Value

I posted this to my Intro to DMA blog back in Fall 2009. I felt like it needed to be reposted here… 🙂

Have you ever noticed that in some films there is a message, intentional or unintentional, that value is dependent upon certain things? For instance…

You’re valuable…

  • if you’re beautiful (think every Disney Princess movie)
  • if you’re strong
  • if you’re clever (MacGyver. etc.)
  • if you become famous
  • if you succeed
  • if you get married or get in a relationship

But then there are other movies where you absolutely fall in love with the people and they are valuable whether they succeed or not, though they may not be beautiful, clever, famous, successful, married, or even in a relationship. Their value doesn’t come from them HAVING something. It comes from them BEING something.

And in a sense, I feel like a lot of Christian-esque films are even MORE guilty of making “you’re valuable IF” statements than “world-esque.” We just have a different list. Continue reading

“Enjoy.”

Illustration: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart

I was in the Dining Commons the other day when I overheard one person ask another, “Did you enjoy your meal?” The phrase struck me weird, and I thought about it.

We can like something without enjoying it. Food can taste good, and we can fail to enjoy it. We can spend time with our friends, and not enjoy it. We can walk outside on a gorgeous sunny day… and not enjoy it. In this context, our good friends Merriam and Webster define “enjoy” thus:

enjoy en·joy (verb) in-ˈjȯi To take pleasure or satisfaction in.

It is possible to be in a thoroughly enjoyable situation and not enjoy it. I do this all the time! I’ll be with some of the most awesome people in the world, in a nice warm heated room at a college where I’m learning to do something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid… and be completely apathetic.

A guy named Clive Staples Lewis wrote a handy book called The Screwtape Letters, fictitious letters of advice to a “junior tempter” named Wormwood from his uncle Screwtape, a more skilled tempter. It’s basically the Christian equivalent of the CIA intercepting a bunch of letters from the KGB giving advice on how to best trick Americans into losing the Cold War. Anyway, about halfway through letter 15, Screwtape gives Wormwood this advice:

We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every gift which is offered them in the present.

Screwtape ends the letter, “And anyway, why should the creature be happy?” Continue reading

The Voicemail of Paul the Apostle to Philemon. Starring John Wayne

Author’s note: THIS paper is the worst paper EVER. It’s so bad that it loops all the way around from awful to awesome. That’s what I think.

The Voicemail of Paul the Apostle to Philemon

Starring John Wayne

Author’s second note: Yes, I know that there weren’t any voicemail recorders back in the first century, or phones either, for that matter. But if there were, and if the apostle Paul had gotten a cell phone in his jail cell and talked a little like a cowboy in a western, a conversation something like this may have gone down sometime around A.D. 60.

The phone kept ringing. “I think it’s gonna go to voicemail,” Paul said. “I really wanted to talk to him.”

A familiar voice, half-drowned-out by static, answered. “Hey, Philemon here. I can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave me a message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”

“Hey, it’s me, Paul.” He held it up to the mouth of his much younger friend.

“And me, Timothy!” Then Paul took the phone back.

“Yeah. Hey, this message is for Philemon, our good buddy and coworker – and that great cowgirl Apphia, and our buckaroo Archippus, and the rest of the folks in your ranch church. First off, we wanted to send God’s richest blessings your way. You know, when I remember to pray for you, I always say thanks to God ‘cause of how much you love all His people and how much faith you have, and I pray that your ‘faith gang’ will keep on working better as you really keep getting what Christ put in you. You always make me feel better, bro, ‘cause you’ve just been a breath of fresh air to God’s people.” Paul drew a breath and continued. Continue reading

Kristen & Dave, Chapter 1 – An Intro

I love telling stories. I especially love telling true stories about love and such… but I’m not sure how to begin this one. I’m not sure how much backstory my readers will tolerate… but I’ll try to keep it entertaining. Some people say their fiction is personal; all stories are personal. Some say their stories are “based on a true story.” Every story is, at least the good ones. This one is true. And personal.

