Christian Identity in 12 Years A Slave

(Disclaimer: As always, I talk in-depth about movies that I have seen.  If you have not seen the movie referenced and don’t want any “spoilers,” then navigate away from this page now.)

I watched 12 Years A Slave this last weekend.  It was easy to see how it won so many awards as well as garnered so many nominations.  It truly was the best picture from last year… and that’s hard for me to say with The Wolverine coming out last year, too.

Without recapping the whole story, the general plot is one that was familiar in pre-Civil War America.  Solomon Northrop, a free African-American man, is kidnapped and sold into slavery.  He is learned and talented but those are not things prized in a Louisiana slave.  He’s forced to hide his gifts, keep his head down, and perform the brute labor that he’s been bought to do.  The story has many twist and turns as Solomon seeks a way to get word to his family in the North about his plight.  With the help of a wandering Canadian carpenter, Solomon is finally able to get word to his friends in New York.

The movie climaxes with a carriage pulling up to the cotton plantation where Solomon lives. He’s working in the field when he’s called over to identify someone.  It’s a man he knew a life-time ago in his home, Mr. Parker.  Solomon is asked a few more questions to verify that he is who he says he is.  Once Mr. Parker is sure that this is his friend, he forcefully guides Solomon Northrop to the waiting carriage.  But not easily.  The plantation owner, Mr. Epps, sees a $1000 investment trying to walk off his land.  In a short but violent scene, Mr. Fisher forcibly asserts that Solomon is free while Mr. Epps argues that Solomon belongs to him.  The scene is short and, I believe, a sort of filler to get to what the director wants to really portray: Solomon’s leaving of another slave, Patsy.  But don’t move past that interplay between Mr. Parker and Mr. Epps too quickly.  It’s there that you’ll find a wonderful chance to talk about the Gospel.

That interaction between Mr. Parker and Mr. Epps is a fantastic embodiment of the classic Latin theological phrase: simul iustus et peccator which means, every man is “simultaneously saint and sinner.”  There is a constant argument over identity that wages inside each and every one of us.  On the one hand is Satan and his minions who are like Mr. Epps.  They curse at us, swear at us, tell us that we are nothing but a slave to them.  They spit and fume and fuss.  They tell us that they own us.  They tell us that we aren’t worth anything and we aren’t going anywhere.  They remind us that we are sinners.  We have always been sinners.  We will always be sinners.  They seek to keep us in slavery.

On the one hand there is Christ and His Holy Spirit who are like Mr. Parker.  They tell us that we are free, that we are not meant for a life of slavery, that we are loved beyond all measure, that we are worth much more than $1000… or whatever price we think has been paid for us.  Christ reminds us every day that we were always intended to be free men but were kidnapped by sin and sold into slavery.  This is was never our intended state.  Christ tells us every day that we are saints, forgiven men and women, because He has paid the price for our redemption.  We are saints and we will live with Christ in holiness forever.

“For freedom Christ has set you free…” –Galatians 5:1  The theme of slavery and freedom has always been part of the lives of God’s people (cf. The Exodus) and that theme is driven home beautifully in the movie 12 Years A Slave.

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A Man of Two Worlds: Digital and Paper

Theologians and philosophers alike have drawn many dichotomies throughout the years: flesh and spirit, yin and yang, iustus et peccator (i.e. saint and sinner), id and ego, inner child and inner adult… heck, even grocery stores were in on that action for a while: paper or plastic.  But today there is yet another dichotomy that splits the world in two:  digital or paperless

You can tell from the photos of my desk in earlier posts what happens to paper when it comes into my office.  It gets organized archaeologically, that is, the newer stuff gets piled on top of the older stuff.  So, when I want to find something, I hope I can remember the relative date that it was received.  Sorting through the piles of paper, I think to myself, “No, this came in AFTER what I’m looking for.”  This is a slightly better system than I had before.  My previous system I had used since college.  It was called: “Where in the heck did I see that last?”  My roommate and I actually turned it into a game… complete with a theme song.

But this is the 21st century, my friends.  The digital era is upon us.  With a new copier upgrade that my church received in 2012, the document scanner can send docs as pdf’s with optical character recognition (OCR) straight to my desktop.  From there I can sort and store them in Evernote or other places on my hard-drive.  I’ve already started to build some habits of scanning and saving key documents that come in .  I scan them, send them to Evernote, tag them, and don’t worry about them ever again.  I’ll be able to call them up no problem… hypothetically.  I haven’t really called them up yet.  In addition, there are numerous bloggers and websites devoted to going completely paperless in an MacOS or Windows environment; search for one of those if you want details on how to make the jump.

