Aug 27, 2008

STAND [Ministries]

Greetings from Colorado Springs,

This last year has marked a thorough transition; yet God has been faithful in His provision. I moved to Colorado last June and worked with my mission agency, OC (One Challenge International), in its summer programs. Beginning in the fall, I then worked for six months at Barnes & Noble. In March, I began my work as administrative assistant to the director of Training at OC’s US IMC (International Mobilization Center). Finally, in the role of administrative assistant I have just recently completed working once again, though in greater depth, as a program’s assistant and men’s college group counselor in OC’s summer programs.

After I began working at the IMC last March, I soon came to realize and understand, through a variety of influences, a significant piece of my life vocation. This piece is a ministry I call STAND. In brief, STAND [Ministries] exists to provide globally aware and artistically-minded vocational mentoring and networking, founded upon The Gospel of Jesus Christ and driven by the pursuit of Truth, to young people in the “transitional period”[1] of life in order that they may journey toward, enter, and influence the many occupational domains of the world.

There are then two primary facets that will comprise STAND [Ministries]:
MENTORING [Servant Leadership]
NETWORKING [Bridge-building]

MENTORING will be the centerpiece of the entire ministry, employing Steve Aldrich’s LIFEWORKXTM self-awareness and development program. LIFEWORKXTM essentially offers the safe environment and guidance that young people need in order to find spiritual healing, as well as an awareness and freedom to pursue their vocations. This is achieved through an in-depth journey of exploration regarding each individual’s “unique story, design, strengths, and destiny.”

NETWORKING is the collective outer-layering of the ministry, striving to build bridges between the various churches, ministries, businesses, and overall artistic community of the American culture. Not only does the leadership work to encourage and inspire young people toward their vocation, but seeks to show them some stepping stones toward the realization of their vocation.

This vocational ministry has come to the place of needing a practical beginning. Thus, this Fall I will begin implementing it in at least two small group settings connected to a local church student ministry. It is from this initial output that I wish for STAND [Ministries] to grow. It is already beginning to expand, as a close German friend will begin dialoguing with me from Germany about her own cultural adaptation of it in a small group connected to her church. The possibilities are potentially limitless of how far this type of ministry can expand.

Overall, I am currently transitioning once again as I work part-time as an administrative assistant at the OC IMC coupled with pursuing the development of STAND [Ministries] in the aforementioned domains. With such an exciting innovation, however, comes a great need: a team.

In seeking to build a team, there are various different types of members needed to complete the whole team. I am seeking not only people interested in joining the leadership or network teams, but also people who will provide consistent prayer support for the ministry (i.e. the prayer team) and those who feel God leading them to support the ministry through financial giving (i.e. the financial team). The estimate for needed monthly support is around $2000. Overall, I am looking for a community of sorts to be developed through STAND [Mnistries]. I am hoping to build a team with people who share a passion to see God transform and direct the lives of the next generation of young adults.

I ask that you prayerfully consider a way in which you can be part of the STAND team. I understand that you may have already felt God's tug on your heart to participate in other ministry endeavors, and this may limit your availability and resources. I am confident that God will choose and inspire a special group of people to partner with me. I eagerly anticipate what He will continue to do in this next season as He builds the STAND team.

NOTE: if you are interested in giving financially with a one-time gift or as a regular monthly donor, please see the other attached pdf files titled “giving-form” and “Online Donation Process” or visit OC’s website at www.oncechallenge.org.

I look forward to hearing from, and continuing this communication further with all of you. God bless you and keep you, may He make His face shine down upon you, and give you peace. AMEN.[2]

In Christ,
JOSHUA GRUBB

* * *

I have been greatly blessed to already have the support of a number of OC’s leadership, including one of its vice presidents. It is difficult moving forward with an innovative vision, especially at age 23, and it would have been much more difficult to launch without the support of such headship.

I have given my life to training the next generation of leaders in all arenas of ministry. . . . For the past 38 years as a pastor, I can easily identify those men and women who realize both the call of God and the hand of God on their lives. Joshua Grubb is one of those men. . . . Joshua is one of the most gifted young leaders that I have had the privilege of working with . . . who understands God’s call, the desire to steward all that has been entrusted to him.”
Steve Aldrich, Director of Personnel Development (Training)

“Joshua Grubb, through his ministry proposal called STAND, has the potential of providing encouragement and training for Christian college graduates who are exploring their next step in serving the Lord in his Kingdom worldwide. OC International is looking for innovative ways to reach out to the next generation of potential cross-cultural workers and we believe that Joshua has a strategic role to play in creating a bridge between our missions organization and Generation Y.”
Kyle Stiff, Senior Director of Personnel

[1] This phrase is used to describe the time when a young person, whether a graduate of high school (i.e. 18-19 years old) or a graduate of college/university (i.e. 22-26 years old), is seeking to discover and understand his or her unique God-given calling as it relates to the needs in the world.

[2] If you would like to receive further information about STAND (i.e. philosophy, vision, and strategy), please contact me at joshgrubb@oci.org, or via my work phone: (719) 592-9292x168. Cheers.

Aug 15, 2008

Peter Sellers

A Humble Tribute . . .

