Proverbs 4–The Forward Gaze

Proverbs 4:25 teaches us,

Let your eyes look directly forward,

and your gaze be straight before you.

Wisdom and righteousness are always forward looking. These twin attributes do not dwell on the past, for that leads to bitterness and regret. Right now is important, but only insofar as right now is the first movement toward the future. The future is just the present that hasn’t happened yet, and therefore, unlike the past, the future is something we can control and change. The present is a downpayment on the future.

The more I ponder it, the wise person doesn’t even dwell too much on the right now. True, wisdom learns to enjoy the moment, but we never have all the information we need right now. In the future we will have more information, and that is when we make more informed opinions and thoughts. The mind is always adjusting and changing with new data. The wise person will choose the future over the present. Fools, by contrast, throw the future away and only live in the moment. Wise people plan for the future, enjoy the present, and learn to let go of the past.

  1. Wise people prepare. Fool are never prepared.
  2. Wise people dream. Fools squander opportunities.
  3. Wise people watch trends to see where people and things are headed. Fools wish for yesteryear.
  4. Wise people keep options open. Fools shut doors.
  5. Wise people don’t burn bridges. Fools keep matches in their pockets.
  6. Wise people “might” burn boats. Fools are afraid of change.
  7. Wise people learn how to forget. Fools never learn how to move on.
  8. Wise people don’t hold grudges. Fools have scores to settle.
  9. Wise people don’t waste time on nostalgia. Fools build monuments to the glory days.
  10. Wisep people use the past (history) to inform the future, not to shape it. Fools use the past as a template for the future.

Don’t waste energy by dwelling on the past. The future is where the action is.

The Album Challenge

Recently I’ve posted on social media about the ten music albums that have been meaningful in my life. Music doesn’t mean as much to me as movies or books, but I’d say my life has a good soundtrack. During the challenge, I couldn’t explain why. I was only allowed to post the album cover. So here is the list along with some explanation.

10. 1984–Van Halen

Jason Greene and I listened to this album all summer long. We must have been twelve or thirteen years old at the time, but we wore that cassette tape out. We mostly hung out in his bedroom, read ¬†magazines, and listened to this album. In all of musicdom, there is no more recognizable or energetic sound than the opening keyboards to “Jump” and anyone who would say otherwise is just silly.

9. Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison–Johnny Cash

Plain and simple–Johnny Cash sings about pain in an unvarnished, human way that communicates to me.

8. Eliminator–ZZ Top

Its not ZZ Top’s best music, but this album connected me at a young age to what I would later recognize as Texas Rock-n-Roll.

7. Thriller–Michael Jackson

The video–the 14 minute short film directed by John Landis–is still one of the cultural touchstones of my life. it was perfect. I don’t know if we’re allowed to still like Michael Jackson or not because of the claims against him, but at the time we didn’t know any of that. All we knew was that the cool zombies wear red and black jackets and Vincent Price had the creepiest voice ever.

6. Come Away With Me–Norah Jones

Mrs. Greenbean and I discovered Norah together. She was our first foray into grown up music. We even saw her once in concert at Key Arena. She does a very good Axl Rose impression.

5. Sigh No More–Mumford and Sons

There is a line–and this album is on this list because of this line–in the song “The Cave” that says, “I’ll know my name as it’s called again.” When I left Port Orchard, I never knew if I would pastor again. But I definitely felt as though I had lost my own identity. For twenty years I had just been “Pastor”–that is what everyone called me, just “Pastor” or even more dehumanizing, “Preacher.” One of the things I was determined to do was discover who I was as a human, a Christ-follower, a husband, father, a man, a writer, and neighbor. In those in-between years, this was my mantra–“I’ll know my name as it’s called again”, and I am thankful for it.

4. A Very Veggie Christmas–VeggieTales

Our kids loved VeggieTales, and this Christmas album comes out every year during the holidays and we listen to it over and over again. If you’ve never heard it, give it a listen. It’s the best.

3. Apassionato–Yo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma was the soundtrack of my DMin years, especially while writing my project back in the days before iPods or iPhones. I just put the CD’s into my laptop and would listen away for hours. This album came out after I was finished with school, but it encapsulated so much of those years. It’s like he wrote it just for me as an ovation for the work I’d done. The first song on the album is even called, “Going to School.”

2. Out of Time–R.E.M.

There are two reason for this album. First, COLLEGE! I borrowed the cassette tape from a coworker during college and about a year later she asked, “Do you have my tape?” and I reluctantly returned it to her. I had listened to it so much that the letters were all rubbed off the case. The second reason is the song, “Texarkana” which is, I’m pretty sure, about The Blessed Leibowitz.

1. The Joshua Tree–U2

This needs no explanation, especially if you know me. The weird thing, in my opinion, their top five songs aren’t even on this album, but the album as a whole is just perfect, and it has the best collection of B sides ever.

