Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Apology Not Accepted

When one of our boys was little, about three years old if I remember correctly, my wife took him to play at a park near our home. It was a nice afternoon, a rare time without a million things to do and places to be. The park wasn’t crowded, but there were a few other moms there with their little ones. As children as inclined to do, they drifted together and started to play.
For awhile, all was uneventful and eventually it was just two of them; my son and a little girl playing together near the jungle gym. At one point in this adventure of play and new friends, my son suddenly reached over, put his hands on the girls shoulders and gave her a big kiss. The little girl stepped back with a look of surprise … and punched my kid right in the face!
Her mother was appalled. She thought what my son had done was “cute” and demanded that her daughter apologize. My wife wouldn’t allow it. The little girl had nothing wrong. Our son had.
We begin teaching our sons to share and tell the truth as soon as we can. Maybe if we taught them to respect girls/women just as early, we would avoid some trouble and pain later on. It might seem “cute” when they are three, but it doesn’t look so “cute” when they force themselves on someone when they are twenty-three. The earlier we learn the important lessons, the better.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Enough is Enough. Our Words Have Too Much Power!

Recently, there seems to be a re-exposure of the ways our culture still has a lot of growing up to do around gender, sexuality, and basic lines of personal responsibility in relationships. Not that it every really went away, but these things tend to wax and wane.
It’s becoming apparent to me that reading random blogs and scrolling through posts on Facebook can be dangerous to one’s mental health. Increasingly, silence seems less of an option. So in my own random way, across a number of topics, I offer this:

“No,” means “NO.” Always. There’s no wiggle room here. There’s no way you can have any expectations. No way can you justify yourself. Just “No.”

Your bad behavior is your fault. Always. It’s not someone else’s fault. Your choices, your decisions – are yours. They are your responsibility. Don’t point the finger at her as a way to get off the hook. If you buy dinner or spend an evening with someone – do you know what you are entitled to? Nothing! That’s all. Every time. No exceptions.

Gentlemen, If the way a woman dresses causes you to lust, you have to deal with your problem. Not her. She’s not the problem. Every discussion I’ve read [Every. One.] about “modesty” and “appropriateness” in the church talks about what women wear and how they dress and says nothing about men and their “modesty” and “appropriateness.” The message is clear: women are temptresses and lead men to sin. That’s just wrong-headed. Gentlemen, check your heart and guard your thoughts. You have a problem. And she is not the problem.

Gay, fag, and other slurs aimed at LGBT people are wrong. Always. Whether you agree with "the lifestyle" or not. They are wrong. Always. Your disagreement doesn’t give you the right to be abusive and act like a jerk. Especially (and in my circles that’s a lot of you) if you call yourself a follower of Jesus; you don’t get to be a jerk. You have a higher calling than that.

These same words often get used by straight people as derogatory terms for each other – sometimes even between friends in a “we’re just kidding” kind of way. This has to stop. It’s wrong. Always. It’s just another backhanded way of being demeaning and degrading to people. Jesus never treated anyone as less than fully human and worthy of his deepest love and care. We need to do the same.

Enough is enough. Our words have too much power to speak them so carelessly & viciously. Now is the time to aspire to something better.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

It’s Just a Movie, Stupid!


The other night I watched a movie called August: Osage County. It is based on a play of the same name written by Tracy Letts. It’s described as a “black comedy,” but truth be told I found little comedic about it. I enjoyed it, but not in the usual way I enjoy a movie. [Does that make any sense?] So what got to me? It wasn’t the plot. It wasn’t the action. It wasn’t even the characters.

It was the actors. The cast is full of names you would recognize and some that seem familiar. It’s quite an ensemble. So for better or worse here’s my take on some of the actors in the movie …

Sam Shepard – There’s something about Shepard’s presence that sets the tone of every scene he is in. His affect is often flat, but to hold your own on screen opposite Meryl Streep (more on her later) is no small feat. And he does far more than fade into the woodwork.

Ewan McGregor – He is a chameleon. I was halfway through the movie before I realized it was him. If your only familiarity with McGregor is Star Wars, you are missing so much. He is an incredibly versatile actor. In another time, we would be talking about him as a great ‘character actor’ – a phrase I don’t hear much anymore. But it fits.

Chris Cooper – One of those faces you recognize, but you can’t place the name. Think: Bourne Identity, Seabiscuit, The Muppets, and Amazing Spider-Man 2, among a bunch of others. He’s an Academy Award winner and a Golden Globe winner and nobody knows who he is. And I don’t think he cares! He just seems to work, do it well, and find immense satisfaction in it. He was exceptional here; very impressive.

Margo Martindale – Like McGregor: Versatility. A strong dramatic presence in this film. She is currently starring opposite Will Arnett in the comedy The Millers on CBS. She’s also done Iron Jawed Angels and Dead Man Walking. In an age when big name stars make movie after movie playing essentially the same role over and over again, the value of versatility is lost.

Can’t stop without mentioning two more:

Meryl Streep – In my opinion, quite simply the finest living American actor. She’s exhausting to watch because she’s just so good! And consistently so for over thirty years. There is none finer.

Julia Roberts – What most impresses me is how she continues to develop as an actor; to grow and shape herself as an artist. This is not the Julia Roberts of Steel Magnolias and Pretty Woman, as good as those performances were. This isn’t even the Julia Roberts of Erin Brockovich and Ocean’s Eleven. It’s better! If you have any doubts as to whether or not Julia Roberts is one of the finest actors of our time – this movie should put those doubts to rest.

The gist of it all is this …

You don’t have to be the star to have an impact. You, your role and what you bring to it matter and make a difference. Whatever you do, do it well. Do it with integrity and let the rest of it go. Don’t worry about credit, acclaim, money, or influence. None of the things that matter in life [really matter] depend on those things.

As a person of Christian faith, I see this in the teaching of Jesus repeatedly. “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all the rest will be given to you.” It’s a message I was reminded of as I watched this movie: perhaps an unlikely place.

If you stop growing and stop learning, you stop living. Each of these people, in their own way, have worked hard at their craft. They keep pushing themselves to grow and develop as artists. They are not satisfied with where they are and are convinced that they have more to learn - even after decades of acting at a very high level. In August: Osage County, these were full, authentic performances from people who refuse to settle.

In faith as in life, the same is true. The Apostle Paul said, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That eliminates the possibility of taking the easy road. I pray I will always have the same drive to excel, learn, and grow. Not just as a Christian, but as a person. I am encouraged by people who never stop growing as Disciples, never stop reading and learning more about the Scriptures, never stop asking questions and looking for answers. That’s where I see authentic faith.

~ Godspeed