English actor Peter Sellers is credited by some as the greatest comedian of all time, and I have, amidst viewing his film works beyond The Pink Panther series (which, by no means, is the extent of his comedic genius, as perhaps better portrayed in films such as "Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" and "Lolita") come to the point of basically agreeing.

It's sad, after reading a bit of his biography, how nearly depressed he often was outside of his work. It has been often said that in playing so many brilliantly diverse roles he would feel he didn't really know his true self (exemplified by a few almost humorous quotes, from imdb.com, below:).

"If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am."

"There used to be a me behind the mask, but I had it surgically removed."

"To see me as a person on screen would be one of the dullest experiences you could ever wish to experience."

"I'm a classic example of all humorists - only funny when I'm working."

Yet despite such sadness, he surely has inspired pure laughter and awe-filled wonder at his dynamic cinematic outputs throughout his film career. His humor, from my reckoning, is very subtle and even dry, and that's part of the greatness behind his creativity (the quote below demonstrates an element of this:).

"You only know what happiness is once you're married. But then it's too late."

Finally, some small snapshots of his career (though, surely, the pics only capture 1% of his actual uniqueness--99% of it is his outstanding acting, for which he was nominated for 3 Academy Awards). He has been an inspiration for countless comedic actors ever since . . .


Perhaps my favorite Seller's role: Ex-Nazi scientist wheelchair-ridden (with a black-gloved hand and arm expressing a life of their own) Dr. Strangelove.


Another brilliant role: US Pres. Merkin Muffley in the film, "Dr. Strangelove."


Just another Seller's moment perhaps . . .


The level-headed Group Cpt. Lionel Mandrake completing the trio played in the film "Dr. Strangelove . . ."


His most famous role, naturally, as Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau (note: the character really became immortal following the first Pink Panther, where he added the thick and outrageous French accent).


From the film "Being There", which I will be seeing in the near future, where he plays a "simple gardener" named Chance.


Clare Quilty, from "Lolita", where his character actually portrays 3 different people (i.e. a rather drunk self, a rather bored and confidently poised self, a rambling police officer, and finally a German psychologist).

Thank you, Peter Sellers.

May 23, 2008

A Bard of the Order of Fili

The bard was “a tribal poet-singer skilled in composing and reciting verses on heroes and their deeds.” [1] With further study, particularly regarding various encyclopedias’ discourses on Irish bard tradition, one discovers that there were perhaps different classes of such poets. The class of filid (old Irish singular: “fili”), a term under some scrutiny as to its true meaning, is commonly applied to those poets, sometimes viewed as philosophers or counselors, generally associated with the early Christian Church in Ireland. A bard, especially exemplified by Stephen Lawhead’s character depiction of Myrddin Emrys (i.e. Merlin), is essentially an artistic leader, and it is with such an idea that I closely identify.

I am an artist, and I would generally expand this concept by classifying myself as one who follows the approach of Romanticism. Romanticism is “an artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 18th century and characterized by a heightened interest in nature, emphasis on the individual's expression of emotion and imagination, departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism, and rebellion against established social rules and conventions.” [2]

I hope to not merely express myself, or even to stand out from society to some degree, as many artists seem to do, but rather to be a servant leader of society as I pursue Truth through the artistic lens. My writing has been heavily inspired by the fictional works of J.R.R. Tolkien, one of the most renowned Romantic-styled high fantasy writers; but I have also been significantly influenced by the works of Chaim Potok, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Leo Tolstoy in their insightful and brilliant exploration of the human psyche and condition. These writers have offered me, however great or small, some deeper understanding of how to write and significantly reach the world. It is about sacrifice, and not self-indulgence. I, therefore, write not only to entertain with creative storytelling, but to also deeply explore the various facets of humanity and the world, to offer thoughts and questions to recipients, and hopefully be an open vessel through which they can journey toward Truth. I do not believe that people, aside from Jesus Christ, will live to see the journey to its end (i.e. find all the answers); but I do have faith that the journey will be fruitful and full of rich life and memory. This is my purpose as an artist, whether with my writing, my drawing, my photography, or my music—to offer some aspects of my journey toward Truth, with all its joy and pain along the way, to those gracious enough to receive my work.

Though I am ever critical of my own work, plagued by a tendency toward perfectionism; I am drawn to my art for its humble return to nature and to the heart of people. All the art forms I pursue are essentially united together, like threads of a intricate tapestry. Being out in nature, and attempting to capture the wondrous beauty of light, color, and space with a camera, as well as being amidst the diversity of humanity, inspires me to attempt to recreate such revelations with the written word if possible. I embrace the challenges such tasks require. My fictional writing and drawing complement each other in that often one will inspire the other (i.e. a character or location drawing will find its way into the story, or the opposite). My music serves as an expansion of my poetic inclination, yet attempts to exceed the written word by stirring certain heart chords that only music can hope to reach. I am drawn to my art because it strives to be free from the prison of cliché, especially religious, and to find new forms of expressing timeless Truth. This is part of my service to humanity—to draw recipients away from life’s often stressful distractions back to the True meaning of life. I work to lead people to a community of expression, to vocation, and to Love that are exemplified by the life of Jesus in The Gospel. That is my hope and the purpose for which I strive. To God be the glory. AMEN.

[1] Merriam-Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition.
[2] American Heritage Dictionary.

