Saturday, November 13, 2004

Devil's Playground

Currently Watching
Devil's Playground
see related

It's beginning to look alot like...

...well, you know.

It's gotten pretty cold around here in the last few days, and the church's Twin living Christmas Trees are going up in the sanctuary. Could it really almost be time for that? I hate to say it, but I am actually enjoying the cold weather. I'm headed out to the LSU game today (6:45 p.m. kickoff), and instead of being oppressively hot, it's going to finally be football weather. Eh, maybe a little more winter-y than fall-y, but a nice change of pace. I've got my thermal undershirt, my long-sleeve LSU hoodie, my incredibly warm and stylish head covering (a must-have for the baldies) and my fleece-lined khaki's. I defy thee, Jack Frost! Do your worst!

Amish Kids have the bestest parties...

Anyway, I was watching this movie (the one up there) called Devil's Playground. Call me a super-nerd, but I freaking love documentaries! There - I said it. Anyway, this one is about a most remarkable subject - rumspringa. Rumspringa is a Pennsylvania dutch word that means, literally, "running around". As if the amish aren't weird enough anyway, now we gotta find out they have a holiday called "running around", right? Here's what happens: From the day Amish kids turn 16, until they are 21 years old, they are freed from the constraints of Amish life, and allowed to do whatever they please. It's a time for them to experience what the "english" world has to offer, so that they can decide whether or not they want to join the Amish church. I had heard of Rumspringa before this movie, but figured it was just a chance for them to ride in cars, see some other parts of the world, and maybe go to wal-mart for a change. I was WAY off! Yeah, they do do some of that stuff, but apparently there is nothing off-limits for them. They smoke, move out, get drunk, have sex, go to the mall and DEAL Crystal-METH! Pretty much everything we in conventional society tell our kids not to do, Amish parents look the other way. "They are on Rumspringa..." they say. A few interesting points from the movie:

- Amish kids really do throw the best parties. This amish community in Indiana had kids coming from 4 or 5 other states - INCLUDING florida - for a party they had on a Friday night.

- Amish parents allow a practice called - get this - "Bed-Dating". After a guy has taken a girl out, they allow them to sleep in a bed together that night. This is supposed to show them, I guess, that it's not really all it's cracked up to be. Nice try. Thanks mom!

- Typically, during rumspringa, Amish boys will dress in the manner of the "english" (the rest of us), rather than like their Amish fathers. Girls typically will not. They will retain the dresses and bonnets they grew up with.

- During an amish worship service, the men sit on one side of the room, the women sit on the other. When scripture is read, the women turn their backs to the reader and face the wall. They cannot tell you why they do this, only that their mothers and grandmothers did it, so they will continue to do it.

- Those beards are a sign of marriage. The amish don't wear rings. Don't ask me what the chicks wear.

- During Rumspringa, although nothing is off-limits to Amish kids, they are under the rule of the state and local law enforcement, and they do have to deal with the consequences of what they get involved in.

- Many times, the first thing The boys will do is buy a car. "How? From whom?" You might ask. From their uncle, or their cousin, who has decided to join the Amish church, and now has to sell the one he bought from his uncle or cousin when he was rumspringa. A nice system, I must say.

and finally, the most amazing one of all . . .

- Although during Rumspringa they are allowed to be involved in all matter of shenanigans, tomfoolery and yes, even ballyhoo, they know a day is coming when they must make some kind of decision. They can choose to return to Amish life with its strict regulations, and religious zeal. Or they can choose to become "english" and live like the rest of us - In which case they'll be systematically shunned by the entire Amish community, including their own families. It's entirely a matter of choice. The thing is - 90 percent of all Amish kids decide to join the Amish church!! 90 percent!! that's 9 out of 10. 90 out of 100!! This amazes me.

A few thoughts, from your humble correspondent:

First - There is such a thing in mainstream society (and maybe you've heard adolescent psychologists talking about it) called "moratorium". I know this word has several connotations, but in this context, what it means is this: After you reach adulthood, there is some degree to which society will overlook the sins of your youth. For example, if you were a hard party-er, and didn't really make good grades, you could eventually still become, say - I don't know - President of the united states. I'm mostly kidding, but you get the point. If, at some point, you settle into a respectable lifestyle, folks will sweep the more ridiculous stuff you did under the rug, and chalk it up to silly adolescent rebellion. I think Rumspringa is this idea of a moratorium on steroids.

