Satan In Opposition

What a curious thing the Devil must be, that he would stand obstinately in the direct route of a speeding train, time and time again through the ages, hoping against hope that he might derail what for all of time has proven cannot be derailed; namely, the ever-standing, self-pleasing purpose of God. When looking at the villainous snares, deceptions, desecrations, and violence perpetrated by Satan from Eden, to the Temple of Dagon, to the Jordan Riverside, to this moment, one wonders what could possibly be his motivation? Such perverse intentions may be eternally mysterious to us, but his mission is clear; he desires, by every conceivable means, to oppose God’s purpose.

The Jewish Bible rarely points directly to the accuser, but his oppositional hand is heavy when we look at the narrative from a spiritual warfare perspective. We first see the serpent in Eden, immediately working towards the goal of snapping the unblemished vertical and horizontal cords connecting God to His people and His people to one another. At the beginning of our narrative, Satan shows himself willing and pleased to wreck what is sacred simply to oppose God’s will.

Cast out from Eden, Adam and Eve still desire to obey God’s mission for them, to multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Satan will oppose God once again so early in the mission. It is believable that the devil would whisper in the ear of the seed of Eve, planting in Cain a jealousy born out of discontent and pride. Acting upon that jealousy, Cain murders his brother Able. And the devil, whose head will one day be crushed, effectively wins a small battle against the mission to multiply. But despite his efforts, God’s purpose stands, and his people do multiply. (Genesis 4)

Centuries later, in the time of Israel’s Judges, we see Satan using the strength and passion of a man named Samson to achieve a tragic and violent end. God’s purpose was that his Judges would be set apart, that they would be image bearers for Him to the nations. Samson, blessed with super human strength was distracted by the deceivers plan to oppose God’s will for Samson. And so, Samson became proud and lustful, causing him to be blindly lured into the arms of the Philistines through Delilah’s deception. (Judges 16)

Samson’s response to temptation, whether the devil had any direct role in it, certainly appeased Satan’s desire to see God’s will directly opposed. And when Samson violently brought down the Temple of Dagon on the Philistines, the God who does not take sides (as his angel informed Joshua) likely mourned the unnecessary death of his judge and the Philistines alike. But despite that opposition, God’s image was and continues to be made known by His people.

Finally, we look to the rich man in Judea on “the other side of the Jordan”. The man who came to Jesus inquiring how he might get into heaven. Because God wills that all would come to love Him, Satan opposes by misdirecting our love. As Jesus explained to the man he need only sell all his possessions and follow, the devil deceived him, elevating his love for money above his love for Jesus. And though the poor will inherit the earth, rich men still make it through the eye of the needle and love God without reservation. (Matthew 19)

God’s purpose would stand, and He does all that He pleases. It is Jesus who crushes the head of the serpent by dying for our transgressions and his resurrection that solves the impossible dilemma of judgment and mercy.

Works Cited

Barker, Kenneth, ed. Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. Print.

Jackson, Bill. Biblical Metanarrative: One God – One Plan – Onestory. Corona: Radical

Middle, 2014. Kindle file.

Assignment: 400-600 words
How does Satan oppose God throughout the metanarrative of the Bible?


Perception Is Conjecture, Image Is Nothing


I know you’ve heard it. It’s an adage that appears everywhere. Perception Is Reality. or Image Is Everything. We live in a world bursting at the seams with companies who spend millions of dollars every year to exploit the psychology of the average consumer into giving up their most valuable asset: cold hard cash. In fact, there is an entire cluster of cubicles in the very office in which I work that would likely defend this presumed fundamental principal to their dying breath. But they would be wrong. Because there are still some of us that cling to another classic adage: One that allows for the complexity of the unseen interworkings of the individual thing itself. Indeed, you cannot judge a book by its cover.

I remember sitting in church one morning, listening to the sermon of a guest pastor. He presented to us the following illustration: He told us that his family hated it when he wore the outfit he had on. This was a rather odd revelation as he looked perfectly nice in his freshly pressed suit with the tie and dress shirt peaking through. But then, he began to remove his jacket to reveal that his dress shirt was tattered and stained, and the back of the shirt had been ripped away completely. The scene was a bit hackneyed, but his message was clear. To the us, from our pews, he appeared perfectly put together. But the reality, and what his family secretly knew to be true, was that he was wearing tatters and stains.

Perhaps you have heard of the empty mansion illusion? There are people who so desperately want to appear as though they are in a higher station than their paycheck would land them that they purchase homes that are far outside what their income can afford them. They subsequently only furnish their homes with the most bare of essentials, and only those that they can afford after the house payment. The illusion of their wealth may fool the neighborhood but surely they eventually tire of living a lie? And look at the countless leaders and politicians we see that so adamantly tout their disapproval or judgment towards a certain behavior or lifestyle they themselves are participating in. Or on a more basic level, we could only look at leaders who ask us to follow them while they lack the personal integrity to see their leadership to full success.

