Rob Bell TV Show

I just caught the news that Rob Bell, of Mars Hill Church/Grand Rapids fame, is working with one of the creators of LOST to create a Television series based on his life. The show has a working title, too: Stronger. I listened to the announcement he gave at Mars Hill last Sunday, and he did mention that the next phase of his work would require him to be based in Los Angeles. I’m interested in seeing where this goes and what a show like this will look like following the Modern Family slot, since ABC has bought the rights to produce it.

I’m working on a paper for a class that looks at Christ-Centered Worship and will be using some of Rob’s work as a source, so I’m following closely.

You can read the Christianity Today article here.

I have no idea what to think. It’s so overwhelming, kind of like finding out that the Detroit Lions are good. To paraphrase triple rainbow guy: what does this mean?

A Non-Profit Blockbuster

Disney’s “Lion King 3-D” strives for North American box office throne. After fetching 29.3 million U.S. dollars at last weekend, which registered only 12.5 million dollars on opening weekend, Disney extended the film’s release to 2,340 theaters.

If you’ve been watching the headlines, it would appear that the Lion King 3-D is about to become its own sovereign nation, if not a province. We can only hope that Canada will approve, perhaps wedging them in next to Quebec.

It’s a fact of culture: some Hollywood movies make zillions of dollars. The more they make, the happier everyone seems. The studio that produced the film is rolling in cash, the director and producers are buying new islands, and the stars of the film are getting royalties and new offers for bigger projects and TV shows. Legend has it that Simba gets a flat three percent, was well as a chance at hosting The Tonight Show when Jay Leno retires for the second time. Even people who paid to see the movie are happy, because they know that their ticket money is going toward a good cause, namely, getting rid of Jay Leno*.

If the Lion King 3-D makes another 20 or so million this weekend, that’s pushing 50 million dollars. But how much is too much? Let’s pause to consider, Lion King aside, how much money Disney has made. According to my research, Disney has made $812,291,514,124,011,249,293,3.14,867,5309 and 11. I don’t know why the “and 11″, except that it might have something to do with having to switch to the metric dollar system. I should also point out that this number might actually be the national deficit.

I ask the question again: how much is too much? Yes, capitalism at work means making money and people also at work. I get that. But what if we applied biblical principals to the situation and said “okay, Disney, for every 10 movies you make, give 1 movie’s profits to build 400 homeless shelters.” What if? I know that Disney gives money away, and I would suppose that they are generous in their giving to charity. But what if we all knew that Lion King 3-D was movie #10 in their lineup, so that means that it goes toward something beyond us? I bet it would “make” even more money.

I wish it was that way. Since it’s not, I guess it’s up to you and me to make a difference.

*Of course I say this jokingly, but it would be wrong of me to hide the fact that I’m with Team Coco.

Mmmm… Sodium Chloride

I ate McDonalds yesterday with the Worship Arts intern and immediately regretted doing so. The hangout time was great and all, but the sodium in the fries actually turned most of the water in my body into the salty equivalent of the open seas. I won’t even mention the irony of eating a healthy grilled chicken sandwich and chasing it down with a couplea cheeseburgers. D’oh.

The results were instantaneous. I’m up 3 pounds today. Woo hoo? Here’s what I know: weight loss is no mystery. If I eat a bunch of stuff and don’t exercise, I gain weight. It’s like pulling a lever from the “eat whatever” position to “eat carefully and sweat on purpose” position. Losing weight is a very simple looking equation that is quite difficult to actually understand, kinda like E=MC2. In this case, WL=EL2 (Weight Loss equals Eating Less, squared).

I don’t want to blame Ronald McDonald for my own decisions. I’m no Morgan Spurlock, but I do think that their food is so delicious that I just gotta have some. Gimmie them nuggets. Gimmie that chipotle sauce. And, please, supersize everything, even the saucebuckets. Charge extra, I don’t care. Would someone please throw me a napkin? I need something to absorb this sweet ‘n’ sour I just got on my tux.

What’s wrong with me? First, I made a decision that I knew I would regret. I was fully aware of the consequences and did it anyway (sin works this way too). Second, why am I wearing a tuxedo to McDonalds? It’s not like they have a maitre d’. No, friend, that’s just a statue of Grimace.

Oh well. Today is a new day. Let’s revel in that instead, shall we?

Counting Our Gains as Losses

I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly aware of more than a few of my own accomplishments. I don’t want to sound proud or haughty, but I did win the 3rd grade spelling bee. The winning word was “highlighted”, which I spelled correctly. Amid the cheers of my classmates (except for Toby, who immediately lost), I was handed a giant Nestle Crunch bar, which I ate that afternoon in great celebration. Sickness naturally followed, since it was such a jumbo sized candy bar, but I didn’t care. I won! They had even announced it on the school’s PA system. Today, every time I eat a Nestle Crunch bar, I revel in my own victory, a distant elementary school memory which I can still taste.

