Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Go See "Cinderella Man"

The AMC Entertainment group is doing something unusual. Last Friday, they began issuing a money-back guarantee to anyone who'd pay for a ticket to see the movie Cinderella Man.

For whatever set of reasons (none of them good), this movie just hasn't had many goers. Ironically, Michele and I went to see it the night it opened. We both enjoyed it.

As a film about boxing, it's not going to surpass Rocky. As a movie about the Great Depression, and that tells a true story, it does much the same thing that Seabiscuit does.

One of the best parts of this one: the supporting-actor performance by Paul Giamatti. Terrific! Something I didn't like: it runs nearly two-and-a-half hours. I think that it could easily have been ten minutes shorter and just as good otherwise.

Anyway, it seems that the people who head up AMC thought the same thing that Michele and I have been thinking for the last few weeks: "I can't believe this one hasn't caught on! It deserves to."

So, if you haven't gone (and it sounds like that's likely), go see Cinderella Man. My wife and I and AMC all think you'll like it.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Prayer to Start the Week

From "Christian Prayers" (1556):

O God, make perfect my love toward Thee
and to my Redeemer and Justifier;
give me a true and unfeigned love of all virtue and godliness;

Increase in me strength and victory against all temptations
and assaults of the flesh, the world, and the devil,
that according to Thy promise I be never further proved or
tempted than thou wilt give me strength to overcome;

Give me grace to keep a good conscience;
give me a pure heart and mind,
and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Backside Billboards

I want to announce one of my current pet peeves. Ready? It's those short shorts with tushy text, something written across the rear end.

I'm wondering, What is it that leads a girl to conclude, "Hmm. I think I'll buy and wear these skimpy shorts with ___________ on the backside"?

I also want to know, About this wear, where's Mom and Dad?

Now, in an attempt to preempt, I want to say that if the print on said pantaloons was smaller, I'd be even more embarrassed to bring up the subject. But, . . . .well, . . . what I mean is, Most examples are legible from otherwise safe distances.

Convinced that the subject deserves more coverage, . . . . I'm asking, What do you think?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Prayer to Start the Week

The weather in Connecticut has been perfect over the last few days. I've hardly been able to make myself come inside.

Michele and I went for a long bike ride last evening, stopping for supper along the way at Anna's in East Hartford. It's this terrific Greek diner where the staff comes right out of the movie about the big fat wedding. What a treat.

Dear God,

Thank you for the rolling seasons which, as they move, proclaim to all of us your constant care.

I'm really glad it's summer here. But I know that today's gladness is just a touch of the joy that all of your people will know in that place where your glory is all the light.

Please continue to call and draw me there. And cause me to help others to also hear that call.

For I ask in the name of Jesus, your Son, Amen.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Random Stuff

Okay, I know that Tuesday's post was more than a little on the depressing side. But that's what I was reading and thinking about at the time.

I know, . . . not everything that's read and thought about should be posted. But I decided to pass along those words from Fatherless America for the same reason that Blankenhorn wrote them in the first place: the idea of happy and successful shared parenting between two divorced people is more a fantasy of adults than it is a reality for children. We ought to say so. And with that, I'm done with the subject for a while.

Like a lot of other people, I'd have to say that music is a big part of who I am and what I love. Can you imagine life without it? I got to thinking the other day about recordings and songs that never fail to have their impact on me. Instead of growing old and dull, they just get better and deeper and more fun as we age together. Got some responses for the following categories? I'd love to hear them . . . .

Something that always makes me laugh: The "jungle interlude" of "Funk #49" by the James Gang. It's good to be a guy.

Something that always makes me cry: M. Janus, J. Schop, J. S. Bach, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" (that is, words AND music).

Sometimes I cry when I hear Gladys Knight sing, "Midnight Train to Georgia." . . . "Ooh, ya'll." When I don't cry, it's because I'm wondering about the word "pip."

Favorite Hymn: If I had to pick just one, it would be J. Zundel, Charles Wesley, "Love Divine."

Something that seems like it might have been cliche by now, but isn't: Harry Chapin, "Cat's in the Cradle"

Since that's all I'm doing on this one so far, feel free to add categories as well as your nominations.

Speaking of music, the more I listen to The Beatles, the more I'm impressed at how brilliant they were. I rarely miss the syndicated radio show, "Beatle Brunch," which in my neck of the woods airs on Sunday mornings, which makes it sort of the last step in my sermon preparation.

One more category, then.

Favorite Beatle song: Today, "Penny Lane."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Preparing for Fathers' Day

Like most preachers, this week I'm preparing to preach a Fathers' Day sermon. For me, that means poking around in Scripture, but also reading some recently-published stuff about fathers, what they're supposed to be doing, what they mean to children and, consequently, to society, etc.

Last Saturday I was at a library booksale and happened upon David Blankenhorn's Fatherless America. It was first published ten years ago and made a big splash at the time as I remembered. I'd never read it. And now here was a good paperback copy for a buck. So I bought it and started reading.

I didn't expect this or any book to speak so truly and directly to my own situation as a divorced father. But it does. And now I can't decide between the pain it provokes and the insight it provides.

The hardest part for me has been the section, "Can Visitors Be Fathers?" A few excerpts:

On how children think and feel about visits with their fathers:

"From the child's perspective, paternal love without paternal capacity is primarily a reminder of loss. This fact, more than any other, explains why postdivorce visits between father and child are so frequently painful, even traumatic. For the child, those visit-sized doses of father-love do not serve as a vaccine, as a protection from anguish. Quite the opposite. . . . For the child, this well-intentioned, ritualized wounding--this every-other Saturday reminder of what has died--frequently becomes the central emotional dynamic of father-child visitation after divorce."

