Some Wise Words Written by Someone Else

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This is one of those nights when I couldn’t think of a blessed thing to write about so I am borrowing someone else’s words. In this case, that someone is Frederick Buechner, one of my favorite writers. Here are those words:

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

And then there’s this one:

“From the simplest lyric to the most complex novel and densest drama, literature is asking us to pay attention. Pay attention to the frog. Pay attention to the west wind. Pay attention to the boy on the raft, the lady in the tower, the old man on the train. In sum, pay attention to the world and all that dwells therein and thereby learn at last to pay attention to yourself and all that dwells therein. . .

“Literature, painting, music — the most basic lesson that all art teaches us is to stop, look, and listen to life on this planet, including our own lives, as a vastly richer, deeper, more mysterious business than most of the time it ever occurs to us to suspect as we bumble along from day to day on automatic pilot. In a world that for the most part steers clear of the whole idea of holiness, art is one of the few places left where we can speak to each other of holy things. . .

“And when Jesus comes along saying that the greatest command of all is to love God and to love our neighbor, he too is asking us to pay attention. If we are to love God, we must first stop, look, and listen for him in what is happening around us and inside us. If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces, but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”

 

What I’m Watching These Days

As a public service to you all (and as a result of having nothing better to write about), I’m letting you in on what I’ve been watching these days. Note: I very rarely watch current television and tend to stay away from all reality TV like the plague.

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I’ve just started watching the AMC original drama Breaking Bad, which ended its 5-season run last year. So far, it’s intriguing and has kept me guessing about how the different plot twists will turn out. I’m definitely not about to start a meth lab, but the story and the characters are compelling and believable, if not always quite likeable.

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I also revisted a classic adaptation of the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice. It almost made me wish for a time machine, so I could travel back to 1800’s England and breathe in the fresher air and take a break from the current overhyped and oversaturated culture that’s obsesses with all things media and electronic. There’s a reason why this is the standard version of Pride and Prejudice, even if it is a bit long at nearly 5 1/2 hours.

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I also saw an old Cary Grant movie. This one won’t go down in history as one of my favorites of his, but it was entertaining, insightful, and amusing. It’s hard not to watch this movie without thinking of the Red Scare in Hollywood, Joseph McCarthy and all those blacklists of actor and directors who supposedly had Communist ties. The movie sometimes feels a bit dates, but you can never go far wrong with either Cary Grant or Jeanne Crain. And it ends happily enough.

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I’m also making my way through all the episodes of Arrested Development, which is probably my favorite sitcom of all time. Granted, it’s not for everyone, but it appeals to my offbeat nature and decidedly weird sense of humor. I recommend it if you’re looking for something funny AND smart AND sophisticated.

That’s my report for April. Check back for my report in May (depending if I hit another creative dry-spell). And as always, I look forward to hearing from you on what you’re currently watching, whether new or old.

 

I Once Was Lost, But Now I’m Found

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I just finished watching the last episode of Lost.

I know. I’m about four years behind the rest of you who saw the series finale when it aired way back in 2010. But what can I say? I like to wait until TV shows are over so I can watch them in their entirety at my leisure. Or I can cram a whole season into a weekend. It all depemds on my mood.

I had heard that the ending of Lost was unsatisfying for many and left a lot of unanswered questions. I didn’t find that to be true for me. I loved the ending. And don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it.

Well, I changed my mind. So sue me.

Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know how the show ends. Go make some popcorn or go take a restroom break.

I love the way they were all reunited at the end. I especially love how it took place in a beautiful church building. I don’t care if they were all dead and ghosts or whatever. It gave me a good picture of what heaven will be like. Especially with how they brought back all the characters they had killed off in previous episodes.

Ok. You out there who didn’t want to know about the series finale can start reading again. No more spoiler alerts. Or spoilers.

I love a good story told well, whether the medium is a book or a movie or TV series. I love the satisfaction of having my expectations thwarted only to find the outcome was better than my predictions. God is like that.

Now I have to find the next TV series to get hooked on. I’m currently taking ideas and suggestions. Or I could just read a good book.

Thoughts from Deuteronomy

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I heard this from a pastor once: most people have every intention of reading through the Bible. Every intention.

They start off well, because Genesis has a good bit of action and intrigue and drama. Sort of Downton Abbey meets Ben-Hur. You get to see the story of God’s people unfolding and see where everything got its start.