Jumonville, Summer 2010
Training had started. Life was breathless. I’d moved out of my apartment in Greensburg and taken the long exciting ride down south to Uniontown and driven up Jumonville road for the third time in my life and moved into Ree Enlow’s house about a week earlier. I’d shared a room with James Moran, one of my closest friends from before I had ever once visited Jumonville. Ree loved on us like we were the last people in the world she could love. For the second time in my life, I felt like I was breathing fresh mountain air after breathing deisel exhaust all my life. (The first time was Alaska with my Uncle John and Aunt Linda.) The lies about my value were fighting with everything they had, and for the first time since the breakup, the lies were facing violent opposition.

I eventually grew to love everyone on staff that summer… but this story is about something different then brotherly and sisterly love. In fact, the first time I told Kristen “I love you” was probably less than a few weeks after I met her. (I said the words “I love you” to everyone at Jumonville often.) Kristen asked me not to because those were words she only wanted to hear from her husband. I worried about that, prayed about it… and opted to explain that way I meant it wasn’t a romantic way and keep saying it.

I think the first time I knew there was something special about her was when I was facilitating the zip line multi-level. She didn’t seem scared; she just said “I love You, Jesus!” and slid off the platform. It made me pause and wonder. I knew then that her relationship with God was real. Her Jesus was a friend, not someone she believed in like some kids believe in Santa Claus.

One time, too, after we went prayer-walking, she came back especially crushed. (The whole story is here.) There was a woman Nate had seen in the spirit who had been raped, and Kristen had prayed for her. In that moment and in many others, I saw grace in her. I could tell that she got grace.

And then there were the Bible studies. I went along to them and was a brat. I mean, I tried to honestly answer the questions people asked, but there were legitimately times when I just hijacked the conversation and took it down a rabbit trail for no good reason. It was a biblical rabbit-trail, but a rabbit-trail nonetheless. But as the summer progressed, our conversations got deeper. We ended up talking about God for as much as an hour after everyone else left. I spoke passionately about how God loves us all the time no matter what, and when we don’t feel His love it’s because we’ve put up defenses against Him. I preached. And I left that night with a smile on my face because I had spent an hour alone with a girl and (1) there was nothing romantic going on, and (2) no one would suspect that there was! We were brother-and-sister.

I spent the whole summer telling myself lies like that. Continue reading

The Book of Exodus: Street Style

Written for my Biblical History and Literature class. Any similarity between this account and the account found in Genesis 2 is purely intentional. I had 800 words to summarize Exodus. I had fun with this.

The Israelis are slaves in Egypt. A beautiful Israeli baby boy is floating in the river-basket his parents put him in to protect him from the Egyptian Pharaoh’s law that said all the Israeli baby boys had to die. Pharaoh’s daughter finds the boy and figures he must be on the kill list, but she thinks he’s cute and decides to adopt the kid and name him Moses. Fast-forward a few years. Moses is all grown up and he goes out to see the other Israelis. It turns out that they’re being repressed, so Moses kills an Egyptian who’s whipping an Israeli. But there’s a witness to the murder, and Pharaoh tries to kill Moses, but Moses escapes to Midian where he rescues a few damsels in distress and ends up marrying one of them. Her name is Zipporah.

More years go by. Pharaoh dies, but Israel’s still being repressed back in Egypt, so God appears to Moses in a burning bush and tells him to go liberate Israel. Moses is like “You’ve gotta be kidding,” but God’s dead serious. Moses loses the argument, but God lets him take his brother Aaron along as a sidekick. They show up in Pharaoh’s court and tell him “God says to let my people go!” and Pharaoh’s like “No way, dude.” God turns Moses’ staff into a snake and back, but Pharaoh’s not impressed and gives Israel more work. God dumps plagues on Egypt, but Pharaoh’s stubborn. Finally when his oldest kid (and every Egyptian’s oldest kid!) dies, Pharaoh knows he’s licked and tells Moses to beat it, and take his extended family with him. Continue reading

Reflections on the Holocaust

Not for the weak of stomach. Exit while you can. Written on a sheet of notebook paper and transcribed.