I’ve read many of those and tried the apps that they discuss.  I’ve implemented some of their strategies but there are others that I just can’t get around.  There are some things that my hybrid digital and analog brain needs paper and pencil for.  Curse my Generation X dual-processing system!  So I am resigned to be a man of two worlds and here’s how I divide them.

What goes paperless?

In general, things that I need to REMEMBER go paperless.  My history with storing and recalling paper documents is terrible.  I’ve always had a hard time finding what I need.  Here are some of the best things that I’ve taken paperless:

  1. Web clippings.  This one is obvious.  There was a time when I would print out web pages and file them in manila folders, only to toss those folders when I would go through my files annually.  Then, about 2 months after I had tossed the file, I would be searching the internet for the page that I had printed but tossed.  Yeah, I tried bookmarks but I could never generate a sorting system that allowed me to find them quickly or easily.  (Did I file that cool crowd breaker under “Ministry” or under “Youth”?)  With Evernote’s webclipper extensions for both Safari and Chrome, I can clip it, tag it, process it, and find it later when I really want to research and write about a particular subject.
  2. Meeting Minutes.  I’ve gone back and forth on taking notes in meetings on the provided agenda or in Evernote via my iPad.  Now I kinda do both.  I will take some notes on my iPad directly in Evernote and then I’ll also scan in the agenda with any hand-written notes as well.  I’ll attach the paper to the note and have both in the same place.  Since I usually title my meeting notes pages with Year-Month-Date, it incorporates with my archaeological filing system quite nicely as in, “No, I know I created that note BEFORE last month’s Elder’s Meeting…”  Also, Evernote has a way to set a reminder on notes.  So, I set a reminder to review certain notes on Mondays, the days I like to chart out my week.  Reviewing those notes reminds me to add things to my to-do list for certain days.
  3. Inspirations and Ideas.  Because I never know when a good idea for a blog post, sermon, or ministry project is going to hit, I save these digitally.  If my archaeological system should fail me, I have a tag simply called, “Ideas” that I throw on every new inspiration that comes along.  Later, I ‘ll decide if that’s a ministry idea or a blog idea or wherever and deal with it appropriately.  But I capture these things digitally because 99% of the time I have Evernote nearby.  I don’t put these in my journal for two reasons.  First, my journal is only nearby about 50% of the time and so using it to capture is a coin-flip.  Second, I don’t review my journal that regularly so the good idea may have expired before I see it again.

What stays on paper?

Generally speaking, things that I want to PROCESS or think through stay on paper.  A keyboard and monitor just aren’t the best ways for me to do some of the deep thought that some of my work requires.  There’s also the romantic feel of a stubby pencil in my fingers looking at a yellow legal pad.  This posture communicates to me that I’ve got to do some thinking and the destination of that thinking is not as important as the process.  Here’s what I just can’t take paperless:

  1. My journal.  My journal is a place where I process.  There’s an axiom I’ve heard a number of places that goes something like this: “Ideas are best formed over the lips and through fingertips,” meaning that the act of talking or writing helps us to process our internal ideas better.  My journal is just that: it’s a place to process  not necessarily preserve or publish.  I’m processing the day’s thoughts and feelings in the moment and I may or may not review my journal.  When I do review my journal, it’s to look for general progress or recurring themes that may point to something larger or deeper.  There’s just something about sitting with an empty book, a pen in my hand, and a mind full of thoughts that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.
  2. Work in the original languages.  I still do a lot of translating in Greek for sermon and Bible study preparation .  I have the Logos Bible software and a morphologically tagged version of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament and the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and I do turn to them when I get stuck.  But my preferred method of translating is my trusty tomes that I’ve had since college: the original text, my lexicon and beginning grammar, and a stenographer’s notebook.  The dual columns of the notebook allow a lot of space to parse every verb completely, with the Greek vocable in one column and the full parse in the other.  Again, this is about the process and not the product and the stubby pencil work of translating is something that just takes time when preparing to preach or teach God’s Word.  This time is as much about processing the ideas of the text as it is about parsing the text.
  3. The Storyline Productivity Schedule.  In a recent podcast, Erik Fisher of Beyond the To-Do List interviewed Donald Miller about his Storyline Productivity Schedule.  It’s episode #58 of Erik’s podcast, it’s worth a listen.  In that podcast, Erik asks Donald Miller if there will be an app for this process.  Miller pretty much says, “no.”  Miller says that it’s the process that’s important and he feels that pen and paper are a necessary part of the process.  Again, this productivity tool is all about process and I like to process with pen and paper.  I’m less than a month into using this process and I plan to post my thoughts on it in a later post but this process is not so much about remembering what I did on a particular day as it is helping me to process the priorities for that day.

