Archive for January, 2010

Movie Review: Beowulf and Grendel

January 10, 2010

When you see a spate of movie reviews here, you can generally assume that the wife & kids are out of town and I’m bored out of my skull. 

So it was that Netflix recommended Beowulf and Grendel, and I streamed it rather than getting some much needed sleep.  Gerard Butler stars as Beowulf, recast in this modification of the classic story as more of a villain, or at least an accessory to villainy.  It struck me in this film how much Butler looks like Russell Crowe.  King Hrothgar becomes the main villain, played effectively by Stellan Skarsgard.  

This is a weird film, but at times the weirdness is very compelling.  At other times, it’s simply weird.  This movie blends the traditional story with an up-to-date retelling that includes a sympathetic back story for Grendel.  This effectively makes Grendel more of the hero and Beowulf more of a villain.  Grendel is the character that acts consistently according to a particular code of moral behavior.  He seeks vengeance on those he believes to have wronged him, and isn’t interested in messing with anyone else, even if they are working on behalf of the ones who have wronged him. 

The other key characters in the film acts morally inconsistently.  Hrothgar kills Grendel’s father – apparently on a whim, because “he crossed our path, he stole a fish”.  But Hrothgar decides to spare the young Grendel’s life.  Now Hrothgar wants to ignore the connection between his actions years in the past and the vengeance being wreaked on he and his people now.  Beowulf seeks to protect and honor Hrothgar, a relative.  Yet he comes to realize that in doing so, he is defending someone who has done wrong.  While he realizes this at some level, it doesn’t deter him from seeking to destroy Grendel.   

The movie is gritty and rough, from profanity to convincing costumes and sets.  The film does a good job of portraying what a period Danish mead hall and village might have felt like, while at the same time updating the language.  The net result is a story that is probably similar to how a story would have been told in Beowulf’s time – full of valor and struggle, but also humor, frustration, and deception. 

While swapping the roles of protagonist and antagonist somewhat, the film also takes a stab at depicting the displacement of the traditional pantheon of gods for a newcomer, Jesus Christ.  There is a slightly mad friar (Eddie Marsan)who is converting the Danes to Christianity with promises of God’s protection from the seemingly unstoppable Grendel.  While in part I wonder why the friar needs to be portrayed as mad, I’m sure that wandering the wild fringes of ‘civilization’ would lend itself towards a certain form of madness!

This Friar eventually ends up baptizing Hrothgar and most of his people, as they seek protection from Grendel’s wrath.  Their conversion is mostly expediency, and not without considerable doubt, at least on Hrothgar’s part.  Beowulf and his men remain steadfast in their traditional beliefs.  They appear somewhat justified in this when the friar’s own god chooses not to protect him from death, despite an earlier protection. 

In a very post-modern retelling of this story, the hero’s cause is not so clear cut.  Nobody can claim here to be completely innocent.  Evil is only questionably so, and the gods themselves bear some weight of responsibility for the climate of moral uncertainty.  it’s an intriguing movie.  If you’re a hardcore literary student, you’ll lament the changes that have been made to the story.  If you’re a hardcore sword & sorcery movie buff, you’ll lament the film’s extremely slow pacing.  The battle scenes are few & realistically choreographed – meaning they’re not exactly pretty or fluid to watch.  The profanity is a glaring anachronism that is as distracting as it is unnecessary. 

Movie Review: Point Break

January 9, 2010

What does it mean to be alive? If we’re alive, how do we know it? What sort of life do you choose for yourself in acknowledgment that you’re alive? These are the questions that Point Break purports to deal with on some level, setting it apart from the typical 90’s action flicks not by overpowering action, but by characters that, while still two-dimensional, represent larger decisions about what life means.