Second - In the book of Ecclesiastes, we have Solomon, one of the richest men in all of history, lamenting his unfulfilled-ness. It's a testimony to the fact that there are transcendent truths, and needs in life, that need to be known, and need to be filled, and that All the possessions, physical pleasures, and freedoms that man can acquire do precious little to accomplish this. The Amish, have tapped into this realization - and have made a way for their children to learn this lesson sooner, rather than later. Which makes the faith of Amish people more real, and more meaningful than many of us realize.

Third - Don't pity the Amish people. We think "Oh, they're so backward, and primitive! And their religion is almost cult-like! They just don't know what they're missing." They know exactly what they are missing. And it pleases them to miss it for the sake of Christ. The slowness of a simple life is something that the amish cherish, and the rest of us don't understand. Because, really, we are the ones who don't know what we're missing, because we have always had the hurry sickness. The amish enter into their religion, and their way of living very deliberately, and very informed. We could learn alot from them, actually. And yeah - they are a little cult-like. Then again, they said the same thing about 1st century christians in Rome, and Antioch, and Jerusalem.

You should really check this movie out when you get a chance. I got it from Blockbuster, and am thinking about buying a copy.

That does it for me, today - I'm off to tailgate for 5 hours. Shalom Out.

Geaux Tigers!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Let the healing begin...

Well, it's finally over. Ohio is the new Florida... or almost was. It was close, as the pundits predicted, but not that close. The president garnered the highest number of popular votes ever received by a candidate. Voter turnout was way up - and I believe the only lawsuits will be against P-Diddy, by the families of those who voted, and in fact, died anyway.

I was amazed at how, on every network, the anchors and their analysts kept remarking about how evangelical Christians were turning out in large numbers, and making a difference on moral issues. I was also amazed and the number and location of red states. The fact that the president won so many states, and so many popular votes, shows just how out of touch Hollywood, Michael Moore, Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, The Dixie Chicks, Michael Stipe, Gideon freakin' Yago and everybody who allowed themselves to be convinced by something as ridiculous as Farenheit 9/11 are with mainstream America. I am so tired of people acting as if their fame (notoriety?) gives them some kind of political authority. The same thing goes for Curt Schilling.

Don't get me wrong... I'm not one of those "We're too divided..." folks. I actually think that division is a good thing. It's keeps both sides in check. Spiritually speaking, the ancient Jews saw arguing about different interpretations of the Torah as a sign of spiritual health. You argue because you care. I see our country the same way. When we stop arguing about it, and we all agree, then everybody gets their way - which seems to me not a very good idea. Thank God I don't always get what I want. When we stop struggling with the issues, we get lazy and allow anyone with a little bit of influence to step in and run things their way.

It does seem to me that there is a fair amount of outrage among a majority of Americans, specifically Conservative Americans, and they are not about to allow this country to be taken in an amoral direction. That being said - let's see if a supposedly Conservative president with a Republican Senate majority, and a Republican House majority can actually accomplish something that inspires and helps people. Let's see if they can transcend politics every now and then and be what they were elected to be.

Le Roi est morte. Vive le Roi!

Friday, October 15, 2004

Hells Bells

Hells Bells Volume Two!!

Hells Bells is a documentary extolling the evils of Rock-n-Roll music! Sex, drugs, Satanism, the occult, symbols, back-masking, subliminal messages, tribal spiritual rhythms, murder, and all the worst things an individual can be involved in are exposed in this 3 ½ hour documentary hosted by the mullet-sporting Eric Holmberg. I remember as a teenager watching Hells Bells Volume One and just being completely fascinated by all the “evil” stuff they showed! I must have borrowed this video from Klondike a dozen times just to rock out.

So a few years ago, when I saw that Hells Bells 2 was coming out – I was elated. 6 hours and 10 minutes of pure heaven, on 2 DVD’s. Suggested retail price - $99.95. Special Introductory price - $69.95. Buy It Now on Ebay – $29.99 plus shipping. You better believe I snagged it. It came in on Monday.

