Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hobby with the City

"Ever notice how churches tend to create their own Christian version of hobbies in their city? If they like to cycle, then instead of joining one of the countless cycling clubs [in the city], they create a Christian cycling club! Instead of joining a Run-Tex club, they form a Christian running club. Church League sports. It’s pathetic. Instead of joining a city league, churches create their own leagues so they can play one another!"

Compelling quote from Jonathan Dodson, a church planter in Austin, on how to get out of your Christian ghetto and live missionally.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Books About Theology You'll Actually Read

I have to read a lot of dull, dense, and technical books about Theology. And although I learn a lot from many of them, I could never recommend them to someone who isn't a Pastor or a scholar. But here are some books that I think do a great job of making good theology accessible and interesting. My wife Rachel has read three of these and would agree.

1. The Prodigal God, by Tim Keller. The essential message of the Gospel told afresh -- and in only 133 pages with a huge font!
2. The Baker Pocket Guide to World Religions, by Gerald McDermott. Ever wonder what all the religions actually teach? Precise and concise -- 138 pages.
3. The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis. My favorite Lewis book -- a thought-provoking story that will challenge your understanding of sin and hell. 146 pages.
4. The Reason for God, by Tim Keller. Hands down the best book to read or give to a friend if they have doubts about Christianity. Long, but fascinating -- 336 pages.
5. Confessions of a Reformission Rev., by Mark Driscoll. The autobiographical story of a church planter. Driscoll is rude and crude and will make you laugh out loud! 185 pages.

Here are some I haven't read yet, but have heard also fall into this category:

1. You Can Change, by Tim Chester. On gospel-centered sanctification.
2. Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask), by Eric Metaxas. Witty and satirical thoughts about doubts on Christianity.
3. Counterfeit Gods, by Tim Keller. The doctrine of sin told afresh.
4. Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaardner. This one's about the history of philosophy -- but told in the form of a novel to a 14-year old girl.

Anybody else have one to recommend?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Wonderful Exchange

"This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us;
that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him;
that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us;
that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us;
that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power;
that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us;
that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness."

- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.2

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do I really need this?

I really want a magic mouse. I played with one recently at Best Buy. That thing is just plain awesome. It doesn't have any buttons. You can swipe with two fingers and you can go back and forth between web pages. It really is magic.

I read this from C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity recently --

"I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give [Regarding how much money a Christian should give away]. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small."

The other day, one of my classmates asked this question -- "Do people in the church really live any differently, spend their money any differently, than people outside of the church?" Honestly, I think the answer is no. We have all the same stuff, phones, cars, houses. We justify it by saying we aren't extravagant, we're just average. Just like everyone else.

The real question is why? Why do I want that mouse so badly? Why do I keep looking at the Apple website? Do I seriously really need that mouse, when I have a perfectly fine mouse right now? Maybe one day I will buy that mouse. I even asked for it for Christmas. Notice Lewis doesn't say that we should all move the desert and live off of bugs. But the point is, what is my heart captured by? Where do my thoughts drift when I'm not thinking about anything in particular? Are they captured by the cool stuff that I can buy? Or are they captured by something so much greater? If our hearts have been captured by something greater, shouldn't we be living differently? God, wean my heart off of these fallen things that will never satisfy...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Gospel in 68 words

68 words sounds like a lot, but it's actually pretty difficult. Here's a good one --

"The 'gospel' is the good news that through Jesus, the Messiah, the power of God's kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world. ... When we believe and rely on Jesus' work and record (rather than ours) for our relationship to God, that kingdom power comes upon us and begins to work through us.... The gospel motivates, guides, and empowers every aspect of our living and worship."

-- Jim Belcher, Deep Church, p. 120-121

Seminary Jokes

One of my professors has to quoted --

"You all are no longer exegetical virgins. You've been deflowered by Greek and Interp [Intro to Exegesis class]."

"Episcopalianism is the Junior Varsity of Catholicism."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday Night at the Mall

by Rachel

We typically go out to dinner on Friday nights as a date night. Tonight we had something to get at the mall, so we decided to eat at Chipotle nearby. As we approached Chipotle, we noticed that the fire alarm was going off and wondered if we'd be able to go inside. A Chipotle worker (possibly the manager) was standing outside and said, "You guys coming to get burritos?" We said yes and he told us to come on in despite the fire alarm - something small had set it off and now they were just waiting for it to be turned off. Because the alarm was so ear-piercing and thus a hindrance to a pleasant dining experience, the guy said the food would be on the house. We walked in and then debated for a moment - free food at the cost of our ears getting blasted? Thankfully the alarm turned off after we'd been in there barely a minute, and the guy came in and said we could still have our food free. Yes! Praise God for these small unexpected gifts.

