Saturday, January 28, 2006

In Remembrance of Me -- Part Two

Recently I wrote a blog entry about the Lord’s Supper, and how I believe the point of this practice goes way beyond making sure we don’t forget Jesus. My wife Jamie read the entry and asked an excellent question: “When He asked the disciples to remember Him, what did they think of? Jesus hadn’t even been arrested yet, so they couldn’t know about the beatings, the cross or the resurrection.”

What a great question! I’ve heard many Christians say that the point of the Lord’s Supper is to remember the “death, burial and resurrection” of Jesus, yet those things hadn’t even taken place at the first communion! I love to wonder about what these 11 men might have remembered about Jesus when they sat in the upper room. Perhaps they thought about:

• The songs they made up and sang together while walking from town to town
• The time Jesus played a practical joke on Judas by hiding the money purse
• The joy in the eyes of Jesus as he held babies in his arms
• The laugh of Jesus when he healed a paralytic and they danced together in the street
• The regular habit of waking up at sunrise, only to find Jesus already gone to a nearby hillside to pray
• The disappointed look on Jesus’ face when Peter and John argued over who caught the biggest fish
• The anger and aggressiveness Jesus showed when confronting religious leaders who used their power inappropriately
• The total, awestruck silence of the crowds as Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount

Obviously most of these things aren’t actual, recorded events in the bible, but I enjoy visualizing them. When I think about the important people in my life, often it’s the little memories that are most precious to me. A spouse’s warm embrace, a child’s mischievous grin, a parent’s patient instruction… these are the things that often stick with us. What do you think stuck with the disciples?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Everyday funnies

Life is weird. While most days are fairly normal for me, sometimes I accidently wander into the Twilight Zone. Here are a few things that have happened this week (including the obligatory Samantha quote):

--Yesterday I bought a sausage/egg biscuit in the deli of our office building. The small asian lady who works there made the biscuit, then went to the cash register to ring it up. After pushing several buttons, she dramatically hit the "Total" button and I looked at the digital readout to see the price. It was $27.10. For a biscuit. She looked at me with sort of a "how 'bout that" face, and I just looked right back at her. She finally smiled and said, "See? It's cheap!", and had a good laugh. I offered her two dollars and she took it. If only my car haggling skills were this good, I'd be saving huge money in a couple of weeks when we buy a minivan.

--I was in the office restroom today (don't worry, no gross details). Another guy walks in, so I give the polite cough from the stall to let him know he's not alone. He does his business, then goes to wash his hands. As he is putting the paper towel in the trash, he sighs and says, "Life is bad." Then he walks out and leaves. I never saw him and have no idea who it was.

--Samantha was upstairs, and I was downstairs. She went to the landing and yelled out, "Daddy, I need to go potty!". I asked her if she needed any help. Her answer? "No, Daddy... it's no use."

--Today at school (technically, "Mother's Day Out") Samantha got to see a real-live fire truck. I asked her about it when I got home from work. Her eyes got really big and she said, "Yeeeeahhh, Daddy! It was big! I didn't drove it, but I rode on it." Her tone clearly implied that although she didn't "drove" it today, that was simply a one-time exception and it will surely be her time to drove next time the fire truck comes to school.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

"Crash" and controversy

I’m a movie buff, and one of the things I like to do is to compare my opinions of movies to the opinions of supposed “experts” – film critics who make a living by viewing, dissecting and rating the works of art we see on the big screen. One of my favorite critics is Roger Ebert, who also happens to be one of the best-known. Here are a couple of his standard beliefs about movies:

• Movies aren’t good just because of what they’re about, but in how they go about it. For instance, not all boxing movies are good (“Million Dollar Baby”) or bad (“Rocky V”). The topic is not important – only the quality and the originality of the film make it good or bad.
• Movies aren’t usually a good vehicle for making a case for an issue or providing in-depth education. We already have an excellent vehicle for that… it’s called the written word. Visual arts (movies, painting, sculpture, etc…) are best for evoking emotions or creating interest.

