Monthly Archives: June 2011
I found an unmarked envelope at my front door. Here is what I found inside.
In the year 2018, Bill Cosby has been diagnosed with dementia, but not before he discovers the secrets of time travel. Using his substantial Jell-O fortune, he teams up with Shaq and Sinbad to build a fully functional time machine. Hilarity ensues when the time machine goes haywire and the trio encounter numerous famous historical figures. In a last ditch effort to get back to the present, Cosby makes a deal with a wizard (played by the late Bea Arthur) who promises to send them back under one condition: Cosby must stay behind to tell jokes. Sinbad and Shaq are saved, and Cosby is known throughout history as the funniest man to ever live. In the final scene it is revealed that Cosby imagined the whole thing.
It is the year 2929, and Bill Cosby is the greatest judge to ever live. After a high-profile case between humanity and the alien, Krog the Balmarkian, Cosby is uneasy. Krog was accused of turning people into chocolate pudding and selling them on the alien black market. The day after the verdict, Krog strikes back by wiping out all of humanity. Well, almost. He intentionally leaves Cosby alive to wander the galaxy alone. Hilarity ensues when Cosby teams up with a robot detective (played by Dana Carvey) and an intergalactic garbage woman (played by Lindsay Lohan). The trio must solve the mystery of the lost supernova while tracking down Krog and bringing him to swift Cosby justice. Will they succeed??? Yes.
Cos I Said So
It is the year 25,000 B.C. Bill Cosby is the leader of the largest human tribe on the planet. One day, he watches as a flaming object falls from the sky. Turn outs, that object is a spaceship time machine from the year 3873. On board is a talking dog named Bit (voiced by Gilbert Gottfried) and an alien named Lance (played by Shaq). Cosby, not yet able to speak, welcomes the duo with various comedic gestures. Hilarity ensues as the trio interacts with the rest of the tribe. Lance eventually teaches Cosby how to speak, and this is the beginning of language.
I guess I’ll just toss these out…
What are we looking for in a good character?
One who has great power, but does not use it for selfish gain.
One who sacrifices much for the sake of others.
One who serves friends, and also rises above the threats and violence of enemies by serving them as well.
One who speaks the truth plainly, without biting sarcasm or fruitless profanity.
One who treats great and small alike, without self-serving favoritism.
One who lives in a way that proves the existence of our highest ideals, virtues, and values.
One who is relatable, and not too important or busy to pay attention to others.
One who gives without expecting to receive.
One who does not fall prey to the influence of popular opinion.
One who does the right thing when no one is looking.
When I watch a movie or read a book I can’t help but look for these qualities. They are the qualities that I’m drawn to because they are the qualities that I aspire to. It is no coincidence that these qualities are also found in the character of Jesus Christ: the one I am always searching for.
When I am talking to people, always am I considering the character of Jesus Christ. Am I exhibiting these qualities, or is the other person? What can I learn about Him through this? I am searching internally and externally. I am skimming all of creation for signs of my God.
When I watch a movie I search for Him. Do the characters I’m watching imitate any of His characteristics? If not, what is their value? If so, what can I learn about my God and myself? I watch hours upon hours of film watching for signs of life. The fiction has only as much value as it proclaims what is true of reality.
How can I help that my heart is hungry for such a good character? When you’ve tasted something that is better than everything else, don’t you want to taste it again and again? When you see something more attractive than anything else, can you stop yourself from looking at it? When you’ve heard something that rings true, how can you then block your ears to it?
I’m always searching for a good character.
It seems like every time we are voting for the president it comes down to the lesser of two evils. Sometimes we get excited about a candidate, like many did for Obama, but too often we are simply voting against the other guy with the wrong letter after his or her name. How can we fix this broken system? I have an idea.
Have you ever noticed that many candidates, after losing their shot at the presidency then become cool and more likeable? Perhaps the best example in our time is Bob Dole. I was young when he ran, but I still recall his transformation from an uptight borefest to the leading spokesperson for Viagra. Suddenly he was funny and transparent. We learned that he had a personality. Where was this guy during the campaign? Another example is Al Gore. During his run he appeared to be an upper-class stiff with zero charisma. But after he lost in that devastating election, he grew a beard and dropped off the radar. (Any man who suffers such a loss should grow a beard. And if you have a beard already, shave it. Just trust me) Then he came back with a vengeance as a leader in climate change awareness. Sure, he was still an upper-class stiff with zero charisma, but he had a cause, and it made him look a little cooler to stand for something.
What’s my point?