May 21, 2008

LOVE = UNITY

Romans 14 (NIV; emphasis added)
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters (1). . . . for God accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand (3b-4). . . . For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the LORD; and if we die, we die to the LORD. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the LORD. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the LORD of both the dead and the living (7-9). . . . It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the LORD Jesus, I am fully convinced that [nothing (see translation note)] is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. LET US THEREFORE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO DO WHAT LEADS TO PEACE AND TO MUTUAL EDIFICATION (11-19). . . . So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin (22-23).

Romans 15 (NIV; emphasis added)
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up (1-2). . . . For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ. ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER, THEN, AS CHRIST ACCEPTED YOU, IN ORDER TO BRING PRAISE TO GOD (4-7).”

What is Paul really writing about in this passage?

Now, I must submit that I am no Biblical scholar; I am an artist and historian. I have, however, read the entire Scriptures a number of times (I do not mean to boast, but simply to demonstrate some credibility), and heard from those who teach about them, thus overall seeking to be ever learning toward an understanding of Truth. In other words, it is by faith, and by discernment through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that I continue to seek True understanding of the Gospel, and I believe that is most Believers’ general approach or limitation.

I writing not to break down every idea to its smallest point, but rather to try and present the fundamental principle Paul is hoping to instill in his readers in Rome.

Therefore, I believe that Paul’s purpose in the aforementioned passage is predominantly to respond internal division (“disputable matters”) already arising amidst the growing Christian [and Judeo-Christian] Church. How quickly a body unified in one Truth and hope (the Gospel, or “Good News”, of Jesus Christ) loses sight of what is really important, what originally drew it together. Church division is no new reality, a point demonstrating the nature of the Spiritual War in which we all as Believers fight (for the Enemy’s primary purpose is to divide that which Christ has united). Amidst that spiritual war, the Enemy arguably most often stirs up the root of human nature (i.e. the world/sin) that is self-absorbed pride.

Are not pride (in the negative sense: an inability or unwillingness to “seek first to understand and then to be understood”—Stephen Covey) and selfishness (concerned only with one’s own agenda, such as power status and influence) the roots of Church division? Now, I am referring to those “Christian traditions” that do, at their core, hold to the undisputable claims of the Gospel (i.e. Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and all that pertains to those signs—e.g. broadly, the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant church divisions). How has the Enemy successfully divided the Church so thoroughly, to the point that the term “Christian” is even almost useless, without further clarification or definition, and where historically “Christians” have committed atrocities, whether physically, socially, or emotionally (an all-expansive and complex history)? Much of early history was steeped in attempts at combining politics and religion (another discussion, however very much connected in various contexts); however, currently, it seems that social or emotional division is predominant.

Even while present divisions are rooted in political history, that to me is not enough to justify the continually growing disunity experienced in the Western Church (the global Church is a much larger complex religious, historical, and spiritually-influenced discussion).

I believe there are very few individuals who have objectively studied, understood, and explained the cause of such division through careful study of each major Christian worldview (as mentioned above). In all honesty, few have the time, resources, or desire to undertake such an expansive journey. So what can we do instead, in the face of such diversities of the Church?

I believe the answer is generally rather simple, and that Paul provides it, and I believe it was really Christ speaking through him.

LOVE: which offers grace, peace, and hope for those who choose to give and accept it. It’s about returning to the core of Christian orthodoxy, remembering what is truly important in this world: God the Father’s people and the community He desires for them in light of His Son and the work of the Holy Spirit. There is so much in the Bible that is unclear, subject to various interpretations, personal preferences, etc. Are they worth killing and dying physically, socially, and emotionally for? I do not think so, and I do not think the Apostles (including Paul) or Christ would have us die for the “grey areas” (i.e. “disputable matters”) either.

Below are some examples of divisive and seemingly judgment-spurning “grey areas” that I have witnessed or observed personally.

“Disputable Matters”
Orthodoxy (e.g. Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant (with its myriad of sub-divisions); Lutheran, etc.)
“Trans-bloc Grouping” (e.g. Evangelical vs. Charismatic—Pentecostal)
Liturgy (e.g. praise and worship, use of the Spiritual Gifts, baptism, etc.)
Doctrines/Dogmas (e.g. free will/predestination, Heaven & Hell, Communion, etc.)
Biblical Translations (i.e., which one is the “best”—e.g. NIV, TNIV, KJV, NKJV, ESV, NESV, NLT, The Message, etc.)

[NOTE: I may be inaccurately categorizing some of these topics, but hopefully the general idea is clear]

Is not God glorified by all of these at times, and at different places to different people? Naturally, each “category” has positive aspects and negative; because humanity is imperfect, our interpretations are imperfect (i.e. not always Christ-like by action and heart, giving God true glory—another discussion).

It’s about remembering that these “grey areas” are grey, that the world is superficially not black and white (i.e. fundamentally it is: one follows Christ fully or does not), however, and there the path grows cloudy over time. There are many issues in life that I am unsure about, though I do have a personal views about. But I try to live with an open heart and mind to hearing others’ personal views on such subjects as well. Such personal views have been established because of a number of factors (i.e. family, experience, discernment). Paul writes on this above, and makes everything a bit more complicated by not negating the fact that Christians often come to different Spirit-led conclusions regarding these “grey areas”. He seems to allude to the nature that the Spirit can be with either “party” (e.g. Calvinists and Armenians) in its influence.

