Tuesday, May 18, 2010

LOST: What It All Means

It's taken me 119 out of the 121.5 hours of the show, but I've finally figured all of Lost out. Surprisingly, I figured it out away from the actual show. You see, over the past five years I have made friends all over North America. I have friends back home in Kingsport, friends from Harding, friends I interned with in Huntsville, friends here in Canada, and friends all over the place. One thing that brings many of us together: Lost. This show has created a community. Not just the annoying internet community of message boards and blogs that meticulously scan evidence like a CSI team, come up with stupid theories, or endlessly complain to the point that you wonder why they even watch the show. But it's a community of people who I love in my life that I enjoy discussing, debating, and theologically analyzing the show with. I love after every episode texting my friend Drew, theorizing with my friend Wes on facebook chat, commenting on my youth minister's blog, and coming up to my friends at church saying, "Yo, did you SEE Lost?"

Above all, that's what I'm going to miss most about Lost when it ends Sunday night. I'm going to miss the characters, and the twists and turns of the plot, and how it always keeps me guessing, and the producers' podcasts, and the emotion, drama, and fun of Lost. But mostly I'm going to miss the conversations (many of them deeply spiritual) and the enjoyment I get out of sharing in this great show with a community around me (many of whom live thousands of miles away).

And in "The End" (pun intended), I think that's what Lost is all about. The show is about a group of characters who are seeking out redemption in a journey of renewal as a community. They do it through several interlocking (both past, present, future, and sideways) relationships that often conflict, encourage, disintegrate and cooperate. Whether the characters are dealing with parental issues, sins they have committed, emotional and spiritual baggage; together many have learned that the past doesn't matter and they can grow as a group into who they were meant to be. The show has taught us that our relationships and the choices we make with them MATTER, both in terms of how they affect those around us, but more importantly in the way ALL of our stories intersect with THE story that is being told through all creation.

In the fifth episode of season one, Jack makes a statement that soon became the mantra of the show that the characters must "Live together or die alone." And this is true on a small level with the groups of fans that enjoy the show together. But mostly on a meta-level that all of us can either choose to wallow alone in isolation or instead to reach our highest capacities of redemption and fulfillment both as individuals and as a people when we truly journey together in community. And isn't that truly what the kingdom of God is all about? A flawed and broken people joining together, bearing each others' burdens, and building each other up into a new creation as we seek to become a part of the story God has been telling.

And maybe that is how we all journey from Lost.......to Found.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bulletin Article-The Drama of Mark

I wrote this last week for our bulletin and I figured I'd go ahead and put in on here as well:

As we reach the climactic scenes in the narrative of Mark, it is interesting that we begin to realize the drama of the story. Have you ever noticed that Biblical narratives provide great drama in a literary sense? These stories, whether they are in Genesis, Exodus, 1 & 2 Samuel, Daniel, the gospels, Acts, and in so many other places throughout the whole Bible, give us stories that are every bit as exciting and dramatic as famous stories, films, and literary works throughout history. Especially when reading the four gospel narratives, I can always feel the tension, the emotion, and the intense drama as the story comes to a climax. As Noel mentioned last week, we can see the severe mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical trauma that Jesus goes through in his last twenty-four hours, beginning with his impassioned plea to his father in Gethsemane. As the night continues, we can see the tension continue to build and build throughout the story.

However, what differentiates the gospel story and the other great stories in the Bible from famous works of literature is that these events actually happened. The reality of these events makes them all the more powerful. They’re not just tall tales, folklore, or parables. These were real people experiencing real emotions and persevering through real trials. This makes it fascinating to see how these real events mirror the traditional storytelling narratives so well, with the basic designs of introduction, conflict, plot, climax, and resolution. Perhaps the reason why people identify so well with this traditional plot structure is because God has divinely placed the essence of THE story deeply within us. This of course is the story that God has been writing since the beginning of time, the meta-narrative of all history, which is the story of God bringing his people back into relationship with him. This story begins in Eden, climaxes at the cross, and ends with God reigning with his people forever and ever. Since this story is placed so deeply within our souls, we naturally respond to any story, book, movie, or even television show that mirrors the plot narrative of THE story. It’s why we root for Luke to blow up the Death Star, why we hope Frodo can make it to Mount Doom, why we are happy for Wall-E and Eva to get back to each other, and even why we cheer for Hugh Grant to marry whatever woman he’s dating in whatever chick flick he’s in.

