trust God?”

The message was outstanding! Mr. Ware described how there are three legs to the stool of faith: (1) God is all-powerful, (2) God is all-wise and (3) God is all-loving.

God is all-powerful. Some say God does have power but He has chosen not to use much of it because He has given us power and He doesn’t want to interfere with it. Daniel 4:35 tells us otherwise: “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing [in other words, what can all the inhabitants do to inhibit the power of God being exercised? Nothing!]; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” God’s power is undiminished. If He chooses to act, nothing can withhold His hand from being extended.

God is all-wise. There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom is the use of knowledge in a way that can design the best ends to be accomplished by the best means possible. God’s wisdom relies on the storehouse of His knowledge, which is exhaustive. One problem with open theism (the belief that God doesn’t know the future) is this: you might ask God for guidance for the future, but He may not know all the factors about the future and thus may not know the best answer to your prayer. God’s heart is pure and His motives are always right and His discernment is perfect. Imagine a God whose will cannot be thwarted and yet is not guided by wisdom (that would bring terror). Imagine a God who is all-wise, but has no power to bring it about (that would bring pity).

God is all-loving. He loves His children with an extraordinary love. Even in our best moments, we do not fully comprehend His love. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us” (1 John 4:10). Propitiation—in Christ, God’s wrath against our sin (which we would pay for with an eternal payment, with never a hope of release) was satisfied. In this is love. God doesn’t love us because of our beauty or smarts or because we are so loveable. His was an “in spite of” love. We deserved nothing but His just judgement, but we have received His love. His love is not “only” forgiveness. Romans 8:32: “God who did not spare His own Son but delivered him up for us all, how will he not with him freely give us all things?” The cross is the basis on which every blessing in the heavenly places is bestowed upon us. If you doubt the love of someone, will you trust him with what matters much to you? Do not doubt God’s love.

Ware brought these three elements together to define faith: “trusting God’s power to accomplish what His wisdom in His love has designed and planned.” He then explained from Romans 4 and Hebrews 11 how Abraham’s life exhibited this kind of faith.

He closed the message by asking several specific questions that related to each of the three essentials of faith. I found these questions to be extremely helpful in both revealing more sin in my heart (Arrgg! There is no end to it!) and encouraging me to trust in God’s care.

Then, last night, one of the passages I read in Scripture was from Psalm 34 (vs. 8-10):

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.

The Lord is once again showing Himself faithful to build my trust in Him when I am wallowing in doubt.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Spiritual rEVOLUTION

Almost 450 churches in the United States celebrated Evolution Sunday this week. Yes, evidently evolution has evolved to the point that it no longer conflicts with Scripture. Blogger Andrew Belli wrote a cleverly facetious post about the ludicrous combination of the “science” of evolution and the sanctity of Scriptural truth. One of the things he did was recite the Five Points of Darwinism, a.k.a. THORN:

Total Vulnerability – we’re at the mercy of nature
Humanism – we must strive to advance a master race
Oops – we’re the product of chance, not design
Resistance is Futile – you will be assimilated
Natural Selection – (although it IS unconditional)

If you want to read the entire post (which includes a priceless rewriting of the Nicene Creed), go here.

Just in case there’s anyone reading this who thinks there is no contradiction between the Scriptural account of creation and the theory of evolution, let me quote WORLD Magazine blog poster PeterS (comment #9) :

If evolution is true, then death preceded man. If death preceded man, then sin did not enter the world through Adam (Romans 5:12). If sin did not enter the world through man, there was no need for Jesus’ substitutionary death. If there was no need for Jesus’ sacrifice, Christianity is pointless.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Growing Pains

Sanctification isn’t always a stroll through the park. Lately, I’ve been more acutely aware of indwelling sin in my life—in particular, my prideful disposition to not trust in the providence of God.

Yesterday was filled with little “humbling moments.” I had several short meetings that needed to happen but didn’t; every motorist I got stuck behind apparently thought the far left lane was the “leisure lane”; my interaction with others didn’t always measure up to my expectations. My response to most of these situations was one of anger. Ultimately, my problem wasn’t people or circumstances—my problem was the pride in my heart that bristled at the sovereignty of God overruling my selfish plans.

As I went through my Scripture readings last night, I came to Psalm 32. Verses 8 and 9 spoke directly to my problem:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.
Do not be like the horse or like the mule,
Which have no understanding,
Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,
Else they will not come near you.

