Saturday, January 26, 2008

Spin Off on the Coors Light Commercial

As you can most likely tell, we video taped our Senior Pastor and then took a few choice soundbites and spliced a "news conference" into it! The inspiration came from the 2007 Football season featuring my most favorite commercials. I laid on my couch enough times thinking, "It would be funny to do this to Doug." I am glad he thought it was funny too! He is about the only Senior Pastor I have worked with that had a really good sense of humor with a practical joke! I can keep my "job-hunting suit" in my closet!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Motion Sickness at Cloverfield

Alrighty! Let's talk about Cloverfield! I took my son to go see this new twist on enormous monsters destroying major metropolitan cities. J. J. Abrams definitely created a film that was unique in it's approach but it was a hard movie to watch! The approach of the film is taken from a camcorder of one of the main characters who, no matter how bad, shocking or revolting things go, he somehow manages to keep the camera up and running. But of course, with this approach there is a lot of jerky movements and blurred action that is enough to give even the strong of heart motion sickness. Half way through the movie I literally thought I was going to barf right there! And not because I was scared or grossed-out but because of the constant jerky motions in its filming. I was even sitting in the second to last row and it still was a very hard movie to watch.
As I sat there getting sick, I began to get cynical about some aspects of the film, such as:
1) Why is it always New York City?!?!?! Seriously people! Is this the only large scale model of a metropolitan city that Hollywood has to play with? This almost has become a morbid sense of "self-terrorism" on our part. It is not bad enough that we have to deal with terrorism in real life. We have to also make up terrorizing monsters to terrorize us even more, and why not go after the same city that the real terrorists went after and make the monster attack look eerily like the Sept. 11 attack! From now on, for originality's sake, let's go after a different target! Here are some of my humble suggestions that would make for a GREAT MONSTER MOVIE instead of seeing the same old skyline getting pulverized:
a) Since the Cuyahoga River was so polluted back in the 60's that it actually caught on fire at one point, I would love to see a monster attack on Cleveland! Of course any monster that is birthed in the Cleveland area would have to go attack Pittsburgh.
b) Another fun city to see destroyed would be either Toledo or Detroit. The monster could arise out of Lake Eeeeeeeeerieeeeeee!
c) I want to see a freaking huge monster attack Iran! Wouldn't that be awesome! That would be something to cheer about! And imagine the sheer genius of egging on Iran just to get a serious reaction out of them. Maybe we could name the monster "Moe Ham Ed, The rise of the 5th Imam"!
d) The Mexican border would be a great place to film a monster attack! Of course no one would notice a large monster until the beast pummeled the nearest city.
2) Why is it that everything evil seams to originate and/or emerge out of the Atlantic Ocean? Why is that? Is it that all of the "real" environmentalists live out on the West coast so the Pacific is more pure and pristine that nothing evil could ever be spawned from its waters? How about the Gulf of Mexico? Or the Great Lakes!?! Or better yet . . . The Indian Ocean! Then Moe-Ham-Ed can attack Iran!
3) Why does our military seem incapable to handle a target that is almost impossible to miss? You would think that with a target that big the military would be excited about trying out some new high-tech weaponry on the beast. But no matter what the monster might bring to the table, the hapless military is either unable to hit it or loaded their weapons with blanks and just plain forgot!
4) Who is this guy that can run his camcorder while all hell is breaking loose? Not only was this a question that plagued me throughout the film but I was finally relieved to see this schmuck get chewed up by our giant squid-crab-zilla monster.
Besides these perplexing thoughts that ran through my mind, I thought it was an interesting movie. I just realized half way through the movie that, if I don't begin to focus my mind on other things quickly, I am going to yack in front of my teen son and look like a real dork. So go see Cloverfield, just don't sit anywhere close to the front of the screen. Better yet, wait until it comes out on DVD and rent it. I'm sure the special features alone will be worth the wait!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Beware of the Angry White Guys!

