Saturday, January 8, 2011

Eclapsed: A Movie Review

Third in the celebrated Twilight book series.
 Grossed over $300 million at the worldwide box office.
Watched last night.
My sister got it for Christmas.

Though not a fan of the series, I have been intrigued by the overnight success of the books and witnessed, as a youth pastor, the instant impact it was having on young minds. I read New Moon two years ago and couldn't wait to put it down. I found the books absolutely repulsive, simply because of the first person, Bella Swan, writing style. Not to mention the whiny nature of her reason and thoughts. But I have already gotten off track.

The movies have proved to be slightly more bearable. I can watch them without wanting to shove a cough depressor up my mouth, most of the time. My youngest sister, Toria, discovered the books a couple years ago and, as I understand it, devoured the four books. As the movies have been making their way to the theaters and unto DVD (for every living room in the America to enjoy) we have been supporting her interest in them. She has received the newest addition on DVD each year. This Christmas, being no different, meant the arrival of Eclipse into our home. I, having not seen it, asked last night if the girls would want to stay up late and watch it with me.

Stage set. Comfy chair settled into. Room dark, save for light from TV. Insert movie. Press play. Enjoy.

I hadn't heard very much about this newest movie. I knew it came out this past summer and from trailers appeared to have some fairly intense scenes (I mean, come on... vampires walking out of a lake, with music about to crescendo... you know that peaked your interest a little). A few people told me the movie was a let down. Still not enough fighting, especially between the vamps and the wolves, they said. I don't think we will ever tire of fight scenes between two mythical creatures. Anyway, if for no other reason than its cultural importance, I was excited to see what might unfold.

Mostly predictable; it is Bella Swan after all. We can expect nothing less than a lot of awkward staring, heavily dramatic (almost laughable) lines, that I'm-a-chihuahua-and-can't-help-but-shake-a-little-while-I'm-wishing-you-would-kiss-me intensity which has made Kristen Stewart famous, and more recently the back and forth game between Edward and Jacob. There were still a lot of glowing red eyes. Big dogs. Annoying high school friends. A father/sheriff who can't seem to do anything right. And that classic disliking of Bella by Rosalie (sadly now we know where it comes from). There remained the pack/gang of Indian boys walking around (everywhere) shirtless. That great old pick-up of Bella's still runs. And Edward still sneaks into Bella's bedroom every night to lie beside her.

There were some new aspects which I had not seen or noticed in the two previous films:
  • We finally managed to see Victoria up close, to find her no longer sprinting through the woods like George of the Jungle. Though here I must add my disappointment that they changed actors for this Victoria (thanks Ron Howard for giving Hollywood your pale-white daughter with eyes far too large for her face). Bryce just wasn't believable. She lacks the intensity and anger of the previous Victoria (a real tragedy of the film). 
  • My other qualm was more expected yet also more shocking. Some of the inadvertently advert messages. The worldview clearly flowed in such things as the Valedictorian speech by Jessica, Bella in Edward's bedroom (I will get to Edward's part in that soon), etc. Jessica rants for probably 2 minutes about how as high schoolers they need to be making as many mistakes as possible; to fall in love as many times as they want. It was as if the voice of the culture of our teenagers had just spoken, finally opening her big mouth, admitting what we already knew but still shocking us with the actual reasoning of their choices. Be as stupid as you want right now, because all will be forgiven you when you're 70 and you somehow arrived at wisdom. Don't think about what you're doing. Just do. Keep doing. Don't attempt to learn from what you're doing until you're much older. We knew this stuff was happening, yet to hear it expressed so flippantly, to hear it actually expressed at all, paints a rather dismal picture. Millions of youth around the world heard the same speech I did. Only most of them with less filters in their thinking, soaking up the words and going home to live it out. It was a bold move on the part of the producers. Like revealing your hand of cards in a poker game, they just gave something big away. If I had been a teen in a theater watching, I would have stood up and started yelling, "NO NO! MUTE IT... TURN IT OFF... THEY'LL BE ONTO US. LA LA LA LA LA!" Parents might just hear Jessica's words and say something to their kids. Then again, probably not, right?
  • I don't have to say much about Bella's worldview regarding sex and relationships. She's made hints to it in the first two films. I had just never heard her be so direct, calling Edward's intent not to sleep with her "ancient." Her looks of confusion, hurt, and near-disgust with his refusal to budge on the issue were crystal clear and sending mighty words to young girls, wishing with every ounce of their being to be more like her, to dress like her, talk like her, think like her, themselves hoping a vampire and werewolf might fight over them. 
 A book written to be an intriguing story for teens, to be entertaining, just got duped into becoming secular humanist propaganda. With both the speech and Bella's rant, a message much deeper than choosing between a werewolf and vampire was conveyed.

