March Reviews

Gus Van Sant continues his odyssey through the inner landscapes of wayward youths with Paranoid Park,a film of ambitious formal invention and negligible impact. In tellingthe story of a skater kid (Gabe Nevins) trying to cope with hisinvolvement in a horrible tragedy, Van Sant once again turns toexpressive slow motion to isolate and extend moments of great emotionalturbulence. All of this is very lyrical, some of it strikingly so (theace cinematographer is Christopher Doyle), but for all the time spentwith this uncomprehending lad, the film never reaches beyond theobvious.

Snow Angels marks another step in the devolution of David Gordon Green, the promising young director of George Washington, who with each successive film seems to shed the qualities that made him interesting in the first place. His scenario, a small town gripped with grief over a recent tragedy, promises much, delivers much less. We also get something we haven’t yet seen from Green—mild condescension toward his characters (though they are sensitively acted by all). The ill-judged ending, in which a character does an extremely desperate deed, doesn’t come across as honest. The trick is to make the final moments seem both excessive and unavoidable. In Green’s hands it only seems like a filmmaker’s conceit.

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Tags | Film

Davidson Wildcats: The Glass Slipper Drops

The stage was set, the players were prepared, and the nation anticipated a storybook ending.   And then the glass slipper dropped.   Cracked.   Shattered.    The Davidson Wildcats missed their last second shot to defeat the Kansas Jayhawks.    Final score:   Kansas 59, Davidson 57.

Most pundits never expected Davidson to get this far.   They figured that Kansas would run away with the game.   But as they proved throughout the NCAA tournament, Davidson students should never be underestimated.  They played to win, right until the final second.    As Jason Richards’ three-point shot missed to the left, viewers across America let out a collective sigh.   They wanted to see Stephen Curry and the ‘Cats go to the Final Four.   

I was on the road, enroute to Austin, Texas.

Where Faith and Life Collide

I finally found her!  Our new office manager is college educated, bilingual, has business experience, and is Kingdom minded.  I had been looking to fill this position for quite awhile and my deadline was fast approaching.  Eva graduated from a Christian college with a business degree.  She articulated well her desire to use her skills for God's Kingdom work, even though she could make more money in a corporate setting.  Her heart for the families in our neighborhood and her own similar experience growing up in a low income area made her a perfect fit for our community development work.  Once again I rejoiced how God had brought us the perfect person to join our ministry team. 

 Today I fired Eva.  It turns out she doesn't not have legal papers to work here.  I would not have known except that she felt convicted by God to be honest with me.  Her reward for her integrity and character is losing the job.  She said she was thinking of me, of the organization.  She didn't want us to invest in her and then find out later that she is undocumented.  If I did not know, I would have been able to keep her on.  Now that I know, I have to let her go. 

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A Heart Like His

"Give me a heart like yours, Jesus."

This was part of the prayer I prayed in December 2004. I had spent the last 15 months being pregnant, the first resulting in an early miscarriage and the second in a healthy baby girl, my second daughter. During that time the joys and sorrows I'd felt were completely self-centered and I was ready for things to change. I prayed that in 2005 God would transform my heart to make me more like Him.

In my very human, extremely short-sighted view I had a picture of exactly what that would look like. I'd become more involved in ministry, more deeply active in the life of my church body. I would serve, I would mentor--- I was ready to roll up my sleeves and dive in wherever I was needed.

Of course, God had other plans.

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A bad back, Dostoevsky, and grace

I was feeling good on Monday; good enough to run the 3 mile path around the lake by my house; good enough to carry out my routine of stretching, and even hang a little bit from the climbing wall that graces my attic office, as I search for strength to climb this spring. At the food co-op that day, I'd picked up a free copy of "Competitor", a mag for runners, tri-athelets, etc. Though I'm in none of those categories, I thought that having the magazine hanging around on the bathroom floor would provide both inspiration and motivation, as I'd see the cover story about 'trimming seconds off your mile' and 'becoming more competitive', all offered against the backdrop of a beautiful blonde on the run.

I ran again on Wednesday, feeling so good that I neglected my typical cooling down routine that lets my body settle into sedentary mode. "I'm so healthy I don't need it" I said to myself. Then I was off to teach a class, from which I returned to engage in some tense, thoughtless words with my wife. In the midst of that, I felt a sharp pain radiate through my lower back, causing me to cry out in agony, and render me nearly immobile. Certain movements were impossible and others felt like knives stabbing into my hips and pelvis.