This does not mean we are necessarily to agree with everyone—that differences are wrong. The problem arises when disagreements are demonstrated without humility and respect to the other “party”—when love is caste aside for prideful selfishness, thus resulting in broken community. Again, it is not about post-modernism, where “to each his own” is used as an escape from healthy discussion and debate; there must be, however, love in the process (in the above passage, Paul writes a lack of judgment). We are being of the world, and succumbing to the lies of Satan, when we overtly distance ourselves from those who hold different “surface” views from ourselves. We are not going to be friends with everyone, but we are to love them. People are different, but those differences must not divide us from being united in the ultimate Truth of Christ.

Again, we must try to see past the surface of such “disputable” differences, and to rather see the true heart (or soul, if you will) of each individual. It is human nature to stop at the surface of things, to place them in personally developed boxes, and to fail to really see the person how God see him or her, but through Christ we have been made new and can no longer act (or justify) as though we live in that state. We are to pursue Christ-likeness, writes Oswald Chambers, and I have not seen enough of that in the writings, words, and actions of the various Church sub-groups and members. I believe that before the Church can really make an offensive attack alongside the Triune God against the Enemy, we must become better allied in heart.

May 14, 2008

"Love is not against the law."

Derek Webb is an artist whom I greatly respect and admire. Not only does his “raw” music (i.e. his unique voice, direct acoustic guitar or banjo playing, and conventional tap piano playing) resonate with my life and tastes, but his lyrics are honest and forthright, speaking out against Christian clichés and passivity (i.e. marginalization or luk-warmness).

As a side note for those of you less familiar with Derek Webb, he has more or less been with Caedmon’s Call (another favorite artist) since the band’s creation, returning to the band after an absence in their recent Overdressed album. He has recently recorded with his wife and fellow musician Sandra McCracken, some of whose writing has also been used by Caedmon’s Call, which as an EP is also fantastic. Most of his work, lately, has been in the form of “solo” albums (some main titles being She Must and Shall Go Free, I See Things Upside Down, Mockingbird, and recently The Ringing Bell).

It’s upon Webb’s insightful lyrics that I wish to reflect today. I will quote some of his songs, or part of songs, particularly from Mockingbird (the album that I’m most familiar with at this point, though all his albums that I’ve heard contain such meaningful and challenging writing), and then perhaps add a small thought or reflection between them. Overall, however, my desire is that his lyrics stand alone and can speak for themselves. They should cause one, whether you agree with them or not, to pause and reflect. . . .

I quoted part of the following quote to my high small group last night during a discussion on the film “Hotel Rwanda,” and generally the Rwandan genocide of 1994. I asked the students: What should we come away with from such a film? What can or should we do? I have no real solutions, but I do have responses to certain answers that others may give to these questions (a topic for another time and place). Regarding war and violence, however, especially in light of Jesus Christ, I believe Webb has some chilling statements against the common Christian American worldview . . .

“How can I kill the ones I’m supposed to love? My enemies are men like me. I will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well. My enemies are men like me. Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication. It’s like telling someone murder is wrong, and then showing them by way of execution . . . When justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war, the ones that always pay are the poorest of the poor . . . ‘Non-violence is the crucial moral and political question of our time—the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression’ (a recording of Martin Luther King Jr.).”
(Mockingbird, “My Enemies are Men like Me”)

“Poverty is so hard to see when it’s only on your TV and twenty miles across town. When we’re all living so good, that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood where he’s hungry and not feeling so good from going through our trash. He says, ‘more than just your cash and coin I want your time I want your voice; I want the things you just can’t give me.’ So what must we do, here in the West we want to follow you. We speak the language and we keep all the rules, even a few we made up. ‘Come on and follow me, but sell your house, sell your SUV, sell your stocks, sell your security and give it to the poor.’ What is this, he what’s the deal? I don’t sleep around and I don’t steal. ‘I want the things you just can’t give me.’”
(Mockingbird, “Rich Young Ruler”)

Further, regarding our perspectives on national politics, and foreign diplomacy, as Christians (I’ve heard it said that various Christians, whether individuals or groups, have responded negatively to Webb’s artistry—surely not everyone will agree, but I wonder if their response is in part due to the fact that they fit perfectly into what he’s saying) . . .

There are two great lies that I’ve heard: the day you eat of the fruit of that tree you will not surely die, and that Jesus Christ was a white middle-class republican, and if you want to be saved you have to learn to be like Him. My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country or a man. My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood, but to a King and a Kingdom. But nothing unifies like a common enemy, but we have one sure as Hell—but he may be living in your house, he may be raising up your kids, he may be sleeping with your wife; oh no, he may not look like you think.”
(Mockingbird, “A King and a Kingdom”)

Ultimately, when thinking of our political views, etc. we should always remember The Gospel. What is the root of the Gospel, of Christ? Did not Jesus say that the greatest commandment is love? It is a simple concept on paper, naturally more difficult in practice, but is it truly so hard to apply to all domains of our lives?