After we ate, we shopped for a while. I have been shopping around for dresses for upcoming occasions, and have not been successful in finding something I like within my budget. I noticed that with current female fashion trends, I often cannot tell right off whether a certain article of clothing is a blouse, a skirt, or a dress. Items are strapless, or really short, or too long to look like a shirt but too short to look like a dress (at least in my opinion!)...I don't get it. This is ridiculous, ladies. More modesty, please!

Friday, August 21, 2009

a big fat juicy steak

I read this today:
"Your steadfast love is better than soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food..." -- Ps. 63:3,5

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nothing You Can Do Can Harm Me

I found this snippet today. Make this your prayer as you face fear, anxiety and worry:

When John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) was brought before the empress Eudoxia, she threatened him with banishment if he insisted on his Christian independence as a preacher.

"You cannot banish me, for this world is my Father's house."

"But I will kill you," said the empress.

"No, you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God," said John.

"I will take away your treasures."

"No, you cannot, for my treasure is in heaven and my heart is there."

"But I will drive you away from your friends and you will have no one left."

"No, you cannot, for I have a Friend in heaven from whom you cannot separate me.
I defy you, for there is nothing you can do to harm me."

Friday, July 31, 2009

Being a Better Neighbor

by Ben

Here's a great article about some simple ways to connect with people around us every day. It's as simple as playing a game of catch and inviting kids to join you, offering someone an extra blanket or bug spray or offering to take a picture and email it to them. I'm terrible at this, and it goes against my (our) natures as introverts, but these are great ways to build life-giving relationships with those around us.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Christian Breathing

by Ben

Yesterday we heard a great quote in the sermon: "Repentance and faith are like Christian breathing." For the Christian, life is a continual process of breathing out -- knowing our brokenness, seeing it more deeply, repenting of it -- and breathing in -- turning from other objects and our own efforts for satisfaction, self-worth, significance and turning and trusting in Christ alone with all our being through faith. I think this is close to what Jesus described as "abiding in my love," (John 15) and "feeding on me." (John 6) Repentance and faith are not only things we do when we become Christians, but what we do every day as Christians. But what is faith? I also came across this article about what it means to fight your sin. On the one hand, it's not "morbid introspection or ascetic legalism." It's not just telling yourself: "I'm just going to knuckle down and be a better Christian, because Jesus tells me to." But on the other hand, grace doesn't mean that "sin is really no big deal, that Jesus paid for it at the cross and therefore we are home free." Faith in the bible is described as fighting -- "by the spirit, put to death the deeds of the body, and you will live." (Rom. 8:13) How do we FIGHT without becoming legalistic, relying on our own moralistic efforts? The key is HOW we are fighting -- the bible always describes fighting as fighting in the spirit, by faith, trained by grace, abiding in Christ's love. The article describes fighting this way: "The greatest weapon against our opponents is Spirit-empowered faith in the promises of God, promises that have been guaranteed by the death of Christ. Don't trust the promises of the flesh; trust in the promises of your Savior."

Fight to believe and trust in the radical grace of God above all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Better "Gospel Presentation"

by Ben

If you had five minutes to explain the gospel, what would you say? I think most of us might present the gospel like the diagram below: We sinned, therefore we are separated from God, God bridged the gap through Jesus, now we can be with God.

There's nothing unbiblical persay about this presentation, but I think it doesn't do justice to the gospel as it is presented in the bible and it causes a lot of problems. First, it skips the entire the whole Old Testament -- or it jumps from Genesis 1-3 (Adam and Eve sinned) to Romans. Second, it makes it seem like the "gospel" is all about how individuals are saved. But what about all of the created world around us? Is the bible just about rescuing individuals out of a sinful world and sending them to heaven while the world around us rots away? The bible's answer is a resounding "NO!" (this would be another blog post) On the other hand, it's true that the gospel is also NOT just about making the world a better place without preaching individual salvation through Christ. I recently came across this gospel presentation from these guys in Britain called the "Crowded House" and it's the best, clearest one I've seen so far. Here it is:

Summary: God promises the world we all want; Jesus shows us God's new world.

