Friday, October 29, 2010

Temptation: From the Devil or From God?


In the last few weeks I have been doing a series of teachings at Northshore Vineyard on The Lord's Prayer covering one line of the prayer at a time each week.  Last week I did a message on ...Give us this day our daily bread.  Next weekend I will be turning my attention to the one line which seems, at least on the surface, to be a bit problematic, "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil."

I have to admit that I haven't thought much of this being a difficult passage when I pray the Lord's Prayer because I typically just lump it under the heading of keep me safe from evil, but someone recently did ask me about what seems to be an apparent contradiction between asking God to not lead us into temptation and the verses in James chapter 1 that speak of God tempting no one.

So how's about a little theological wrestling?  What do you think Jesus is getting at in the Lord's Prayer when he implores us to pray "lead us not into temptation"?  Is this more a matter of God helping us in temptation to not fail when tested or are we really asking God to not put anything in front of us that might cause us to sin?  I have some ideas on this but I will keep them to myself for the moment.

By the way here's a little wrestling I did on the subject of temptation a while back on this blog
: Lead Us Not Into Temptation...


SNL Skits Should Not Become Movies

I don’t usually watch Saturday Night Live that much these days but have certainly been a sporadic fan over the years of certain skits and characters particularly the classic episodes featuring John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray and Dan Akroid.  But one thing I have come to hold as a rule: SNL skits make lousy movies (the one exception that comes to mind is The Blues Brothers).  It’s one thing to make people laugh for 3-4 minutes in a show of short skits but quite another to develop those same characters and plot into something that actually works as a full-length feature film. 
The Blues Brothers is one exception to the rule.

While I am generally pretty good at keeping this principle in mind when I watch movies I occasionally get sucked into an SNL skit-turned-movie by the previews.  Unfortunately this happened last night.  I dropped by our local Walgreens to pick up some dark chocolate and noticed the new Red Box DVD rental out in front.  I figured paying a dollar for a DVD was pretty low risk.  Well, after renting MacGruber, the movie made from the SNL skit parody of McGyver I want my dollar back!  The previews actually made it seem like it would be pretty good.  But the previews truly had the only funny parts.  I would offer further review of the movie but I honestly don’t want to waste anymore of my time on it.


So here’s the question of the day:  
  • What is the worst SNL skit-turned-movie that you have come across?  
  • The second question: is there an SNL skit that actually worked as a movie?



Monday, October 25, 2010

TMI

Courtesy Allen Young

After many years of studying all kinds of diet fads from low carb to high carb to fat free to the cave man diet, the secret to losing weight has finally been verified and it boils down to the rather obvious solution of either reducing caloric intake or increasing calorie burning (exercise) or both.  I have been wondering if that same principle might be applied to the information we take in as well.  What happens to our brains when we get too much information?  I have recently found it increasingly hard to keep up with the handful of blogs and online discussions that I am a part of, as well as the RSS reader, my podcast subscriptions, the 5-10 books I may be reading at any given moment in addition to all the other noise and clatter from TV, cell phones, and radio.   Sometimes I think I am suffering from a bad case of Too Much Information.  It’s not that the information is bad or not useful it’s just that, like the food we consume, at some point my brain can’t do much with it and it just turns to mental flab.  I think I need to either go on an information diet or start setting aside more time to write so that I can turn this flab into mental muscle.

On my days off I am fond of sitting on my back porch with my pipe and a good book however lately I have found that I don’t even want to read because the sound of the birds and the wind through the trees is just too beautiful and serene to mess up with the words of people.  So I’ve been doing a lot of sitting and staring and getting quiet when I get the chance.  When the noise outside fades I can finally truly hear again.

The apostle Paul once wrote, “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.”  I’m a big fan of knowledge and information but without love, without connection, without action they ten to leave me a little bloated. 

So here’s a couple of questions:
  • Do you feel like you are sometimes drowning in a sea of Too Much Information?
  • How do you turn your mental flab into something of substance?
  • Do you ever find it helpful to cut back on your intake of information?




Monday, October 18, 2010

God is Not a White Man

I stumbled across this one today.  Great stuff!

Book Review - Lost + Found: Finding Myself by Getting Lost in an Affair

I recently picked up Lost + Found: Finding Myself by Getting Lost in an Affair after reading a review of the book and interview with author David Trotter on my friend Chad Estes’ blog.  As one who has been in ministry for years and has certainly experienced not too pleasant experiences along the way I was very interested in any insights Trotter might have both on the preventative side and for those who have gone through a similar ordeal.

Lost + Found is a cautionary tale of ministry and infidelity that centers around David Trotter, a pastor of ten years who, after planting a church just 5 years before, finds himself burned out, unfulfilled in both his marriage and ministry and experiencing romantic feelings for his wife’s best friend.  The story that ensues is a heart-breaking story of a man who throws away everything: his marriage, his family, and even his church for the fantasy of romantic love.  Trotter tells this story sparing very little of the sordid details by including journal entries, letters he wrote to his wife and his mistress, and tales of conflicts he experienced with many in his congregation over his self-destructive decisions.  The story is often painful to read as David recounts his feelings for another woman while on a mission trip and the eventual ensnaring of his heart by the subsequent affair.