How do I delineate my papered and my paperless world?  If it’s something I need to REMEMBER and find again, I store it digitally but I have a hard time processing ideas in a digital medium.  And, if it’s something that I want to PROCESS but don’t necessarily need to remember, I pick up a pencil and a legal pad and work through it the old-fashioned way, but I’ll probably never find my notes again.  I do find myself switching from one to another a bit as well.   While writing in my journal I’ll pick up my phone and make a quick note to myself for something that needs more work.  While reviewing some notes, I’ll put my keyboard up, pull out a legal pad, and start to process what’s going on.

Inefficient?  Yeah.  Clunky?  Most certainly.  But there are some things that just can’t be done on a keyboard and montior… or on a tablet with a stylus either.  Some things just need a pencil, some paper, and some room to think.

What about you?  What’s holding you back from making a complete jump to a paperless lifestyle? Is it intentional?

Captain America and the New Life

One of my favorite genres of movies is the comic book movie.  Recent blockbusters featuring Captain America, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor and their collaborative pic, the Avengers, have opened the world of ink and paper to celluloid… or whatever medium movies are shown on nowadays.

One of the best stories to go from comic book to IMAX screen is Captain America.  Steve Rogers is a scrawny kid from Queens who does everything he can to do his part in winning World War II.  But, no matter how many times he tries, his medical history, his lack of stature, and his weak constitution keep him out of the fight.  Taking one last chance, he meets Dr. Abraham Erskine, a scientist who is more interested in Steve Roger’s heart than his body.  Through a series of tests, Steve proves that he is the man to receive the benefits of Dr. Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum.  Here’s a short clip of the administration of that serum:

In the scene from Captain America: The First Avenger, we see a weak, scrawny, powerless man, Steve Rogers, enter the metal “tomb” of Dr. Erskine’s machine.  Through a very dramatic sequence of events, Rogers’ body is filled with the Super Soldier Serum and bombarded with “vita-rays.”  He emerges from the tomb taller, faster, and stronger than before.

With his transformation, Steve Rogers’ life is forever changed.  That which he longed to do the most, to do his part in World War II, becomes a real possibility.  In the minutes following his metamorphosis, an agent of Hydra destroys the Brooklyn laboratory and Steve Rogers takes off after him.  Captain America spends the rest of the movie taking down Hydra bases throughout the European Theater of Operations.  With this gift, Steve adopts a life of service, living a new kind of life.  He could have said, “Hey, look at this.  I have a new body.  I’m taller, fitter, more handsome.  Now that I have this new body, I’m not join got do anything to hurt it or damage it.  I better just stay home then.  My body is perfect; no use in mingling with lesser beings.”  If he did say this, it wouldn’t make much of a movie.  Worse than that, it would be the complete waste of a wonderful gift.

As a Christian, I can’t watch that clip and not think of Baptism.  Consider this passage on Baptism in Romans 6:4
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

As Christians, we have been joined to Christ’s death through Baptism.  We have entered the tomb and who we used to be is now dead.  Through Baptism, the old man, the spiritually weak, scrawny man, is put to death.  In the same moment, we are joined to Christ’s resurrection.  We have emerged from Christ’s tomb with a new and glorious life. The physical transformation is not quite as noticeable as it was for Steve Rogers; none of us were instantly taller.  Nevertheless, we were changed.  The old has gone and the new has come.

With this transformation, our lives are forever changed.  As St. Paul says, “…in order that…we too might walk in newness of life.”  While we won’t become a “Star-Spangled Man with a plan” running throughout Europe in a blue uniform destroying enemy fortifications, we will live a new life.  We are called to a new kind of life that Christ Himself taught, a life of service and humility.  A life that invites others to undergo the same transformation that we’ve received.  You see, unlike the process that turned Steve Rogers into the first Super Soldier, Baptism is always repeatable.  Baptism doesn’t require some special formula and metal box that shoots out “vita-rays.”  As Martin Luther teaches in his Small Catechism: “How can water do such great things?  Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things…”  Dr. Erskine’s formula is lost and never recreated; God’s formula for Baptism can be recreated through simple water and the Word.