1. We have spoiled God's good world.

2. God promises a new world.

3. We cannot create God's new world.

4. We can enjoy God's new world because of Jesus.

5. Christians are God's people waiting for God's new world.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

TV Notes

by Rachel

One of our favorite things to do is lounge at home in the evening and watch true crime shows like Dateline and 48 Hours Mystery. I actually look forward to Friday nights in large portion because it means the weekend, going out to dinner with my husband, AND watching Dateline. I also normally don't like the cold weather, but it feels extra cozy when you can curl up with a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa and watch a murder mystery show. (Is it bad to be entertained by this?)

I feel like these shows are gaining in popularity. There are already other ones on various cable channels; plus there's usually a 48 Hours Mystery marathon on TLC on Saturday evenings; now there's Primetime Crime on ABC. We have seen so many of them that when a promo for a recent Dateline episode came on, we were like, "Hey, we already saw that story covered on 48 Hours Mystery."

On an unrelated TV note, Ben observed that both Verizon FiOS and Comcast have their own commercials featuring the other's sales/installation guy as a buffoon-ish character.

Speaking of commercials and buffoons, I also hate all of the commercials (often for healthy foods and cleaning products) where the wife is portrayed as the smug, all-knowing authority and the husband as the buffoon-ish, slightly chauvinistic/arrogant fool. They both annoy me, but the wife annoys me more. To me it just reinforces women's tendencies to want to control their husbands instead of trying to show them respect.

I talk about TV a lot.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cup Garden

by Rachel

This may be old news to you - but while watching "The Next Food Network Star," Ben and I learned from contestant Melissa that when you buy green onions, you can save the white parts at the bottom and put them in water, and they will grow again. We thought that sounded pretty neat, so we decided to try it - and in just two days, each onion has grown almost two inches back! This is great and super easy, especially for someone like me who has basically no sense in anything like gardening. And we will have nice fresh green onions the next time we need them, without having to worry about purchasing them or having the excess go rotten. Nice tip.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What a Sad, Weird Day

by Rachel

I am already an extremely emotional person by nature, but today just feels so weird. I have already been feeling sad about the Gosselins (see last post), but with Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson's deaths, I just feel so unsettled. Sadness and grief seem to be ubiquitous right now.

And I feel weird because I am also a sports fan, and I was saddened in a different way by my Longhorns' loss last night in the College World Series. And then tonight was also the NBA Draft, which I was interested in. But then I almost feel not right being concerned about or interested in either of those things in light of the above events.

Also a gross slug greeted me by our front door (inside) this morning when I woke up. Yuck. Thank you to my kind husband for getting rid of it.

What a sad, weird day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sad for the Gosselins

by Rachel

I just have to express how sad I am about Jon and Kate Gosselin divorcing. We became huge fans of this show, and just like all the other fans, I've been heartbroken to hear of all their turmoil over the last few months (which apparently has really been happening over the last several months). I feel like last night's episode should have been called "Crooked Houses and Broken Homes."

I know people survive divorces - both the ex-spouses and the children - but there is just so much brokenness that occurs and healing that has to happen. I have been praying for this family and will continue to do so.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why Does He Even Bother?

I've been reading through the first part of the Old Testament lately - all of the law books where God painstakingly tells the Israelites exactly what methods they are to use to connect with him and honor him. And they still don't get it, and they mess up and complain and whine to him even after he's told them what to do. Obviously we continue this behavior today.

Makes me think of Jimmy Fallon's SNL character "Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy." As many people have experienced in real life, employees ask him to help with their computer issues, and since they're dumb questions to him, he treats them with sarcasm and blatant condescension. I'm no IT expert, but I find myself feeling like this, too, when I get computer questions at work about things that I find simple and that I've explained to people numerous times. Don't they get it?

So I found myself thinking about how we're so much like this with God's instruction, and yet he doesn't treat us like Nick Burns. He's GOD - why does he even bother trying to explain things over and over to clueless, sinful fools like us? What amazing grace. I hope I'll remember that grace and let it sink in more deeply the next time I feel my Nick Burns side coming out.