There is nothing better than accomplishing that which others only dream of.

Imagine if I had boasted about this today on, say, my resume. Or if I had insisted on putting up the winner’s certificate in my office so that people knew that were dealing with a consummate spelling professional. What if I had “3rd grade spelling bee champ” printed on my business cards? And what if, for the sake of irony, I insisted on spelling the word “spelling” wrong on said business cards? Would people notice?

That seems to be the goal of our accomplishments: that people notice. We want to be distinguished. We want to be safe in the accolades of others. We imagine a security blanket made up of diplomas, awards, recognitions, and Nestle Crunch wrappers. Oh, it feels so good to be better than some people!

The Apostle Paul had every right to think the same thing. Whereas I won the 3rd grade spelling bee, Paul could boast about his position as a zealous persecutor of the church who observed the law like a professional. He had the family lineage that put him in a good place even before his birth. 8 days later, things got even “better”, as far as religious standing went. He considered himself to be blameless, which means that no one had anything on him that would threaten his confidence. He was like me, standing in front of the student body at Douglas Elementary, proudly holding up a Nestle Crunch bar. “H-I-G-H-L-I-G-H-T-E-D”.

After giving us a brief bio in Philippians 3:4-6, Paul suddenly changes direction and puts all of his accomplishments and standings in a new light. In 3:7, he writes “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Paul is cancelling his own structure. All that work, all that birthright, all that victory — down the drain!
It must take quite a victory to trump his own. Enter Jesus Christ. His victory is apparent — we refer to this as “Christus Victor”, meaning that Jesus is victorious over sin, makes atonement for us, and gives us His victory over death. Paul is saying that, in light of everything Christ has done, what I have done is pretty much nothing.

This truth should bring us to our knees.

How often do we surf on our own capabilities, talents, and triumphs? I know I do. There’s nothing wrong with accomplishing great things. In fact, the best approach is to do something great for the glory of God, which means that we give it our best, operate in our strengths, develop our God-given talents, and then point to Christus Victor, the one who has redeemed us from the pit and whose accomplishment on the cross means eternal life for me, which will go on long after my parchments and attainments have disintegrated.

So… here’s what to do:

  • 1. Constantly increase your familiarity with the accomplishment of Christ on the cross. The best way to do this? Get to know Jesus Himself. Read the Word. Pray. Surround yourself with others who seek the same. And seek to serve the world as Jesus would.
  • 2. Think of your accomplishments as secondary to the great work of Christ. This doesn’t mean that you can’t say “Thank You” when a coworker congratulates you on landing a sale or when a customer expresses delight over the coffee you brought to them. But remember Jesus and what He has done, so as to avoid thinking that you are the one who keeps you going. It’s not you. It’s Him! (See Hebrews 1:3 — He upholds the universe by the word of his power).
  • 3. When we worship together, be intentional about removing the crown that has slowly built up on your own head, and lay it at the feet of Jesus. He must increase, you must decrease.
  • 4. Be constantly thankful to the one whose accomplishment means salvation, and keep on working for the glory of God to do great things!
  • Listen, I’m a pretty good speller. But I don’t go around telling everyone how awesome I am, partly because I’m afraid they’ll ask me to spell a big word like “hippopotamus or “necessary”. The big reason? If the Apostle Paul models something for us in this passage, it is the fact that we don’t boast about us. We boast about Christ. If I truly understand what He has done, I won’t go around boasting about what little I’ve done. Your security isn’t in what you’ve accomplished, so stop acting like it does. Join me in counting gains as losses as we live each day in the victory of Christ.

    And now, may the taste of a Nestle Crunch bar, the sight of a highlighter, and the taste of your own small victories be a strong reminder of what Christ has done, in love, for you.

    Question: Which Son Obeyed?

    I walked up to Malachi and asked him to go out to the back yard and pick up sticks and toss them into the burn pile. He said “okay, Daddy”, and then proceeded to go into his room and read a book about dump trucks.

    I then walked up to Zachary and said “Zac, go out to the back yard and pick up sticks and toss them into the burn pile.” He said “NO!” and then ran into the kitchen and got himself something to eat. While he consumed a few grapes, he thought more about what I asked him, and promptly went out and began putting sticks in the burn pile. Meanwhile, Malachi was still upstairs, quietly reading his book.

    Question: which son obeyed?

