Friday, May 22, 2009

Entertainment

Sometimes I think my entire generation has A.D.D. We like to be entertained ... we grew up during the period when cable became a "necessary" household bill, when a night at the movies happened once or twice a weekend, and Atari was making the way for Nintendo, Segas, and Playstations ...

It makes me infinitely sad that there are people (no longer just the nerdy bachelor either - men with wives and families) who spend as much time in a fantasy world (made as realistic as possible thanks to pixels and other things I don't care to understand) as they do at work each week.

I'm not going to exclude myself from this. My mind has not always been a wholesome place, I'm admitting that right now. And no matter how you want to argue it - what you fill your mind with has a lot to do with types of thoughts grow there.

Tears spring to my eyes even as I write this - because I'm so in awe of the things God can do. Rather than growing more aware of worldly ways - God is working a miracle in the wiring of my brain - I feel more and more wholesome every day. Sometimes this means I end up turning away from what is popular, what movies have huge budgets, and has changed my definition of "good" acting.

I love rock-n-roll ... put another dime in the jukebox and all that! However, the closer I've been to God - the more I find I can't stomach the rock station. Their DJs spew filth between songs, and the ads run are for things like "gentleman's clubs" (was there ever a greater oxymoron?). More and more, I find myself drawn to music that speaks from the heart - and stations that aren't supporting a lifestyle I don't.

In the past couple of months - I find myself listening to more country - where they aren't afraid to mention faith and utter God's name (that is, other than in vain). I'm even listening to the dreaded "Christian" stations, which used to turn my stomach. Sure, sometimes things are a little sugar coated ... but I find what I fill my mind with in the car, while at work, and while cooking dinner have a greater influence on me than I ever could have imagined.

As God works on my thoughts and my heart - I find myself embarrassed by scenes in movies that in the past would not have phased me. I'm being drawn to movies that I don't expect to "shock" me. Sure - I still love a good thriller, a heart-pounding action movie, or a romantic love story that leaves you sighing. However, I find myself filtering things more and making excuses for things much less.

Which leads me to my point in writing this. I am seeing a new "trend" that I hope is more than a trend. You may or may not have heard of these production lines ... Fox Faith, Affirm Films ... but something within my heart started when I learned there were such companies.

Frankly - I don't care if the acting isn't so great. I rejoice in the fact that these movies are being made and released and distributed on DVDs that I would feel comfortable watching with Jesus. Movies that I think could bring God glory - despite their shortfalls. In all honesty - I find the shortfalls are something that draws me to them.

In the past few months, I've seen Fireproof (about 5 times), Flywheel (at least twice), The Ultimate Gift, and Amazing Grace (maybe not one of the same companies, but worth mentioning). I highly recommend all of them - not for the surprises, not for the special affects, not for the big names ... but because I think they will bring comfort and peace to countless hearts. Because I think there is something we can learn from them.

When I wrote about "PS I love you" I mentioned what I've started calling 'Don't settle for anything less' movies ... and right now I'd say The Notebook and Fireproof top the list. (Yes, the Notebook doesn't fit into the movies I'm writing about at the moment - at least, not in its entirety - but I think the story does).

So many times I said that I could listen to what I wanted, read what I wanted, etc. and remain unaffected. It simply isn't true. What we fill our minds and hearts with is very important. I hope to see more coming from these production studios ... despite what the connoisseurs may have to say.

Music is the language of the spirit. ~ Kahlil Gibran.

Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures. ~Jessamyn West

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. ~Phillipians 4:8

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Frogs?

In case one didn't notice from the title of my blog - I have a bit of a thing about frogs. I like them, a lot. I hesitate to say they are my favorite animal, because I have a lot of favorites (otters, bears, giraffes, squirrels ...).

So I've often had people ask me - why frogs? The first thing - they are so darn cute, especially those brightly colored frogs in the rain forests of the world. But even the ugly ones are cute, in a bug-eyed, so-ugly-its-cute sort of way.

They are great swimmers - and I've always loved swimming. My favorite stroke, the breast-stroke, is similar to how a frog swims. It's almost relaxing. That something that is so slow and kinda clumsy on land can be so graceful in the water is beautiful to me. We all have our hidden talents!

