Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Be A Man

What is manhood?  What does it mean to be a man?  In most cultures throughout the world, there is some “rite of passage” that a boy enters.  Upon it’s completion, he is considered a man.  The specific rite varies from culture to culture.  It might be a test of strength, a test of willpower, proving one’s courage, or something else.  For example, the Vanuatu of the South Pacific requires boys to strip naked and bungee jump off an unstable 100-foot platform.  It would sound fun and easy if it wasn’t for the fact that vines are used instead of stretchy bungees.   If that doesn’t sound painful enough, rite of passage doesn’t count unless your head touches the ground!  Then there’s the Ethiopian Hamar tribe, who have to jump over a herd of cattle.  If they miss, not only is there the possibility of being trampled to death, but they forfeit manhood, the right to marry, and the respect of their relatives.  They can actually fail puberty.  And as for the painful mutilation of the Australian Aborigines…let’s just say it’s too painful for me to type, so I'll just link it instead.

The point of this is that while varied, almost every culture in the history of the world has some sort of initiation ritual that is an outward signification that someone has moved from boyhood into manhood.  Almost every culture.  In America, we don’t have a clear ceremony.  When does an American boy become an American man?  Is it when he gets a driver’s license?  Or is it when he graduates from high school?  What about when he can vote?  Gets his first full-time job?  Maybe when he’s 21?  Or is it when he moves out of his parents house?  How about when he gets married?  Or what about when he owns his own home?

There’s no markers that says “He is now a man!” in American culture.  And that assumes that a boy reaches manhood.  Because of the insecurities associated with trying to prove their manhood to other people, many boys engage in destructive behavior in an attempt to be affirmed as a man.  That’s one of the main causes of problems such as the prevalence of gangs, drinking, drugs, taking girls to bed, etc.

But none of that is Biblical maturity or Biblical manhood.  Nor is killing a crocodile, 
jumping over a bunch of cows, or bungee jumping with vines and making sure your head hits the ground.  I look at all the worldly standards of “manhood” and I compare it with God’s standard.  I look at Proverbs 1:1-7

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; or giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jeesus vs. Jeezus

I've been feeling rather political as of late.  Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  I ran across this a few weeks ago and decided to put my own touch on it.

How Loud Are You?

I am, and always will be, a 49er fan.  Whenever I have the opportunity to  go to a game, I have to restrain myself, otherwise I will lose my voice for a few days from excessive screaming and shouting.  It's not just confined to football.  Even though I'm not that big of a baseball fan (if I watch a game of the World Series, then I'm doing good), if I go in person, I am just as liable to lose my voice.  I once went with a group of students to a high school football game.  At first, they just scooted down a few seats.  Then they left me.  All by myself.  Because I was shouting too much for their team.  I was too loud.

Maybe you're not a big sports person.  What is your reaction to seeing your favorite band in person?  How are you when you're down right in front of the stage?  Are you screaming, shouting, singing along to your favorite song at the top of your lungs?

What about when you're worshiping?  Are you loud, passionate and emotional, or are you calm and restrained because you don't want to break some taboo that says you can't fully express yourself to God in worship because other people might hear you?  Just some food for thought, something I've been mulling over personally for a few days.  Let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Best. Saga. Ever.

Best Saga Ever!  I just got back from watching Star Wars Episode One in theaters.  It's been nearly 13 years since I first saw it, but I still remember my first time.  I remember how huge the screen look as the opening scene unfolded.  I remember watching in awe during the pod race.  I remember how amazed I was at the speed of the light-saber duels--much more intense than the original trilogy.  Alec Guinness would be proud.  I remember needing to pee at the beginning of the pod race, but I didn't want to miss a second of the movie, so I sat through the pain.  Both times I watched it during its first release.  It brings back a lot of memories.

I remember hearing all the accusations that it was very racist.  I thought that was all a bunch of lies.  Now, I totally agree that racial stereotypes were played up.  I still remember how Jake Lloyd made me dislike all child actors (though Dakota Fanning bolstered that)  What I didn't remember was how morally grey Qui-Gon was.  I forgot that the special effects weren't the greatest; in some respects the original trilogy outdid its newer counterpart.