    NetFlix Fix

    I stumbled across something that gave me some cruel insight into how media companies who start out as your friend become big, hungry money monsters that win your trust and then spit into your mashed potatoes.
    I found an old cable bill. $7.95 per month for 31 channels. My Grandma had the wires and converter box installed for a one time fee of $9.50. The year was 1986, and TV was still a new enough medium that some people had black and white TV’s in their kitchens. Her first ever cable invoice, which included the install fee, was still about half of what it costs just to get the QVC network today.

    I discovered this ancient cable invoice, its age verified by the dot matrix track holes on each side, and shuddered, as my brain, always helpful as it is, made a connection. “This is exactly what Netflix is going to do to you and your innocent friends. Start small, all smiles, affordable fee, great value. But guard your mashed potatoes or…SPIT! You must warn all people immediately.” That was about 10 months ago. Seeing that Netflix is now fulfilling my cerebral prophecy only makes me regret not saying something sooner, though I doubt it would have made much difference.

    Seriously. Quickster?

    Anyway, I won’t rehash any of the details, since I want all of us to have a wonderful day. But I will spell out my idea on how to make Netflix better.

    Here’s my plan to fix Netflix:

    –Begin by offering VHS tapes. Who doesn’t love that warm, analog sound?

    –Continue down the path of awesome by releasing new movies on BetaMax cassettes. So much better than VHS!
    –Start selling VCRs again, like old times. Starting price: $5,000.

    You might be thinking that this is a horrible idea. You are right! But, I think it holds true to their new direction and merely plays their business model out, namely, to ignore the customer and help your company quickly shut down so that people will go back to pirating movies again. Terrible. Immoral. But true.

    Someone will emerge and offer something new yet similar, but don’t expect it to be as sweet and as cheap as it was. And remember, there’s always QVC.

    KFC Asks a Fair Question

    I just caught a commercial for KFC. KFC is an acronym that stands for:

    K- Kentucky
    F- Remarkably Healthy
    C- Chicken

    It opens with a question: “What part of the chicken is nugget?”

    I thought “that’s a fair question — go on”
    And they did:
    “Here at KFC, we make Popcorn Chicken.”
    Wait. What?
    What part of the chicken does the popcorn come from?
    I think I’ll stick with the nuggets. Thanks.

    Mowing Patterns, part 3 — The Cross-Country Trail

    I mowed my back yard this week in record time by cutting in a new Cross Country Trail. Welcome to my series on Mowing Patterns.

    What is the biggest complaint for the lawn mowing hobbyist? Is it dull blades? Poor seating? The catastrophic ending of a Frog? While I find all of these mildly annoying, what I find most difficult is the time it takes to mow. If I watch TV, I’m just sitting there. If I trim the hedges, I’m using my hands to get something accomplished. In lawn mowing, I am doing both at the exact same time. This is both fulfilling and frustrating, so necessary for avoiding judgement by neighbors, yet so silly. We’re actually stopping nature from doing that which it wants to to. By the way, that which it wants to do is overtake my house and swallow my children into its thick tundra. Neither of these are fun to think about.

    I once thought deeply about what it might be like to just not mow. To prove that I am more than just a virtual experimenter, I actually let a section of lawn just go crazy, much to my wife’s chagrin. “But Emily”, I protested, “those are my woods back there!”, to which she replied “those aren’t woods, that’s grass gone to seed.” She was right. I looked it up and, yes, you need trees to call something “woods”. I think it has to do with what trees are made of.

    For this week’s mowing, I actually tried something different in the hopes that it might 1) save me time and 2) give the kids something fun to do. So, I mowed about 5 rows by the house and then just mowed a path through the thick grass, winding around through the back yard and making a Cross-Country Trail loop. Total distance is less than .1 mile, but that’s all the kids needed as they “ran the track” again and again. And again.

    The PROS: Time saved. Kids happy. Mildly effective conversation piece. “Oh, is that a trail in your back yard (concerned look)?”

    The CONS: For the trail to be properly defined, the other grass needs to be pretty tall. Tall grass has snakes. Snakes are jerks (Genesis 3). But hey — tall grass becomes woods!

    Have I learned nothing?
    The LIFE LESSON: I can teach my kids to “run the race with perseverance” and “look out for snakes”, all at the same time. Doing something out of the ordinary gives your brain a good workout. We all have to make decisions about when to do something different and when to put it back the way it was.

    PS: It will be interesting to see if there is a defined footpath after the next traditional mow, since that part of the lawn is getting concentrated traffic.

    Mowing Patterns, part 2 – The BackForth with Yard Contour

    I mowed the front and back yard yesterday with a new pattern – the BackForth with Yard Countour.
    Welcome to my series on Mowing Patterns.