If you have spent anytime around Barnes & Noble you are most probably aware of the deluge of anti-God books that have come out over the past year. The biggest one of all of them has been Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion." But one of the other books caught my attention. Christopher Hitchens is a regular on news programs who is never afraid to offer up his opinions. Most recently he has come under attack for trashing Mother Teresa in a Newsweek article railing against her 'lack of faith' as if this proves her coming to reason that God does not really exist but then choosing to ignore reason and reality as defined by him. Well, a man who seems to have no shame in thinking he can interpret the mind of Mother Teresa as a weak and delusional old lady kind of intrigued me. So I decided to check out his book that has been included in the "New Atheist" category.
Well, I just recently finished Christopher Hitchens "God Is Not Great". And I must say it was a difficult read. Why, you might ask? For several reasons:

1. Hitchens does a fine job of drudging up the-worst-of-the-worst in religious history painting a very, very dark picture of all religions. Now I am a Christian and I will be the first to admit that the history of the "Christian" church is by no means perfect. In fact, it always seems that when the Bible is mixed with a little taste of power and a smattering of politics it inevitably turns ugly very quickly. But within the stream of Christian history, it is evident that there are many examples of those who use the Christian religion for their own purposes which pervert and distort the true message of Christ. This is NOT true Christianity nor is it the real message of Jesus Christ. But to be fair, the church all throughout history has always been filled with imperfect people. God forbid that anyone would lift me up on a pedestal as a shining example of a happy, shiny Christian. It is only by the grace of God that anything good comes out of my life or out of the stream that we call Christian history.

2. Hitchens is HORRIBLE when it comes to interpreting the meaning of Scripture. For being recognized as one of the most important intellectuals that USA has to offer, he most certainly did not wrestle with the great intellectual minds of the Christian faith but instead took easy shots at the most controversial figures who represent the fringe of Christianity, such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Before you spew your misguided and thoughtless interpretations of Scripture why not at least wrestle with the intellectual minds within the Christian faith and not just the ones who have been dead, gone and buried for decades or the ones today who are hardly any challenge at all. I would love to see a man like Hitchens dialogue with John Stott, Scot McKnight or Ravi Zacharias. I would dare even to say that you would not even last a round with Rick Warren without being touched by the love of God that radiates from him.

3. It is very difficult to read someone who is so full of himself. Intellectualism is Hitchens god and he is drinking deeply from that well. And as a person like this becomes consumed with himself it is easy for him to look very condescendingly down upon the those whom he considers "ignorant". That is one of the major roadblocks that I continually bumped into in reading this book. As much as I wanted to try and understand his line of reasoning, I found it very difficult to get beyond his egoism and condescension.

4. Where is all the anger coming from?!?! Hitchens seems almost violently angry at God, at the Christian faith and at all faiths for that matter. So much so, that even his subtitle declares that "religion poisons everything". Why the temper tantrum? Where is all this repressed rage coming from? There are moments within the book that his anger seems so toxic that, if he had his way, the endorsement of widespread persecution of all those of any faith would tickle his fancy! He almost borders on becoming the very things he hates within his dark portraits of religious history - intolerant, destructive, and oppressive.

5. It seems to me that as we continue to emerge into this post-modern era, the constructs of modernity are crumbling. With this is the enlightenment idea that the field of science is the end-all of true intelligence and intellectualism. But as other 'gods' within society emerge, the common people lose their trust in the modern structure of intelligence and embrace the new gods of a post-modern culture. This alone would cause those who believe strongly in enlightenment thinking to react violently as their ship is sinking fast. With this in mind, it is important to note that all truth is God's truth if we truly believe that He is the creator of all things. So all theological truth AS WELL AS scientific truth and psychological truth ultimately come from the mind of God. It is we who discover what God Himself has already set in motion.