In Baptism, every Christian is given a gift.  You have been given a new life.  It’s a forgiven life.  It’s an everlasting life with your Father in heaven.  It’s a life that can be shared with anyone through Baptism.

Do you know someone who’s always talking about living a new life?  Someone who’s always complaining about their life now?  Use this scene from a common part of current culture to talk about new life.  While people may not be familiar with what the Bible teaches about the transformation of Holy Baptism, they probably know about the transformation of Steve Rogers.  This story gives us a great way to brings God’s salvation story to them in a way that they’ll understand.  It could be the beginning of a great conversation.

The Mac Experiment– Day 34

I’m about one month into the great Mac experiment at my office (see previous thoughts HERE).  I thought I would take some time to share: The Good, The Bad, and The Dreamy (things that I’d still like to add).

Here’s a picture of my fully realized workspace in my office at Ascension Lutheran Church.

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Yes, the clutter is still there.  It’s a constant companion.  Here’s THE GOOD part of my switch to Mac:

1.  iCloud: this feature has been a total lifesaver. It brought over my contacts, my preferences, even my bookmarks (which I’ll cover later).  With some help from my brilliant wife, I was even able to bring over a lot of my archived e-mail messages from Outlook on my HP (although I still have yet to look at any of them.)  And iCloud makes all my other Apple devices work in perfect harmony as well (except bookmarks… more teasers).

2.  Dropbox: There is no reason NOT to use this free service/ app.  It installs onto either Mac or “PC” and automatically syncs files across all devices.  I even set up a shared folder on another Dell machine I use for publications as a quick and easy way to share files back and forth.  I’ve almost reached my limit of free space but the ease of use and universality of sharing will make it money well spent.

3.  Nozbe: I’ve played with Nozbe but the big limiter to me was that it was only on my iDevices and not on my desktop.  On my HP it was only accessible through a web version and not very useful.  (Web apps contribute too much to internet wandering for me so I tend to avoid them.)  But in Mac-land, Nozbe is a desktop app and it is single-handedly helping me to get more stuff done as well as forget less stuff.  The addition of Nozbe to my desktop workspace is starting pay off HUGE.

Honorable mentions:

  • MS Office 365 has made it so that Sara and I didn’t have to sink huge amounts of cash into the standard Office suite.
  • The Apple App Center is a great one-stop shop for new programs and updates.
  • Size-up has helped me to save time by re-sizing and relocating open windows to assigned spots which really helps to manage “screen real estate.”
  • And, as you can tell from the pic above, I have a huge 27″ Thunderbolt which not only gives a lot of great visuals but also adds 3 USB ports on the back.  Beautiful and handy!  BlueTooth peripherals (mouse and keyboard) also free up existing USB ports.

My HP laptop is still set up as  well.  It’s relegated to the same corner as before but it has all peripherals and accessories removed so its existence is quite spartan.  Here’s a pic:

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Quite a bit less there than before.  But it’s still there.  I planned for it to serve as a back up just in case my Mac couldn’t do things that I needed from my old HP.  And I’m glad I did that because there are some things that I’m still working around on the Mac.  I call them THE BAD:

1.  Bookmark Tribble Syndrome: Can’t remember how I did it exactly but I found a way for my Google Chrome bookmarks to sync with my iPad and iPhone.  Handy for looking at Safari on the run.  But, when I added the Mac Mini to the mix, my bookmarks ran wild like the fuzzy little creatures on the original Star Trek program.  After trying to keep some more useful bookmarks, I finally just declared “bookmark bankruptcy,” deleted them all from all browsers and started over.  I also signed out of Google Chrome at home.  There are still some that are creeping around and I haven’t found where they’re coming from.  It was a hassle in the middle but has since resolved itself.

2.  MS Publisher is MIA:  This isn’t a total “deal breaker” but it requires me to use my laptop or a less powerful desktop for some layout work that I do.  I’m searching for an inexpensive substitute that will also import my old Pub files; I’m not at all interested in learning how to dual boot .  But, my work in this genre is limited so I’m only using my laptop for maybe an hour a week to accomplish these tasks.