You’ve got the straight-laced, by the book, totally-bought-into-the-system option of FBI official Ben Harp (McGinley). He’s wrapped up completely in ‘the system’, and has become a raging jerk in the process. Pappas (Busey) is the unorthodox agent that has never quite fit in and is mocked by all those around him. Yet he retains his unique quirkiness, using the system as much as the system uses him. Clean-cut Johnny Utah (Reeves) is the new guy on the FBI team. Seeking to establish himself in the system while detesting how the system either steals your soul (Harp) or numbs it to the point of pointlessness (Pappas). Tyler (Petty) is on the fringes of the system. She works a job, but that job keeps her close to nature, close to the ocean, and in touch with herself.

Representing two ways of living outside – or even against – the system, are two groups of surfers. There’s the ‘bad’ surfers, those who live outside the system simply for the purpose of living outside the system for their own pleasure. Rude, obnoxious, violent, unpredictable – their lives outside the system are also lives out of sync with nature. They are ravaged by drugs and sex and violence. They represent the wrong way of opting out of the capitalist system, a hedonism and nihilism that is dangerous to themselves as well as others.

Then there are the ‘good’ surfers. They live outside the system, preferring simpler lives of surfing, friendship, and living on the edge. For them, the point of life is remembering constantly that you’re alive by living on the razor edge of life and death. They are adrenaline junkies, traveling the world in search of the best waves, riding the sky as well as the ocean – two vast, untamed reaches of nature where man goes only carefully, and always in full knowledge that both could take his life. These ‘good’ surfers live in harmony, somewhat. They also happen to be armed bank robbers. Only one of them is really aware of the deeper implications in how he lives his life and leads his fellow surfers – Bodhi (Swayze).

Short for Bodhisattva – the general implication of the name is that this is an enlightened person who seeks his own blessedness as well as the blessedness and enlightenment of those around him. He’s not selfish, he’s genuinely concerned with those around him reaching their fullest potential. Bodhi is keyed into balance and harmony in nature. He justifies bank robbery as an act of heroism against ‘the system’ that crushes and kills the souls of most people. He sees it as part of keeping balance.

But in the final equation, it’s just a way to live the life he wants to live. While director Kathryn Bigelow may try to soften the criminal life that Bodhi and his buddies lead by having them only rob banks part of the year, and never shooting anyone, it’s still a way of life that is completely self-absorbed. Bodhi’s buddies demonstrate this clearly, and it’s eventually seen with Bodhi at the end of the movie. He’ll go to almost any lengths to ensure his own preservation – and on his terms. For all his commitment to non-violence, he’s happy to use violence if it preserves his own *personal* harmony and balance, even if it dangerously throws the harmony and balance of others tragically out of whack. He says it perfectly at the films anti-climactic ending – “My whole life has been about this.” And what he’s referring to is not balance and harmony, but doing what *he* wants. Following *his* dreams.

This is a pretty typical 90’s action flick. Bigelow brings a different approach to it than the standard bigger and badder explosion formula so typically used. There’s a very enjoyable (if not entirely believable!) foot chase scene. There are some good shots of surfing, but mostly distance shots instead of the closeup stuff you’d get from someone who’s main concern was showcasing surfing. The dialog is pretty basic, and Reeves demonstrates here at the start of his career what we’ve all learned in the 20 years since this film was made – he can’t act. Swayze seems perfect in this role, but never really gets to flesh out the character enough. He’s a mass of contradictions that ultimately play havoc with the movie’s deeper themes.

The film raises some good questions about what it means to be alive. It seems to suggest that a vivid emotionalism and adrenaline-soaked life is the best sort of life, even if that means that you have to break and destroy the lives of others to do so. It hardly strikes the tone of harmony and balance that Bodhi seeks to embody.  Those that attempt a form of compromise with the system are ultimately put at risk by their hesitation in leaving it.  Both Pappas and Tyler find themselves in dire straits because of their relationship to the system.  But both of them are ultimately not endangered by the system or for the system, but rather by those who seek to fight the system. 