It is because of that word, integrity, that I make my argument. I am quite sure you have heard the expression “integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” It would be rather difficult to find anyone who would make the argument that integrity is anything less than a virtue, and one that is unfortunately lacking in our day to day. While I might argue that we have become rather cynical at times in regards to our expectations of our leaders, I maintain that we continue to be disgusted by those who blatantly act without integrity. We hate hypocrisy when we see it performed, despite often turning a blind eye to our own and to that of those we love or agree with. And because we consider integrity a virtue, we also must accept the argument that doing the right thing only while people are watching falls short of virtuous. The value of goodness does not come from the observation, but rather from the ACTS of it, independent of what is or is not observed. If goodness is independent of observation, is it not logical to say the same of observation being independent of goodness? Therefore, simply because something is observed that looks like goodness, that does not mean that it is a good thing. And then, alternatively, just because something looks bad, wrong, sinful, evil, does not mean that it is any of those things.

To exemplify this, I think we could look to the rarely told Bible story of Hosea. It seems unbecoming of a prophet of God to take on an adulteress woman with a number of kids, as his wife. Not only did he do this, but when Gomer left him to be in another relationship, Hosea, at the behest of the Lord, went after her again. Can you imagine the blow of credibility it would be to a pastor today if he were to marry a woman who was commonly known as an adulterous and had a number of children by other men? Here we have a prophet, describing to Israel how they have become whores towards their God all the while standing next to a woman who would be described as a whore. What do you think was going on in the mind of Hosea? Do you think that you would be able to listen to that kind of judgmental language from a person who had taken on a wife that was adulterous and untrustworthy? But the book was canonized. We accept his testimony, his prophecy as being from God. And so, those who would stand in judgment of his behavior, were wrong. He was acting on a plane that they likely did not understand, and yet it was a higher plane than theirs.Granted, the response to the people of Israel towards Hosea is not indicated in scripture. All we know for sure is that they didn’t listen to him. But it does not seem illogical to suggest that Hosea’s marriage to Gomer was not particularly well received. And it seems even more logical to suggest that were it to take place today, we as a society, would likely boo that leader off any stage they attempted to step foot on.

And while we are looking at the Bible, it would be nothing short of negligence for me to exclude the example of Jesus. We see in Him a man who was constantly misunderstood, wrongly judged, and who was not once, in any account of His life, affected by the perception of Him or His ministry. I could point to the obvious examples: In Luke 7, while dining with a Pharisee Jesus heals a sinful woman. In Luke 17 Jesus heals the lepers who had been quarantined and outcast. Luke 18 where Jesus speaks honestly to the rich man, pointing out his sinful love for his money. In Luke 19 Jesus follows Zacchaeus,the despised tax collector home. Jesus in John 18 defends a woman caught in the act of adultery. But I feel the argument for the limitation of perception is best made in Jesus’s own words as he speaks to His disciples about the poor widow who gave only two copper coins as an offering. The story is told in Mark 12 beginning at verse 41. It’s short and sweet but it goes like this: Rich men were giving large amounts of money to the temple treasury but the poor widow had so little that she gave only 2 copper coins. Jesus explained to them that despite her poverty, the woman gave everything. While common perception would suggest that the rich men were far more virtuous in their giving because they gave significantly more. The reality, however, is exactly the opposite.

The most worrisome result of living a life that is concerned with perception is that it breeds timidity. If you live in constant concern of how people will interpret your good and faithful actions then you are less likely to be bold when it comes to good and faithful actions. If you live a life fearing that people will think you look foolish dancing, you will never dance. If you let your pride prevent you, you may never attempt something you might fail. I heard it said recently that if you really want to achieve humility you should never refuse an opportunity in which you might be humiliated. The discussion of perception is rather common in our church these days when it comes to how we are meant to behave around people of the opposite gender or what we choose to consume or even what we choose to wear. To me, I am confused and upset at how much time and energy some people in the church today put into the appearance of things being on the up and up. If you act with integrity, that is, if you are doing things in a Godly way, then why should it matter how you are perceived by others? By practicing this overly careful behavior solely for the avoidance of misinterpretation, are we not simply encouraging, or at very least conceding, to the judgmental behavior of others? Are we not then telling them that “yes, you are right to be suspicious of improper actions simply because you have a little information about something that could be something completely different than it is.” In my opinion, it is far better for our leaders to say to their flock “I am to be held accountable to you, but you are not to assume wrongful doings based on what you do not understand.” That honest and open communication between each other will encourage TRUTH seeking and discourage foolish or malicious conjecture.

On a personal note, I would like to also suggest that this type of judgment can exist on an internal level also. That is to say, we can often allow ourselves to perceive ourselves as something we are not. For instance, I have recently been fighting back lies of feeling worthless, insufficient, and inadequate. In the light of day, and with the insistence of others, I see that those things are simply not true. That I am incredibly important to some people and to my creator. And because I am made in His image, and I am empowered by His strength. I am neither insufficient nor inadequate. But I still can’t help but buy into the lies every now and again. I cannot stop myself from judging myself. I cannot turn off the perception of my life as I believe I am seen through the lenses of others. And I am wrong.They do not perceive me the way I think they do and yet I value myself based on those inaccuracies.