I’m sitting outside of chapel, They’re doing praise and worship inside, and I can’t go in. Not yet.

We just watched a holocaust video. For the first time, I cried over it. The inhumanity. This must have been what YHVH saw when He sent the flood. I can’t go into chapel. I need to process this.

God, You let the human race go on? After such inhumane, abominable atrocities? There are no words, no adjectives, to adequately describe the horror, the revolting… the camera pointed at a corpse on a man’s shoulders… and stayed on him, and so many others. To run the camera, and not point it away because the world needs to see it. Why? I don’t really even know. Because it’s true. Because it’s terrible. You want to cry out “NEVER AGAIN,” but it has ALREADY happened again. And somewhere in the world, it is probably happening now.

Thousands of dead
starved beyond recognition as humanity
tossed – unceremonious – into mass graves
calloused guards, uncaring citizens
bulldozers, and a sign:
__“Grave No. 3, No: 5000” on the grave.
Typhus, lice, starvation
Blood crying out from the ground
__Am I my brother’s keeper?
Human skin, cut off, and used
__as lampshades.
This is what Elie Wiesel saw.

Beware of lies that poison the soul
calling any less than human.
Auschwitz’ sign, a stark bleak warning:
“Do not repeat this desolation.”

Continue reading

Forgiving God

I’m a long way from orthodoxy on this one. 

I’ve been asking around, but concrete answers are hard to find. Everyone seems to think that I should do it, but no one (including me) likes the notion or thinks that “forgiveness” is the right word, but I can’t seem to find a better one.

I guess maybe I should tell the story, first. I’m not sure where the beginning is, but I’ll try starting at the first “offense.”

Continue reading

Happily Ever After, Part 2

Ree has a magnet on her refrigerator door. The first time I saw it, I thought it was Really Insightful. Since walking away from that moment, I’ve been gradually realizing more and more what it means and how true it is.

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment that you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a Journey, not a Destination.”

Continue reading

Controlling God

I wrote this paper for my Intro to Digital Media Arts class. The paper is confusing. So is that class. This paper has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to look good on this screen. I have split long paragraphs to increase readability. Also, sorry it’s so long and “scholarly-looking.” Enjoy!

Christians are optimists. We’re insane optimists. We worship a Guy Who got brutally murdered on a Friday and Who we believe came back to life that Sunday morning. We believe in the impossible, for sure. We honestly believe some kid with a slingshot took out a dude who was big enough and strong enough to eat the toughest modern “ultimate fighter” for lunch. We go through life thanking God when parking spots just happen to miraculously open up in front of us.

So it’s not too much of a stretch for us to think that God will work some miracles, and not the least bit of a stretch for us to write stories about Him doing it. Because we think God needs Public Relations agents, (not witnesses), we attempt to help God do what He refuses to do for Himself. When we can “control” God (and, in our fiction, we can), we tend to make Him Nice. We tend to make Him the way we want Him to be.

The first time I saw an Alex Kendrick film (director of Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof), I was in love. Flywheel wasn’t cinematically ugly or excessively preachy like so many of the other Christian abominations that I had seen; Flywheel’s message was just “Come to Jesus and everything will get better.” It showed a God consistent with what I had heard preached, so surely it was a good Christian film, and the plot seemed reasonably believable. It was exactly the kind of films I had always dreamed that maybe, someday, I could make, too. I even tried to get an opportunity to work with them before I considered Huntington University.

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Something Strange is going on…

Last night, while I was chatting with my mom on facebook, we were scheming about what I can do so I can come back to college in the spring: Take a job for the week before Christmas with FedEx or UPS; I’m still hoping to pull off getting another loan. I’m seriously contemplating taking a job of some kind to help with the spring semester. Then I realized what was going on: I was plotting, trying to figure out how I can stay at Huntington.

Continue reading