Politics or love can make you blind or make you see, make you a slave or make you free, but only one does it all. And it’s giving up your life for the ones you hate the most; it’s giving them your gown when they’ve taken your clothes. . . . Love is not against the law. . . . Are we defending life when we just pick and choose lives acceptable to lose and which ones to defend? ‘Cause you cannot choose your friends, but you choose your enemies—and what if they were one, one and the same? Could you find a way to love them both the same to give them your name? Love is not against the law.”
(Mockingbird, “Love is Not Against the Law”)

This fundamental Truth is where I have seen and heard account of the Church falling short time and time again. We must return to the source of the Gospel, which is Christ, who is Love. Who do we ultimately turn to in the face of difficulties, in our own daily lives or regarding the problems of this world? Too often people seem to expect the governments to fix all their “surface” problems.

We’ll never have a savior on Capital Hill”
(The Ringing Bell, “A Savior on Capital Hill”)

Governments have a purpose and a responsibility, surely, and God is in some way over them (another topic), but perhaps we should shift our expectations, or more appropriately shift our hope (after all, God never promised an easy life; read the words of Jesus recorded by the Apostle John) to the LORD. Again, perhaps it can be simplified (though, again, is it so simple?) down to the Truth of Love (especially, in this case, the agape expression). “Love is not against the law” . . .

The Theology of "Extraterrestrialism"

A friend referred me to this simple quote from Relevant Magazine, which, in turn, comes from a brief account from the news. 

"A Vatican astronomer has stated in an interview that belief in aliens does not contradict belief in God. It is still a sin, however, for them to lay eggs in your stomach and burst out through your chest ..."

http://www.relevantmagazine.com
5/13/08 01:30


This quote makes me laugh all the more being that one of my favorite science fiction films is Ridley Scott's Alien (1979).

Apr 30, 2008

A Response to “Anti-Eldredgeanism"

An initial response to Want a Better Lens? Let's complexify: John Eldredge pt.2. I do not wish to really critique my good friend Brett’s writing, I always appreciate his thoughts and sincere pursuit of truth—an example to us all. I simply wish to add some of my own thoughts to the conversation, which have been around for a while at least conceptually, and of which Brett’s thoughts have revived in part. I am not really a staunch supporter of John Eldredge, but I have found his work challenging and uplifting at the various times I have read them. My primary intent, then, is to respond to the strong controversy surrounding works like Wild at Heart that both I and Brett have come across. There will always be people who disagree, but these critiques stand out because they are generally so adamantly, almost blindly, opposed to Eldredge’s work.

As mentioned, I have come across a fair share of “anti-Eldredgeans” (good term, Brett), and unfortunately, I think they too commonly stop at the surface metaphors of Eldredge’s writings. I wish to note that I've also read Waking the Dead and Captivating, and I believe they supplement his previous writings like Wild at Heart, perhaps even offering a more complete idea (or maturation of ideas).

In response to a female commentator’s words, I would recommend that she read Captivating if she hasn’t, because Wild at Heart is written for men, about their hearts, not women's. Captivating was written by John and his wife Stasi about the woman's heart, which is uniquely different, yet complementary of a man's. The design of both a man and woman united (i.e. marriage), the Eldredge’s propose, are intended to complete the image of God (see also Mike Mason’s The Mystery of Marriage for a more theological perspective on men and women and this purposeful relationship; or for a from a more Christian sociological supplementary work on men and women, see Shaunti Feldhahn’s For Women Only and Shaunti & Jeff Feldhahn’s For Men Only).

It is always important for a reader to try to understand the real purpose or theme of a writer's work (this I learned from being a student of history), especially early on in the particularl writing. The Eldredge's purpose seems to focus on what aspects of God are reflected in both man and woman individually and united (each demonstrating a bit of who God is since He created them both in His image). I'm not sure if their writing is so much about what we should do, but how we need to begin understanding ourselves as men and women of God. It’s about beginning to find fulfillment in how God made us—in the case of Wild at Heart, it can be argued that God designed us to in fact have adventurous spirits, to be warriors, and to fight for others (these all can take different forms). Eden is important for the Eldredge's work because it is there that man and woman were created in God's image. The point of Eldredge, particularly in Wild at Heart is that American men (not necessarily the world, i.e. universal) have lost some of God's essential characteristics (a warrior or leader at heart, steadfast in Truth, standing for those He loves, and rescuing them when they have fallen or wandered away). Men have lost this, Eldredge writes, through a variety of means such as social or familial emasculation.

Christ, on the other hand, offers us another unique aspect of God (e.g. peacemaker, servant leader, relationship, etc.), and the purpose for which we are to strive (Christ-likeness or oneness with God—see Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest). Are we not to worship God as the whole, as the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and not just focus on one aspect of who He is (i.e. just the Son—this may sound heretical, but hopefully you understand what I’m trying to point out)?

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19b).

The New Testament (Christ’s Gospel) reaffirms the Old Testament—it completes it rather than necessarily replacing it. Some things are removed that were originally necessary in the OT (e.g. animal sacrifice), but the fundamental Truth is still exemplified by Jesus (i.e. the Law and the Prophets).