So then, not only is perception not reality, even when it is self focused, but perception can be the absolute opposite of reality, and why on earth would we chose to value perception over reality? We should always be acting with integrity. Do what is good, right, and what is Godly, and be bold in doing those things. Take council in the words of Paul to the church of Corinth:

1 Corinthians 2

11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”[b]

But we have the mind of Christ.

Lyrical Purist (Super Boring At Song Application)

Lori Ann: “Song lyrics you’ve applied to yourself in surprising ways. For example, I have made Howard Jones’s ‘No One is to Blame’ into a narrative about my relationship with ETSU.”

As it turns out I am completely unoriginal when it comes to applying song lyrics to my life in unexpected ways. I have racked my brain for a single instance in which I have used song lyrics in a way that is obviously unintended by the artist and I can only come up with one that really even comes close. I had this really big crush on a co worker for a while and there’s this lyric in Work by Jimmy Eat World that goes “Work and play they’re never okay to mix the way we do”. It was out of context of the song but it was kind of an anthem for that relationship (for lack of a better term) between us.

What’s interesting is that your prompt actually caused me to face the reality that I am an extreme lyrical purist. In other words, I’m super boring when it comes to taking lyrics and applying them to anything that isn’t, more or less, on the nose. Bummer.

Actually, I often find myself gravitating towards, if not swallowed in songs where the lyrics and the tone of the song reflect what I am feeling or experiencing at that very moment. For instance, when I was enveloped in that thing with the coworker I mentioned above and rather upset about it, I turned to the passionate albeit crass lyrics of Damien Rice’s Accidental Babies and John Mayer’s In Your Atmosphere. Alternatively, I can think of times when I was taking a road trip and I made sure Matt Wertz’s Everything’s Right, which explicitly details taking a road trip with friends, was on the play list. Even when I look at great songwriters like Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen, I can close my eyes and invision the pictures they are painting but I never extend that to infusing any of their poetic lines into my own situations.

I’ve recently started carrying around a journal with me. In honesty it’s sort of just been riding around with me in the car for the last month, but it does have writing in it and it will have more writing in it in the days upcoming. Perhaps this will be one of my journal experiments. I will intentionally go through my playlist on my way to work, listen for a few outstanding lines and try to think how they apply to an experience in my life either current or past. I’ll update this blog with those results.

In the meantime, my faithful readers, below is a list of some of the songs that have really hit home with me in that on-the-nose type of way I relate to songs in different stages of my life.

Mr. Big – To Be With You
Damien Rice – Accidental Babies
The Magnetic Fields – Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing
NineInchNails (or Johnny Cash cover) – Hurt
Mumford & Sons – Awake My Soul
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
Kings of Leon – Pickup Truck

You Could Write About the Idea of Writing

Erik: “You could write about the idea of writing and wanting to write. 😛 (I know that sounds vague and maybe even recursive, but if you’ve got a lot of thoughts in your head that made you really, really want to write, you could write about those and how they made you feel.)”


I remember being very young (under 5 years old, young) and asking my mother to retell me the story about how one of the kids we knew called the police when he was just playing around immediately after she first told it. It wasn’t a particularly interesting story. The cops traced the number, came to his house and scolded him. Altogether pretty mundane and certainly not a story worth hearing twice. Certainly not in succession. Best I can figure I simply enjoyed the way my mom told me the story and I wanted to experience it again. And maybe I’m reaching here, but I feel like I can extrapolate something about my personality from that instance. I love stories when they are told the right way.

I have an incredibly distractable mind. I was diagnosed pretty early in life with ADD, but I think that’s really only the surface of it. It is moments when I find myself playing Gears of War on the Xbox, while watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother from the computer, while having a conversation with Sarah, and taking periodic breaks in this to play a round of Words With Friends with Amanda or Whitney that I realize just how difficult it is to palliate my wandering mind. That is not to say that I cannot pour myself into a book, or kick back and deeply connect to a great movie, but it does mean that it must be something that can hold my attention steadily, lest it lose me to the next exciting thing.

Another instance of this is that I have found myself… incapable is the wrong word… unlikely to read an entire news/magazine article from start to finish. At least not from the beginning to the end in the order in which it was printed. That’s right, I often play musical paragraphs. Randomly skipping ahead to the part that seems more interesting and if that doesn’t quite make sense, I’ll back track to the previous paragraph to fill in the blanks. As I type all this I’m beginning to realize that this does not exactly paint the picture of someone who possess the discipline of an academic or even a “good reader”, but there’s no real benefit to faking it. Maybe it’s time to set a goal to be a more patient and disciplined reader? But I digress. The point of this is to say that for something to really captivate me, it must be immediately engaging and keep me hanging on. That’s not to say that I am limited to Tom Clancy novels for fear that someone won’t die a violent death in the first chapter, but rather I need the landscape of what I read or watch to be painted around me immediately. As soon as I am in, I am in for the long haul.