3.  Lutheran Service Builder:  This is a great program produced by my denomination, the LCMS, to help build orders of service (OoS).  We print our OoS in the bulletin each week and this is invaluable for initial layout.  It’s not offered for Mac OS and I’m not willing to dual boot.  Again, not a deal-breaker because I use a Dell desktop for most worship layout and Pub stuff now anyway, so I just have to move to a different machine.

Dishonorable Mentions:

  • Mac OS tends to leave things running in the background more.  If I’m not quick to “Quit” them, my system can get bogged down and hang up.  I’ve then got to cycle through my open windows and close what I don’t need.
  • My Faith Inkubator PowerPoint slides don’t quite run right but I haven’t spent much time researching a work-around.  I have to use my laptop for projection anyway.
  • My view is somewhat obstructed from this Thunderbolt display but I’m willing to make the sacrifice.
  • My power supply is in the way and I’ve got a USB cord over 10 ft. long connecting to my laser printer.  I’ve just got to be careful how I walk around.

But I’m not quite done yet.  I’ve got some other things I’d still like to do to my Mac Mini rig.  I call them: THE DREAMY.

1.  12 South BackPack: It’s a little shelf on the backside of the display that’s large enough to hold the “tower” of the Mac Mini.  This would help to give me some more desk space and move some of the cords up and out of the way… or at least out of sight

2. Brother HL-2270DW: The over-extended USB cord to the printer is my biggest tripping hazard.  I poked around for a wireless add-on to my existing printer but a whole new printer may be the solution.

3.  RAM Upgrade: As I mentioned above, my current Mac Mini can hang if I leave too many windows open at once.  It’s only got 4 GB of RAM.  It’s about $100 to double it.  I hope this would help with some of the hanging issues I’ve experienced.

4.  Mounted Flat-screen monitor and Apple TV:  My office is right next to a small conference room where I teach a weekly Bible study and Confirmation.  I would love to mount some sort of flatscreen to the wall and attach an Apple TV.  I wouldn’t have to set up an LCD projector and laptop every week for Confirmation class. I could just take my wireless keyboard into the next room, load up my presentation, and share it to Apple TV.  Easy peasey lemon squeezy.  Not to mention that I could also stream some videos through iTunes.

So there you have it.  31 Days into the great Mac experiment and so far I’m digging it.  There are some limitations but nothing that costs me a huge amount of time or brain energy.  If you have any suggestions for some of the issues that I’ve listed above, I would love to hear them.  I am in no way a Mac expert; I’m very much a neophyte so I would welcome any and all helps!

The Gospel-handle Introduced

We are living in a post-Christian world, my friends.  It’s time that we accept it.  It’s time we stop tilting at certain windmills and accept the fact that the greater part of American culture no longer looks to the Church for what is right and what is wrong.  Culture is over us… but that’s okay.   We still have a voice. Culture can’t help but feel the effects of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  The echoes of that massive event are still reverberating and making themselves known in our culture.

This blog post is a new application of one of my favorite and most eye-opening classes at Seminary: Literature and the Gospel, taught by Rev. Francis C. Rossow, lovingly known as simply, “Rev.”  “Rev.” was a literature aficionado.  He had more Shakespeare memorized than probably anyone I’ve ever met.  I got the feeling he taught every other class on his assigned list just so they would let him teach this one every other year.  He had a love of literature that didn’t quite catch on with me, but the premise of his class has never left me.

The “Course Thesis” for P-433–Literature and the Gospel, taught in the spring of 1995, was this:

The central event of history called the Gospel-event has hit our world with such impact that it has spilled beyond the bounds chosen by God to contain and convey it.  Incarnation, vicariousness, resurrection are often recorded, reflected, foreshadowed, in varying degrees of accuracy in the following areas: nature, man-made phenomena, pagan religions (beliefs and practices), mythology, art, music, and literature.

To that concluding list I have added another genre that is particularly powerful to me: movies.

In my last post, The Saving Story, I applied the above thesis to the movie Saving Mr. Banks.  The movie in question had no overt Christian tone to it.  There were (to the best of my recollection) no Biblical references.  And yet the very tone and nature of the story immediately drew me to the new story written for us when we are written into the Lamb’s Book of Life through Baptism.  How did that happen?  Because the life, death, and resurrection of Christ have had such an impact on our world that nothing can contain it.

This process has another Rev. Rossow idea at it’s core: the Gospel-handle.  In his book, Preaching the Creative Gospel CreativelyRev. Rossow defines a Gospel Handle as this:

A ‘Gospel-handle’ involves the selection from a Biblical sermon text of a word (or words) which in itself contains no Gospel but is used as an approach, transition, or handle to an account of the Gospel outside the text.