And by the way, if your company's computer guy(s) or girl(s) are NOT like Nick Burns (mine aren't, thankfully!), consider taking a moment to show them your appreciation whenever you can. I know I couldn't do their job.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Learning to Be Offensive

from CNN site

I'm inspired by my Rockets' big win last night* to blog about something a friend of mine shared a few weeks ago. A group of us were discussing practical ways to share the gospel and why we're often afraid to do so. Susie then talked about how she's watched many youth sports events and how, for example, in a basketball game you can always tell which kids are probably praying that they don't get the ball passed to them, because they don't feel confident about taking a shot or making a big play. They're afraid that if they do, they'll miss, or worse, get their shot blocked back in their face. So they just avoid the ball, stay out of the way, and basically contribute nothing to the team's efforts.

Similarly, she said, we're often like this with sharing the gospel or even coming close to it. We feel like we lack the special gifts, abilities or knowledge that (we think) are needed to share Christ with others effectively. We're paralyzed with fear that our friend or acquaintance is going to feel offended, ridicule us, argue us down, or reject us in some other way if we approach any topic related to our faith in Christ. So to not risk hurting others or getting ourselves hurt, we just avoid it. Ironically, in the comfort of our own homes and circles of Christian friends, we find ourselves praying for opportunities to share the gospel ("playing time," if you will), and yet when God calls us "off the bench," we avoid the opportunity like it's a person with swine flu - err, I mean H1N1. (Hey, I keep up with the news.)

Anyway, I was reminded of this last night with the Rockets and with the NBA Playoffs in general. Take Aaron Brooks. He's often one of the smallest players, if not the smallest player, on the floor, and yet you frequently see him drive to the hoop with no fear, no matter what defender might be in his path. Will he make every shot? No. Will he get blocked sometimes? Of course. But he continues to be confident and assertive, because he won't be able to score points any other way. You've probably heard that saying, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

And for us in our efforts to share the gospel - there's no way we can help steer others to Christ if we don't take risks and try. Even better than basketball, we don't have to have confidence in our own abilities - in fact we shouldn't, really - because we have the power of the God of the universe with us. So going back to the title of this post - I took from Susie's story the reminder that I need to stop being so fearful, and learn to be more "of-FEN-sive" and "OFF-fen-sive." Not to carelessly insult people, of course, but I shouldn't worry so much about how they'll react and what they'll think of me when I express my faith in Christ somehow, especially if it might conflict with their beliefs or lifestyles.

So as you're enjoying the playoffs and watching your favorite players drive to the hoop - how can you be more "offensive" with your faith?

*I know I'm referencing the Rockets' last game against LA and this photo is against Portland. It was just the best one I could find quickly.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Time Management -- the least talked about sin

Lust, gossip, envy, anger... All of us admit we do these things, and we confess these things to each other, we pray about them...but what about time management? This seems like more of a "non-spiritual" issue. It's something you go to seminars about or learn during job training. Yet I'm being more convicted that it is a real, chronic sin that is destroying many in our generation, soaked as we are in a distraction-filled world. I especially think it is endemic in young guys. It's been a destructive force in my life.

Does this sound familiar? Sleep in, go to class only when there's a quiz, spend the day playing computer games, checking your fantasy team, and watching youtube. Then go hang out with your buddies. As deadlines get closer, pound dozens of coffees and redbulls and a few all-nighters. Afterwords, celebrate and then start the cycle all over again. I think this pattern starts somewhere in middle school and high school, gets hardened in college, and by the time you get your first job, is pretty hard to shake. Yes, it works...but there's something like a slow disintegration going on inside. You might not admit it, but you feel it.

Why do we do it? Is it just because we're lazy? Yes, but I think you have to go deeper than that. For me, there is a nagging fear of failure. I avoid the difficult tasks because I know as soon as I tackle it, I will feel frustrated. Frustrated because it's not easy, because I feel incompetent. So I avoid. I turn to things that are easy, that are controllable, where I feel competent. Soon I begin to see that this is not just why I'm's also why I avoid confrontation with people and why I avoid deep relationships.