To answer Erik’s question, I write because I love to experience the story. I love to be thrust into something that is foreign to me. I love to turn over thoughts that I have not yet considered. I love to imagine things with a clarity that supersedes my own real life observations of the world around me. And because I love to experience it myself, I love to share that experience with others. I’ve been listening to a lot of the This American Life recently. And here also is a case where someone can take something I’m typically disinterested in and yet can frame the thing in a way that makes it fascinating to me. I love that and because I love it I cannot help but desire to reproduce it in some way. That is partly why I created the podcast I’m doing for our church. I was such a fan of the medium and the possibilities of the medium that I couldn’t help but join the team. Fortunate for me, I think, that I have never been similarly inspired by Everest climbers or soldiers.

I have chosen to begin writing again because I’m ready to cease smoldering every creative spark that starts inside of me. I have chosen to write again because sitting in a cubicle all day doing math equations and data analysis may be using up the majority of my brain power, but it is not allowing me to be creative the way I was created. I am writing again because of the encouragement of my friends and family who read what I write and tell me they enjoy it. But as much as anything, I want to write because it feels good to create something. Just as it is so rewarding to read something from the incredible mind of my favorite authors, it is rewarding to expel all those thoughts and anecdotes and phrases that I have swimming around in my own head into something that might be labeled “productive”.

I have chosen to write because as fun as it is for me to play Gears of War whilst watching How I Met Your Mother whilst having a conversation with Sarah whilst taking an occasional break to play some Words With Friends, it is 10x more fulfilling for me to finish that last sentence of a blog than to do any of those other things.

How I Would Prefer to Lose Weight. This One’s for Me

I am a runner. That is, on a pretty regular basis these days I run. Right now that entails me at least three times a week going to our gym and running on the treadmill for 25 to 35 minutes. Perhaps I will begin running outdoors once the summer has passed and the heat index drops below the temperature of Hell. That said, I hate it. I like the way I look because of it. I like the way I feel because of it. I like the feeling of accomplishment of conquering something I set my mind on. But the thing itself: I hate it. It is hard, generally boring and tedious. So then, a change needs to be made. Not in my routine, but rather the universe.


So I here submit to you a list of things that should acquire the same benefits as running :


Watching a movie or TV from your favorite spot on the couch

Eating a s’more with a Reece’s cup instead of a Hershey’s bar

Reading an interesting book

Playing Gears of War on the Xbox

Riding a roller coaster

“Couple time”

Drinking a nice cold beer on a warm Fall evening on a patio while a talented band plays in the background

Smoking a cigar

Cheering for the TN Vols or the OH Buckeyes

Taking a boat ride

Snacking on character cookies from Giant Eagle Bakery

Jamming on the guitar

Napping in the grass, under a tree during lunch break

Breakfasting on a souffle and some coffee @ Panera

Listening to Jimmy Pardo’s podcast

Aimlessly stumbling from one silly website to the next

And finally, finishing off a day with a perfectly seasoned, bleu cheese covered Filet Minon


Now then, I’m ready to lose some weight.

When a Blue-Eyed Boy Meets A Brown Eyed-Girl, Oh Whoa The Sweetest Thing

You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks — all those sentences that began with “When we’re married” and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” — those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” — and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding. The symbolic vows that you have just made are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed — well, I meant it all, every word.” Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another — acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you have said a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this is my husband, this is my wife. -Robert Fulgham

Sarah asked me to discuss our recent wedding and the life of a very newly wed. I’m sure her memories of the preparation experience are quite different from mine. To me, they still remain a bit of a blur, the weeks then days leading up to our wedding. I do know for a fact that my absence of stress is due to our wonderful families and friends who helped us in every single detail of the planning process. It couldn’t have been done without them and my heart still goes out to those who love us enough to spend hours tying bows, arranging flowers, and writing names.
What I remember most vividly about the couple of weeks leading up to the wedding is sitting at my desk at work listening to what we decided would be our wedding march on repeat for hours at a time. I would close my eyes at times and just imagine Sarah walking down the aisle on her father’s arm and grin stupidly about how great that would be. Spoiler alert: my expectations were met and exceeded. As far as actually being prepared for married life, by weeks before the wedding I was nothing but ready. Sarah and I have a friendship and a partnership that comes naturally to us. We each strengthen the other and are abundantly patient with each other. I knew that this would be a very simple and incredible next step in our journey. I was not at all worried about my decision. If anything, I was just desperately hoping that she was making the right decision marrying a recovering cynic and a sarcastic, arrogant, loner like myself (at least at my worst).