So what it all comes down to is that this book is not great. It is the tirade of an angry man who is full of himself. He looked at the dark underbelly of religion but I would dare him to explore all of the good that is happening as genuine people of faith live out their beliefs. I would dare him to actually dialogue with respected people within faith communities who hold to an opposite view of Hitchens. I would dare him to spend some time in Africa with Compassion International. I would dare him to see the good that is coming out of churches that tend to be the major influences within American Christianity - Saddleback Community Church, Willow Creek Community Church and Mars Hill Bible Church. DO NOT watch "television Christianity" and label us according to the stereotype they feed into. I love the fact that at the beginning of Hitchen's book, he admits to having Christian friends who tell him he is a "seeker"! That lets me know that Hitchens does have people around him who are being an example of Christ's love and having just a little bit of fun goading him on in his scrooge-like attitude towards the religious! If Jesus can turn someone like Paul inside-out then surely it is only a matter of time when Hitchens will become one of the most dynamic and outstanding defenders of the Christian faith!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My Insane Book List of 2006 and 2007

Here is my list of books from the two previous years. Way back at another church I had a Senior Pastor who sent out the list of books that he read over the past year. I learned a lot about him just in what he was reading and I found myself asking him questions about some of the books he had read and looking for them in his library. If I had to list my Top 3 Must Read Books it would probably would go like this:

2006: Letters to a Young Evangelical, Blue Like Jazz, and An Irresistible Revolution
2007: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Year of Living Biblically and Blood and Thunder.

Color Code

  • United Methodist Books
  • Christian Literature
  • Children's Fiction
  • Fiction
  • Emergent / Post-Evangelical / Post-Modern Christianity
  • Historical
  • Humor

Book List of 2006
1. Major United Methodist Beliefs Mack B. Stokes 150
2. Leadership in the Wesleyan Spirit Lovett H. Weems, Jr. 147
3. Holman NTC: Revelation Kendell H. Easley 430
4. Remember Who You Are William Willimon 114
5. State of Fear Michael Crichton 638
6. Farmer Boy Laura Ingalls
Wilder 384

7. Sunday Dinner William Willimon 110
8. The Broker John Grisham 419
9. The Christian Culture Matthew Paul Turner 151
10. Dinner with a Perfect Stranger David Gregory 100
11. Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt Anne Rice 336
12. The Wizard of Oz L. Frank Baum 213
13. What God Has Joined Together? Myers & Scanzoni 149
14. House Peretti & Dekker 380
15. Born Again Kelly Kerney 320
16. Season of Life Jeffrey Marx 177
17. Letters to a Young Evangelical Tony Campolo 224
18. Blue Like Jazz Donald Miller 256
19. The Irresistible Revolution Shane Claibourne 192

Book List of 2007
1. Emerging Worship Dan Kimball 231
2. The Emerging Church Dan Kimball 246
3. Making Sense of the Church Spencer Burke 167
4. The Church In Transition Tim Conder 222
5. Blood and Thunder Hampton Sides 402
6. Church Re-Imagined Doug Pagitt 219
7. Adventures in Missing The Point Campolo/McLaren 272
8. The Bible (The Message) Eugene Peterson 1720
9. Soul Searching Christian Smith 271
10. When God Stood Up James Cantelon 190
11. The Innocent Man John Grisham 360
12. Walking Away from Faith Ruth A. Tucker 224
13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows J. K. Rowling 759
14. Velvet Elvis Rob Bell 172
15. What I Wish I Knew When
I Started Youth Ministry Mike Yaconelli 85
16. A Generous Orthodoxy Brian McLaren 297
17. Church History in Plain Language Bruce L. Shelley 544
18. The Year of Living Biblically A. J. Jacobs 400
19. Be The Change Zach Hunter 160
20. A New Kind of Christian Brian D. McLaren 192
21. The Story We Find Ourselves In Brian D. McLaren 192
22. The Message of the Sermon
on the Mount John R. W. Stott 222
23. Confessions of a Youth Pastor “Doc” Hillard 110
24. Venti Jesus Please Greg Stier 106
25. Surviving Middle School Rick Bundschuh 120

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

My Insane Movie List from 2007

Several years ago I got the idea that I didn't read many books, so I decided to make a list of what I read. Making lists seemed kind of fun so I began doing it with other things I did with my life! Yes, I know, the OCD started taking over. So here my first official list of 2007! This includes the movies that I have seen over the past year. But let me start out by saying a few things:

First, I have a young family so sometimes I am subjected to films that sometimes are hard for me to watch.