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Poetry Friday: e.e. cummings

Edward Estlin Cummings is a favorite poet of teenagers the world over because he refused to capitalize his name; he also is one of the most well-known and popular of the twentieth-century American poets.

Chances are you're already familiar with this poem, but spring is slowly springing over New York, and I have never found a poem that expresses the feeling of early spring than this one.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
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Evolution Bill Hits Florida

Ben Stein’s movie Expelled is starting to make an impact ( The movie claims that educators and researchers are discriminated against if they question evolution. After screening the movie, a bill is now being pushed in the Florida House and Senate that would allow public school teachers to present evidence critical of Darwinian evolution without fear of reprisal. The controversial bill is known as The Academic Freedom Act, which seems appropriate for those who want genuine freedom within our classrooms.

The bill does not mandate the teaching of either creationism or intelligent design, but merely offers legal protection for teachers for offering objections and challenges to evolution in class. The Florida Family Policy Council sent a letter to Senators arguing for academic freedom.

The Lion and the Land of Narnia

I was one of the contributors to a recently-released book, The Lion and the Land of Narnia. The book highlights the wonderful artwork of Robert Cording, whose paintings capture the wonder of the world of Narnia, and contains personal essays by a number of C.S. Lewis experts and fans. As the author of a biography of Lewis, I guess I fall into both categories. My essay had to be edited down for reasons of space, so herewith I share the "directors cut."

I arrived late to Narnia, but still in plenty of time for it to have a profound influence on my life.

I envy those who devoured the books as children, turning the pages expectantly to discover the adventures within. But I was nearly twenty, and had already been charmed by Lewis’ winsome theology in books like Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. In fact, I delayed my reading of the Chronicles in favor of the non-fiction works. After all, I reasoned, I wanted to fill my mind with the “deep stuff” before I bothered with the lightweight children’s stories.

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Making Goodness Attractive

This is not a long or well-developed rumination, and it's probably been said before, but it's something I'd like to share, hopefully to start a civil and redemptive conversation about these issues.

After the talk of "re-humanization" in every facet of life - from business to art-making to wine-making to city-designing - at the IAM conference earlier this month, I've been thinking about re-humanization and Christian humanism in more practical terms. Don't be scared off by the term "humanism" - the idea of religious humanism is a far cry from secular humanism, with which the term is most often associated today. This is more akin to art historian and L'Abri theologian Hans Rookmaaker's statement:

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Why They Killed Jesus

This was my text from Palm Sunday; I thought it would be appropriate still, given the season.

                All over the world today, preachers will be speaking about the paradox of Palm Sunday. On the first day of this week, the people of ancient Jerusalem cheered and wept as Jesus came into town, riding on a donkey. By the end of the week, the same people were calling for his death. This is of course, an example of the fickle nature of crowds and of political opinion. But surely there is more to it than that! Unless some things happened in that week that we do not know about, the crowd’s rapid move from exaltation to rage seems jarringly disjointed. Perhaps that’s why the story continues to intrigue us.

                I was thinking about all of that this week as I began to prepare for this message. I reflected on the social conditions of that era, trying to gain some new understanding of the context within which the events of Palm Sunday and Holy week occurred. As I did, I began to realize that Jesus had become an intolerable threat to many powerful people. His existence had become the source of considerable anxiety for those at the top.

                Of course, the human beings who were so disturbed at Jesus had no idea that they were really small-time players in a cosmic drama. The real powers behind the events of Holy Week, the real source of the anxiety that gripped the kings, priests and finally the mob, were invisible to human beings. The invisible powers were, however, the ones really calling the shots. I want to talk about them in a moment. First though, let’s talk about the human side of this story. Let’s ask ourselves why the leaders of first century Judea wanted to kill Jesus Christ.          

Jesus Was a Political Threat

                Jesus was not a political threat because he cared about politics. Actually, he had become threatening because he viewed the political system under which he lived as irrelevant. He preached that the kingdom of God was coming; that the joys and fortunes of the masses would no longer be dependent upon states and kings. Because of this message, Jesus is often depicted as a revolutionary by those who want to make our Lord look like Che Guevara, plotting against governments out in the jungle somewhere.

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Tags | Belief
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