The system crushes most people, squeezing the life out of them with vague promises of a retirement that will somehow be different and worth sacrificing the bulk of their life for. But is the answer to balance and harmony actively fighting the system, regardless of whom is hurt in the process? This film doesn’t make a very compelling case for that. But there are worse ways to kill a couple of hours.

Movie Review: Avatar

January 8, 2010

I’m not going to spend a lot of time examining Avatar cinematically.  Mostly, because I don’t feel that it warrants it.  This is a tired and trite plot/storyline with cardboard characters that prompt absolutely no thought and reflection in the viewer.  It is also a visually stunning and intense movie that makes up for this rather glaring shortcomings to some small degree with the sheer impressiveness of the visual landscape.  I’m not a devotee of James Cameron, so I’m not going to venture into a discussion of how this film fares compared with his many other successes.  Overall I was disappointed with Avatar, even as I was visually impressed by it.

What I had hoped to focus on was his spiritualism in the film.  Unfortunately, after a lot of thought and examination, I’m not sure what to say.  His combination of animism and totemism is classic, and doesn’t really warrant much discussion.  It clearly isn’t a masculine, monotheistic sort of religion.  It’s practically environmentalism as religion.  The planet does for itself what the Na’vi and Jake are unable to do – it protects itself from hostile invaders.  Nature is superior to technology. 

The spiritualism is rather sloppy as well.  We aren’t sure if Eywa is limited to Pandora or extends beyond it.  However Eywa is effectively depicted as being limited to Pandora.  Eywa is not portrayed as personal, and seems more similar to the Star Wars depiction of the Force.  A sort of energy made up of all living things, shared by all living things, borrowed and repaid by all living things. Yet it records the memories of past generations. 

I don’t see much to be said for the spiritualism here.  Cameron reverts to rather tried and true depictions of noble savages in tune with nature, and nature responsive to a certain extent, but also unpredictably so.  Like most of the content of the film other than the visuals, Avatar’s spiritualism is pretty by the book.  That will undoubtedly appeal to people who are uncomfortable with a God who can be known and actually expect something from them, but still like the idea of being in tune with some sort of higher power.




Passing Comfort

January 6, 2010

Thanks to my friend Ralph for sending this article to me.  A New York Times article on the practice of palliative care – the heavy sedation of a terminal patient. 

I appreciate the article for highlighting some of the issues surrounding this probably pervasive practice (I’ve had at least one parishioner who received this form of treatment, but I didn’t realize the full depth of what the practice was about at the time).  While the article feigns neutrality, it effectively sympathizes with the practice of palliative care as a reasonable practice to avoid patient suffering.

As a theologian, I struggle with this issue.  I’ve witnessed firsthand the struggles and physical deterioration which accompany terminal conditions.  I’ve watched people drained away of their strength and energy day by day towards an apparently inevitable conclusion.  I’ve talked with and comforted both the individuals themselves, as well as their friends and family.  Whatever illusions I once held about this being a simple issue have been shattered.  It isn’t simple.  Not for those living through it. 

I strive to hold the theological line that dignifies the human life, and properly orders mankind so that we are not taking God’s decisions upon ourselves.  But dignity is not defined in as limited a way as we often hear it in these situations.  Dignity is not a matter of what I or another person can or cannot do for ourselves.  Dignity is not the same as pride.  Dignity is something that is conferred from Creator to creature, and it is in fact the act of such conferring at creation that makes possible any sense of dignity, any sense of the value of a human life.  I have no right to sacrifice that dignity for the preservation of pride.  And it’s my duty to try and help people make sense of what it means to be obedient and faithful even in the midst of suffering, in the midst of an inevitable that, when hope is lost, we wish to rush towards with all our strength.

I struggle to be faithful and compassionate, obedient and understanding.  This is the tension I want to convey to my parishioners as well.  I’m not entirely sure yet what that means on this issue.  I’d appreciate your thoughts after reading the article.