Rev. Rossow uses the term “Gospel-handle” to refer to mundane words from the Biblical text.  I’m using the term to refer to non-Biblical events that ring with a Biblical truth.  In Saving Mr. Banks, the non-Biblical event is Walt Disney promising to save the legacy of Mr. Goff.  There’s nothing at all salvific about that action.  But that action rings with an echo of the promise given in Baptism as laid out in Romans 6.  The two ideas are harmonious so the jump from one to the other is a small leap.

There are four reasons why this is a such a great way to talk about the Gospel:

1.  The Gospel-handle approach uses cultural images to communicate the Gospel in a world that is largely ignorant of the Bible.  As I said at the outset, the world is moving past Christianity.  It’s mores, beliefs, doctrines are considered old hat.  But, by using the ever-changing popularity of movies as our images, we can keep the Gospel in the mix.  I may never see the Church return to the influence it had 30 years ago when I became a Christian.  But this is a way for a faithful remnant to continue to engage with the world, rather than shrink away from it.

2.  The Gospel-handle approach engages people where they are.  If you look at any church’s calendar, you’ll find very little scheduled on Friday nights.  There’s a reason why this happens: the Church can’t compete with the Culture.  Every Friday, Hollywood introduces some new film into the mix.  If given the choice of a two-hour movie or a one-hour Bible study, folks choose the movie.  It’s just how it goes.  There are more people in movie houses than the Lord’s house on a Friday night.  So, if that’s where they are, then I engage them there.  I see what they see.  And as I do this I listen for the faint echoes of the Gospel rebounding around the plot, dialog, and morals of the movies, looking for a way to harmonize.

3.  The Gospel-handle approach shows that Christians aren’t that different.  Christians have gotten a bad wrap when it comes to Jesus movies.  In 1988 they called for the boycott and banning of The Last Temptation of Christ.  In 2004 they bussed people to see The Passion of the Christ.  Yes, I understand why; I didn’t agree with anything in The Last Temptation of Christ, but, to the average movie-goer, they didn’t see the difference.  When I hear people telling me what a Christian should watch or not watch, I get what they are saying.  But I also understand where my faith lies, so I’ll just try to make sure that no one sees me in these movies so that I don’t tempt a weaker brother. (1 Cor. 8)

4.  The Gospel-handle approach gives me an excuse to go see movies.  This way, I can always talk my wife into calling dinner and a movie a date.  Even if she doesn’t know I’m really doing research.  Hmm… gotta find a way to deduct movie tickets as a business expense.

Church attendance numbers are dwindling, no matter what research you reference.  People are starting to move past the Church looking for new sources of morality, hope, and joy.  I’m going to join them in some of these sources, namely movies, so that I can find a way to harmonize the love between a man and a woman who finally hook up in a romantic comedy with the love that Christ, the Bridegroom, has for His bride, the Church.  I’m going to movies so that when a man sacrifices his life by diving on a live grenade I can synchronize that with the sacrifice of Christ.  These great Gospel themes are still present in our world, we’ve just got to find new ways to share them with people.

What do you think?  What echoes of the Gospel do you hear all around us?

The Saving Story

Recently my wife and I took in the movie Saving Mr. Banks.  The reviews were somewhat mixed but I found it delightful and moving.  If you haven’t seen the movie and are worried about “spoilers” then I would ask you to stop reading now.  You won’t hurt my feelings; just come back when you’ve seen it.

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The story is about the relationship between Walt Disney and the author of Mary Poppins, Pamela L. Travers.  Walt has been pursuing Mrs. Travers for 20 years for the movie rights to her beloved nanny character.  After 20 years of asking each year, Mrs. Travers agrees to a visit to discuss the movie in theory.

Throughout the weeks of working on the script, Mrs. Travers holds tightly to even the most minute of details.  At first, everyone just writes her off as “difficult” but when she storms home to Britain after an impasse, Walt Disney sees there’s something else going on.

The best scene in the film is the one that takes place between Walt Disney and Pamela Travers in her London home.  Walt has figured out that the beloved characters in the novel are based on real-life characters from Mrs. Travers’ past.  Mr. Banks, it turns out, is based on her father.  (The movie so far has been interlaced with flashbacks to Pamela Travers’ childhood in Australia and the struggles that her father faced, culminating with his death when Mrs. Travers was very young.)  Walt also figures out that much of her difficulty with details of the movie script are tied to honoring the memory of her father.  The pain of Mr. Banks’ character is her pain from over 50 years ago and it is still very real in her mind.