This is Brett. He's 18. He's pretty much one of the coolest guys you'll ever meet. He reminds me alot of me when I was his age. He's all about the music. He's like a little hairy Matt Pinfield. Anyway, Brett's having some girl trouble right now. What are you gonna do, right? Nothing takes away the hurt like some good old fashioned rocking out, and Brett was as excited about Hells Bells 2 as I was. We've been getting together to watch it section by section. After all, who's got 6 hours in a row, right? Not me. Not Brett. Plus - we want to savor it, you know? Well, it turns out that this new Hells Bells is pretty freaking slow at times. And they talk about a lot of stuff that doesn't rock.

Well, regardless, we are wading through the parts that suck, to get to the parts that rule. I think we've finally made it to the part that we've been waiting for. Brett keeps saying "Just freakin' play some Slayer!!"

Well said, Brett. Well said.

I think there's some Slayer in our near future. Also some Venom, Marilyn Manson, and Deicide. We may even be treated to some new examples of back-masking. You know - where you play an Amy Grant album backwards, and you hear her say, "Help me, Satan, daddy's baby" - that stuff.

As you can see by the picture just to the north of this sentence, I too, am all about the rock. Apparently, I'm all about the whiskers, too. Actually, not anymore. Whiskers look funny with a shaved head. Anyway, I'm extremely pumped about Hells Bells 2: The Power And Spirit Of Popular Music, and wanted to recommend it to you. Anybody out there seen either one of these documentaries? Don't be shy.

Now if you'll excuse me - I'm about to miss Joan of Arcadia - and we just can't have that.

Shalom out

Friday, October 1, 2004

Rules Guys Live By

I love this! I found it, and thought you might enjoy it, too. And you blog snobs out there who can't stomach the posting of something so banal as this (ahemabbyconnerahem) can just.... just.... DO something.

Finally, the guys' side of the story. These are our rules!
(Please note... these are all numbered "1" ON PURPOSE! )

1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it
down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining
about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides.
Let it be.

1. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it
that way.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do
not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's
what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In
fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.

1. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us
to act like soap opera guys.

1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways
makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it
done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1. Christopher Columbus did not need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach,
for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea
what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong.
We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine...Really.

1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, the shotgun formation, or monster trucks.

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. Round is a shape.

1. Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight; but did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.


Currently Watching
Star Wars Trilogy (Widescreen Edition)
By Harrison Ford
see related
HA! Did you see that? Apparently the Star Wars Trilogy is "by Harrison Ford". I hope George doesn't get wind of this.

Anyway, Mark's woman got him the new Special Edition Star Wars Trilogy on DVD. He recently bought a progressive scan DVD player, and a nice 32" HDTV. Two great tastes that taste great together, I must say. So far we have watched all the bonus material, "A New Hope", and "The Empire Strikes Back" IN HIGH DEFINITION. You haven't seen these movies until you've seen them in HD. It's like looking through a freaking window! No, I take that back... it's clearer than looking through a window. It's clearer than real life! I'm a little bit sad, though, because even though I know that "Jedi" is the next one, and the best one, I know that after that - there's nothing else. Sure, I know I could go back and watch Episodes I and II, but they just don't hold the same mystique for me that the originals do. How could they? They weren't written by Harrison Ford.

Anyway, I'm not writing to tell you about Star Wars. I'm writing to tell you about the Best Show You're Not Watching. That's right, gather 'round, children - Unca J.T.'s about to reveal the secret of the T.V.-watching universe to you.


Have you seen this show? It's on ABC on Wednesdays at 7 p.m CST. And before you ask - NO, it is NOT a reality show. It's a drama. Or maybe an action/adventure. It's hard to tell. Normally I'm not down with the ABC dramas, but this show is BLOWING MY MIND. I love it! It's been a while since I actually loved a show so much I thought I would go crazy waiting a whole week for a new episode. It is NOTHING like I expected. You've seen the promos for it. Bunch of folks have a plane crash. Land on what looks like a desert island. Great, you figure - A fictional survivor. Or "Alive" in a warmer climate, and pretty soon they'll start to eat each other. But I'm telling you, there is much more to this show than you think. If you haven't been watching it - you've been missing out. It stars, in no particular order:

That oldest kid from Party of Five.
The new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the West Wing.
The guy who used to rent the apartment above the Talon last season on Smallville.
And one of the Hobbits. Not Frodo - Not Sam.