Faithfulness

January 5, 2010

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May it be to me as you have said.”  Luke 1:38


But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  – Luke 2:19


 


What a huge amount of life happened in the roughly ten months between when Mary spoke those first words to the angel Gabriel, and when Luke describes her surrounded by shepherds and whatever other sundry visitors arrived to see her newborn son.  What a massive disparity between her words of obedience, and what that obedience actually looked like!


 


It must have been surreal, there with Gabriel talking to her.  To be in the presence of the messenger of God is almost impossible to imagine.  How much did Mary really understand about what he was saying?  How much of her response is based on a reflex reaction, understanding automatically that you don’t argue with angels?  How much was based on an actual comprehension of his words and what they would mean for her life?  His words were rewriting everything she expected about her life.  Recasting expectations, events, people, places.  How could she have possibly known?  Could she have possibly said no?  

I’m sorry, but I have other plans.  Thanks so much for thinking of me, though. Perhaps another virgin might have a less cluttered schedule…   


 


We – like Mary – know the right words to say.  We say that we wish to be faithful and obedient, to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  But this is often a reflex.  We know this is the appropriate thing to say and do.  It’s what we were taught in Sunday School, probably in a few otherwise forgettable sermons.  In Bible Studies when we found time to go to them.  But the actual process of setting aside our own inclinations or desires?  That’s a lot more complicated.  To truly embrace having our ideas, our plans, our goals, our desires rewritten or eliminated in order to follow the Spirit’s leading?  That’s a hard row to hoe. 


 


Mary said yes to God and His mysterious working in her life.  But she couldn’t have known.  She couldn’t have known, in the fading glow of Gabriel’s departure, what it would look like and feel like, this obedience she had pledged.  She couldn’t have imagined the look on Joseph’s face when she had to tell him.  When she had to say the words I’m pregnant, knowing in his mind and in the shocked and pained look on his face and in his eyes, that his immediate thoughts were It isn’t mine.  

We sugar coat the story into two dimensional ginger-bread characters that we pose in the right positions of obedience.  We assume that obedience must entail all of the proper changes of heart and mind to make it reasonable and enjoyable, forgetting how often in our lives obedience felt horribly alien and unwanted – the last thing that we wanted to do, even as we acknowledged in our hearts that it was the right thing to do,.  

I don’t think the angelic dream that Joseph had probably changed his hurt, his confusion, his anger.  It wasn’t just Mary’s life that was being rewritten, it was his own as well.  Together they would have to bear the scorn and derision of their friends and family.  The knowing smirks and snide words.  Together they would have to live with the stigma of having failed God’s commandments, while all the while living out those Commandments.  

How little Mary’s experience must have looked and felt like whatever she might have imagined in the fading glow of Gabriel’s departure.  Whatever excitement she may have felt at being chosen as the instrument of God had to have dissipated under the relentless onslaught of reality.  Of doubt.  Of fear.  Of suffering.


 


Because faithfulness in a fallen world with fallen people is an invitation to suffering.  An invitation to being overruled, overworked, overtaxed, overextended by our world.  It’s an invitation to being unappreciated, undesired, uncared for by those around us.  If we are uncertain of how obedience and faithfulness in a fallen world looks, we have no need to look further than 30 years or so down the road in the life of this beautiful Christmas baby.  Obedience and faithfulness can lead to suffering.  To abuse.  To mistreatment.  To death.  Nothing in Scripture excludes suffering as a possibility or even likelihood of obedience and faithfulness.  We are foolish to expect otherwise, and close to Peter’s evil in demanding it, prompting Jesus to chastise him with “Get behind me, Satan!”  (Matthew 16:23).  We are not called to faithfulness instead of suffering. We are called to faithfulness through suffering.  Despite suffering. 