These verses encouraged and humbled me. To be honest, these little lessons have not been fun. At the same time, this whole situation is funny because it is in direct answer to prayer (as I mentioned in my “Hidden Joy” post). When you ask the Lord to help you grow in humility, He doesn’t immediately place a glowing halo on your head—He shows you how ugly your pride really is and then magnifies His grace by bringing about change.

In the meantime, I feel like making several more snowballs, throwing them in the fridge for a couple hours and pelting the car of the next motorist that cuts me off.... Yes, there’s a lot of pride in me, but thanks be to God that He’s not through with me yet! Grace has led me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow…Inside

When I got back from my lunch break today, there was still some snow melting on a few of the cars parked outside the station. I decided to make a snowball and wreak havoc on some poor helpless soul inside. As I headed indoors, I knew I had to be selective in acquiring a target. After all, radio stations have a lot of equipment that requires electricity. Snow and electricity don’t mix well. My best bet was to ambush someone in the hallway. Unfortunately, the victim I chose caught wind of my intentions (I guess me running towards him with a battle cry tipped him off) and he dashed into the safety of a room filled with expensive equipment. Not an expression of mature masculinity, in my opinion.

I then decided to attack whoever was in the kitchen—one of the other few places to safely dispense snow projectiles without ruining company property. Alas and alack, no one was in the kitchen. The next best thing to do was wait. Shaun, the nighttime DJ for Love 89, doesn’t come in until mid-afternoon, so I decided to tarry until then. In the meantime, I hid the snowball in the freezer.

The hours went by slowly, but good things come to those who wait. When I saw Shaun, I rushed to the freezer. As you might guess, the snowball now had the consistency of a rock. “Who cares?” I thought. But then, out of the goodness of my heart, I decided throwing a rock into the face of a guy who had to go on the air in a couple hours probably wouldn’t serve him.

Shaun was busy talking with another DJ, so I rushed outside. Yes, there was barely enough snow to form one small snowball. When I came back inside, Shaun was still talking. I concealed the environmentally safe weapon in my hand, which got quite cold over the next several minutes. At long last, Shaun ended the conversation, briefly stopped to talk to me, then headed to his office. In amazing slow motion, I jumped out of my chair, rushed out of the production studio and rounded the corner into the hallway. My unsuspecting victim was almost to the doorway at the other end. The stomping of my feet must have caught his attention, because he turned around as I wound up for the pitch. His mouth dropped open and his eyes widened in typical deer-caught-in-headlights fashion.

In retrospect, I probably should have used the rock. This snowball was so soft, it exploded on its way through the air. By the time it reached Shaun, it was about the size of a quarter. The other pieces fell harmlessly to the floor.

Shaun didn’t have any snow with which to retaliate, so he grabbed a “Parenting With Confidence” brochure and threw it at me…repeatedly. Needless to say, when all was said and done neither one of us had inflicted much damage on the other.

So much for my plans of wreaking havoc.

Symptoms of Legalism

I haven’t posted anything serious in a while, so here are some notes I recently rediscovered, which I wrote while listening to a sermon by CJ Mahaney on legalism:

You are involved in legalism if…

* You are more aware of and affected by your past sin(s)—especially those committed after your conversion—than you are by the finished work of Jesus Christ.

* You are more aware of areas you need to grow than you are of the cross. If you are preoccupied with needing to study the Bible or pray more, you are probably involved in legalism. Yes, these acts are means of grace and they are important, and it is not wrong to evaluate the strength of these daily habits (or lack thereof), but they are not the basis of your acceptance with God. Misunderstanding this will lead you to participate in such activities with the wrong motives.

* You live thinking, believing, and feeling that God is disappointed with you rather than delighting over you…that God is “putting up” with you. God is pleased with you, not because of what you’ve done or are doing, but because he looks at you and sees Christ, and he is pleased with Christ’s righteousness.

* You assume his acceptance is based on your obedience. Don’t ever feel more justified because of your works. If you’re trying to shake guilt or create favor by doing something, you are a legalist. After Bible study, close your Bible and say, “Father, that act, I want to acknowledge, made no contribution to the basis of my justification before you. I will only, ever, and always be justified by the performance of your Son on my behalf.”

* You consistently experience condemnation. If you do not properly understand justification, you will experience condemnation. The way out of condemnation is not acts of obedience.

* You have an undue concern for what others think (read Galatians 2).

* You lack joy. Where are you focusing your attention? “Take ten looks at Christ for every one look at yourself.” (Robert Murray McShane)

The root of all legalism is pride.

********************

I’ve referred to this list off and on in the last couple weeks. The more I grow in the Lord, the more I recognize (1) how prideful—and, consequently, legalistic—I am and (2) how much I need to be reminded of the truths of the gospel. My hope for change is not mustering up more will power, it is the sufficiency of grace purchased for me by Christ on the cross.