How many of us hold on to the pain of some of the most minute details of our past?  I know I’m particularly prone to this.  The failures of 20 years ago sometimes come to mind unbidden, haunting me on a regular basis.  And I allow them to shape what I feel about the present and even what I believe will happen in the future.  In some ways, they may even become a sort of “self-fulfilling prophecy” because I just assume that what happened in the past is what will happen in the future.  I expect pain, hurt, or failure and so I get pain, hurt, and/or failure.  This is what my story tells me to be true.

In answer to the fear of Mrs. Travers, Walt Disney makes the most wonderful promise.  He says something along the lines of, “I can’t save your father but I can do the next best thing: I can save Mr. Banks.”  With that, Mrs. Travers sees the opportunity and agrees to sign over the rights to Mary Poppins.  Walt Disney can’t change the past, but he can change how future generations will view Mr. Banks, the embodiment of Mrs. Travers’ father.

With that in mind, consider this verse from Romans 6: “We were buried there with [Christ Jesus] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  (Rom. 6:4)

In a nutshell, Baptism changes our story and changes how we will be forever.  Baptism cannot undo the terrible things that have happened in the past.  It can’t take away those things that seem to flash into our minds unbidden, haunting us.  Baptism can’t undo the past but it can do the next best thing: it can re-write our future, it can save us.  In Baptism we know that our future has already been written. We have been joined with Christ in His death and resurrection and we will be raised by the same glory of the Father that raised Christ.  It promises that future generations throughout eternity will remember us as beloved of God because of Christ Jesus our Lord.

The movie closes with Mrs. Travers in tears as she watches the story of her childhood brought to life on the silver screen but with happier ending.  Whereas her father died a tragic death, his embodiment in Mr. Banks is alive, redeemed, and preserved for future generations through the magic of cinema.  For us the joy is exactly the same.  The pain and suffering that we remember all too easily is gone and we are alive, redeemed, and preserved for eternity through the power of God’s Holy Baptism.

In the closing scene, Walt Disney tries to comfort Mrs. Travers.  He leans forward and says, “It’s all right, Mrs. Travers.  It’s all right.  Mr. Banks is going to be all right. I promise.”  In Baptism, Christ makes the same promise to us.  No matter what pain the past may inflict upon us, our story is joined with Christ and we are going to be all right.

Migration cures Myopia

As I set up my new Mac Mini in my office last week, I ran into an interesting problem.  Here’s a photo to help explain; please excuse the clutter.

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I have a Thunderbolt display on it’s way but it’s not here yet.  If I were to set up my new Mac where my old laptop (as pictured above) currently resides, the Thunderbolt will not fit under the bookcase above.  It would be sitting about where my keyboard is currently set up.  My face would be about 12-18 inches from the screen.  I don’t know if that would help or hurt my eye strain levels but it’s not good.

With the lower footprint of the Mac Mini, my wife recommended that I try putting everything on my large desk.  Since I’m at a point where I’d like to have both computers available “just in case,” I followed her suggestion.  Here’s what my Mac set up looks like as a result; again, ignore the clutter:

Image                            The reduced footprint of the new Mac is nice; see it underneath my orange external HD.  But, more importantly, compare the two views.  With my old set up, I stared into a corner most of my day and I typed away on my laptop.  If I were to look away from my screen, all there was to see was two beige walls and a small bulletin board with some inspiring words on it.  With this new set up, I am able to enjoy the view into a small courtyard outside my window.  Just to the right there is also a large plate glass patio door that lets in even more natural light.  I could probably have some friends from Ascension help me put a bird feeder to attract wildlife every once in a while.

Even after 2 or 3 days I can notice a difference in my mood and productivity level.  I catch myself glancing over the top of my monitor and out the window a lot more.  I find that this creates opportunity to daydream and create and think.

That’s the myopia I’d really like to cure.  My setup will continue to be on the desk, not because I’m worried about the strain on my eyes from having a huge monitor so close, but because I’m worried about the strain on my soul from sitting in a corner every day.  While this was all facilitated by a change in computers, I could have and should have done this years ago.  It’s amazing what a change in scenery can do for your heart.

What’s one small change you can make in your work area to help your soul?