It's been a while since I've watched Episode One because, well, it's Episode One.  I would insert some clever witticism comparing it to another movie, but let's face it: When talking about a boring part of an action series The Phantom Menace is the low standard by which all other movies are judged.  Even with all the negatives (and I won't even mention the terrible dialogue and even worse delivery) it was worth it.

What would be truly epic, however, is if they did two more trilogies.  One chronicling the Knights of the Old Republic (which could maybe tie into Palpatine's back story or at least some really cool Sith origins), and the other could chronicle the back story of Yoda, Mace Windu, and Qui-Gon.  And if the first trilogy doesn't go into Palpatine's origins, this one could.  And no, there is no way I want George Lucas to have his hand in this.  Christopher Nolan should direct.  If anyone out there knows Lucas or Nolan, pass this idea along.  It would be epic.  Any ideas for story details?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I hate gas

I hate gas.  No, I'm not talking about the methane we pass and hope no one smells it or blames on someone else, but the stuff that fills up our vehicles.  The fuel that enables our modern culture to work in the way that it does.  But I don't like it.  Not because I'm an avid eco-supporter, but because I don't like shelling out money for it constantly.  I don't like expenses, and I especially don't like the expense of filling up my fuel tank.

This morning, I filled up for $3.93 a gallon.  Last time I filled up, just a few days ago, it was $3.63 for a gallon.  The national average is estimated to peak above $4.00 a gallon by Memorial Day, and out here in the California Bay Area, where the refineries are, it'll be even more sooner.  And these estimations were made before Iran threatened to blockade the strait of Hormuz.

I know I'm not alone; many people bemoan the high cost of gas whenever they pull into a gas station (though we are not the most expensive place for a gallon of gas).  In the grand scheme of things, a few cents a gallon more will not break our proverbial piggy banks.  We will definitely feel a twenty or fifty cent raise.

But what about all the other things we spend our money on?  How many people go to the movies and drop $20 or more on tickets, at least the same amount on over-priced, mediocre food?  What about the $60 people shell out for the latest video game?  Or the hundreds of dollars we'll hand over for a new iPhone or iPad?  If rising gas prices will agitate us, shouldn't we be at least equally irate over the many other things we waste our money on?  The fact that a fraction of our military spending could end world hunger?  Where should our outrage be?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Civilized Nations

I love the irony of this statement.

"A visitor from Mars could easily pick out the civilized nations. They have the best implements of war. " - Herbert V Prochnow


The Reason

If you haven't surmised from previous posts and/or personal contact, I am a follower of Christ.  There are a lot of us throughout the world.  That's a lot of sermons and a lot of teaching.  But sometimes the focus of messages isn't always the most productive.  Look at all the attention Prop 8 received.  And all that does is create gaps, not bridge them.  Teaching and training that would bridge the wide gulf between Christians and non-Christians is teaching that emphasizes Christians to be better prepared to logically and succinctly explain why they believe.  It's something we as Christians are told to do:

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." 1 Peter 3:15-16

There's a whole branch of theology called Apologetics.  No, it doesn't imply that we "apologize" for our faith, but rather a defense of the faith.  Not to win arguments, but for genuine conversation.  Not to belittle someone who believes differently but for us as humans to better understand one another.  Every Christian should be versed in apologetics.  Why Christians believe what we believe is just as important as what we believe.  The overly emotional, ambiguous reasoning often given supports the "What's true for you is true for me, but what's true for me is true for me" response that leave both parties at an impasse.  Such effusive arguments can and do come across as ephemeral and typically don't show others the value of Christ.  By no means am I advocating a purely statistic based approach; rather, a combination of personal experience and why we can trust in the Trinity and the Bible would do a lot for the faith of both the Christian and non-Christian.

I think there would be a lot more understanding if Christians were more practiced in verbalizing not only their faith, but its source as well.  Not for bellicose debates, but for genuine conversations about faith and about Jesus.

Monday, February 20, 2012

God Is Weird

God is different.  Isaiah 55:8-9 says "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  To be blunt, God can be weird sometimes.  Please don't misunderstand this as irreverence.  But seriously, look at the Bible.  It is full stories where God does some bizarre things.  There are talking snakes, donkeys, and a bush that's on fire but doesn't burn up.  A city is conquered by shouting.  The sun stands still.  The kryptonite to Sampson's superhuman strength is short hair.  God has Isaiah walk around naked for three years.  To us, this isn't the stuff of normalcy.  It's strange.