The wedding was, in my eyes, flawless. I couldn’t have asked for better. I remember reading in one of Robert Fulgham’s later books something to the effect of “at least one thing always goes wrong at weddings because it is full of ordinary people attempting to act elegant beyond their means.” I’m sure he was pithier than I, but that was the crux of it. However, in our case, I was pleasantly surprised to not experience one single minor disaster. That said, I do owe Rhett and my brother a large debt of gratitude for taking full control of the music at our reception. They did a fantastic job. The ceremony was beautiful and fun. The sermon performed by Sara Carlisle was moving, full of levity, and brilliant. We so loved being joined by old and new friends and getting to celebrate our story up to that point with so many people who had been part of it both in our individual lives and in our lives as a couple. It was the perfect joyful celebration of what we were promising each other. We danced, we laughed, we ate great food and delicious cake. It was the best day of my life up to now. And for the record, Sarah, in her dress, looked more beautiful than anyone I’ve ever seen before or since.

A lot of conversations I remember having about being married up to the point of the wedding circled around the work and heavy commitment involved in being a newly wed. How marrying someone drastically changes some things in your world and readjustment is absolutely key in making a new marriage work. And to be fair, there have been some adjustments. For instance, when I’m in a cranky mood for no reason but am eager to blame the rest of the world, I have a cheerful and loving face that acts as a mirror to me suggest that it is my attitude that needs the adjusting. But short of a few minor changes like that, married life is nothing but easier. We don’t have to organize when we get to see each other next, we just come home. We can help each other get things done when the other can’t get to it. We remember things for each other, we fix what is broken together, we fetch things for each other… It is a partnership at its best: a partnership with someone who can regularly read your mind. The most radical changes in my life due to marriage include coming home to a made bed, a full refrigerator and an all around put together home.

Sarah mentioned to me a day or so ago that she felt she had a hard time talking to one of our friends because she always wanted to finish his sentences, but could never finish them correctly. She has learned this practice from correctly finishing the sentences of her husband who often trails off mid sentence because he has moved onto to the next thought or he is searching for most eloquent way to phrase his words upcoming. A couple of weeks ago I had one of those cranky days I mentioned above, and she quickly snapped me out of it with her pleasantness. We are learning things from each other. The other fantastic thing about marrying a girl like Sarah is that she is a constant cheerleader. I have been in the process of using my gifts more in my life and she has been nothing but supportive and wonderful towards that; To the point of asking me to wake her up before I went to work so that she could pray over me one day. Additionally, I can see a drastic difference in her in her ability to take more time to relax. Often, in the evenings she can now just sit and unwind to a movie or TV show where she would feel unproductive and anxious in earlier days. It would seem we are rubbing off on each other in some pretty positive ways. I have faith that that will continue.

The one thing I desire most about our marriage is that I stay true to the promises I made to Sarah in front of our friends and family. That I will always forsake all others; That I will love her in my actions as well as my words; That I will forgive her and seek to have a Holy marriage; That my love will be ardent and condition-less; That no matter our lot, until death do us part, I will be right there beside her. I can honestly say that I know that she meant every word of it. We both did.

Making Joyful Noises

Erik posed a great question about my thoughts regarding being in a situation where a person was trying to play or sing a Christian song and they frankly sounded awful. Though this response is generally applicable of any song sung by someone who lacks the talent but has an extra helping of the heart.


I can confidently say that I have been both blessed and annoyed by singers who lacked the ability to carry a tune. Being a musical guy myself, that is someone who loves music, I have spent a lot of my time both creating and enjoying music of all varieties. And in having a passion for music, I have experienced a lot of extraordinary music which has, over time, turned me into a bit a music snob. For those of you who know me well and therefore are familiar with my taste in music this might be relatively comedic for you. I have come to accept and take some pride in the fact that I am a lover of what could be considered to many “bad music”. Perhaps I needn’t give you any more explanation than to reveal to you that my favorite song, possibly of all time, is Mr. Big’s To Be With You. I may have no right at all to judge anyone on their musical taste or talent based on that truth alone.

Nevertheless, I do find myself changing stations and cringing at different artists from time to time. In fact, there are a few genres I rarely-to-never listen to simply because I don’t find them at all engaging. One such genre is Worship music. While I certainly see the benefit of a positive message in my music diet, and I have certainly not sworn it off completely, I find most modern worship music to be repetitive at its best and poorly written and trifling at its worst. There are certainly exceptions, but this is the average sentiment.
I also happen to come from a family who ranges from excellent singers to the more “make a joyful noise” variety. Even Sarah would not consider herself a particularly gifted singer (though I have been known to encourage her to sing around our apartment once in awhile). And, in truth, most people I know err on the side of self consciousness over being bold but bad. My brother, Andy, for example, has been known to claim himself to fall into the “non-singer” category, but I have been pleasantly surprised to stand beside him in a church service on Sunday morning and hear him quietly sing along hitting every note perfectly from time to time. And because I am convinced that practice can only help to improve, I do encourage anyone out there who hesitates to increase their volume to do so in a setting such as at church where you are surrounded by other people who can help guide you to hit the correct notes. Also keep in mind that hymns were generally designed to be sung by the masses and are typically a fairly easy place to start stretching the pipes a bit. And in the immortal words of Point of Grace (okay, immortal might be strong), “Jesus Doesn’t Care”.
Jesus, indeed, doesn’t care. I know that we are all God’s children and we are given our portion of our gifts by He who created us. So, when we lift up our voices to God, with a humble and praising heart, I know that He is blessed by that. That said, I sometimes find it hard to feel blessed when standing next to some people as they worship. As I said before, most people err on the side of self consciousness, which is why I think I am particularly affected by someone who, despite their lack of talent, belts their praises at a very high volume. Perhaps you know the type? The girl who decides to practice her Mariah Carey-esque vocal runs to back up every other line the worship leader is singing. First, there is certainly some preconceived judgment on my part towards that person; suspecting that they are being diva-like for attention. And while that may or may not be their intention, the fact that my response to their voice is immediately to question the motive is relfective of my own inclination to put myself at the head of the Sincerity Police on God’s behalf. As it turns out, He’s got that under control and frankly doesn’t need me occupying my time with thoughts of other people during a period of time designated to worshiping Him myself.