    Since last week employed the Expanding Concentric Circle pattern, this week called for something totally different. The challenge is to use a different pattern every time I mow, which not only gives the grass some variety but also keeps me far more interested. With a different pattern, you don’t risk catching the wrong tiremarks from last week and missing a section, which is sometimes only seen from the deck, 5 hours later. NO ONE wants to get the mower back out for a 3 second mow, yet no one can quite get the scissor thing down, either.

    The BackForth with Yard Countour is a reliable mowing pattern that produces stunning results. BackForth is simple — run a line from top to bottom boundary, turn around, head back the other way, repeat turn around at other end, etc. This gives a nice variety to the look of the lawn, all stripey and stuff. In this case, my clippings can only be seen every 96 inches, which is a phrase I wouldn’t normally utter unless I was talking about mowing the lawn.

    BackForth is wonderful but somewhat time consuming. To cut down on total time on tractor (ttt), I decided to follow the contour of the back yard, wrapping the first time around the garden and apple trees, and following that wavy line through about midpoint. This modifies a normal BackForth pattern so that it becomes BackForth with Yard Contour.

    The PROS: BackForth looks pleasing to the eye, that is, the eye of I and of passers by. Following Yard Contour saves some time, I suppose. Steering is occasional on the straight edge (the East border) but constant on the contour (the West). Variety abounds.

    The CONS: BackForth feels somewhat wasteful because I’m always backing up and turning around at the end of each run on the North/South border. Straight lines are difficult to produce given the rudeness and scale of the rather cumbersome riding mower and its rather cumbersome operator.

    The LIFE LESSON: Psalm 5:8 – “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make straight your way before me.” We think we know what’s true, straight and plumb, until we mow the lawn and see our own weaknesses and inconsistencies when left to our own brilliance. Just like Emily loves me when the lines aren’t straight, so God loves me, too.

    Postscript: I was going to write about the Goalpost-50-Goalpost pattern, especially in honor of the coming UM/WMU game, but I was swayed by a comment by Ryan. And that’s just fine. Michigan will still win.

    A Sad Day for Bookstores

    Agape Booksellers, located in the Jackson Crossing Mall in Jackson, Michigan, is the latest victim of the digital revolution. As of yesterday, there were only a few rows of books left and a handful of display shelves, all for 80% off. The people behind the counter were distant, as if they had grown weary from watching their store go empty.

    Agape isn’t the only bookstore closing its doors in Jackson.

    At the Jackson Westwood mall, Waldenbooks/Borders is also in super clearance mode today as they count their final days of being open. An employee was standing at a computer terminal, glasses resting on her forehead as she rubbed her tired eyes. The largest remaining section of 80% off, besides romance, was self-help books that ironically invited us to think positive thoughts and live our best lives now.

    It breaks my heart to see these local bookstores closing. On a personal – “me” – level, I’m sad that there are less places to go and see what’s new, what’s good, and to be around others who think the same way and value the same type of store. I see closing bookstores as a personal loss, as if a part of my life that has been so enriched will now shrivel and die, hastily and incompletely replaced by the internet. My life goes on and will someday include a digital reader, which I’m putting off because I’m just not ready yet. As petty and retrograde as that sounds, I know that it’s because I’m sad. I really like books.

    On a personal – “they” – level, I’m sad that people will be out of work. The ripple effect will be far-reaching, not just for the folks who work behind the counter and help people reach a Harlequin on a high shelf, but for the distributors, publishers, managers, and landlords. It’s not like another bookstore will move in and put their knowledge and experience to good use. Nor will it occupy another vacant spot in our sadly deteriorating malls. I grieve for the forced transition that my bookstore pals will now endure.

    Sometimes I like to think neanderthal thoughts about the internet and remember how it once was, before we were connected to Ethernet like all the pod people in The Matrix. Bookstores, post offices, the fine art of asking the gas station how to get to Quincy (about 3 mile down from West Ave) — these are the casualties of our forward momentum, moving faster and faster with more and more prejudice, taking all of us on a mixed up adventure which feels more like a misadventure sometimes.

    I dunno. Maybe I’m just old. Maybe this is somehow wrapped up in losing my Mom, who taught me by action how to love books — good, strange and otherwise — because of what they offered. You can read. So do it. I suppose that the best part is that we don’t have to give up reading. But we are forced to give up analog, physical, fully present browsing. Amazon thinks I would like to buy this book because I bought that one. In a similar yet totally different, Jay thinks I would like this biography by Walter Isaacson because he knows I don’t like to be bored for 600 pages.

    It won’t be the same.