Random quote for the day: “Hello and welcome to the Café formerly known as LaMancha, where the food and service are par excellence! But between you and me, I’d avoid the salsa. It could kill a horse.” (Pancho in Sheerluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Kids Say the Funniest Things

In the deep reaches of cyberspace, I came across this list of things kids have said. I’ve been laughing my stomach into cramps…

  1. No matter how hard you try, you can’t baptize cats.
  2. When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair.
  3. If your sister hits you, don’t hit her back. They always catch the second person.
  4. Never ask your 3-year-old brother to hold a tomato.
  5. You can’t trust dogs to watch your food.
  6. Don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.
  7. Puppies still have bad breath even after eating a tic-tac.
  8. Never hold a dustbuster and a cat at the same time.
  9. School lunches stick to the wall.
  10. You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Cereal Bowl Sunday

Yesterday, much of the world watched massive, gladiator-like human beings participate in an overly aggressive form of full-contact ballet, with the intent of holding and dancing with an eleven-inch long, air-filled sack of premium cowhide leather. Some who didn’t watch the Super Bowl participated in an alternative spectator sport: the Cereal Bowl. This activity consisted of wearing pajamas (or something like PJs), eating a mixture of several sugary cereals, and watching movies.

The first movie was Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Pod People. MST3K movies always have a gazillion clever/witty/memorable lines, and this one was no exception:

  • [One deer to another:] “Aw, the heck with this, Norm. Let’s go down to the suburbs and crash through a school window.”
  • “Your breakfast is getting cold and she [the woman who just died] isn’t getting any warmer.”
  • “Oh, why don’t you just go up to the door? You drove two seasons to get here.”
  • “His last words were huzzah!”
  • “Boo? Boo Radley.” “Beelzebub!” “Chief?” “McCloud?”
  • “Gimme that, I’ll show you how to use a prop phone.”
  • [Said too a young boy:] “Oh, that’s crazy. Now finish your tequila.”

After much deliberation, the next movie we watched was Beauty and the Beast. I argued against it…uh, for various reasons. But because we had just watched MST3K, the spirit of that film remained present for this one as well. We sang along with it, added extra lines to enhance the humor, and provided a running commentary on the continuity errors and animation flaws. Gaston’s character provided an excellent illustration of how not to woo a girl. Several of the guys took notes and we’ll be meeting later this week to discuss what the Lord showed us through the film.

The best thing about the evening? The rapturous laughter. The second best thing about the evening? I didn’t cry during Beauty and the Beast.

Huzzah!

Worship Weekend

Technically, this was no more a “worship weekend” than any other weekend. As theologians have pointed out, we are all worshipping creatures and we are always worshipping something. However, our congregation was privileged to have worship leader Bob Kauflin visit our church and give several messages on the topic of worship—both in its broad sense (living our lives in service to God) and its narrow sense (worshipping through musical expression).

I am continually amazed by the leadership in Sovereign Grace Ministries. Humility and an others-centered mindset characterize every new pastor I meet. Engaging in conversation and fellowship with Mr. Kauflin was greatly encouraging. What he shared with me in response to the issues I am dealing with helped increase my faith.

Mr. Kauflin is also a fan of instrumental music, and film scores in particular! How awesome is that?! It’s not every day I can throw out names like Alan Silvestri, James Newton Howard, and Rachel Portman and have someone actually know who I’m referring to! Our conversation about film music was so engaging that even Mr. Kittrell couldn’t pull him away.

Yes, it was a wonderful weekend.

(For the record, right now I’m listening to Rachel Portman’s score to The Cider House Rules—one of Mr. Kauflin’s favorites. And yes, I’m doing it for the glory of God.)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Who Are Your Friends?

The singles from Cornerstone Church who work downtown meet for lunch once a week (in theory). Today was this week’s day, during which we experienced good food, fun, and fellowship at Shono’s in Market Square. I like these people. I have considered them friends.

However, when I got back to the radio station and visited the facilities, I found out that I had a piece of food stuck between my teeth—very black, very visible. And no one told me about it. How long was it there? I don’t know. I can’t watch myself eat any better than I can listen to myself snore at night—not that I do snore…well, I don’t know if I do, but that’s beside the point. The point is, there were seven “friends” (and one guest) at the table. You expect friends to watch your back (or, in this case, your teeth), but no one did. So…are they really as good of friends as I thought? Maybe there’s something in Proverbs that speaks to this issue….

