Revisiting Global Heroes

Author Brad Meltzer is quoted as saying this: "“We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all bold. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. It just depends on the day.”


Yes, the films “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” will wash over the imaginations of movie watchers this year, but heroes need to last longer and grow bigger. Our politicians are not heroes as of March 2018. They are growing smaller and are creating divisive narratives that will not last. Our first responders can be heroes, but many will say they are ordinary and that it depends on the day.


Heroes, though, come near us when things seem out of control. Since love is not just an idea or an emotion, but a physical action, people who truly care deeply for us help to shape and frame our understanding of eros or agape or philos or good, old-fashioned love stories. I want someone to slide their hand in to mine and take on the world with me. If lovers lie with one another, make love, and each knows that the world may not understand them, but damn it, the world will need to deal with them. A connection has been made at a deeper level. Love is that thing that elevates us to act like heroes to one another and sometimes to the watching world.

To love the world is to confront it and this will sound and look heroic. To love the world with another is to confront the insecurities in each and draw ever closer. If you know me better or more intimately, will you love me  We now live in the tension of knowing far more than we have ever known about the world, with access to information across the globe coming to us at broadband speed, so we cannot plead ignorance. We can only act or not act. In the midst of Hollywood’s recent explosion of films dedicated to superheroes and comic book figures, Roger Ebert, in reviewing The Dark Knight, observes: “Something fundamental seems to be happening in the upper realms of the comic-book movie. “Spider-Man II” (2004) may have defined the high point of the traditional film based on comic-book heroes. A movie like the new “Hellboy II” allows its director free rein for his fantastical visions. But now “Iron Man” and even more so “The Dark Knight” move the genre into deeper waters. They realize, as some comic-book readers instinctively do, that these stories touch on deep fears, traumas, fantasies, and hopes.”[2] And in an age of globalization, our “deep fears, traumas, fantasies, and hopes,” are shared across cultures, generations, and mediums at breakneck speed. If it’s true that we are increasingly becoming interconnected and interdependent on a global scale, then can it be true that we are now in search of heroes that will connect and rescue us all? Our heroes, now, must be people or figures who can not only transcend their context, but cultures as well. In other words, our heroes must be part of something bigger than themselves and challenge us to values that are shared beyond our own immediate context. Our heroes can't just save us, they must act like they care.

Can we draw ever closer to one another and still love more, not less?

Can we face the darkness of the world and love more, not less?

The heroes we become or the heroes we need will remind us that sacrificial love is the life we want to stick around after our storms have passed.

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Living with Camus Isn't Bad at All

On this day, January 4, in 1960, Albert Camus died in a car crash. That’s the bad news.

The good news: he isn’t bad to live with today.

In a 2010, Economist article, we read that “History finds Camus on the right side of so many of the great moral issues of the 20th century. He joined the French resistance to combat Nazism, editing an underground newspaper, Combat. He campaigned against the death penalty. A one-time Communist, his anti-totalitarian work, “L'Homme Révolté” (“The Rebel”), published in 1951, was remarkably perceptive about the evils of Stalinism. It also led to his falling-out with Sartre, who at the time was still defending the Soviet Union and refusing to condemn the gulags”.

In my own copy of The Stranger by Camus, I have a few things underlined.

Thanks and No Thanks

Albert Camus once wrote that the purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself. He has a point. In a day and age where cynicism and insults fly out of the mouths and keyboards of cultural leaders like reactionary cries of a toddler in a toy store, we enter a holiday season full of thanks and no thanks.

There are a lot of reasons to be thankful, particularly in the U.S. Despite being only 4% of the world’s population, we consume resources and material goods in mind boggling numbers. We can connect online across countries, across borders, and across time and space in mind-numbing speed. And the list goes on and on. Many people reading this truly take things, people, and food for granted.

But, there’s a ‘no thanks’ part that is also increasing in our culture.

The word ‘evangelical’ is becoming something people want to say ‘no thanks’ to because it has become virtually meaningless and more associated with fundamentalist voters rather than good news or salt and light. Cultural leadership, formerly occupied by celebrities or Presidents (world leaders) or athletes, is now a wide open and unoccupied space. Our own President has made fun of or called other people names several times in the past few days alone. Violence against women is now a common report in the news with prominent members of Hollywood or the sports world found guilty or as suspects. Even college sports is under investigation by the FBI for corruption.

I want to say a resounding ‘no thanks’ to so much of the cynicism and rhetorical vitriol that runs amuck on social media and in the news cycle. But, for the foreseeable future, all of the ugliness seems here to stay.

 So, in order to truly say ‘thanks’ to what is good, we now have to be even more intentional saying ‘no thanks’ to that which is unloving and unkind. Abraham Lincoln, about a month before he gave the Gettysburg Address, sent a note outlining why Thanksgiving means something. The memo is pasted here:


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Tags | global | holiday | love | thanks

Progress and Decline at the Same Time

A name calling President who regularly insults others in public doesn’t seem like progress. Yet, we continue to advance medical technology to the point of AIDS being more treatable than before. We can detect certain cancers earlier and life expectancy is higher. This is promising.