Candidates get better when they lose. So I think we should have two elections. The first is a fake, and whoever wins that is tossed out. Then we get the losers back together, you know once they’ve gotten cooler, and we have a real election. It’s an airtight plan. Let’s see it done.
My boss smokes. Once he asked me to buy him a pack of cigarettes. I was shocked that a little pack cost almost ten dollars. Even though I don’t smoke, and I think it’s pretty disgusting and deadly, I can’t believe how badly smokers are being discriminated against.
Cigarettes are taxed to hell. I’m sure there are many reasons for this. But really, it must boil down to the government deciding that they are bad for us. Since they decided that we shouldn’t be smoking anyway, it makes sense to penalize those who continue to do so. We hear the same type of thinking when it comes to soft drinks and fast food. If we shouldn’t be consuming something, the government should make it harder to purchase that item. But is that right? In a country where we pride ourselves on our freedom, is it right for the government to make those kinds of decisions? Or should adults have the freedom to choose what they consume? Am I opening the door to legalized drug use with these kinds of questions? Is anything not a slippery slope?
Another area of discrimination is in the banishment of smokers from public buildings. I can understand having places where smoking isn’t permitted, especially when non-smokers are present. But to completely abolish smoking from all public places is insane. We force them to go outside. And if that’s not embarrassing enough, they have to stand a certain distance from the building.
Don’t get me wrong. Smoking is extremely damaging to your health. But what if I wanted to smoke anyway? What if I said, “I’m an American, and I choose to smoke this cigarette!”? Shouldn’t I have the freedom to make that choice without being discriminated against?
I hate Bobby Flay. Does that seem harsh? I put him in the same category as Ashton Kutcher and John Mayer, which I call “People Who Make My Blood Boil”. The list is short, but still far too long. Excuse me while I collect myself.
Food Network wasn’t always what it is today. In the beginning, it was something far different, and far better. Just starting out, Food Network was like the new kid on the block. It was reserved, humble, and had all sorts of heart. Back then, Alton Brown was a hidden jewel, Iron Chef was in Japanese, and the most annoying show was Emeril Live. They had a lot to prove, and there was no room for arrogance.
My family used to turn to Food Network for helpful cooking tips and priceless entertainment. As I said, Alton Brown was a hidden jewel with his quirky show, Good Eats. His show was the perfect balance of fun and instruction. My father regularly turned to him as his food guru. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “Well, Alton Brown says to…” Many a Saturday night, my family and I watched the original Iron Chef. If you haven’t seen it, you’re really missing out. It is truly a spectacle. There are cooking “battles”, theme ingredients, and some of the worst voice overs since Godzilla vs. Mothra. We often found ourselves laughing to the point of tears. And I even had a favorite chef to root for, Chen Kenichi!
Food Network had a heart, and back then it felt like it belonged to us. These were our shows, and these people were our people. Even when Rachel Ray annoyed me with her chipper personality and asinine sayings like, “EVOO Extra virgin olive oil”, at least she was ours, and at least she was harmless and not an uber-celebrity like she is now. Heck, I could even look past Emeril’s “bams!” and the off-putting sight of grown men cheering at the word “garlic”. I understood that the network as a whole had their act together, and like one burnt potato chip in a large bag I wasn’t going to let a few people sour me against the rest.
That was then.
You know, I can pinpoint the exact moment in which the Food Network began to take a turn for the worse. A while back, the original Japanese Iron Chef joined up with them to make a special featuring Bobby Flay. They would have a “battle” and it would be a ratings super-storm. Well, they had their battle, and it looked like everything would be just fine. That is, until…
Start watching at 3:20
When Bobby Flay jumped up on that cutting board, he unapologetically offended the sacred tradition of his opponent. He “raised the roof” of his arrogance and ushered in a new era for the Food Network.
Food Network now has reality shows, like The Next Food Network Star, and Extreme Chef. These shows are stressful, and a far cry from the relaxed kitchen settings of what we are used to. They go for forced drama, and certainly lack the heart that made Food Network what it is. But even more offensive than these is the Americanized version of Iron Chef. It has replaced the classic show, and you can no longer find it in their current roster. It also lacks the heart and charm of the original since it has all of the intensity and none of the personality. I find it painful to watch. I can’t stand to see Bobby Flay as the star of this monstrosity. And speaking of Bobby Flay, I have to mention his show, Throwdown, which is pretty much him trying to beat people at what they do for a living. You make good cookies in your simple bakery? Well, I’m a jackass so I’m going to try to do what you do even better. I’m boiling.