Right here, I do want to add my thoughts about Edward's words back to Bella in that bedroom scene. I like the guy. More and more. Apart from his own awkward staring and absolute obsession, he's a great guy. And I truly appreciate his stance on sex. Despite how clearly he wants to be with her, he wants more to respect her, to treat her as he knows best. Coming from an earlier period, when relationships were "less complicated" and couples courted (with rules and boundaries defined), he shared with her how a respectful guy would navigate a relationship. Apart from perhaps "stealing a kiss or two," he would take walks with her, they would get to know each other, and when the time was right would go first to the father and ask his permission to marry her. Despite the many years he had seen pass, little of this was lost on him. Sure, he and Bella have stolen a few more than two kisses, they share a bed many nights (fully clothed), and he proposes before asking Bella's father for permission, yet his desire to respect her physically is the most redeeming aspect to the entire series. This is the way it is supposed to be. This is how God designed relationships to function. Hearts and bodies are best protected through patience. The passions of sex are meant to be fed and felt only within the difficult work of commitment to one person. Here, they can grow and remain properly placed in regards to the relationship as a whole.

To conclude, the movie offered us much of the classic whiny and wide-eyed Bella, the obsessed Edward, the immature and bare-chested Jacob, the red-headed Victoria, the father trying to do his best, and the frequent fields of flowers which have made young girls yell and squeal uncontrollably, guys to wonder what they might look like without a shirt on in a movie, women to wish their husbands would still look at them the way Edward does Bella, and men to find new inspiration to clean the garage. The movie gave us a couple descent fight scenes. A great old pick-up. People walking out of a lake. And a worldview which should both cause concern and could lead to some great conversations between parents and their teens. If only the parents would show a little courage and interest.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Not That You Care But...

Been far too long since I last wrote anything. I am not even quite sure what to say at this point to get anyone up to speed.
So much has happened in these nearly 10 months since I last wrote. Here is my bullet-point list to make it easier for both of us:

  • Colorado happened. Summit Ministries beckoned me there.
  • Pike's Peak happened twice. My first 14er peaked. 
  • A relationship budded. Molly you have been a blessing.
  • I added a Toyota to the list of cars I have owned. 150k and still driving strong. 
  • I attended Summit Semester in Pagosa Springs, CO. Learned to think. Thought to learn. Made lasting friendships. Hung out with the venerable Dr. Bauman.
  • I am reading a 600-page biography on Bonhoeffer. Does that make me a hipster? 
  • Made the decision to go back to school. English Lit. or History? How about the History of English Lit? 
  • I have not lived in anymore buses. Sad, I know. 
  • Oh, I traveled to Texas for the first time. Abilene. 
  • I spent a day at the Grand Canyon. Bushwhacked my way down the canyon side with some friends. That was memorable. It is more than just a big hole. 
  • I have added 6 new states to my "My Feet Have Walked There" list since I last wrote. Texas. Oklahoma. New Mexico. Arizona. Colorado. Nebraska. 
  • My faithful Acer computer pooped out on me. I now have a cheep-O Lenovo thing. That Acer and I were friends for more than 5 years!
  • I saw my first bear. Pretty close up. Like 10ft. Won't forget that one.
  • I can no longer digest any dairy. Or most other foods currently. Makes life interesting. 
That is just a short list of the things I could think of. Hopefully I will begin to write again. I need to. I want to. Until next time...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Survival Of The Quieted

University of Northern Iowa.
Michigan State University.
Campus of University of Northern Iowa.
Surrounded by University of Northern Iowa fans.
Wearing my Michigan State University t-shirt.
Back of the room.

Just wanted to share a short story of my survival techniques last night during the game.

I was invited to join a couple guys I know to an apartment complex where some UNI students would be watching the game together off a projector. They knew I was a State fan and would probably come prepared with gear and plenty to say about why my team would beat their team. I was told there may be 5 or 6 people there. I figured this would be no big deal. Just some good, healthy competitiveness.

Oh broken expectations.

Following some difficulty finding the apartment - I was told I'd find a projector set up in a big room just inside the door but never did - I finally met up with one of the guys I knew and the night began. The projector was set up in a meeting room joining four apartments, on the second floor. The room was probably 15' by 35'. We set up three couches in the room. My first tip-off that there was going to be more than 6 people here.