So when we reach the climax of the Gospel, it is natural for it to affect us in a deep and poignant way. Because this is the most important moment of the story of all stories. So how do we respond to this beautiful chapter in the story? Do we put the book down and go to bed? Or do we respond by finding OUR place in the story and play the part that God has been writing for us since the beginning of time? Because this story is continuing on today and WE are the supporting characters. May we all seek to quit trying to tell our own stories and instead take up our roles in HIS story.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2000-2009: The Decade Without a Name

I named this post above, because unlike the 80's, 90's, etc. this decade has never really had a consistent name. It's been called the "zeros," "2000's," and the "Aughts." I usually call it "this decade", but I don't know what I'm going call it next year. (Speaking of which, can we go ahead and get an early start in conclusively naming this next decade, so we don't have the same problem. Do we call it the "Teens" or the "Tens"? Let's decide on this). But not only that, this decade has lacked an identity in culture and remembrance.

The 50's were remembered for good times, family values, and rock and roll (as well as the beginning of pop culture). The sixties had social change, the hippy movement, and incredible music. The 70's had great movements in rock with Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Springsteen, etc., and disco. The 80's had MTV, Michael Jackson, the Brat Pack movies, ridiculous clothing and hair styles, and Bird/Magic making the NBA huge. The 90's had grunge and the explosion of rap in the early 90's, followed by boy bands and Brittney Spears in the late 90's, phenomenal movies (google the Best Picture nominees/winners from the 90's...it's an incredible list), good tv with Seinfeld, ER, and Friends (remember back when NBC was king?), and Jordan.

Now you don't have to like the things that characterized these decades, but at least you can admit that they defined them. How do you find what defined this decade? Music sales have collapsed since 2004. There's been no defining band or even genre this decade. For the past decades the defining band/artist was easy: Elvis, Beatles, Zeppelin, Jackson, and Nirvana. Would Coldplay win it for this decade? U2? Timberlake? The top 10 selling artists this decade were Eminem, the Beatles (that says all you need to know. The #2 selling band this decade has been broken up for 40 years), Tim McGraw, Toby Keith (No!!!), Brittney Spears, Kenny Chesney, Nelly, Linkin Park, Creed, and Jay-Z. But I wouldn't say any of those artists really defined the decade (Eminem's 30 million sales pales in comparison with the top selling artist in the 90's: Garth Brooks with almost 100 million sales). The way I would define music for this decade is the I-Tunes Generation. What I mean is that most people don't really buy and consume albums or artists any more. Instead they just hear some random song at a coffee house, figure out what the name of it on their phone, and then buy/pirate it and put it on I-tunes. So most people's music looks like a hodgepodge of random acoustic ballads and pop hits.

Movies were solid this decade. There were great franchises (LOTR, Star Wars, Matrix, Pirates, etc.), some great comedies from the various comedy mafias (Apatow, Ferrel, Wilson brothers, Sandler, Stiller), and the "Oscar" movies were great, but again, not as good as the 90's. Luckily there have been several defining movies this decade (The Dark Knight, LOTR, Anchorman) so we're ok there. Perhaps the only pop culture category in which this decade excelled was television. You could argue that the best movies this decade were on tv. This decade had the two most critically acclaimed shows ever in the Sopranos and the Wire (I've never seen them, but I know the critics love them), currently acclaimed shows in "Mad Men" and "30 Rock," the show I would argue is the greatest show of all time in LOST, plus other great shows with The Office, How I Met Your Mother, West Wing, Battlestar, Arrested Development, and some cult favorite one season wonders with Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, and Firefly. Shows like The Daily Show and the Colbert Report became a mix between comedy and social/media awareness. Reality shows exploded this decade with American Idol and Survivor leading the way. The decade saw as an over-fascination with celebrities to the point where people became "celebrities" without even really doing anything (Paris Hilton, Kardashians, etc..).