While I have known plenty of people in ministry who have committed adultery, Trotter’s account really seeks to get at some of the motivation behind why a pastor would leave his wife, kids, and church for the arms of another.  While Trotter doesn't pin his infidelity on any one cause he is very clear that he was living in a very toxic environment built on his own lack of living within boundaries as a key factor in setting the stage for adultery.  As he mentions early on the foundation for this toxic environment was the idolatry of ministry.  As he writes ministry was his mistress long before he ever cheated on his wife.  The Bible quite often uses adultery as a picture of idolatry and this picture is very clear in Trotter’s story.  What started with looking to ministry for life, purpose, and meaning ended with David’s betrayal of his wife, kids, friends, family and the very church he built from the ground up. 

As I read the story I couldn’t help but think of my own struggles with living beyond God given limits, of looking to work for meaning and purpose, of rationalizing overwork as something spiritual, and of the times when I became disconnected from my wife, kids, and even my own heart because I was so burned out.  Lost + Found is a good reminder of why it is so important to tend to our lives and relationships daily by setting aside time and space for the things that truly matter.  I can only hope that his story will connect with many in the ministry who are struggling with similar issues before they suffer the same kind of fate. 

While the story ultimately ends in a redemptive place with David’s relationship restored to his wife and kids, it struck me as a little odd that he would write this story so quickly after the events happened.  Much of what he writes about happened less than 2-3 years ago.  While I am grateful for the restoration of his marriage and family and for his newfound humility and brokenness it seems a bit too fresh to write as though it is all just fine and dandy now.  If anything this book really strikes me as sort of a part one of a much larger story that will hopefully be written in another 5-10 years speaking of God’s continued faithfulness and restoration.  I don’t doubt Trotter’s zeal and passion for this new place and life but I just can’t see deep personal character transformation being over and done with this quick no matter how much he'd like that to be true.   That said,  I think he is definitely on the right track by continuing to meet with a therapist and by staying very close and connected with authentic friends and family as he learns how to live life for the first time in years without the idol of ministry at the center.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Unlikely Collaborations that Work Well Part 1- Robert Randolph

Once in a while you come across a wonderfully unexpected combination of things that actually work together.  Last year I wrote a brief review of one such item called Mo’s Bacon Bar, a chocolate bar with smoked bacon.  I was inspired by this idea and tried dipping crispy bacon in Nutella and it was crazy enough that it actually worked!
In the last few weeks I have stumbled across a 3 albums that fit into the category of crazy combinations that actually worked out quite well:  1. We Walk this Road by Robert Randolph and the Family Band, 2. You Are Not Alone by Mavis Staples and 3. Band of Joy by Robert Plant.  While each of these albums are by amazing artists in their own right it is the collaborations with the producers that make each of these projects truly remarkable.  I’ll start off by reviewing The Road We Walk by Robert Randolph and the Family Band and then post separate reviews on Mavis Staples and Robert Plant.
Robert Randolph

My favorite of the three albums I came across recently is Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s We Walk This Road.  I have been a big fan of Robert Randolph since I first heard his patent sacred steel on The Word, a collaboration album with the North Mississippi Allstars and John Medeski.  From that moment I was hooked.  While I have had the opportunity to catch Robert Randolph in concert on one occasion and have all of his albums I have to say that he struck me as someone who was still searching for a sound, an artist who still needed to come into his own.  That moment has arrived on this latest project produced by T-Bone Burnett.  Burnett’s production has a way of bringing Randolph’s pedal steel back to the spiritual roots of gospel music and yet in such a way that it doesn’t sound like a typical retro kind of album.  The album is firmly rooted in the past but very much in the present.  
T-Bone Burnett

This album isn’t simply a major point of growth for Randolph and Company but for T-Bone Burnett as well.  One can hear how the many recording techniques Burnett has been experimenting with over the years from his work with the Coen Brothers on the Ladykiller’s soundtrack to his own solo project The True False Identity has finally developed into a solid sound that is subtly beautiful, soulful, and colorful.  The production is patently low attack eschewing hi-hats and cymbals for shakers and muted drums.  In the end it is hard for me to imagine exactly how this sound would translate into a live show because this definitely strikes me as more of a studio production, yet at the same time T-Bone has really helped Randolph and Family strip their sound down to the bare essentials, the soul of what they have been doing for years.  This could be one of those albums that actually begins to define their sound for the coming years and that would not be a bad thing.

While I find the whole album enjoyable even after repeated listens there are a few stand out tracks - I Still Belong to Jesus is a beautiful song of God's faithfulness even when we stray.  It strikes me as a statement of one who in the last 10 years has jumped headlong into the music business and seen some the vanity of it all and who finds himself drawn back to the love of God that has always held him.  Other standouts include If I Had My Way with special guest Ben Harper, and Traveling Shoes which emerges right out of an archival recording of a blues spiritual (probably something Burnett came across when putting together the soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou).

Randolph's previous album Colorblind was a bad case of a producer making a band into something they were not.  The soul and grit of Randolph and the Family got squeezed out in a slick R&B style production that was obviously geared at breaking into the mainstream.  The Road We Walk is just the opposite.  T-Bone Burnett has found what makes this band great and built an album around that.  While I would have never put Burnett with Randolph it turned out to be a great paring.

Blog Apologies

Blogs where people apologize for neglecting their blog are weak... so I won't do that... 

...So can this comment count as a blog post?  
...What if I throw in a cute picture of a cat?
...in a guitar case
...in black and white for artistic effect?