 

Honorable Mentions: Take Me To Your Leader-Newsboys, Appetite for Destruction-Guns-Roses, Duran Duran-Seven And The Ragged Tiger, The White Album-The Beatles, Messiah-Handle Dir. Benjamin Zander, Sinatra At The Sands-Frank Sinatra, Hey Eugene-Pink Martini, Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth-Rich Mullins, and Led Zeppelin IV-Led Zeppelin.

Infinity War and Religious Symbolism and Language (Spoilers)

This is not a review of The Avengers Infinity War, Marvel’s latest superhero offering (notice the word I used there, how it is a religiously loaded word. That is how this blog post is gonna roll). However, there are spoilers below. Lots of spoilers. But before I get there, here is this one spoiler-free thought–Thanos is the best bad guy in a while, precisely because he thinks he is the good guy.

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

STOP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS!!!

 

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So, notice the Crucifix-like post of Iron-Man? Also, remember where he was pierced in the film?

Good. You’ve been warned.

What this is, instead of a review, is a quick study of some of the religious themes in the movie. Superhero movies have always been religious tales, the most blatant is Superman, but Marvel is not afraid to engage in a little theology, too.

To that end, I ask you to consider the following observations. Keep in mind, I have only seen the movie once, so I likely missed some good things.

  1. Loki is the traitor who has remorse, but then dies by strangulation, very Judas-like.
  2. There are six infinity stones (gems), which perhaps symbolize the six days of creation. I would wager that somehow this gets solved in the next installment of Infinity War by the existence of a seventh infinity stone that can undo or set all things right–“one stone to rule them all” kind of thing? And of course, there is nothing biblical about the number 7 at all. Actually, the more I think about it, Infinity War is almost a mash-up of the book of Revelation.
  3. The portrayal of the ‘half the world is gone’ at he end, specifically the bonus scene of Nick Fury, could have been a scene from any “Left Behind” type film.
  4. Thanos mission is to ‘bring balance’ which he symbolizes with a blade. In religious speak, it is symbolized with the Yin-Yang of Taoism. Which is interesting, in that it casts this Eastern mystic idea as the problem. Hollywood usually casts mystic theologies as the good guys, so there is a definite zig and zag in that Yin and Yang.
  5. Three times (by my count) someone asks to be killed for the greater good. Loki and Thor, Gamora and Quill, then fatally with Scarlet Witch and Vision. Three end up dead, but not with the beneficial consequences they desired.
  6. Thanos, of course, is a derivation of the Greek Thanatos which is either death, or the personification of death. (note–my publisher’s name is Athanatos, which means, not dead). You know before this is over, Thanos will be defeated–(because they have made a Spiderman 2 and Guardians 3 etc… so these people have to come back) and thus a kind of fulfilling of “The last enemy to be defeated is death” which is an integral part of the gospel of Jesus–that he defeated death at the Resurrection.¬†

More predictions for the next installment: Captain Marvel is the obvious one–Gamora returns, but not Loki or Vision–Tony Stark and/or Captain America die for reals–and Phil Coulson returns to the big screen.¬†

Heroes–Just In Time

This blog has a theme song–it is David Bowie’s “Heroes.”

Hero #1–The Southwest Airlines Pilot

Her name is Captain Tammie Jo Shults. I listened to the cockpit recording of her during the incident, when the engine blew up and tore a hole in the plane. Absolutely awesome. Can I get her to pilot all my flights?TAMMIE-JO-SHULTZ-SW-AIRLINES-PILOT-FORMER-NAVY-PILOT-NERVES-OF-STEEL

She was a fighter pilot in the Navy.

She has degrees in biology and agribusiness.

She goes to church, and is described as a, “Strong Christian lady”.

After the landing, she texted a friend, ‘God is good.’

I think she is emblematic of many heroes. In so many ways she was just doing her job, but she did it well, and in the crunch, she saved lives. Just like doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, and so many other people do every single day. A big shout out to all of you!

Hero #2–The Guy At The Waffle House Who Took The Gun

His name is James Shaw, Jr. He wrested the AR-15 from the murderer before he could kill anyone else. “I decided he would have to work to kill me.” That is what he said. “I took it (the rifle) from him and threw it over the countertop.” Like. A. Boss.180422153400-james-shaw-jr-waffle-house-hero-large-169

He is a college graduate.

He has a four year old daughter.

He apparently likes waffles at 3AM.

He is a vegan who works as a wire-tech for AT&T.

He went to church later that morning.

Who knows how many lives he saved?

Hero #3–The kid Who Remembered The Sermon And Stood Strong

His name is Lawrence Wollek. He is in elementary school.

He listened to the sermon I preached on Sunday about the third commandment–not taking the name of the Lord in vain. Sunday night his parents, both his mother and his father, texted me to tell me that their neighbor was over that afternoon and his language got out of hand. That was when Lawrence told him he needs to watch it.IMG_0004

I love that kid.

It is not the same as landing a plane with one engine or wrestling away a firearm from a murderer, but in its own way, speaking truth to power is heroic. We need more people like Lawrence to gently remind people of truth.

 

Remember, the world is filled with heroes.