Arguably, the strangest, weirdest, most bizarre story to come out of the Bible is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.   Jesus Christ, creator of the universe, gave up his comfy throne in heaven to come down to Earth for you and me.

The point of this is more than just the uniqueness of the Gospel message, though.  God doesn't always move and work in ways that make sense to us.  When life seems to be crashing down all around us, maybe it's not because we did something wrong.  Maybe there's a lesson in it all for someone else to see and witness.  Maybe someone you're not aware of is watching you, and your Godly responses to the situation you are in is showing them the power of Christ. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Enough is enough!

Let me preface this with the fact that I am no fan of Obama.  But after I saw this article, even I have to come to his defense.  In a nutshell, our president is coming under fire for stopping to eat at a Chinese restaurant in San Fransisco that has shark fin soup on its menu.  It's illegal to import any more, but restaurants still have about a year left to sell off their current stock.  It's a law helped to pass.

What gets me is how quickly he was criticized.  Really, why do we consistently need someone to demonize, someone to attack?  Why do we always need an enemy?  I think it's because if we can find someone to blame, someone to draw attention away from our own shortfalls, then it can help feel better about ourselves.  Thoughts anyone?  Am I way off?  Am I missing something?  Why else do we have this need to look for fault in others?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Leading From The Front

A few days ago as I was going through my typical routine of checking my email, I came across this article, and it got me thinking on leadership and what it really means to lead, both in the workplace, in church, and in family.

I'm young; I've only had seven jobs in my life.  But in that experience, I've seen many different leadership styles by a plethora of managers, supervisors, and just about any other job title you can think of.  I've had bosses who outwork their employees every second their on the clock.  Employers who lead by example.  They expect the same effort out of their employees that they put in.  I put my all into those jobs.  I've had bosses who live by the mantra of "do as I say, not as I do."  I don't enjoy working for companies ran like that.  While I should have still put in all my effort into those jobs, I usually didn't.  Don't get me wrong; I still worked hard, but I stopped short of giving it 100%.  My rationale behind that is that if it's not important enough for them, it's not important enough for me.

Likewise, in the church, I've seen pastors and leaders who try to lead from all across the spectrum.  Obviously, I'm much more apt to follow those who believe in a "do as I do" instead of a "do as I say" style.  I have left ministries and churches over this issue.

Competent, integrity-filled leaders are kind of a big deal.  It's one reason why I work where I work and I go to church where I go to church.  But leadership in public settings like a church or workplace are secondary.  True leadership begins in the home; that's why poor leaders typically have a poor home life.  Leadership truly begins in the home.  And that's where the personal application of this all hit home for me.  It doesn't matter what I do for a church or what I do at a job; if I can't truly lead my own family, then what good am I?  I have been truly blessed with a beautiful wife and daughter.  Am I living up to the job?  I think and hope so, but I'm going to keep improving as best as I can

What about you--what do you find to be the hardest part about leading?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hermit's Song

Here's a cool little anonymous poem from the 8th century I came across in a book my uncle got me.  I will probably share another one or two from it sometime.  Enjoy!

Hermit's Song

I wish, O Son of the living God,
O ancient, eternal King,
For a hidden little hut in the wilderness
That it may be my dwelling

An all-grey lithe little lark
to be by its side,
A clear pool to wash away sins
Through the grace of the Holy Spirit,

Quite near, a beautiful wood
around it on every side,
To nurse many-voiced birds,
hiding within its shelter.

A southern aspect for warmth,
A little brook across its floor,
A choice land with many gracious gifts
Such as be good for every plant.

A few men of sense -
We will tell their number
Humble and obedient,
To pray to the King.

Four times three, three times four,
Fit for every need.
Twice six in the church,
Both north and south:

Six pairs besides myself,
Praying for ever the King
Who makes the sun shine.