Again, perhaps the Eldredge’s are simply wishing to return our gaze to God the Father, especially in light of the Old Testament. I do not believe their writings are meant to be theology or a “stand-alone message”. I believe that instead in Wild at Heart, Eldredge writes in response to how people have almost emasculated the image of Christ, thus pressing that conception upon men (naturally, the other extreme occurs outside the Church, with interesting ideas of masculinity associated with sex, physical strength, etc.—also false). Does not Christ exemplify his Father as well as being a peacemaker in the examples of his righteous anger in the Temple, his stance against the Pharisees, even against Peter at times, and not to mention his confrontation of Paul on the road to Damascus?

In the case of Wild at Heart, Eldredge seems to wish our focus to be on the discussion of the heart of men (and the heart of women in Captivating). It’s a book about healing from past wounding from fathers, mothers, relationships, etc. I do think Eldredge is a bit overly "emotional" in his writing (i.e. trying to stir our emotions with inspiring words and images, though if that’s the case is his point not somewhat demonstrated?), but that does not negate some of the truths he has caught from the Gospel. No one is perfect but Christ alone, and like Brett has begun to do, all words and thoughts of authors, professors, preachers, peers, etc. need to be approached as best as possible through the eyes of Christ’s Gospel.

Looking at our culture, men do seem commonly passive and generally weak of heart, thus perhaps stirring women to rise up in response to that social or familial void. Men have not demonstrated adequately God calling toward leadership in life (however small the domain, i.e. even if it just pertains to family). It’s not that there isn't a place for women in leadership, there surely is. Men united with women in the effort of acting as a leadership team is perhaps a primary desire of God for marriage and for a variety of roles. Think of the idea of a pastor and his wife—the two are essential for the leadership of a church, one cannot succeed without the other—they both have their unique gifts and roles that complete the leadership. This is how God designed us, to need not only Him but community and people. This is discussed by Paul on many occasions.

I wonder, then, whether those who resist the ideas of Eldredge are not in fact doing so because they in fact see truth in them, that their own lives are exemplifying the problems American culture has brought about? Is not resentment often rooted in jealously, in seeing in others what one wishes he or she in fact had (often character traits or qualities)?

In response to Brett; are the Eldredge’s really approaching their writings from the lens of positivism? It would seem the opposite—a focus (perhaps a bit too strong at times) on experience and feeling God in those experiences. Isn’t that about the work of the Spirit stirring in each of us (our hearts, souls, and minds) a passion for the LORD? In their works, the Eldredge’s seem to be focusing primarily on the heart aspect, thus leaving the soul and mind aspects to other writers (we have plenty of them). I have only scratched the surface here; I’m trying to bring out some of the main ideas.

Overall, Eldredge’s organization is called “Ransomed Heart Ministries”, and with books like The Sacred Romance (about our relationship with God), Wild at Heart (man’s being in the image of God), Captivating (woman’s being in the image of God), and Waking the Dead (people’s God-given callings based on the passions He has instilled upon their hearts), etc. I do not think the Eldredge’s would want people (and I’m sure some do) to take their writings alone as Truth, but rather as a small piece of the greater whole. There is much to learn from their books, and to be encouraged by. Regarding the "anti-Eldredgeans" I have met, none have given me adequate proof that they have even really read the book with careful thought and reflection. Our culture is too often inclined to stop at the surface, the metaphors, therefore failing to discover what is beneath and apply those discoveries to the greater context—we have become a fast-paced “now” culture, and thus such a pursuit is said to take too much time and effort.

Let us as Believers “seek first to understand then to be understood” (Stephen Covey, Seven Healthy Habits for Daily Living), and really try to understand who, in this case, the writers are, what some of their background is, and thus why they are writing (i.e. their purpose and intent). Thus, after we have begun to understand their works in their entirety, can we respectfully and more thoroughly point out their flaws, which every work contains (e.g. this blog I have written).

Apr 24, 2008

“All that is gold does not glitter . . .”—J.R.R. Tolkien

Below is personal account from the blog of Seth Barnes about a meeting with Dr. Peter Lord. Again, it offers some significant thoughts that should lead one to reflect on his or her perspective and values.

“We asked Dr. Lord what he thought about the church in America, and he said, "It's better than nothing." We all laughed, our spirits tweaked about what he meant. He told us that he thought it could be a lot better and that he wouldn't recommend having a church of more than twelve people. Once you get larger than that, the weak people don't speak up, and church, he said, was particularly for the weak.

“If he could have done it over again, he wouldn't have preached so much. "No one remembers what you say, anyway," he told us with a sigh. He lamented wasting so many words and so much time instead of choosing to disciple like Jesus did by taking a few key players aside and building into their lives. Despite the fact the he is long since retired, he still meets regularly with a handful of people each week and helps them with the fundamentals of Christian discipleship. It seems that towards the end of his life, Dr. Lord has attained a wonderful focus.

“Dr. Lord told us the story of driving past a billboard advertisement for a $60 million lottery jackpot. He sincerely prayed to God, "Lord, give me the numbers, and I'll give every penny to missions." He admitted that he really believed God would give him the numbers. He received this answer from the Lord:"If I thought gold could change the world, I would have sent gold instead of my Son."

“Our hearts leaped at this statement; I was immediately convicted. Wow, I thought. How many of us in ministry grieve the fact that if we only had more funding that we'd quite naturally have more opportunities? Dr. Lord confirmed a truth that I'd been learning for a few years now: God's principle means for accomplishing his will on earth is man. There is no Plan B. We are the answer. It's not an issue of money, but of willingness.”