Secondly, I am a youth pastor so sometimes I watch films that are highly influential with my students that I would not normally watch. Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club was my generation.

Thirdly, I am married to a wonderful wife who has very different tastes in movies than I do! So in order to maintain a healthy marriage, I subject myself to certain films that I would not normally pick. but reply with, "Sure dear, why not!"

And then fourthly, I grew up in the 80's so there is a small part of my depraved self that still likes the cheesy horror genre! I know, time to grow up, but I shan't!

And finally, I was a film major before I believed God was calling me into ministry. So I take a particular interest in this area of the cinematic arts and entertainment.

I will also provide quick, cheap commentary on each film!

Color Code:

  • Television
  • Horror
  • Comedy
  • Children's
  • Western
  • Documentary
  • Action / Adventure
  • Science Fiction
  • Historical
  • Drama

24: Season 5 - Love Jack Bauer but the storyline is getting a little far fetched.
The Decent - Cheesy, don't bother.
Jackass 2 - We live in a culture where abuse in becoming more and more frequent. I find it rather
interesting that now we make comedy out of self-abuse. There are funny moments, but it is mostly self-abuse for laughs. Scary.
Invincible - An awesome football movie! I love sports movies and this is a great one.
Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest - What was that? Pails in comparison to the first one.

Superman Returns - Excellent! A great reinvention of a classic superhero. Great villain too!
RV - Cheesy family humor.
The Pursuit of Happyness - Excellent must-see for everyone. A great story over overcoming unbelievable obstacles.
24: Season 6 - Does Jack Bauer ever take a moment to use the restroom or get a bite to eat?
Snakes on a Plane - Very cheesy CGI snake effects. But any movie with Samuel L. Jackson losing his temper is great entertainment.
An Inconvenient Truth - Oh boy, what do I say here? It is an important movie that everyone must see. But I think we need to wrestle with the message, hearing from both sides on this issue and try coming to some logical decisions that we can do to be better caretakers of the earth.
Nanny McPhee - A nice movie to watch with your kids.
V for Vendetta - Worthless.
Barnyard - Good kid movie.
United 93 - A very difficult movie to watch but absolutely necessary for every American to watch. Very powerful and very moving.
World Trade Center - Same as above. We must never forget that day.
One Night With the King - An interesting retelling of the story of Esther from the Bible. I thought they missed out on some of the best parts of the story at the end.
The Illusionist - Pretty good story line. Worth watching with a date!
Flushed Away - Absolutely hilarious kid movie. Definitely something I would watch again.
The Departed - Excellent, superb, Martin Scorsese at his best! What a cast too. The tension in the good guy having to be bad and the bad guy having to be good was done so well.
300 - Visually fun to watch. Good action flick.
Night at the Museum - Extremely funny film for the whole family. Ben Stiller is great!
Borat - Oh my, very funny but over the top in some parts. I am still trying to use my mind erasure to delete some of the scenes from my mind.
Casino Royale - I had my doubts but Bond is back and with attitude. Bring it on Daniel Craig!
Children of Men - A pretty dark futuristic film about the future of the human race.
Blood Diamonds - Another phenomenal movie that I would highly recommend. Powerful. Intense.
Gremlins - Classic 80's Spielberg.
Deliver Us From Evil - The scariest film of the year. Shocking, gut-wrenching, horrifying. Everyone who is involved in any type of ministry to children or teens must see this film.
Rocky Balboa - Surprisingly, I really enjoyed this. Stallone thought this one out a whole lot better than the previous ones. Rocky aged with grace and dignity. Let's see if he can do the same with Rambo!
The Ghost Rider - Lame.
Deja Vu - I will watch any movie with Denzel Washington. This was an average "what if you could time travel and change something" film.
Flags of Our Fathers - Very powerful film contrasting the reality of war with the American media spin. A must see.
Meet the Robinsons - I honestly don't remember much about this movie. Took the kids, must have fell a sleep at the theatre.
The 40 Year Old Virgin - At first glance, I thought this was going to be a not-so-good film but I was pleasantly surprised. Steve Carrell is fast becoming my most favorite comedian. He is hysterical and the movie does justice to those who respect sexuality and wait for the right time versus those who treat it with no respect at all, and you see the consequences of those decisions at the end.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints - Depressing, could have been so much better.
Apocalypto - WOW. A very captivating story. Amazing on several levels. Very graphic in depicting the pagan rituals of the Aztecs. Not for the weak of heart.
Saw 3 - Worthless. Similar to the sequels of the 80's slashers. Each one getting more ludicrous than the last.
Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny - I like Jack Black but this didn't do it for me. Give me Nacho Libre back.
Phone Booth - I was bored and it happened to be on TV. I was hoping to see more of Keifer Sutherland and less of Colin Ferrell. In fact, I wanted Jack Bauer to shoot Colin Farrell half way into it.
Transformers - A very cool, very fun movie to watch with your pre-teen son. I thought the cartoons were cheesy but leave it up to the CGI masterminds to make this a tasty delight of visual eye candy.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - This was probably my least favorite book so I went into the movie with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised. It was excellent. Harry Potter ROCKS! The final two are going to be mind-blowing.
Shooter - Cheesy, worthless tripe. Like "who cut the cheese" bad.
Rocky 3 - Of all the Rocky movies I never saw this one from beginning to end until just now. Anything with Hulk Hogan and Mr. T kicks butt! It could only have gotten better if Chuck Norris was in it. Plus, it would have helped to balance out with Rocky's effeminate side in this movie.