A pleasant church
And with the linen altar-cloth,
A dwelling for God from Heaven;

Then, shining candles
Above the pure white Scriptures,.
One house for all to go to 
For the care of the body,

Without ribaldry, without boasting
Without thought of evil
This is the husbandry I would take,
I will choose, and will not hide it:

Fragrant leek, hens, salmon, trout, bees.
Raiment and food enough for me
From the King of fair fame,
And I to be sitting for a while
Praying to God in every place.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Once more into the fray

Once more into the fray,
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know,
Live and die on this day,
Live and die on this day.

Over the weekend I plopped my butt down on an unsanitary seat and drank in the masterfully crafted "The Grey."  It was intense from opening credits to the final scene.  I loved it.  My wife…not so much.  Don’t get me wrong; she liked it, but as she put it “All the good scenes were put in the previews, and the rest of the movie was them walking around in the snow.”

It was a little like castaway, but instead of an awkward Tom Hanks, you get Liam Neeson.  Instead of a tropical paradise, you get the frozen taiga of the far north.  Instead of Wilson, you get a pack of man eating wolves.  And Liam has a few buddies.  Definitely a step up.

There were a few things that seemed a little incredulous to me—particularly the wolves behavior, size of their pack, how quickly they could move from place to place, you know, the minor details that drove the plot.  Not a big deal, but a little distracting during the movie.

The two aspects of the film I enjoyed the most were the ending, and the religious questioning that went on throughout the movie.  Both sides of the theistic debate were given, but neither pro nor con was pushy.  The question was left hanging with a high degree of ambiguity.

Somewhat vague was the ending.  No spoilers here, but they could have taken the ending in one of two directions.  And for the way they chose to go, they finished the film the only way they could have.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's In The News...Again

It appears that Prop 8—the proposition famous a few years ago for banning gay marriage—has again been struck down as unconstitutional. I am not all that surprised, nor am I disappointed or upset. I am a Bible believing Christian who fully believes that gay marriage does not fit into part of God’s plan, yet something about Prop 8 has never sat well with me. Let me explain.

The main reason behind the push for such legislation has always been to protect the sanctity of marriage and to protect family values. I can applaud that effort, but stopping gay marriage is not how to do it; a whole shift in the mindset of what constitutes marriage is needed.

I don’t want “marriage” associated with a 72 hour marriage between a drunk pop star and her boyfriend in Vegas. To me, marriage is a sacred bond between husband and wife before God Almighty. Anything less than that is mere compromise. If a group wants to push for a legal definition of marriage that fits the Bible, then go all the way. Make it so that it can only be done in a church setting. Make divorce illegal unless there is marital infidelity; enough of this “We’ve just drifted too far apart” junk. Or, and this is my preferred solution, make marriage in a religious sense and the legal civil union two separate and distinct things. Civil union can be what is done at the courthouse, and marriage can be what you choose to do in a religious setting.

If the proponents of Prop 8 are serious about protecting marriage and family values, then they should do something about it. If the BILLIONS of dollars that were poured into getting the law passed were instead poured into family counseling, promoting family unity, stopping the porn epidemic (yeah, we are talking about you Disney), you know, things that actually protect marriage and family values, think of the difference that could have been made.

But instead, what will more than likely happen is another round of legislation in California. Billions more will be wasted as marriages and families are violently torn to pieces by affairs, selfishness, and a whole host of other problems that are entirely fixable if the Christian community (or any other community for that matter) would truly take it upon themselves to fix what’s broken instead of merely finding someone to blame.

Some of the hateful things that were done during the time leading up to voting were truly mind boggling. What was just as bad, though, was the overabundance of petty actions. For example, there are the feelings of the “pastor” I was serving under at the time of voting (I use the term “pastor” loosely because of his abuse, manipulative, duplicitous nature). He told me that after dropping his daughter off at school one morning, he walked past a “No on Prop 8” sign. It took all he had in him not to kick the sign over. And after he left, he had regrets over not kicking it over. That was someone’s personal property, something someone paid about $20 for, and this person wanted to kick down and destroy it out of anger. That is the sort of attitude that causes Christians to be labeled as hateful and bigoted. I don’t think that’s what Jesus would be doing.

I don’t think he would have voted against Prop 8, but I’m sure He would have much rather seen all of the effort and mind-boggling sums of money that went into passing the proposition go instead to fund activities and programs that truly bring families closer, something that actually protects family unity and the sanctity of marriage.