People began to pour in over the next 20 minutes before game-time. Probably around 20 total. All of them wearing the UNI purple. Some painted faces. Purple beads. The works. This was going to be interesting. Then... the beer was brought out. I began to fidget in my seat. Things might get ugly.

Regardless, as the game began and the beers still cold in the bottles, I made sure people knew there was one MSU fan in the house. The UNI students began the game chanting their school's fight song. At the very end, as they finished, I yelled out "GO STATE!" Again, I was sitting near the back of the room. Next to the few guys I knew. All the Panther fans in front of me, collectively, turned around to see who would dare yell out such an obscenity. I got dirty looks from some. A couple, who just enjoyed the spirit of competitiveness, turned and smiled or laughed. I knew I would have to pace myself. Very carefully. Tactfully. I wanted to live to see the Spartan's next game, if there would be one.

As the game progressed, with the score remaining close, I began to keep some emotions in check. When the Spartans scored, I would just pump my fist, non-verbally. And with the game in reach for the Spartans, I almost entirely drew back. Hoping those in front of me had forgotten there was an enemy fan amongst them. When the game finished, with MSU winning 59-52, I made no verbal celebration. All I remember saying is: "That was a good game." Inside... I WAS ECSTATIC!!

And so... if you should find yourself on enemy territory, with Panthers bleeding purple, with beer involved (I was not crazy about this to begin with), you would be wise to quiet yourself. This is the Survival Of The Quieted. And this is the nature of March Madness.

GO MSU!!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Project:Rust Off

Have you ever watched rust as it eats?
For whatever reason, it has a never ending appetite for metal.
Personally, I don't understand why it likes the stuff so much.
Hard on the teeth.
Maybe that's why God didn't give rust teeth.

Leave a nice looking, garage-kept car sitting on a patch of green, fertile ground over just one winter and see what happens. This nice, garage-kept car will emerge from the moisture-saturated ground with reddish-brown little speckles all along the underneath. It doesn't take much. And once it begins, it's almost impossible to stop.

Now, leave a human body, built for movement, infused with hundreds of muscles complimenting its neighbor, in a house over one long cold winter and see what happens. This human body built for movement will grow soft. His or her body will grow speckles of rust on those spectacular muscles. This is what happened to me this past winter. I grew soft. Rusty. Way out of shape. Even work, throughout the season, wasn't enough to keep the rust away.

So begins Project:Rust Off. As the temperature rises, as the sun peeks its glorious round shining face, I am making myself knock the rust off. Monday started it all off. Low 50's with a slight breeze out of the west. Jogged two miles down the country road. Then walked a mile to loosen those spectacular muscles God embedded inside. Yesterday was cold again. So I gave my legs a day to recover from Day 1. But today, as I returned from work around 3 in the afternoon, I couldn't help but get the running itch once again. Mid-50's with a lesser wind than Monday. I pulled my car into the driveway. Booked it down the stairs to my room. Tore off my work clothes, replacing them with basketball shorts, a long-sleeve undershirt, and a t-shirt. I laced up my neon green and white New Balance running shoes, titled Zips, and headed outside. Taking a deep breath and stretching my tight legs, I examined the road which would be my path for the next few minutes. Then, with little warning, my body took off. Maybe before my mind could even mutter the phrase: "Hold on!" There I went... my soft body bouncing down the gravel road, heading west into the breeze.

Day 2 of Project:Rust Off was, as expected, more difficult. Though the same two miles beckoned me on from Monday, I could tell early that this battle would be won or lost in my mind. My mind didn't want to do this. It wanted to stop, turn around, walk back home, and chomp down on one of those tasty glazed donuts. It seemed an every-second war with stopping. But I set my eyes on the ground right before me and attempted to distract my mind with thoughts of this coming summer. Reaching the one mile turnaround point, all the gravel roads here are exactly one mile apart, the arrows flinging at my will increased. It was there, that I came so close to putting the brakes on. If it wasn't for the car steaming down the road, causing me to shift my position, I probably would have stopped there. But I came to the intersection and began heading back east. The arrows continued to fly. My body did not like this at all. But I kept going. And going. And going. Until... I pulled to a halt back in my driveway, grabbed my water bottle from next to my car, and collapsed to the ground. I know it isn't good to lay down immediately after running, but it was all I knew to do. I had fought the battle. I saw my run through. And now I needed to rest. I breathed hard. My lungs wrenching from the drama I just put them through. I dumped half the water bottle down my neck and back. It felt good, like jumping into a cool spring after hiking 10 miles on a humid day. After sitting for a few minutes, listening to the flies wake up from their winter slumber and buzz loudly behind me, I stood up to feel the damage. Surprisingly, I could move. To finish the days activities, I decided to shoot hoops for about 40 minutes. With each bounce of the ball, more and more of that rust shed from my skin. I moved swifter. More intentional. It all felt very good. Very, very good.