What I find particularly difficult is getting to a place of worship when being led by someone who lacks talent. And for those who I have led in worship, I completely understand that this may be a case of the physician needing to heal thyself. I can’t imagine this is completely uncommon, but find it down-right hard to get into music when you can notice that a person is missing notes or chords or whatever. I know for a fact it is difficult for me to worship when I am fumbling around trying to play a song I don’t know by heart. It is for that reason that worship requires mutual submission from both those worshiping and their leader; Most importantly to God, but also to each other. A worship leader holds the responsibility of being as prepared as they possibly can to lead others to a place of worship. Generally I would pose that it is fitting for the worship leader to be familiar enough with the music to be able to play it for others without stumbling around with it (though I am certainly guilty of being ill prepared), but more importantly I have found that for me there is a stark difference in the times where I go in with the intention of performing songs versus the intention of being the instrument by which myself and others join together in lifting up praise. It is in the moments that I take pressure off of myself and really let myself open up and be a participant in the praise that I feel the most blessed.

The most important thing to remember though is that when you are singing 9 times out of 10 you are not singing to please anyone else but yourself or perhaps God. When we dance around the apartment or sing in the shower we aren’t generally concerned with what octaves we are in or what notes could be worked on. We are just releasing energy or if you’re like me, maybe singing lyrics that reflect your current mood or situation. And should singing in public really be all that different? Does it matter what the person in front of you thinks of you and your musical talent? Perhaps if that person is Simon Cowell, then yes. Otherwise, I say belt it out and let the persnickety people such as myself deal with their own hang ups. I and my ear plugs wish you all the luck in the world.

Super 8 – A Movie Review From The Guy Who Can’t Commit To A Rating On Netflix

Foreword: Let me first say that I have never been particularly good at reviewing movies because I often change my opinion of movies based on the setting and personal mood upon the viewing. I do, however, enjoy pulling a film apart once in awhile and attempting to analyze it in an unconventional or comparative way. So then, this may look less like a movie review and more like a paper from a film student. If I do indeed bore you to death I will not be offended if you choose someone else to write your eulogy. Also, this “review” does include spoilers.


 SUPER 8 It is apparent that in his list of favorite things, J.J. Abrams ranks big explosions and space vehicles at the very top. I have a sneaking suspicion he deeply relates to Cary (the kid with a backpack always fully loaded with fireworks) as much as Charles (the child filmmaker). Super 8, due to its fondness of the feel-it-in-your-chest action sequences, begs to be seen in a theater (though I’m sure Paramount would suggest the home theater is a fantastic alternative). The film starts with a slow build that abruptly turns into a movie where seldom a breath is to be had. The film is nothing if not eventful. What it lacks in character development or artistic detail, it makes up for in forward motion. For that reason it accomplishes exactly what is required of a summer blockbuster-style film. Unfortunately, in the case of Super 8, Abrams, has sold himself short of what could have been more than yet another addition to an ever-growing list of forgotten summer movies.

Super 8 suffers from the ailment of  the modern blockbuster mold in a few ways that simply weakens it to the point of eventual obscurity. Mistake numero uno is the completely unnecessary pre/young teen love story. I understand that Romeo & Juliet has proven to the world that barely pubescent individuals can love each other with a passion that shakes the very core of the earth. And Leo and Kate taught us that not even sinking ships and frozen shut lips can squelch the burning desire of two young people who have only just met. But it is because these tales of entwined souls have been played out that I think it is time we, as a culture, shift back to a place where a story can be told that does not involve two people of the opposite sex gravitating towards each other slowly but surely over the course of the two hours we get to know them. While the tale of Joe and Alice falling for each other is nothing short of precious, it is completely unnecessary to the larger forward motion of the film at large. The time devoted to the attraction between the characters would have been better spent further developing the identity of the characters as individuals. Perhaps it is because Spielberg is credited as the producer of the film that I cannot help but look to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and see that it is absolutely not necessary for there to be a love story in place to move a SciFi film forward to an effective climax. I also can’t help but notice that such a film can be engaging without quite as many eardrum-rupturing explosions.*