 

Obedience sounds beautiful.  It often feels awful.  We have great intentions and designs, and reality takes brutally different turns.  It isn’t that our response of obedience is wrong.  It’s simply the effect of living in a broken world, as broken people.  As you plan your new year, may faithfulness be your continued goal and byword.  May you find in your obedient suffering company from the likes of Elijah, Job, and Jesus.  And may you be rewarded ultimately with the crown of life and the words “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

Movie Review: The Grapes of Wrath

January 4, 2010

This is a decent movie.  Not nearly as good as the book, and I think that influences my opinions of the movie as opposed to seeing the movie on it’s own merits.  At least I try to be honest about that bias!

Read the book before you see the movie. Read the book even if you never see the movie. There’s no way to capture the pathos and heartbreak of John Steinbeck’s novel. But John Ford makes a reasonable running jump at it in 128 minutes.

There are some beautiful shots cinematically in this movie. Long-range shots of individuals against a vast sky frame the movie, and appropriately so, in keeping with a theme of how small man is – whether in contrast with the inexorable pressures of life, at the hands of institutionalized greed, or in terms of character in perpetrating horrendous cruelty and exploitation against other human beings. There is also great use of lighting, particularly in regards to the former preacher, Casy (played by John Carradine). Characters – particularly Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) – move in and out of shadows and darkness throughout the movie, both literally and figuratively.

There are also some terrible shots that are obviously done on a sound stage (there is actually an echo when the characters speak). Henry Fonda gives a great performance, conveying a quiet intensity throughout the film as he seeks to understand the world he has re-entered after four years in prison.  The main difficulty is that there is no way that the movie can adequately carry the exposition of the book, much of which is internalized. Characters that receive a little more treatment in the book are oddly incongruous in the film, coming to the forefront once or twice, ever-present and relatively pointless in the background. 

The book rails against the exploitation of the poor and disadvantaged Okies – share-croppers in the Midwest, devastated by the massive change in agriculture from small farms to corporate conglomerates, and by the terrible winds that stripped the soil of the Midwest and made small-scale farming almost impossible. One of the interesting things about watching this from Netflix is that the DVD includes two screens of text that preceded the UK-release of the film, and sought to provide a historical context to it for those unfamiliar with the situation in the United States.  I find it interesting that this prologue sought to ultimately exonerate some of the very forces of economy and business that Steinbeck clearly felt were to blame for the plight of the displaced farmers.

Philosophically and theologically, the film grapples with the nature of life and changing values in America. The exploitation of the Okies as they migrate to California is ruthlessly demonstrated, yet still muted compared to the book. Steinbeck clearly sees the dangerous alliance of industry and government that becomes possible, ensuring the continued suffering and deaths of citizens who have already lost everything, so that they appear to be not even human. Critical roles are those of Tom Joad, Casy, and Ma Joad. 

Tom functions as a sort of Everyman, trying to make sense of things. He has an idea of how things ought to be or used to be, but is unsure of how to manage the personal and economic transitions and convulsions he is caught in the middle of. While mankind once fought off wild animals and other people to establish a stake in the world and eke out his daily bread, the poor are now faced with a far more menacing foe. This enemy has no body, but is rather a corporate entity. There’s no one enemy to face down or kill – only the relentless, grinding machinations of industry. You can kill the parts, but the parts are replaceable. There is no reasoning with this entity – it is allied with the legal apparatus of the country as well. 

Casy is an interesting character. He’s a former preacher who baptized Tom as a young boy, but Casy has now “lost the Spirit”, and doesn’t preach any longer. He was and is haunted by the demons he has personally battled and often lost to. But he’s seeking truth. He functions as a seer of sorts in the novel/movie, affirming the truth of what various characters express as they cross the Joad’s path. And he ultimately ‘sees the light’, so to speak, in California, as he finds himself able to once again champion truth and rightness – a role that, like the Savior he once served, gets him killed.  He seems truly gutted of the Christian faith he once served, and the hollowness of that void is profound.  He’s a shell of a man, but he realizes that he is a shell, and that he needs something inside of him.  Like many others, he seems to find social justice as a suitable replacement.