The news stories that defined this decade all basically revolved around the singular event that most defined the decade in 9/11. The event has changed the nation, the world, cultural dialogue, politics, and spawned two wars and changed the way wars are fought. Many, if not most, of the other major events of the decade are either directly or indirectly tied to 9/11. The aforementioned Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the 2004 and 2008 elections, and the events of the Bush Administration. Other major events included the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the China earthquakes, a growing dependence on technology and social networking via blogs, Myspace, facebook, and twitter, a growing focus on energy, climate, and conservation, and the current financial meltdown.

So where does this leave a generation who spent their formative years in a tumultuous decade that lacked definition and identity? Will this lack of normalcy, consistency, and identity lead to a continued rise in a postmodern fickle worldview? Or perhaps could it raise up a generation who does not define themselves based on pop-culture, and can learn to adapt to ever-changing circumstances and ideas?

My age ranged from 12-22 in this decade. I suppose that this decade was "my decade" as much as other people claim to be "children" of whatever decade they grew up in. I don't really lament this decade's lack of identity, and I am learning to thrive in a turbulent age. Many in my peer group have graduated college only to find an economy in shatters and no jobs available for them. But I think that this crazy decade has left us better prepared for difficult circumstances than previous generations might have been. We know that this next century is likely going to continue to be chaotic with changing economies, diminished American power, climate change, and different cultural values. But I think we're able to roll with it and just handle whatever comes next. Many people have labeled the Millennial Generation (those born between 1983 and 2001) as the "Second Great Generation" because of the exponential rise of work in volunteering and social causes among Millennials. I think that my generation has really become empowered to not just talk, but act in behalf of social justice issues and has a unique perspective on global commonality. Also, Millenials are not constrained by traditional structures in politics, economics, religion, and nationalities. We're more free to think, act, love, and serve outside of the boxes originally provided for us.

It is imperative for the church to empower, equip, and allow this generation to live out the kingdom of God in new and exciting ways in the next decade. I've heard before that the church could thrive in Postmodern culture because it provides structure in a chaotic time. That may be true, but I would argue that the church could instead thrive by getting chaotic itself. The kingdom of God was never meant to be rigid, streamlined, and predictable. The kingdom of God is an ADVENTURE and a REVOLUTION where we never know where it's headed. Because God works in ways that we could never imagine and acts like a consuming fire and was never meant to be put in a box.

Throughout its history, the church has tended to thrive in turbulent times. Right now seems perfect.

Monday, February 9, 2009

'Roid Rage

Today in an interview with Peter Gammons, Alex Rodriguez confirmed that he had taken steroids from 2001-2003.

I used to get angry when these stories came out. I hated Bonds, Giambi, and Sosa for cheating the game of basbeall and the sanctity of a game that takes numbers very seriously. But after years and years of exponential steroid stories, I'm drained, jaded and just sad. I barely even blame A-Rod. It's tough to blame players for just trying to keep up with the status quo of pitchers and hitters juicing up to improve their game. I mostly just blame Bud Selig, the players union, and the game of baseball for turning a blind eye to this in the 90's and early part of this decade and not cleaning this up sooner. Stories like today are the price that baseball must pay as more and more stars and more numbers become tainted.

Baseball is probably the most important for stats and numbers. It was the first sport to become popular in fantasy games (although you can argue that fantasy football has passed it in terms of popularity). We used to hold these records as something truly special. Maris' 61 home runs, Aaron's 755, Dimaggio's 56 game hit streak. Now every single stat from 1987-until A-Rod retires (because he'll likely break a lot of major records) will be completely tainted.

It makes me sad for the sport I love. I remember getting caught up in the '98 home run race with McGwire and Sosa. Now, that memory means very little. Now even some of my favorite players, like Jeff Bagwell, and David Ortiz, certainly fall under the suspicion of steroids at the very least. Roger Clemens was one of my favorite pitchers when he rocked out the '04-'06 seasons with the Astros, and now I know it could have all been a lie. Those memories are tainted. This is just another case of professional sports spitting on its fans. As ticket prices soar while the economy plummets, we can really see that pro sports care little about fans. MLB turned a blind eye and implicity encouraged steroid use in the 90's because of the simple reason that HOME RUNS MADE MONEY.It's the fans that suffer for this.

Maybe one day Major League Baseball will have some credibility again and we can take records and numbers seriously again. I hope that day comes.......someday. Until then we're just going to have more days like this as more big names come out.

40 days until Opening day........and it can't come soon enough.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Best Super Bowl ever?