This last point is one I wholeheartedly agree with. When I’m really looking to learn about something, I turn to essays, books and journals. Not movies. However, every once in a while a film comes along that not only evokes emotions, but it actually has the power to influence me in a significant way. These experiences are the pinnacle of entertainment to me, and almost every time I pop a DVD in the player I hope for a film that will inspire me to be a better person.

Ebert selected “Crash” as his best film of 2005, and I just happened to see it a couple of weeks ago on DVD. Ebert and I agree that this is one of those films that has the potential to change people. However, it has also stirred up all kinds of controversy due to its topic: racism in America. See HERE for Ebert’s response to some of the other well-known film critics who have bashed this film as one of their worst of the year.

The link above will give you an idea of the reasons for these negative reviews, so I won’t go into them here. Instead, I’ll give you my personal example of how “Crash” has already made an impact on me.

My neighborhood is very diverse. I would guess that it’s 50% black, 40% Hispanic and 10% “other”, including Caucasian, Indian, Asian, and so on. This has been a novel experience for me since I grew up mostly around other white kids. .

When I saw “Crash” a couple of weeks ago, it really made my wife and I think. Hard. Have we been good neighbors to the blacks and Hispanics all around us? Have we made enough efforts to show Christ’s love to our whole neighborhood, regardless of race? And beyond these basic questions, the movie caused so much more thought about the hundred or so brief interactions we have with people everyday, and how those interactions are shaped or even warped by prejudices we don’t even realize we have. I pondered this late Friday night after watching the final credits roll.

The next day, a black family was moving into a rental house down the street from us. My kids were taking a nap and I picked that time to go take down Christmas lights on the house and in our front bushes (actually, a lone bush). When I saw the family unpacking their truck, I walked over to introduce myself and offer help. They declined the offer, but we spoke for just a minute about the area, the traffic, and the usual things you would talk about with a new neighbor.

There was nothing special or dramatic; just a simple, short conversation between people who used to be strangers and are now acquaintances. And who knows, maybe it will even progress to friendship one day.

I am not an extrovert by nature, and it’s very hard for me to just walk up to someone and introduce myself. But I did it this time, and I credit much of it to the lingering effects of the movie I had watched the previous night. A movie that some laud as a wonderful achievement, and others deride as a hackneyed exploitation of an obsolete issue. I’m much too ignorant and busy to worry too much about those kinds of debates, but I know this: I felt warmer, kinder and more natural talking to my new neighbors than I would have without watching “Crash”. So at least on some miniscule level, the movie made a difference in the world. And I like that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The power of communion

I wrote this tonight, thinking it might be useful in a church bulletin or handout. Might as well double-dip and include it here too. :)

“In Remembrance of Me”

Of all things Jesus could have asked his disciples to do in that upper room, of all the acts he could have instituted that would be followed by billions throughout the centuries, he chose this: for us to remember him. The Lord’s Supper is still practiced by millions of Christians today, and the words “Do This in Remembrance of Me” likely appear on thousands of communion tables around the world. Yet what was Jesus asking exactly? Was he making sure we didn’t forget him?

We haven’t forgotten Moses, Elijah, or even Noah, and they all lived long before Jesus. I believe Jesus wanted much more than just to avoid being forgotten. His plan is for this memory of Him to humble, focus and inspire all those who take the name Christian.

Even our 21st Century American culture understands this concept. How about the phrase, “Remember the Alamo?” Or the recent movie, “Remember the Titans?” Do Texans say “Remember the Alamo” to keep forgetfulness at bay, or do they say it to inspire courage in the face of incredible odds? And we remember the Titans high school football team for their ability to see beyond racial and cultural barriers. These memories lift us up, warm our hearts, and encourage us to become better human beings.

The memory of Jesus does the same, and on an even greater scale! For here is the One who faced the greatest challenges, yet emerged victorious. Here is the One who demolished all racial, cultural and national barriers with a final sacrifice that makes salvation available to every soul on the planet. This memory changes our hearts, makes us “mount up with wings like eagles”, and helps us “run and not grow weary.”