Ma Joad (Jane Darwell) is the family glue. She holds the family together with her strength and determination. Where the men become disoriented as their roles in society are destroyed (bread-winner, provider), she steps into the gap their absent leadership creates, focusing on maintaining the family. But it’s more than even her considerable strength can accomplish. The land formed a “boundary” that helped her create stability and enforce the routine and traditions that bind a family together. But without the land and that objective focus, there’s no way to keep the family together. They fragment, lost in doubt and disappointment, felled by heartache and loss, scattered by their rage against the faceless, disembodied oppressiveness of a brutally capitalistic society. Grandparents die.  In-laws desert.  Tom leaves to protect his family and to search for truth, both to find it for himself and to share it with others. We may work to feed ourselves, but if we don’t have a central truth to provide the grounding for our lives, even full stomachs ultimately aren’t enough to keep a person going.  A person can die long before their body stops working.

The brutality of this movie & book is driven home all the more by realizing that this occurred within living memory. There are still people who remember the Depression, who lived through it and bear witness to it. I’ve been blessed to have met and talked with some of them.  And it happened here – in America. Important lessons to keep in mind when we try to fool ourselves into thinking that such abuses ‘can’t happen here’, or that we’ve evolved beyond such responses. It could happen here – to you, to me. And how we respond to such a situation, and what role we take up within it, may be guided in large part by how diligently we have sought truth, and how tenaciously we hold on to it as the defi
ning aspect of our lives, rather than visa versa.

Movie Review: Point and Shoot

January 2, 2010

With the wonder and joy that is Netflix, and ready access to literally any movie you can name, I’ve become more interested in recommendations for movies.  When I stumble across somebody’s list of must-see movies, I think there have been several times when their brief description of the movie has been enough for me to add it to our Netflix queue.  However, after Point and Shoot, I think I shall better remember the fact that there are a lot of complete idiots out there publishing lists of fantastic movies that are, in fact, not fantastic at all but rather quite horribly, horribly awful.

Point and Shoot is one such example.

Do not attempt to watch this movie unless you are a) looking for movies to bolster your suicidal tendencies, b) looking for movies to assist you in refining your drug-taking techniques, c) looking for movies that reinforce your idea that there is no meaning or purpose in life other than to dull the pain, or d) looking for movies to scare the living crap out of anyone that is considering moving to New York City to embark on a modeling or photography career.

The movie ostensibly is about the director/photographer’s first date with a young model, Athena, and the subsequent ups and downs of their romance.  This requires copious amounts of alcohol, drugs, swearing, and indiscriminate nudity.  We watched about 40 minutes of the film before turning it off in disgust as these things became more and more prevalent.  I should  have taken a cue from the fact that the film is not rated to realize that there might be good reasons it is not rated other than that the director forgot to have it rated.

There are only two touching moments of humanity in the first 40 minutes of this 83 minute film.  The first occurs on the first date between Shawn and Athena.  She talks about how lucky she is to have ended up in New York City.  She comments how she doesn’t think any of the friends she grew up with will ever leave her home state of Oregon, and that she feels bad for them.  Shawn asks her why she feels bad for them.  “I don’t really feel bad for them, I guess.  I just feel bad, you know?”  What an amazingly telling statement, a moment of actual truth and realism and honesty, the heart of the incessant need for alcohol and drugs and parties and sex. 

The other touching moment is when Shawn is attempting to film himself to send to Athena during a 3-week modeling trip she’s on in Paris.  Expressing and capturing honest emotions is difficult – even for a hip photographer/director/actor. 

The rest of the film is a massive silencer over the pain that seems to otherwise fill these people’s lives.  There is no joy, no happiness, no reality to any character in the film.  The only emotion it stirred in me was pity and disgust.  Athena comments at one point about her only fear is not living life to the fullest.  This is almost immediately followed by an orgy of drugs and alcohol and sex that precipitated me finally shutting the movie off.  Is this living life to it’s fullest?  Drunk and stoned and shattered by casual sex?  Is this the best joy that can be had? 