"The best leader in the world is probably relatively obscure" - Patrick Lencioni

Below is an article by leadership author Patrick Lencioni posted by Mark Oestreicher, a member of "Youth Specialties" and writer of a blog called "ysmarko." I think it makes some poignant statements that should cause one to pause and think, especially in our culture where success does seem to be primarily promoted and/or recognized based on money and numbers.

"I have been asked on a number of occasions, by journalists and curious clients, whom I believe to be the greatest leader in the America. And I usually respond with my own question. "Are you asking for the name of a famous leader?" This usually leads to a fair amount of confusion, until I explain that the best leader in the world is probably relatively obscure.

"You see, I believe that the best leader out there is probably running a small or medium-sized company in a small or medium-sized town. Or maybe they're running an elementary school or a church. Moreover, that leader's obscurity is not a function of mediocrity, but rather a disdain for unnecessary attention and adulation. He or she would certainly prefer to have a stable home life, motivated employees, and happy customers—in that order—over public recognition.

"A skeptic might well respond, "But if this person really were the greatest leader, wouldn't his or her company eventually grow in size and stature, and become known for being great?" And the answer to that fine question would be, "Not necessarily."

"A great company should achieve its potential and grow to the size and scale that suits its founders' and owners' and employees' desires, not to mention the potential of its market. It may very well wildly exceed customer expectations and earn a healthy profit by doing so, but not necessarily grow for the sake of growing.

"Unfortunately, we live in a world where bigger is often equated with better and where fame and infamy are all too often considered to be one and the same. And so we mistakenly come to believe that if we haven't seen a person's picture on the cover of BusinessWeek or in a dot-matrixed image in The Wall Street Journal, then they can't possibly be the best.

"Consider for a moment those high profile leaders we do read about in the newspaper and see on television. Most, but not all, of them share an overwhelming desire and need for attention. You'll find them in all kinds of industries, but most prevalently in politics, media, and big business. Look hard enough at them, and there is a decent chance you'll discover people who have long aspired to be known as great leaders. These are the same people who also value public recognition over real impact. And based on my experience, you might also find that they'll be more highly regarded by strangers and mere acquaintances than by the people who work and live with them most closely.

"The truth is, our greatest leaders usually don't aspire to positions of great fame or public awareness. They choose instead to lead in places where they can make a tangible, meaningful difference in the lives of the people they are called to serve. The challenges and consequences of their decisions are no less difficult or important than those of higher profile leaders, even if they don't quite qualify for a cover story in TIME Magazine."

“Commerce is taking over art.”--Ridley Scott

(originally written 23 April, 2008)

I was perusing through imdb.com, specifically some trivia on the film director who I respect the most as an artist: Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, and Kingdom of Heaven are three of my top ten favorite films, Alien is close, I really like Matchstick Men, and I can see the brilliance in some of his other works that I simply enjoy less because of personal taste, such as Legend, Thelma & Louise, Blade Runner, and A Good Year—I am sad to say that I still have not seen American Gangster, which I understand is also powerful).

What specifically caught my attention are some thoughts he is quoted to have said:

"I'm not criticizing Hollywood because I work there, I partly live there. But I'm saying this is the way it is, commerce is taking over art. Commerce has become the most important thing in the film industry. Hollywood is an industry, it's not an art form, therefore they have to address the bottom line."

"I think movies are getting dumber, actually. Where it used to be 50/50, now it's 3% good, 97% stupid."

"We're suffering from saturation, overkill. The marketplace is flooded by demand, and there are too many films, so everything gets watered down. Demand is the boss and everything bends to that will. Bigger and not necessarily better shows seem to be the order of the day."
So overall, not that Scott is the one I look to for artistic truth—though I do greatly respect his work (I don't use the adjective "brilliance" lightly), I feel his words reveal some important insights into the current Western, namely American, artistic culture that is in part perceived through the "film industry."

I can attest to feeling numbed by all the poor work out there masquerading as art, especially in the film genre—it seems rare that a true "gem" is created. I actually find myself looking back more and more lately for the "masterpieces" or renowned "classics" of our western film history (and in some cases Eastern in the case of the arguably greatest Japanese film of all time, Shichinin no samurai "Seven Samurai"). When I find a film that I think holds some level of creative and unique brilliance, I desire to own it somewhat like the parable of the farmer who sells his possessions to purchase the field containing a rare pearl. In other words, I will not only purchase the film, but wish for others to share with me the qualities that comprise it and the discussion that it may promote.

So, ultimately, I suppose I encourage anyone to not settle for just any film—I tell this to my high school film studies group—and while there is a time and place for simply "entertaining" films (e.g. personal favorites are the Ocean's Eleven, Jason Bourne, and Pirates of the Caribbean trilogies), we must be cautious in labeling one as "great". The amount of money it makes is not necessarily an indication of its worth, nor how much money goes into the film as Scott would attest to, though it would seem natural that people would pay to see the better films. Even Academy Awards, which I often agree with or at least understand their reasoning, are not the best indicators, though I believe perhaps better than the aforementioned money-based facets. Many of the "masterpieces" either seemed to have had an element of controversy to them, more clear with some historical context as to when they were made, or presented a reality (sometimes harsh) of the world. Now, I speak greatly of film/story content, but there is a great deal to discuss, which I will not venture as one less informed here, concerning the actual art forms of directing, producing, casting, editing, music, cinematography, etc.