I will continue.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Windows 10 (because 7 ate 9)!

I was reminded of this saying recently:
"When God closes a door, He opens a window."
This is from a movie and I can't, for the life of me, remember what movie it is.
*spoken in a whisper*
If you know, could you tell me?

Though I didn't let everyone know this, in addition to applying for Summit, I also applied at a camp in Texas. Camp Buckner. In the city of Burnett. It was an internship role, serving in whatever aspects of camp ministry needed. I was super excited about the possibility. God closed this door last week. I was a bit confused and maybe a little hurt. I didn't so much care whether it was Texas or Colorado, Buckner or Summit, Texas country or the Rockies. Rejection just hurts. Though it didn't hit me, the door, as it swung shut, simply caught me off guard. Caused me to jump back a little. My head cocked to the side and my mind filled with thoughts. I looked around, embarrassed, making sure nobody just saw that happen. What? They didn't want me? They didn't want ME? My silly, stupid human self for thinking this. Oh pride. It took a few hours that night for me to regain my dignity and puncture my pride balloon. KAABLOOM!
But here I sit. In a plump leather chair, with my black Vegas shirt on. Staring out the figurative window God has opened. Summit has offered me a job. Like the gust of wind which bursts through a just-opened window, I feel the fresh breeze flow through my skin, cooling my insides. Everything inside me has wanted to trust His workings. To believe He had that plan He told the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11 for my life too. I put this summer in His mighty hands. Told Him whatever He wanted, I would do. If neither job had worked out, I would still have to trust. So the window has been opened. I will be working in Colorado this summer. I will be standing in the shadow of the sky-scraping Rockies. Breathing in the fresh scent flowing down from the rivers and streams formed from months of snow. Walking beside high school and college students as they attempt to understand, truly, what they believe. Immersed in a community of twentysomethings seeking to glorify the Lord with their summers.
The summer will not be without its challenges. I have a lot to learn about worldview, about defending worldview. I will be leading a small group of guys each two-week period. Not since leaving Trinity will I have such intentional interaction with young people. This will be a flashlight into the dark basement I have stored many emotions from walking away from that ministry. I want God to continue breaking me, but I can handle only so much. I must stand in the faith that He knows what this breaking point be.
As of right now, I will be heading to Summit May 2nd thru July 9th.
Thanks to everyone who has been keeping up with my plans for the summer. I appreciate your friendship and your prayers. Whatever God gives, He gives.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The "How'd It Go"

I wanted to let everyone know how the interview went.
The phone rang around 5:02pm CT. I picked up and stole away to the furthest bedroom in the house from all the commotion - Victoria's bedroom.
The gentleman's voice rang out a "hello" and so it began.
We exchanged small talk about his wife growing up in Iowa and sharing various locations within Iowa we were both familiar with. From there, we moved into the questions. There were five main questions asked. Mostly normal, predictable questions for an interview. I attempted to answer the questions barrage with as much honesty and genuineness as I could. I wanted them to know what I was going to bring to their team. I did my best over the phone. It must be difficult for staffers to build a solid team without ever meeting the members.
Now, the wait begins. I was given a mid-March timetable to hear back. I am excited to find out. It is in God's faithful hands. No better place to be.
That's all I have for now. Thanks for reading on...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Big day tomorrow. I have an interview with Summit Ministries. A summer conference/camp for high school and college-aged students to learn about and discuss the Christian worldview. It is a phone interview. I don't like talking on the phone. If you think about it, please be praying around 5pm as I will be sitting down with a white, cordless phone and trying to be real with a complete stranger.
But this job means a lot to me. Not so much the place in particular, but the experience. The challenge. The adventure. The newness. Summit is based out of Boulder, CO. I want to run, skip, and stand in the presence of those mighty mountains.
Please just keep me in your thoughts tomorrow at 5pm Central time. I'll try to keep everyone updated on how things go.