Sure, Food Network still has plenty of fine programming. Unwrapped is a personal favorite, and I get a kick out of Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. But Alton Brown is known by everyone, and Rachel Ray has her own talk show. It’s now too popular for its own good, and like a band that you used to love before they made it big, has sold out in the name of fame and profit.
What is the value of introspection? Well, with regular (often instant) analysis of one’s own thoughts, desires, and motivations you can gain great insight into your own heart. This has tremendous value for yourself as it will solidify your character by providing your mind with an understanding of your heart. If you are out of touch with your own desires and reasons for doing what you do, you will experience a disconnect within yourself. And you will also be more susceptible to the influence of thoughts, emotions, and outside forces. Basically, it’s good to know about yourself so that you won’t fall prey to internal and external forces. But that’s only part of the value of introspection. The other value, and this is more important, is the enhanced ability to serve and understand other people. If you are at the mercy of your own desires and untamed will, how do you expect to love other people in any meaningful way?
I’m missing something extremely important, and I didn’t do this on purpose, or just for effect. Sometimes I do things for the effect, but this isn’t one of them. The ability to gain insight into your own heart is impossible without first accepting something outside of yourself. What am I talking about? If you believed that you were a god, and that all of your actions and thoughts were right and good, what would you see when you looked inside yourself? You would see a righteous heart with righteous motives. Even if you stole or lied, you would easily justify those actions to fit your perception of self-righteousness. If no one is informing you that you’re evil, or more importantly, you didn’t accept their judgement, wouldn’t your natural inclination be to believe in your own rightness? Argue with me, please. Tell me that people are actually good in their heart of hearts, and if left to their own devices would choose good. Tell me that, but be sure to inform me of what GOOD means. Is good simply not hurting people? Or is good something more than that? What is your reason for believing anything about what is good or evil? Is that belief based on your feelings, or is it a belief in something, or someone outside of yourself? I know people who believe that society shapes us at the core, but what informs society? Or there are others who blame genes and believe that anything and everything has to do with an evolutionary benefit to our species. We react this way or that way, or maintain monogamous relationships, or convince ourselves of a deity because in some way it improves the odds that our genes will be passed on to another generation of purposeless apes. Once again, this is a belief that shapes how we see our own hearts, and how we determine good and evil.
To go back to my original point, we must first accept something outside of ourselves before we can look inward and determine the shape of our hearts.
It really does matter what you believe. It matters for how you value life, both your own and those around you. I believe in the God of the bible made known through Jesus Christ. But why!!!??!! Because my heart cries out to Him for life. Life for myself and for other people. Accepting God allows me to look into my own heart and see two critical things. The first is my self-centered nature and propensity to choose things that do evil against myself and other people. The second is a sense of self- worth made possible by the acceptance in God’s undying love for me. By accepting Jesus Christ, the one who at once acknowledges and then forgives our evil, and informs us that we are loved enough for God to come to earth and die for us, I am able to see my heart as it truly is. This ability to acknowledge my sin without being crushed or blinded by it, allows me to accept what is true of myself. Accepting what is true of myself without being crushed by the hard truth frees me to love God, myself, and other people. Now I can act beyond my heart’s selfish nature by embracing the heart of God, which at once gives a value and meaning to life that doesn’t come from anywhere else.
If loving God wasn’t of such a significant benefit to myself and the people I care about, I wouldn’t be writing these things. And I wouldn’t be trying so hard to express to you what I know in my heart is true of this life.
Know what you believe. Look within yourself. But know that when you look, you have to look from some point outside of yourself.
From where you’re standing, what does your heart look like?
I recently had the pleasure of looking over a speech that my friend Steve had written for the workers at his summer camp. I thought it was very good, since it speaks truth and challenges us to re-evaluate our priorities. Though it was written for a summer camp, it has relevance for all of us. Please take the time to read this speech.
It’s a good read.
Tonight, I would like to introduce all of you the two metaphors at the center of the LDP curriculum this summer: “the jet plane” and the “Russian nesting doll.” Both of which, I believe, are hindrances to LIVING a life OUT LOUD.
The American poet, Langston Hughes, once asked:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Through those timeless words, Hughes pondered the dangerous consequences of deferring one’s deepest wants and desires. Human beings find themselves in a dilemma. No matter what part of the world you are from, we all live in a society of deferred gratification. For many, life is a jet plane ride that never lands. Let me explain.
You go to school for twelve years, then college, then graduate school, possibly seminary, or a PHD program, so that you can get a well paying job. Once you get a job, you buy your first house, and go to work each day so that you can pay those bills, pay for your 2.5 kids and your swimming pool. You invest in the stock market and call your broker every other day to make sure that your future securities are safe. You work so you can take vacations; you take vacations to get away from work. With any luck, you will work hard all of your life, retire, and play shuffleboard somewhere warm, hooked up to an oxygen tank. For all us Americans, congratulations, you have achieved the American dream. For our international staff, well done, you have lived the standard, modern life. And then, guess what? You die.