The other major cliché that Super 8 falls victim to is the always anti-climactic creature reveal. In full disclosure, at least 2 of my top 10 favorite movies of all time are directed by Hitchcock. So then, I am a person who delights in the concept of off-screen tension. I hold firm to the belief that an imagination running wild can evoke a stronger emotional reaction than nearly anything the eye can witness in full. The unknown is daunting because it is unknown. I maintain that were it not for the final 10 minutes of the movie Signs, it would be towards the top of my list of favorites. The entire film was a perfect symphony of the slow build along with the looming anxiety of sudden attack. The shadows under doors, the scrapping noises, the glimpses of something just a little too quick to be registered…. All of this combined left me shuttering with every slight, yet intentional jolt. And then, in a very dramatic statement to the world, M Night Shyamalan showed us, in story form, that he was done creating watchable films; Queue the “alien”/Green Goblin. Shyamalan is neither the first nor the last (Abrams) to step on a perfectly eerie situation by revealing what could have been left a mystery. But there is no time like the present for directors to look into the past and realize that leaving nothing to the imagination is not always a victory against censorship but at times a mistake that can suck every ounce of dramatic tension right out of a story. And while gigantic spider-like aliens are certainly unsettling to witness, by choosing not to show off the big scary monster you don’t run the risk of losing your audience to the “Is this CGI really necessary or even convincing?” internal dialogue that viewers like me immediately jump to.

Super 8 gets a 4.7 out of 8


 *I realize I sound a bit like an old man here. I attribute this to the fact that I am currently wearing a cardigan to stay warm on a summer evening.

Weighted Verbal Expulsions

My sister-in-law, Christine brought up a very interesting situation in which she was assisting a man at her place of work in picking out a new camera. During this process, he became compelled to express his personal feelings towards the situation of outsourcing and how he feels that outsourcing somehow negates the victories and sacrifices we’ve experienced in war as a nation. My initial instinct was to question the logic behind the argument. To take his points and dissect them into some sort of “this therefore that” type of equation as I was taught in my Intro to Philosophy class at Carson-Newman (which, by the way I didn’t pay nearly enough attention to considering how argumentative I have found myself to be in the years to come). And perhaps had it been me who the man had made this comment to, that might have been the course I chose to take. HOWEVER, I think that my initial reaction to such a strange, arguably out-of-place comment does not really address anything of any true importance.
As I’ve spent time analyzing the exchange, I realized that it is quite likely that the last thing this gentleman had in mind when making this comment was that it might progress into a real discussion of the relationship between outsourcing and wars of the past. It seems that this is simply an example of the practice of whimsical cultural philosophy that equates to nothing more than a cathartic expulsion for the person responsible. That is to say, nothing meaningful in the world changed because he chose to share this information. Christine’s philosophy on outsourcing and the meaning of war has not moved an inch because of his “observation”. Really the only thing that this “conversation” might have resulted in is a titled-head, confused look from Christine, and perhaps a slight shift in her opinion of the competency of fellow humans, Americans, or maybe seniors. Surely he didn’t think that he was making an argument by which he might persuade a different perspective based on a single passing comment? But if not that reason, then WHY?!
I am reminded of a time when I was manning the cash register at an OSU apparel store around the time of the 2008 election. An older patron and his wife began engaging me in passing conversation as I rang them up. All of a sudden, though I can’t remember the exact cause, the everyday patron-associate conversation became somehow political. The only thing I remember explicitly is that his wife asked me directly if I support socialism (maybe it came out that I was leaning towards Obama but I honestly can’t be sure). It took me a moment to identify what exactly was happening. My mind rushed to “are we having a debate now?” I began attempting to explain, in my most honest yet attention to detail sort of way that our country’s state of socialism is a very nuanced issue. She wasn’t rude, but she clearly was uninterested in my straddling-the-fence rebuttal. So I simply stopped mid sentence in my explanation, smiled and nodded my head in a “I can see this is going nowhere” sort of gesture. But the thing is it wasn’t ever going to go anywhere. She didn’t engage me in this discussion because she was interested in a counter-point. She simply just wanted me to know how she felt about it and was perfectly happy to let the conversation die there.
So, what up with that? What is the cause of these politically, religiously, ethically, weighted verbal expulsions? What causes someone to replace “Boy, this weather is crazy to day.” with “Boy, this government/wallstreet/other religion is ruining us.”? To proceed in honesty, I first must confess to you that I hold a bit of judgment over the type of person that does this. I feel as though they possess, somewhere, a bit of… self-importance which causes them to either assume that you are going to support their assertion or that if you do disagree with them from the start, their firm and convincing expulsion will immediately discredit any counter position you might have held before they were able to enlighten you. I also admit that this is perhaps not a fair position to take, as there is honestly something noble in being so bold and so convinced in your convictions that you want to share them with others. And it is, without question, a benefit to our world that we be in constant process of being enlightened to new ideas, beliefs, methods, questions, etc. So then, forgive my judgment if you happen to be one of these noble truth speakers and feel I have been unfair to you. The next time I come in contact with one of you, I will attempt to keep an even more open mind.
I feel like I leave you with no answers, and for that I’m sorry. But I will include one last related point
I worked at a pretzel place for a short stint during high school. I worked along side an older lady who excelled in distributing free pretzel samples to mall patrons as they gracefully dismounted the escalators. I remember working beside her one day and watching a “mixed-race” couple walk by. I cannot recall her words verbatim, but they amount to something like “that just isn’t the way it’s meant to be”. What I do remember vividly is that I could not bring myself to utter anything in response except “uh…” I did not, at the time, have the moral fortitude to speak up in a kind, nonjudgmental but assertive voice and say “I disagree with you. I think this is okay.” I have no idea whether that would have made any difference to her what-so-ever, but I wonder if I would still remember that moment over a decade later.