Now, there is a place for personal taste, of which I have already mentioned in brief, but such topics are beyond the point right now.

In his Star Wars adaptations/expansion trilogy, Timothy Zahn develops an intriguing villain called Admiral Thrawn who studies the art of other races in order to understand their culture, particularly the nature of their war strategies. This is an interesting thought, I believe essentially true, in the sense that art can and does represent a culture's values, etc.

Regarding films, then, what are we condoning as true works of art? In observing the films that are most popular in American, what will the world conclude? An example of our cultural film differences is exemplified in part by comparing the top box office film results between the “USA” and the “World” (which is probably referring to Europe)—there are some interesting differences.

I have no specific answers, but rather more questions and thoughts for discussion.

The most important truth perhaps to take away from all these thoughts is to reflect on how we personally use our time to be "educated" in the arts (I believe film viewing, for example, is a form of art education), and how we understand and thus categorize or set values on each of them. Film viewing is not simply about entertainment, though that should be an element, but about much more—the questions, examples, challenges, etc. offered should be approached as one should or must approach any piece of literature (whether it be the writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky or Donald Miller) or musical composition (whether it be Bach, The Beatles, U2, or Coldplay), or visual art (whether it be Rembrandt, Monet, Ansel Adams, Pollock, or Warhol).

It’s about the responsibility to take time to look beyond the surface. Let us not succumb to or settle with mere commercialism, superficial clichés or perhaps give-and-take formulas, but instead let us seek Truth in order to build a richly united tapestry of relationship, communication, and creativity, in order that they may all ideally come together to offer such Truth to our culture and world.

Cheers.

"Art is the grandchild of God" - Dante, Inferno, Canto XI

(originally written 26 March, 2008)

I just read chapter VII of Ian Morgan Cron’s Chasing Francis. The chapter was shown to me after a discussion of my hope and vision to use my art as a channel for God to plant seeds of truth in people’s lives. I think of Pablo Picasso’s quote that I read in Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev (a brilliant book) which roughly quoted says, "Art is a lie that reveals truth." Having read this chapter from Morgan Cron’s writing, I now want to read the whole book, which explores, through the framework of a fictional story, the life of St. Francis of Assisi.

Below is "The Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists" quoted within Morgan Cron’s chapter. I’ll let his words speak for themselves. . .

"In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery. . . . In Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself. All believers are called to bear witness to this; but it is up to you, men and women who have given your lives to art, to declare with all the wealth of your ingenuity that in Christ the world is redeemed: the human person is redeemed, the human body is redeemed, and the whole creation which, according to Saint Paul, ’awaits impatiently the revelation of the children of God’ is redeemed. . . . This is your task. Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and destiny. . . . Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savour life and to dream of the future. . . . Artists of the world, may your many different paths all lead to that infinite Ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy." (115)

Violence, War, and Human Nature in light of the Rwandan genocide

(originally written 25 March, 2008)

Below is an excerpt from Jean Hatzfeld’s Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak (translated from French, 2005, Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

As I have been reading books on the Rwandan genocide of 1994, especially this book on Hatzfeld’s interviews with a number of the killers from the town of Nyamata, I have often felt so emotionally sobered to the point of feeling sick to my stomach. Such topics are brushed aside too easily--I reflect upon the quote by Jennifer Connoley’s character in "Blood Diamond" about certain human tragedies aired in the news being lost in a few minutes between sports and the weather.

The quotes below offer thoughts regarding violence, war, and essentially human nature perhaps. Though a student of history, people, whether they like history or not, should and must take the time to reflect occasionally on these matters. It is our responsibility as we are the leaders and people of future societies, cultures, faiths, and nations.

First a quote within the book, as a preface to a chapter, by Primo Levi, a Jewish scientist and Holocaust survivor from Auschwitz (specifically, his book The Drowned and the Saved quoted by Hatzfeld on page 52).

"Thinking back, with the wisdom of hindsight, to those years that devastated Europe and in the end, Germany itself, we feel torn between two judgments: did we witness the rational development of an inhuman plan, or a manifestation (so far unique, and still poorly explained) of collective madness? A logic bent on evil, or the absence of logic? As often happens in human affairs, both possibilities of this alternative coexisted."

The second quote is from Hatzfeld himself, and at the end he quotes one of the Rwandan killers he’d been interviewing. Read the book, it’s remarkable how normal the killers were, how new to killing (the most sobering chapter being "The First Time" i.e. kill), and how casually they did their "work.":

"All genocides in modern history have occurred in the midst of war — not because they were its cause or consequence but because war suspends the rule of law: it systematizes death, normalizes savagery, fosters fear and delusions, reawakens old demons, and unsettles morality and human values. It undermines the last psychological defense of the future perpetrators of the genocide. The farmer Alphonse Hitiyaremye summed it up in his own way: ’War is a dreadful disorder in which the culprits of genocide can plot incognito.’" (54)

Thank you for taking the time to read and reflect.