"Visiting Father" as a contradiction:

"Visitation unfathers men. This phenomenon gradually strangles the father-child relationship. Indeed, the ultimate result of such not-like-a-father visiting is nothing less than the ending of fatherhood. Faced with the inherent falseness of their situation, many of these fathers . . . start feeling like strangers to their children, like imposters."

The necessity of sharing a residence:

"To be a good-enough father--to sustain the dailiness of effective parenting--a man needs to live with his children. When he does not, he literally becomes an outsider. . . As with the rupture of the parental alliance, the father's physical absensce from the home makes postdivorce fatherhood a radically different--and much more problematic--idea than postdivorce motherhood. For this reason, fatherhood after divorce is not even remotely parallel to motherhood after divorce."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

That's all for now. I love and am thankful for my father. I also value my own fatherhood, and I'm trying to make the most of it. But this is going to be my toughest Fathers' Day so far.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Prayer to Start the Week

Last Friday morning, I presided at Bob's funeral. I first met him a few years ago. It was a Sunday afternoon, and we had both brought our children to start a new week at Tidal River Christian Camp.

Bob and his family had known Michele and her daughters for many years. When Michele and I married a year and a half ago, I became one of Bob's neighbors.

Bob was the kind of guy you'd hear about in a Billy Joel song. Of Italian descent, he grew up on Long Island. His father told me that when Bob was ten and the family had just moved into a new house, he convinced his school mates that his dad was a top man in the mafia. He had a nickname for just about everyone, was a great conversationalist and a lot of fun to be around. In a short time, I became very fond of him. But I suspected that we'd never become close friends.

That's because for all the time I knew him, Bob was not in good health. What I've learned over the last few months is that I didn't know that half of it. From the way he acted and the things he said, you'd never know that much was wrong, until his appearance began to give away his condition.

As I prepared to say some words of comfort not far from his casket, it occurred to me how selfless and courageous this man had been. One of Paul Faulkner's words of advice is, "Act better than you feel." That was a constant thing for the last few years of Bob's life. In several ways, I found myself wanting to be more like him; and soon, before that time when I no longer have the chance to change.

A sage once said that, "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning" (Ecclesiastes 7:4). It's when we recall our common fate that we are best prepared to live. So what is it that you need to change or do differently today? Think about it, and pray.

Dear God,

Thank you for the people you place in our lives. Thank you for the lessons you teach us through them. Help me to follow others to the extent that they are like Christ.

Please bless all of Bob's family, especially his wife and daughters, his parents and closest friends. Give them help and healing. Please allow them to store up and treasure in their hearts all of the good that you gave to them through him.

For as long as I live, God, help me to magnify your name with my life.

In the name of Christ I pray, Amen.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Prayer to the Start the Week

Dear God,

Your glory is exalted far above the earth and sky! How true. And how wonderful it is that you have shown me your power and love, your grace and truth, through Jesus, your Son and my Savior.

Lord, I want to please you in all things. And I'm ashamed of those times when I don't. Trusting you, I ask you to forgive me.

I also want to ask that you help me to be fully in the world, but not of it. Cause me to be wise like a snake, but harmless like a dove. Help me not to judge, nor give something precious to pigs.

As I say that, I realize how far I have to go, and how much I must depend on you. But I believe that nothing's impossible with you. So be with me, Lord. And I'll keep looking forward to how the future's going to unfold in your hands.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Christian Life and Popular Culture

About two weeks ago, I came upon a site where a Christian blogger was being questioned by a fellow believer along the lines of,

"How can you say you're interested in developing Christian spirituality while you announce that your favorite music includes Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the like? Isn't that inconsistent?"

The ensuing discussion included a response or two from the blogger, mixed in with a few comments from others. I'd give a link to the source but have, alas, forgotten where I was at the time.

Anyway, the group managed to arrive at a consensus that went something like this: It's okay for a Christian to appreciate and enjoy many offerings of a somtimes-decadent popular culture, provided that the Christian's first and final devotion to the Lord doesn't get compromised. And, of course, this is something that only the individual can decide for himself or herself.

In his book All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians & Popular Culture, Ken Myers articulates much the same conclusion. Taking his cue from1 Corinthians 10 and Paul's instructions regarding meat that had been sacrificed to idols, Myers writes,

"My answer to the question about Christian involvement with popular culture is . . . You can enjoy [it] without compromising Biblical principles as long as you are not dominated by the sensibility of popular culture, as long as you are not captivated by its idols (p. 180).

Now, for many years I have managed to live with that view. But sometimes tenuously.

I don't know. Maybe I've sung, "Be careful little eyes what you see, . . . Be careful little ears what you hear, . . . " one too many times.

Maybe it's all of those quotations and applications of Philippians 4:8 that I've offered.

Maybe I'm thinking about some of the spiritual giants I know who wouldn't listen to music or sit through movies that hardly bother me in the midst of my engagement. (And, no, it's not that I'm different from them simply as the result of sophistication. Some of them are my superiors, or at least equals, in most every way. They are well beyond a "Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch" approach to godliness).

What I'm saying is, after many years of thinking about and living with these questions, I still find myself conflicted regarding my devotion to the God I love versus my attraction to forms of art and entertainment whose impulse or emphasis or appeal is often downright godless. My concerns include things like being a good father, stewardship of time, protection of my heart, and responsibility for my example.

I have a few more thoughts about all of this, but would like hear from others. What do you think?