Titus 2:11-12 says that "the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age." The Grace of God trains us. The NIV says that Grace teaches us to say "no." What does this mean? It means that self-control doesn't come from mustering up enough will-power and guilt to change ourselves. It means that God breaking through into our reality and saving us from ourselves is the only way we will ever change. It's the reality of the fact that Christ did the hardest task of all, facing and taking all our evil so that we could be free, that can break through our fears. Remembering who we are in Christ slowly weans off our fear of failure. Why? Because even if I fail, I know that my identity doesn't rest in my accomplishments. It rests in being a child of God, won for me by the Redeemer. It frees me to try the hardest things, and it frees me to fail and not be destroyed.

This deeper battle must first be fought. The grace of God is our power and strength in the battle. What does this look like for you? I don't know. But for me, I've seen that accountability with others and identifying the big time-wasters in your life -- the things you turn to avoid the difficult things, are part of the battle. One thing for me is being very cognizant of how I partake of the Internet, e-mail, TV, TV on the internet... Our generation just turns on the computer, flicks on the tube, and lets it wash over us, basically until we're bored. For me, these are the first places I go to when I'm avoiding something. One of my goals is to check email only twice during the day, and do all my "recreational internet" in the evening. My friend's goal is to be on the internet no more than one hour per day. That's harder than it sounds...but do we really need to be on the internet for four hours every day? Whatever it looks like for you, I pray that the reality of grace will break through into our lives and train us into freedom.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fearless Humility

Rachel's post has reminded me that it's been awhile since I've blogged as well. So here's something that's been on my mind recently.

I think it's fair to say that many people either tend to be Confident, yet prideful, or Humble, yet cowering. On the one hand, some of us are naturally more assertive, fearless, speak their mind, and are the "go-getters." But along with that usually comes arrogance, and ultimately self-destruction. Why is that? I think because even if we don't admit it, we begin to base our identity on our own achievement, our own discipline...and that identity is pretty fragile. We must defend it, so we lash out when we feel threatened. And in the end, our own achievements just don't seem to really cover up that nakedness we feel so deeply. So I've worked my butt off and have made something of myself...but why do I still feel so inconsequential?

On the other hand, some of us are gracious, humble, caring...but also very fearful. We genuinely don't like building ourselves up and like to build others up. Yet, often we find ourselves trapped by our fear. Deathly afraid of conflict, or being rejected by others, we cower when we need to take initiative and step out in confidence. Though we love to serve others, our compassion towards others also doesn't cover up our nakedness. In the end, often we realize that we are slaves to people's approval. Our self-image is also fragile, and we also protect it all costs, and thus we never take risks or step on anyone's toes.

How can I live a life that is both fearless yet compassionate? Confident yet humble? I'm far from actually seeing both of these traits really fleshed out in my life. At times, I feel like I'm always defending my own sense of accomplishment. Other times, I just feel like a compassionate coward. And I've discovered there just is no easy formula to help me out of this mess. But yesterday I was reminded again by a simple promise that God keeps repeating through Scripture. He said it to the self-starter Paul who needed some encouragement: "Do not be afraid...for I am with you." (Acts 18:9-10) The doubtful Moses when asked to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, asked God, "Who am I?" God said, "But I will be with you." (Ex. 3:11-12)

I am once again reminded to remember that the story of Bible teaches me that I am indeed inconsequential. Yet God is my Father who came into our history to bring me to life, to give me a new heart. I have nothing to fear, because no one can condemn me. Christ was condemned on my behalf! I have nothing left to prove, because Christ proved it all on the cross on my behalf. Only when I remember this am I able to move past my cowardice to take risks, and stop trying to prove myself, because I know I'm just a vapor, soon to evaporate. But I'm also a child of God, given a life to live, freed to love others because I am loved. The Father who proved his love to us on the cross says to us: Do not be afraid...for I am with you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Things I Look Forward To

I am not a morning person. But thankfully I have been quite blessed, in both big ways and small, to where there is something I can look forward to each day. Granted, many of these things are TV-related, but hey, I am thankful for that, too.

So here's a week's rundown of what I can look forward to when I wake up each morning (not in order each day, by the way):
  • Sunday - Church. Of course. OK, I can't say I am super excited about going to church every Sunday, but it is always a good thing whether I feel like it or not. Also, if we are going at the right time, I can also look forward to listening to the weekly puzzle on NPR, featuring Puzzlemaster and New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz.
  • Monday - Jon & Kate Plus 8. And CSI: Miami, which I have only recently gotten hooked on because I am waiting to see when Eric and Calleigh will finally get together.
  • Tuesday - American Idol.
  • Wednesday - American Idol. Meeting with my women's small group with my seminary-wife friends. If I happened to order any office supplies at work that week, these also usually arrive on Wednesdays.
  • Thursday - The Office. America's Best Dance Crew. Meeting with our community group.
  • Friday - Yay, it's Friday! The weekend is almost here. I get to go out on a dinner date with Ben. And then we can watch a murder mystery story on Dateline NBC.
  • Saturday - Yay, I can sleep late! It's (usually) a relaxing day with not much going on. Also, Saturday Night Live.
And repeat...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Skiing, Crafts, Kai-Lan...