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cry Me a River

This is probably going to come back and bite me in the rump later, but what the hey? While watching Chloe (my two-year-old niece) yesterday, I was reminded of an interesting truth: I cry in movies. In fact, I am most likely to cry watching children’s movies. Why? I have no earthly clue.

Well, I do have an hypothesis. It may have all started back in 1989, when I saw The Bear in theaters. I cried through the entire thing. Somehow, in some way, a gateway was opened that night and I have never been the same.

So Chloe came over yesterday and wanted to watch Beauty and the Beast, which I haven’t seen in, like, years. She loved it, I loved it. She laughed, I cried. She kept asking me to explain what was happening in the movie and I’d open my mouth to answer, only to find myself choked up.

I’m telling you, I’m more likely to weep during Homeward Bound—the ultimate tearjerker—than a more serious film like Schindler's List. There’s just something about the innocence of a children’s story that makes all tragedies (large and small) seem so…tragic. It’s true—the song “When Somebody Loves You” from Toy Story 2Toy Story 2!—is more apt to induce tears than “My Heart Will Go On.”

Pixar is the best studio to make tear-inducing films. Let me rephrase that: Pixar is the best studio in Hollywood PERIOD. No other production company has had as close to a perfect track record as Pixar. The people there are the most amazing bunch of creative geniuses in filmmaking. Who can resist the tears when Sulley has to say goodbye to Boo in Monster’s Inc. (or when the door to her room is restored and he gets to see her again)? Who in his right mind wouldn’t cry when Marlin discovers that almost his entire family was eaten, and he promises his only remaining son, “I’ll never let anything happen to you…Nemo” (in Finding Nemo, of course)? Actually, Finding Nemo is filled with emotional moments.

My cinematic sobbing is not completely limited to children’s films. I do find my heartstrings being pulled in more “adult” movies as well. The most recent? King Kong. Yes, King Kong affected me even more than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It seems that my emotions—when relating to movies—have no rhyme or reason behind them.

So there it is: I cry in movies like girls cry at weddings. I pray you will not use this information for devious purposes. And if you post a response, please be nice. (In other words, try not to make me cry.)

photo credit: 24 via photopin (license)

Hidden Joy

Walt Alexander recently made fun of me for starting a blog. After that small expression of depravity, he shared with me that a recent version of “His Love Can Never Fail” is on the Indelible Grace IV CD. I checked out the official web site; several of the hymns on the album are absolutely amazing so I went ahead and ordered a copy.

One of those hymns is “I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow,” by John Newton. It resonated with something I’ve been specifically praying for: that God would increase my desire and passion for Him and continue to burn away the chaff in my life. What I’m realizing is, He’s answering that very prayer. John Newton puts it like this:

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

As I continue to seek specific direction in my life regarding possible future employment and a host of other issues (and thus far having received very few specific answers), I’m finding my joy increasing as God continues to call me to wait on Him.

Another related item: I found a Charles Spurgeon quote on the Girl Talk blog (yes, I visit it occasionally) that deals specifically with anxiety:

When a man is anxious he cannot pray with faith; when he is troubled about the world, he cannot serve his Master, his thoughts are serving himself. If you would “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” all things would then be added unto you. You are meddling with Christ’s business, and neglecting your own when you fret about your lot and circumstances. You have been trying “providing” work and forgetting that it is yours to obey. Be wise and attend to the obeying, and let Christ manage the providing. Come and survey your Father’s storehouse, and ask whether he will let you starve while he has laid up so great an abundance in his garner? Look at his heart of mercy; see if that can ever prove unkind! Look at his inscrutable wisdom; see if that will ever be at fault. Above all, look up to Jesus Christ your Intercessor, and ask yourself, while he pleads, can your Father deal ungraciously with you? If he remembers even sparrows, will he forget one of the least of his poor children? “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning, December 19

It was interesting to see Spurgeon quote Matthew 6:33, because that is the same verse Greg Fox quoted when I talked with him on Sunday. What he said to me is so true: we tend to skip “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and head straight for “all these things,” but it is precisely “all these things” that are out of our control. I must seek God first and trust in His sovereign care.

Over the last several days, it has been amazing to see God working His sanctifying power in my life. It’s almost like I’ve been a spectator watching the action unfold before me. God is so merciful to flood me with His grace and enable me to become more like His Son.

In other news: we have these tea bags at work that don’t taste anything like what they say they are. The apple/cinnamon, the orange, and the lemon teas all smell like their names but taste quite different. Actually, the orange tea is pretty close; it’s kinda like a mixture between tree bark and orange peels.