Because of this never-ending plane ride, for most of us, death seems like an insult. If you are riding on the jet plane, not getting safely to your destination is an outrage. You feel that you haven’t even lived your life.
This year’s theme is LIVE OUT LOUD. For me, this is the most important crux of our Christian lives. Living in the moment, the now, is the only way to live. This September is the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The men and women aboard the planes who got in contact with their families in the last moments of their lives did not inquire about their stock portfolios.
This system of deferred gratification is the result of a complex society, a Russian nesting doll, if you will. The ancient hunter-gatherers and earliest humans did not worry about tomorrow, they lived for the now. They satisfied their immediate needs – food, shelter, and fellowship. After thousands of years, after the rise and fall of great empires, as humans multiplied and multiplied, after the construction of a social order, a top down power structure, and the establishment of laws, living for the now became covered by layers of complex civilization. The human in his most basic form, as God had created, became lost. Humans forgot how to live in the moment, live in the now. They became like Adam and Eve after expulsion, left to suffer the wrath of a cold, dark world.
On this jet plane, instead of life being an end in itself, it has become, even to you, a means to an end. You are on that jet plane and you can’t get off. When you get out of high school, then you’ll begin to live. When you get out of college, then you’ll begin to live. As soon as you get tenure, then you’ll begin to live. As soon as you retire, then you’ll begin to live.
But simply dropping everything to live in the now is extremely difficult. One cannot simply walk away from civilization. Here we are “camping” and many of us have brought everything and the kitchen sink. You could never walk away from electricity, let alone modern plumbing. You cannot stop going to school or work and move into the wild. Have any of you read John Krakauer’s Into the Wild or seen the movie? It’s an account of Chris McCandless, a young American college student who gave away all his money, abandoned his family and future, and after being a sort of hobo for a few years, set out to live in the Alaskan wilderness. Before he left, he secured a copy of a guide to the edible plants of Alaska. He didn’t last one winter there.
We are strapped into the jet plane, the plane that is never going to land. How can you free yourself from the pain of the human condition? We try to find ways to sustain ourselves, to make the plane ride a little more bearable – drinking, pornography, video games, relationships, sports, FACEBOOK, Twitter, Charlie Sheen, How I Met Your Mother, gossip, camping, and cutting. But no matter how hard one tries, the plane ride is still intolerable. You have to just tough it out, defer your dreams, defer your now for tomorrow. That’s when the sun will come out. Tomorrow, when you get older, you can start living, and according to one little redhead’s delusion – you can bet your bottom dollar on that.
But tomorrow never comes. Only more work, more responsibility, more chores, more bills to pay, more things to do. Only one thing can free the individual from worldly tribulations and that is Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. In the gospel of John, with sounding boldness, Jesus declared, “I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.” Being a Christian does not mean that you have to walk away from the world, from civilization. You simply have to tune your personal radio dial to the eternal now, Jesus Christ. Think about the world beyond this world. Go about your daily commitments with your head in sync with the eternal now. Think about the big picture, the macrocosm of God’s axiom. Don’t think about the little picture, or the microcosm that is your life. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” Bring the macrocosm, the eternal now, or the Kingdom of God to Earth. Let life be the means to the end, not the end.
Henry David Thoreau once asserted, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their song still in them.” This summer, you get to break that desperation. Many of our campers’ planes are just taking off — they are in school for the other ten months of the year, fulfilling their duty, deferring the now for tomorrow.
This summer, you have the opportunity to peel away those nesting dolls, locate the center, and free the spirit within yearning to breathe free. This is how you land the jet plane, even for the briefest moments. You get to show every camper that passes through our gates a life changed by grace, the life in tune with the macrocosm of God’s eternal plan. You can help every camper locate their inherent, God-given, “barbaric yawp” inside them and show them that they too “are not a bit tamed,” but instead that they are able to “sound that barbaric yawp across the rooftops of the world.” You get to show them what it means to LIVE OUT LOUD, a life where the individual lives in the moment, does his dharma, his duty, all the while focusing his eye on the eternal now of God’s periphery. For me, this makes life precious and I want it to shine out of every orifice for the whole world to see.
Carpe Diem is Latin for “seize the day.” This summer, I challenge you to seize every moment of every day and show these campers why it can be such an important and freeing joy to LIVE OUT LOUD for Christ. Thank you.