The leading cause of death for adults 25-45 years old last year was drug overdose. In fact, the leading causes of death in all adults under the age of 50 is, for the most part, self-inflicted. Drug overdose, suicide, and heart failure all compete for number one. This doesn’t seem like progress. Earlier I took a train from London to Paris which travels underneath the water. I ate breakfast at a preserve in Australia with Koala bears and Kangaroos and had a soft drink and wrote in my journal while sitting in Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing. Some of this seems like progress.

Whiteside County, Northern Illinois

At some point, though, I will have THAT conversation. The one about how girls should be avoided and how boys do stupid things and at some point, the conversation will turn toward the physical. My son currently doesn't care much about certain singers or bands, he likes Arkham video games more. At some point, though, girls won't be yucky and not all will look like his sister. The first kiss for me happened in Whiteside County in Northern Illinois. Do I remember her? Yes. Does she remember me? I have no idea--not the point. Did I know what I was doing? Not at all. But, don't we all think we have something, even love, figured out until the idea of the thing crashes in to our daily life? 

This is an inevitable conversation, not because sex absolutely must be talked about in explicit terms, but because love is physical and to deny that is more than Victorian sensibility or aristocratic decorum.

Learning Grace and Love from a Baby

Justice is 16 months old now. His personality is beginning to reveal itself and I'm starting to see glimpses of the man God created him to be. He's observant and pays close attention to detail, noticing nuts and bolts, light bulbs and wall clocks. He's relational and playful with our friends’ kids. His greatest joy is to pick up handfuls of dirt which he then meticulously transfers to a nearby location only to drop the dirt, watching its granules slip slowly between his pudgy baby fingers. He's full of life and joy and I absolutely love being his momma.

He's also full of opinions and never hesitates to tell my how he really feels. Like, when he kicks his legs at turbo speed in protest to being carried indoors after so many outside adventures.

Learning to Delight in the One who Delights in Me

"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." Psalm 37: 3-6

I used to read this passage and only have eyes for, "the Lord will give you the desires of your heart."  How wonderful I thought. God wants to give me the desires of my heart! I seemed to subconsciously ignore the part about delighting in the Lord and trusting him. Details...details.

Before I had my son, I delighted in things like

  • a good sandwich
  • a well brewed cup of coffee
  • a leisurely walk on the beach
  • a pistachio chocolate bar
  • a mason jar full of freshly made juice
  • the feel of the southern California sun on my face
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Tags | Family | Delights | God | love

Are God and Allah the Same?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet. 

William Shakespeare's immortal line from Romeo and Juliet is practically a universal truth. If something is real, it can be known. If it can be known, it doesn't matter what you call it. The identity and qualities of that person, place, or thing stays the same in any language.

Or does it?

Take the person of God, acknowledged as the “one true God” by the world’s three great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—even though these religions refer to God in their own unique way. In Judaism He is Yahweh, in Christianity He is God, and in Islam He is Allah. So are God, Yahweh, and Allah the same?

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Love and the Woman in 13F

The large woman was sitting in seat 13F on the Southwest Airlines flight from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles. Her seat was by the window and she was trying not to make eye contact with the passengers filing by. On Southwest there are no assigned seats. People board by pre-assigned priority, and once you get on the plane you can take any open seat. The seat next to the woman in 13F remained empty for a long time. I should know. I was sitting in 13D, two seats over. The problem with 13E and why it was still vacant, even though most of the passengers had boarded, was a matter of space. For all intents and purposes the woman in 13F was also sitting in half of 13E.

I’m embarrassed to admit this to you, but I’ve got to tell someone, and it might as well be you. I sat in 13D because I thought 13E might remain vacant due to the size of the woman in 13F, giving me extra room for the long flight. Then, the unexpected happened. A young hipster woman (there are lots of them in Austin) walked down the aisle, stopped next to me and pointed to 13E. She wanted to sit there. I don’t know what kind of person I expected to take the “charity” case of sitting next to the woman in 13F—a nun perhaps?—but I would not have expected this young lady with a flowing white dress and several tattoos to be the one. Yet there she was, and I was suddenly feeling very small, especially when she sat in 13E and immediately began to engage the woman in cheerful, respectful conversation.

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A New Word for an Old Idea

Words change.

They become archaic. They change meaning. They lose the power to describe what they originally were used for.

Words evolve.

At one time the highest form of love was called “charity” (Check out a 1611 version of 1 Corinthians 13)

In genuine acts, people showing this kind of love, often gave money, time and energy to those who could not pay them back. So much so that eventually the meaning of charity morphed into a synonym for aid assistance and compassionate giving and not the sweeping all-inclusive God-type love which it was originally used to mean.

Words can be high jacked.

Saying a person is “young and gay” does not carry the same meaning it did a hundred years ago. Nobody I know of uses that word to describe being carefree or joyous. The word is dead to its original use.

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