Wow, I did not realize how long it's been since our last entry. Not a ton has gone on lately. We are trying to get through the bitterly cold weather. OK, really just me since Ben doesn't mind it as much.

On the plus side, in cold, snowy weather you can do winter sports. Being a warm weather girl, I had never done these kinds of things before. We went skiing with some friends from church a few weeks back and it was a good experience. I must say I didn't love it because I didn't do very well, but I would certainly try it again. This was Ben's second time, and he might've been a little rusty at first, but was fairly comfortable on the green slopes.

Other than that... my love of crafts has been somewhat re-kindled, thanks to my friend Heather, one of my many creative genius friends. Before Christmas Heather hosted a crafts party where she taught us to make our own earrings and also supplied materials and ideas for us to make our own greeting cards and envelopes. Inspired, I brought back from home some of my craft supplies from when I had attempted to make greeting cards during my senior year of college. Shortly after, Heather and I got together to do some card-making and she also taught me how to knit. So as time permits, I have been making cards and practicing my knitting. Who knows, maybe you will be the lucky (or not-so-lucky) recipient of one of my homemade cards, or a knitting project if I ever get that far.

Over the last few days I have been getting over a cold. Yesterday I stayed home from work and was searching for something to watch on TV. (Funny how even with cable, there are still times when you can't find something good to watch. Perhaps it's a way that God reminds us there is nothing on earth that can truly satisfy all the time.) I settled on Nickelodeon when I found "Ni Hao, Kai-Lan," a show I had heard about from my cousin Caroline, who has two little girls. It's like Dora the Explorer, but a little Chinese girl (Kai-Lan) who teaches Chinese words instead of Spanish. I learned how to say jump in Mandarin (tiao).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Texas Texas Yee-haw!

Kirby Lee/US Presswire

I stayed up late last night to watch the Fiesta Bowl, and it was totally worth the drowsiness this morning. Go Horns!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Dark Knight -- A Gospel Story

I just finished watching "Batman: The Dark Knight" for the second time and I can't believe how much of it I missed the first time around. If you haven't seen it, go see it. Also, stop reading, because I'm going to spoil the ending.

The movies that really stay with you, that really tell a story that seems to emanate from reality are the ones that avoid the caricatures of "good" and "evil." Shallow movies have a "hero" and a "villian" -- there are good people and there are bad people. The hero is the one who defeats the evil people. But movies that reflect reality show that this caricature actually doesn't take evil very seriously. The perniciousness of evil is that it seeps into our tinges our "goodness," and we are exposed to the dark fact, that in our darkest moments, when we are pushed to our extremes, when our own security is threatened, there is actually very little difference between the "good" people and the murderers, thieves and sinners.

Heath Ledger's character is the essence of evil -- he knows no logic or reason, he simply delights in destruction, and his mission is to show the world the evil that "good people" are capable of. He targets Harvey Dent, the "white knight" -- the supposed picture of heroic morality, and turns him into a murderer driven by vengeance. In a telling scene before his death, he tells Batman why he succeeded in his plan: "Madness is like gravity. All it needs is a little push."

Of course good movies also point to hope. A real hope. Hope doesn't come without pain or suffering. In a world where sin permeates us all -- and even the "good" cannot avoid it, there can only be one solution. Batman must take the punishment. In order to save the city, he must take the blame for Harvey Dent's fallenness. At the end of the movie, a little boy protests: "But he didn't do anything wrong!" Yet it is the only solution. So Batman must live, as a convicted, hated criminal, enduring the pain of humanity's evil so that humanity can live. So that hope can live.

Telling someone that they can be good if they just try hard enough never really inspires. Facing the depths of our own evil, our only hope is if somebody else can take the fall, take the brunt of our punishment, in our place. This story never fails to inspire.