Apparently so.  Don’t watch this movie if you’re depressed, or happy, or sane.  It’s unrated, and completely inappropriate for children – or adults for that matter.  And, take it from me, don’t assume that every cowboy with a blog or a website spouting off the best movies of the year/decade/century/millennium has any idea what they’re talking about.  Most likely, they don’t.

I know I sure don’t. 

Happy New Day

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year.  New Year, New decade.  New day.

Really, it’s just a new day. 

It’s funny how much hype and hoopla attends the changing of this one particular day of the year.  As though the writing of a slightly different number for the year makes a monumental difference of any tangible sort. 

It’s all about hope, of course.  Hope for a better year.  Which is to say, hope for a better tomorrow.  I can’t hope much for the year.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  A year is an incredibly long brief span of time.  They gather and accumulate around one’s feet (or mid-section) until we are buried by them.  An old Norse poem compares the span of one’s life to a sparrow flying unexpectedly in through one end of a mead hall, and continuing it’s flight straight through and out the other end, back into the coldness of night.  For that brief span of time, the bird knows the warmth of fire and friends, the merit of valor and honor, the intensity of love itself, and then it is gone again, back into the uncertainty and unfathomability of night.  Such is our life.  Or so the story goes.

But we only experience that life one day at a time.  Whether you live to be 120 or experience what people refer to as a premature death.  One day at a time.  One hour at a time.  One moment at a time.   And in that moment, that hour, that day…things might be new and different.  Or they might not.  You might be new and different.  Or you might not.  But it’s only determined a moment at a time, not a year at a time.

I can have no reasonable hope for the new year if I don’t have a reasonable hope for a new day.  As I drove to work this morning, my town looked much the same as it did yesterday, and the month before, and six months earlier.  A few less cars on the road because of the holiday.  But the sun rises and sets, and nothing has really changed from yesterday.

And yet everything has changed.  I live with the hope that I am recreated in the image of the Son of God.  I live with the hope that regardless of how many or awful my failures, I am offered forgiveness and the promise that one day, these failures will cease.  One day, the crust of sin that emanates from my heart will be broken away, and I’ll emerge new and clean, once and for all.  And until that time, I have the hope that I can make real changes in this moment.  In this hour.  In this day.  Real changes that when stacked together, add up to a different year than last year. 

The same, but different.  That’s the irony of a new year, to me.  That’s why so many people fail at their valiant new year resolutions.  They try to encompass a year of change in a statement, forgetting that this change is only lived out one moment at a time, one decision at a time, one prayer at a time.  The year only comes in bite-sized pieces, and if we forget that, we choke on the enormity of time, on the enormity of the change that we hope and pray for in our lives.  

May your hope for the differences you will experience in this day, the changes in thinking and feeling and behavior, be grounded in someone much larger than you.  Someone who has already encompassed all that today might bring, and waits in each moment ready to hold you up and encourage you and speed you on your way.  May your hope spring not from some vague hope that you can make yourself different, but in the bold confidence that the Holy Spirit of the Son of God who loves you enough to have died for you is beside you, within you, beneath you, above you, and behind you to help accomplish in and through you what you could never have done on your own. 

Happy New Day!

Word

January 1, 2010

Word clouds are cool things.  Essentially, it’s all of the major words of any given section of text or writing, book or poem.  However in a word cloud, those words that appear more often in the selected text are larger than words that occur less often.  It’s a cool way to quickly pick out major themes or ideas in something that someone has written – whether intentional or unintentional.

Somebody has created word clouds for each of the sixty-six books of the Bible

Better yet, you can get a free pdf of these images! 

Parameters for these word clouds include a limit of 150 words – so only the 150 most frequently occurring words in the text appear in the word cloud.  Also, numbers and more common words (the, and, etc.) were filtered out.  The exact same criteria was used for each book of the Bible.

I think that these are both beautiful and informative – what a cool thing to have framed, or to use on the cover of Sunday worship bulletins!