Two 1-hour episodes have already aired, and normally that would suck for you. But I have good news! Both episodes will be airing again THIS Saturday night on ABC, starting at 7 p.m. CST. So you can catch up, and start watching, or taping, or setting your TiVo or Replay TV. Just do whatever it takes to catch this thing.

Oh- and this is the only thing I think I'll say about this, but:
John Kerry: 1
George Bush: 0
Best 2 out of 3 gets to be President

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Being genuine

Let me be transparent for a moment - i hate the word transparent, i'm fed up with people saying that they are being real, and i think i'll puke the next time someone tells me that they are genuine. current catch phrases that's all they are. they're the words that are current right now and ministers, speakers, and other various youth worker wannabes say them so they will sound good. but to me they're basically just words with very little meaning behind them.

the reason i think this is because i actually do have a theory on being "real" - kind of ironic isn't it. my theory is this - we are most real when we admit how fake we are. we are all pretty much a bunch of posers. i screw up regularly and i want to keep those screw ups as well hidden as possible. even though possibly the best thing that could happen to me would be for you to know each of my sins so that i would no longer have to pretend, that's not what i want to happen. i want to hide my sin and keep on pretending like i'm perfect. i am one very fake person. in fact, i am so fake that when i begin to become "transparent" i am usually thinking in the back of my mind about how secure in myself i am to let people see my weaknesses. i'm not secure. i'm pathetic.

the good news for me is that i'm not alone. i'm surrounded by pathetic people. people who desperately want to be "real" but don't know how to because we are so completely fake. in my heart i want to live the life of the velveteen rabbit but in my mind i don't want to go through all the pain and anguish of getting rid of all the layers of fakeness within my life. what if under all those layers of "fakeness" i find out there's nothing real in the center - the equivalent of a fake onion, simply made up of layers.

thankfully JESUS loves fake people if only we recognize that we are fake. hypocrites don't realize that they are posers, hypocrites think that they are "real". JESUS loves fake people who understand how "unreal" they are. one day JESUS will take all of us "posers" and make us real.

i'm not trying to offer up a cheap, little, sunday-school answer here. i'm not trying to just cover a very difficult problem with the simply phrase "but JESUS will take care of things in the end." i know life has difficult problems and the answers to these problems aren't easy. it's just that there's not another answer to the problem of how fake we are. if JESUS doesn't love us as a group of wannabes then we are all basically out of luck. there's nothing else we can do about it. none of us are real enough to find an answer to our fakitivity (my wife's word). either JESUS loves us in spite of our fakeness and helps us to become real or we're doomed to live and die in a world that only pretends to be genuine

so let me be as transparent as i can be - there is nothing transparent about me. i am so fake that i even trick myself into believing that i'm being real. yet there is still hope for me. that hope is found in the only ONE WHO is real.

am i as clear as mud?

(In the spirit of being completely transparent: I ripped this off of Robert Terrell's blog. Unashamedly. His is way better than mine, anyway. You can check it out here.)

Thursday, September 9, 2004

An offer they can't refuse...

So I've got this freaking class called Supervised Ministry I. It's a "personal evangelism" class. Basically they teach you how to sell Jesus door-to-door. And then they make you go do it, and grade you on how many people get saved. Kind of like the Fuller Brush man, or the Rainbow, or Kirby Vacuum cleaner guy. You get graded on commission.

Okay, so it's not really like that.

I actually told the professor on the first day of class that I didn't have any interest in selling Jesus door-to-door. And whatever happened to relationships? And that referring to people as "prospects" made me sick to my stomach. Actually told him that stuff. In those words. Felt pretty good about it, too.