Their song is part of what makes summer feel so much like summer. Before they moved, my parents had a pond in their backyard that drew frogs from the woods. Hundreds of them would be singing in the trees - it was deafening ... and I loved it. Sure, it makes camping a little tiring - but its camping! Its not supposed to feel like a 5 star hotel.

Frogs eat bugs - and generally bugs aren't something I'm particularly fond of (butterflies being an exception). Speaking of butterflies - they share something with the frogs which happens to be one of my favorite things about them.

Tadpoles. Almost every summer I brought one (or a few) home ... but I don't think I ever succeeded in having one grow into a frog. Too many accidents like leaving them in the sun on the windowsill ... that one was given a proper burial between two leaves from the neighbor's sycamore at the base of the ramp to my playhouse ... but being a future forensic scientist - I dug it up the next day to see what it looked like.

Back to the point. Frogs start out as tadpoles - legless little critters with gills instead of lungs which transform into something quite different over time. Much like butterflies, starting as a gooey little crawling caterpillar and transforming into a beautiful fluttering splash of color in the summer sky.

One of the places I personally feel closest to God is in nature. And through these two creatures ... I feel that He is giving me a beautiful illustration of the new creation He can make of me. No matter how much I've messed up - God can make something beautiful of my life. I see that every day - in that no matter how "world wise" I had become - every day I feel a little more wholesome. Perhaps a little naive, but I'll take that over the bitter alternative. There are some things I'd rather remain ignorant about.

And honestly - in their clumsiness ... and warts ... frogs are imperfect. God accepts me warts and all - and asks me to extend His grace and love to others with 'warts' like myself.

As for the "if a frog had wings it wouldn't bump its butt when it hopped ..." Well, in high school art class we were supposed to make something out of paper mache. I started out making a cat, but after deciding that was too boring ... decided to make a frog. But the tail was already on the cat ... so I left it and decided if I was going to mix things up - why not add some butterfly wings? It is still in a closet at my parents' house. "Butterfritty" became my own personal mascot (and lets be honest - still is).

So why frogs? Just because :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blood ...

It's the topic of one of my favorite internet videos (BLOOD!) ... it is running through your thousands of miles of arteries and veins right now, about 5 liters per minute - carrying signals and nutrition to your cells and toxins and waste away. It leaves notoriously hard-to-remove stains. If it stops moving, you will die within minutes.

No - despite the fact that I can't spend much time in the sun - I've not become a vampire. I've just had blood on my mind the last few days for several reasons, one of which was that I donated for the first time last week. When I was in college, it seemed the blood drives were always during finals - and I felt I needed all my blood at that time. As it turns out - getting rid of some didn't affect me nearly as badly as I had feared. My only experience in losing blood had been so unpleasant, I was afraid I'd feel that way again (grey in color, short of breath, etc).

At first I felt like patting myself on the back - especially since my blood type is O-negative (the universal donor - anyone can accept my blood). And while blood donation is important and saves lives ... I realized there is a blood donation that does so much more...

If you think about it - Jesus made the ultimate blood donation. Before He gave His life on the cross so that His blood could make us pure before a Holy God ... sacrifice was demanded to cover our transgressions.

I don't know about you - but if I try to add up how many spotless doves, first born calves, and pure white sheep it would take to cover my every sin ... well, I honestly don't like to think about it. Its overwhelming! I don't know that enough acceptable sacrifices exist to cover all our sins (or perhaps even my own).

But the blood of )ne man - God's son ... is enough to cover all the sins of anyone who ever has or ever will live. Not only to cover up our sins - but to make us pure enough to be in the presence of a God who created the universe - known and beyond. We can't even begin to understand Him - but He loves us enough to let His own son spill that precious life-giving substance for anyone who would accept it.

We don't even have to be a specific type of person. Jesus' blood is more universal than O-negative ever could hope to be. While the blood I donated last week may extend someone's life on Earth - and that's a good thing - Jesus' blood can give life eternally.

Maybe that isn't news to you - but I just love how God reminds me all the time, through surprising ways, just how much He loves every single one of us.