I wasn't too excited about this year's Super Bowl, but it turned out to be an instant classic and at least one of the greatest Super Bowls ever. It had everything you could want. Lots of lead changes. Good classic football players. Big hits. An underdog going for an upset. A huge touchdown returned for an interception by Harrison. A long bomb to Fitzgerald. And a classic drive by Rothlesberger with 2:34 culminating in the TD pass to Holmes in the corner of the end zone, which will become one of the most famous plays in NFL History.

But was it the greatest Super Bowl ever?

Well, lets run down the list of greatest super bowls in chronological order. Unfortunately, there aren't many close ones, since they usually just turn into a blowout.

Super Bowl X: Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17
Close match-up between two awesome defenses.

Super Bowl XIII: Pittsuburgh 35, Dallas 31
Great shootout that went back and forth.

Super Bowl XXIII San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16
Montana leads game winning TD drive

Super Bowl XXV N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19
Scott Norwood! Wide Right!

Super Bowl XXXII Denver 31, Green Bay 24
Close game as John Elway and the Broncos upsets the favored Packers.

Super Bowl XXXIV St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16
Kevin Dyson is one yard short! NOOOOOO!!!!!

XXXVI New England 20, St. Louis 17
Brady drives down the Pats to set up Vinateri's field goal for a HUGE upset.

Super Bowl XXXVIII New England 32, Carolina 29
Great game, although it's not remembered all that well. Another last second Vinateri field goal.

XXXIX New England 24, Philadelphia 21
Philly made it close but had TERRIBLE clock management down the stretch and ran out of time.

XLII N.Y. Giants 17, New England 14
HUGE upset as the Giants end the Pats perfect record. Classic game winning drive by Eli including the amazing catch by David Tyree.

XLIII Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23
Holmes catch for the win

Most analysts would probably say last year's Giants win was the greatest ever due to the historical significance of ending the Pats perfect season. But that was a really boring game until the 4th quarter. My personal pick would be the Rams/Titans Super bowl. That 2nd half was incredible. The Titans made a huge comeback, followed by a huge deep pass to Isaac Bruce, followed by McNair's incredible last minute drive (that never gets enough credit), followed by the infamous one-yard-short play. That was just a great game. I would probably rank tonight's game 2nd. It really was a well-played back and forth game by two teams and two quarterbacks that both wanted it bad. Plus, I enjoyed this one a lot hanging out with my friends in my apartment. So, my top 5 will be

1. Rams/Titans
2. Steelers/Cards
3. Giants/Pats
4. Pats/Rams
5. 49'ers/Bengels

Although my FAVORITE Super Bowls ever were XXVIII and XXX when the Cowboys won (I don't remember when the won XXVII. I think I had to go to bed.) But those weren't close games, cause they destroyed the Bills and Steelers.

What do you think is the best super bowl ever?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lost Showdown

This is an awesome thing ABC is doing. It's a bracket of all the best moments in Lost history. You can go and vote here:


The first round matchups are:

Season 1 division:
The Crash vs. "Don't Tell me what I can't do"
Opening the Hatch vs. Walt's abduction

Season 2 division:
"See ya in another Life brother" vs. Swan Station Map
Michael frees Ben vs. Desmond turns key

Season 3 division:
"We have to go back" vs. Kate and Sawyer hook up
Locke's falls from building vs. Charlie's sacrifice

Season 4 Division:
Desmond and Penny phone call vs. The Oceanic Six
Ben Moves the Island vs. Sawyer's goodbye

I picked "Don't Tell me what I can't do," Opening the hatch, "See ya in another life," Desmond turns key, "We have to go back," Charlie's Sacrifice, Desmond phone call, and Sawyer's goodbye.

What are your picks?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Headed to LP Field!

Tomorrow I will head out for Nashville for our annual Titans game! I am so pumped that I get to see in person this historic 11-1 (hopefully 12-1 after the game) season!

I can't wait to see Chris Johnson run all over the Browns defense, watch Albert Haynesworth pound the depleted Cleveland O-line, and the Irish laddie Cortland Finnegan hopefully pick off Ken Dorsey. It should be a fun game and a great weekend!Hopefully, I'll have pictures when I get back.

Our seats are in section 310, so look for up for us if you're watching the game on tv.