A History of (Car) Violence – This One’s For Me

Today I woke up to find that the window on my driver’s side door had been busted out with a beer bottle. Nothing was stolen. The best I can surmise is that this person got to the end of their Bud Light and thought “what better place to dispense of my bottle than through the window of this car.” I feel rather certain their internal dialogue included the word “dispense”. As far as I know there was no reason or purpose behind this person’s actions (the list of people I’ve angered is pretty small, and most of them probably have better things to do with their time than randomly break out my window). This was nothing more or less than an act of vandalism. A random act of unkindness if you will.

I was relaying all of this information to the very kind lady at Erie Insurance this morning and upon explaining that our late-night drinking friend hadn’t taken anything, hadn’t even bothered getting in the car at all from the looks of it, she let out an exasperated: “People just have no respect any more”. That actually caused me to pause for a moment. I immediately began (over)analyzing that passing statement. My first instinct (and what I think I said to her) is “I’m not sure that it’s worse now than it’s ever been.” But apparently she sees, or felt at the moment, a degradation in the level of respect human beings have for each other. Is she right?

We have a very colorful history of attitudes and actions towards each other. Dating back to prehistory – almost all creation myths and countless ancient stories speak of deception, corruption, and violence if not from people, from gods. In Egypt, Seth chopped Osiris to pieces, only after having locked him in a coffin to send him down (up) the Nile. In Norse legend Oden, Ve, and Vili killed Ymir, whose blood flooded the land and killed all but two of those pesky frost giants. In Aztec myth Huitzilopochtli, the god of war’s massacre of his own siblings caused the fertilization of the earth. And I am certain you are familiar with the deception of Eve in the garden of Eden and subsequently the violent murder of Able at the hands of Cain. The roots of disrespect grow very deep in our existence.*

But I must assume that the kind lady from Erie Insurance wasn’t around for the creation of the human race. Primarily because it was 9 o’clock before she got into the office, and I think we can all agree that if she was that old she would be an early riser. So then, what was her point of reference? In her mind, at what point in our history did we begin the downward slope from the precipice of mutual respect? I remember being at my friend Jenna’s parent’s house one evening. Her parents and I were having a discussion about all things important in the world and how we were going to set them all straight. They are great people to have a conversation with because they are respectful, well-spoken, and perfectly happy to state opposing thoughts without the conversation ever turning sour. At some point in that conversation her father made a comment that seemed to allude that the country was changing from a better (in this instance, more Godly) culture into something less than that. His reference point was the 60’s. I questioned him about that because my view of the 60s centers around the culture of Woodstock and the hard fought battle over civil rights. He obviously acknowledged that these things took place, but suggested that these were but isolated events in an otherwise more mild mannered and happier time.

I return to that suggestion every so often because it is a solid reminder of the limit of my own knowledge. The truth is, in his mind, our culture looked better then than it does now. Knowing him, I would venture to guess he believes that this degradation is due to changes in laws as well as influential media. I would however contend that to some, our current culture looks much better in terms of respect towards each other than it used to. For instance, the LGBT and African American communities likely see these as better times than those of decades past. According to the Bureau of Justice we are on the decline in both Property and Violent Crime. In property crime, we are less than double the amount of crime that was reported in the 1960s (just under 2,000 vs just over 3,000) and that is a nearly 2,000 incident drop from the early 1980s. Based on that, we may be looking up.

I can say in confidence that I do not look back at my earlier life and see it through “Leave it to Beaver” lenses. I had a perfectly pleasant childhood in a very nice neighborhood. But if I returned to that neighborhood today, I would expect it to be almost exactly the same. I went through school dealing with bullies and cruelness (but also kindness and friendship) and so it is hard for me to look at schools now and think that there is an increase in mistreatment among peers. And it is with that, I conclude, having come to no clear conclusion. I continue to wonder if we are better or worse, if we are improving or degrading, or maybe if this world is full of people who have it in them to be kind, friendly, meek, and honest and also to be hurtful, jealous, dishonest and spiteful, just as it always has been.

*Not on par with breaking out a driver’s side window of a random car I grant you, but the thread of ill-wishing behavior is long and abundant.