Spiderman 3 - Slipping from the quality of the first two. It was okay. Too many villains. Stick with one and really develop that character.
Idiocracy - This movie could have been put together a little bit better but the director was brilliant in his social commentary as to where the culture could potentially be heading in the near future! A must see comedy for anyone who is involved in pop culture.
Live Free or Die Hard - Good hare core action with lovable John McClain. Good villain. Good side-kick. Tight action. A little comic-booky but worth watching.
Evan Almighty - I know this got a lot of bad press but I really liked it. Steve Carrell made me laugh out loud on several occasions. And it was a great retelling of the Noah story.
Blades of Glory - Not Will Farrell's finest.
Stranger Than Fiction - This is definitely one of Will Farrell's finest. A great movie, a must see.
The Last King Of Scotland - A very powerful movie about Idi Amin. Hard movie to watch but Forrest Whitaker is just amazing in his portrayal of the brutal dictator.
1408 - A fun suspense film with John Cusack. I grew up on John Cusack films so I had to watch it.
The Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer - CHEESY! A full brick of Colby.
Eragon - Okay.
28 Weeks Later - Very gory zombie film. Lots of blood and mayhem. Not for the weak.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon - Unless you grew up on 80's slasher films, don't bother.
The Reaping - Would have been okay if it weren't for the "Rosemary's Baby" type ending.
Fracture - Can't go wrong with Anthony Hopkins. Good suspense thriller.
Lost: Season 1 - Based on a recommendation from my brother-in-law my end-of-the-year addiction begins.
Lost: Season 2 - Give me another hit man.
The Proposition - A pretty hard core Western that I would not recommend. Stick with Clint Eastwood.
Alvin and the Chipmunks - I hated the cartoon and suffered through the movie. I love my kids, I love my kids . . .
National Treasure: Book of Secrets - CHEESY! Very Sharp Cheedar.