In the class they actually teach you a model (yeah, ANOTHER model) for "witnessing" (whatever that means). Supposedly it just helps to prepare for, and get into situations where you can start a conversation with people, that may or may not lead to you talking to them about Jesus. Our assignment is that we have to spend an hour and a half a week, for the next ten weeks, involved in some kind of personal evangelism effort. Not by myself, though. I'm in a group. Group of 4. That's not intimidating to people or anything. It would freak me out to look out my window, or be at the coffee shop, and here comes the "God Squad" to cut off all my exits, read my nonverbals, and launch into a conversation that is only designed to lead one place.

Modern evangelical witnessing is a one-night stand. It's cheap, and it's impersonal. Think about it. It centers around knowing the right lines to say, and the right situations to put yourself in so that you can start a conversation with a predetermined target of your choosing. A conversation that has one purpose, and one purpose only - to get you to the point where you've softened them up enough to hit them with what you really came for. Then its all about "closing the deal". If you can't - then you just walk away, mumbling something about how they just weren't ready for what you had to give them, and then what? You pick a new target and start over. Even if you are "successful" - you don't stick around long after the deed is done. You're out the door, hoping they don't need any kind of long-term commitment. After all, you got what you came for, right? You didn't have anything invested in that prospect to begin with.

That being said - tonight is the first assignment for my group. We split up, and me and another guy are going to the coffee shop, and we've only got one thing on our minds. All day long I've been trying to come up with a gimmick. Something to get me in the door. To start that all-important small-talk exchange that will lead to the conversation that will change someone's eternal destiny in a single evening. Maybe I will bring a puppy with me. Or a baby. People love to talk to/about babies. Then again, puppies don't usually cry and poop during the conversation. They do slobber, though.

Seriously, though. What does it mean to "share your faith" with someone? Does "share" in that context mean to make a presentation? Does it mean to share, as in, you divide it up between you? Can someone share their non-faith with me? Maybe it means that you come alongside someone in their life, and let them come alongside you, and you do life together. No matter how different those lives might be. In the end, hopefully they see you making choices different than the choices that they have made, and they want to know why. And it's not because you're better, or smarter, than them. It's just because you've found something that actually works. It's one beggar telling another beggar where he can find some bread. There is relationship involved. Community between 2 or more people. There is history, and there is future. There is an investment.

I realize that the thief on the cross received salvation instantly. He had never met Jesus before. He was never discipled. He didn't even "bear any fruit". Yet that very day, he was with Jesus in paradise. At the same time - I really have to ask myself whether or not I believe that someone today can be "saved" in a single encounter. Most of the time I think I would say not. I honestly think that we do people a disservice when we try and distill what it means to be "saved" into a nice little package, give it away to strangers, and then walk away. It may be that we have a country full of people who think they are Christians because they have made it all the way through a gospel presentation, felt too uncomfortable to deny the person giving it, and ended up repeating some silly prayer after them.

I think the Chinese would disagree with us. The church in communist China is blowing up! It's illegal to be a Christian there, except in formerly British-controlled Hong Kong. The Chinese meet secretly in house churches, and fear for their lives - but not so much that they would be dissuaded from Christ. At the seminaries here, we have classes that teach you how to play games with teenagers, and how to plan a budget for your megachurch youth group. In China, the seminaries have classes called "How to get out of handcuffs in two minutes or less, if you ever get caught being a Christian" and "How to jump out of a second-story window during a raid without breaking your ankles". I don't think you can convince someone to choose that kind of life with a single conversation about the "4 Spiritual Laws". This Christianity thing really means something to them. And if it means so much - can I really justify how cheap we have made it? No. I guess that, like life (as the saying goes), salvation is a journey, and not a destination.

I'm sure you needed to hear all of that. I guess that yesterday I shouldn't have wished that I would be inspired toward more substantial thinking. Although some visitors to this site won't know what to do with something like this. Most of them probably won't even read it. If you do read it, leave a comment. Nothing big, just "I did." or something. Anyway - wish me luck tonight, that my convictions about faith, and my responsibilities for this class will somehow be reconciled. Maybe tomorrow will bring something less cerebral for both of us. Maybe it will be a story about a new friend.