Are you ready to be humbled, re-focused and inspired? Then take the bread and the fruit of the vine on Sunday, and let the memory of Christ transform your heart.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

More Samantha quotes

Sorry to do this, as there may be those of you out there hoping for some deep musings about the Christian faith, or perhaps a profound thesis on the link between Hollywood and breakdancing, but all I've got is crazy talk from my daughter. Here are two more gems from this weekend:

1. Friday night I was putting Samantha to bed. While getting her pajamas on, she began coming up with excuses for why she was going to visit me in my bedroom in the middle of the night:

Samantha: When the scratch on my foot hurts, I will come to your room so you can put lotion on it.
Me: Nope, I already put lotion on it. You can stay in bed tonight.
Samantha: (Looking around thoughtfully) Well... maybe there's something in my closet.
Me: No, we've talked about this before. All the animals sleep outside. What animal would be in your closet?
Samantha: A cue.
Me: A cue?
Samantha: Yes, a cue.
Me: What's a cue?
Samantha: (Slightly panicking) Well... I said it wrong.
Me: What did you mean to say?
Samantha: I don't know.

2. This one happened as she woke up from a nap on Saturday. She came downstairs, and along the way she was commenting on the family pictures on the wall. She especially enjoys the ones of Jamie and I in our pre-kids marriage years.

Samantha: Daddy, you don't have any glasses on in that picture!
Me: You're right, I didn't wear glasses then, and one day soon I won't wear them anymore (either contacts or lasik surgery hopefully in the near future).
Samantha: When I grow up, I'm going to be a DADDY!
Me: Really?
Samantha: Yep, I'm going to be a daddy. I'm going to be big and tall, and have a mustache, and I'm going to have BIG EARS like you (at this point, she grabbed her ears and wiggled them)! And, I'm going to wear your PANTS!
Me: Wow, you think you can be a daddy?
Samantha: Yep, and after I'm a daddy, then I'm going to be a mommy.
Me: Good luck with that; if anyone can do it, it's you.
Samantha: Uh huh, yes!

In a former life, I was the funny one, the guy with the perfect joke or movie quote to introduce comedy into a situation. Now I've been relegated to the straight man, the Vince Vaughn to the Ben Stiller-esque comedic genius that is my daughter (see the movie "Dodgeball" to get the reference).

Monday, January 02, 2006

It's my potty, I can laugh if I want to

Raising a 3-year-old daughter can be summarized several ways:
-A series of narrowly avoided disasters
-A series of alternating beautiful and infuriating moments
-A series of miracles seen through the eyes of a child

Lately though, my parenting experience can mostly be described as "a series of absolutely high-larious quotes." The things that come out of Samantha's mouth continue to amaze me. Last week I asked her how to spell "cat". Her answer was "G-O-Monkey." She spelled "go", then added the word monkey to the end. How do you respond to something like that? I did the only thing I could -- put cheese whiz on my slinky and did the cha-cha while wearing a beanie. OK, not really, but in Samantha's world that would probably make sense.

I've had the last week off work for the holidays, which means I've been Samantha's escort to the bathroom many times. Home, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores... I've taken Samantha to all their bathrooms lately. If I was to add up all her recent bathroom quotes, the conversation would go like this (yes, she really said these things).

Samantha: (Raises fist in the air) I'm going to do the biggest poo-poo EVER!
Me: Greeeeaat.
Samantha: Daddy, do you need to go pee-pee?
Me: Nope, I'm fine. This is your turn.
Samantha: This potty is dirty. And stinky too.
Me: Well, we're in a Phillips 66, sugar. That's what you get.
Samantha: The toilet paper is broken!
Me: Not really, it's just crooked. Don't worry, it still works the same. Are you finished now?
Samantha: Not yet. I'm busy slipping. (She was right; I could see her slowly falling in.)
Me: (Catching her). There you go. You finished now?
Samantha: Yes. I want to flush. Where's the handle?
Me: This one doesn't have a handle; it's automatic. That means it flushes by itself. It will know when we leave, then it will flush.
Samantha: Cool! (We leave the stall). What is that little potty?
Me: That's the urinal. It's for boys only, but I don't need to go right now.
Samantha. OK.
(The automatic toilet flushes. Samantha turns around and starts clapping as big and loud as she can.)
Samantha: YAY!!! Way to go, potty!