Exodus is doable because it continues the storyline from Genesis. There’s more than a few rules and regulations thrown in, but there’s also the drama of God’s people making their way through the desert.

Leviticus throws most people for a loop. There are a lot more rules and a lot less action. A lot of what’s here seems far from relatable and applicable. I mean, who will be sacrificing a goat any time soon?

Numbers usually is like a punch to the solar plexus and Deuteronomy generally finishes the people off that Numbers didn’t. I mean, it seems so far removed from the mercy and grace of the New Testament.

But think of it as an unfolding love story between God and His people. At first, His people need boundaries and guidelines, as we all do when we’re growing up. We need to know that sin is serious business and that every sin demands a sacrifice and blood.

It’s the same God who shows up later in the form of Jesus. I admit I don’t completely understand how the different parts of the story mesh together, but I know that they do. All the loose ends of the plot get resolved and we do live happily ever after. Just not yet.

I see how Adam and Eve blew it in the garden. I see how the children of Israel messed up with God literally from day one. But instead of looking at the could-have-beens, I see the what-will-be. Where Adam and Eve and the Israelites failed, Jesus got it right and one day soon, everything that went wrong as a result will be put right.

That sounds like a happy ending to me.

The Continuing Saga of Me Watching Downton Abbey

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Yes. I admit it. I am addicted to Downton Abbey.

It’s a lot like Dark Shadows, except that everyone is English. And there are no vampires. Yet. But it does have that melodramatic soap opera feel to it sometimes. But the characters are so richly realized and the dialogue is (mostly) authentic and witty and moving.

To my count, they’ve already killed off at least five cast members. One more vanished mysteriously in the dead of night. And oh yeah, I should probably have thrown in a spoiler alert notice before I told you all that.

It makes me want to go back to the Biltmore Estate (which is the closest to a castle this side of the Pond). Either that or I win the freakin’ lottery so I can afford to go check out Highclere Castle in jolly ol’ England.

But more than anything, I really and truly cherish the honest portrayal in the relationships on the show. It makes me want to strive for that authenticity in my own relationships.

Most of all, a part of me likes to see the bad guy get what’s coming to him and see those who try to do right finally rewarded for all their efforts.

If I were to make a spiritual analogy, I’d say that I’m glad to know that in Jesus the bad guys do get their comeuppance and those good guys win in the end. I’d also say that none of us are really good on our own but the love of Jesus as displayed on the cross makes us so.

That is, if I were to make a spiritual analogy out of Downton Abbey.

Things I Love 35: Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Get Back on the Internet . . .

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“That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave” (Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

“God is good and I am always loved” (Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

“The whole of the life — even the hard — is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up”  (Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

Yeah, just when you thought I was done with this series, I resuscitate it and bring it back from the world wide graveyard. I’m not even close to being finished with all these thousand and more gifts I’ve received in my lifetime. It’s probably closer to 10,000. Actually, if I were completely honest, there’d be no way to count the blessings in my life for no human number goes that high. So I’ll do my best, starting at #1,036.

1,036) Yet more good coffee and conversation with another friend at Frothy Monkey (after a bit of confusion as to which Frothy Monkey).

1,037) When I stop comparing myself to others and instead compare myself to where I used to be.

1,038) Politically Correct Bedtime Stories.

1,039) Seeing my Romanian friend and sister-in-Christ happily married.

1,040) Rubbing my bare feet against carpet.

1,041) Not getting elbowed in the head or having my bare feet stepped on during volleyball games.

1,042) That possibly the best days and moments of my life are still yet to come.

1,043) Not getting counted off anymore for split infinitives.

1,044) Friends who actually make time to keep up with me and encourage me regularly.

1,045) All the old episodes of Are You Being Served?

1,046) Memories of watching TV as a kid with my uncle in the old camper on our property in Christiana.

1,047) That I’m not named after an airline.

1,048) Anticipating yet another Jonny Lang album coming out in September.

1,049) My gigantic over-the-ears headphones that I use to listen to music late at night sometimes.

1,050) Making up words when I don’t know the actual lyrics to a song.

1,051) Finding out what the actual lyrics are to a song I’ve been singing wrong all this time.

1,052) Just about any movie or TV show featuring Judi Dench.

1,053) Catching up with Union University classmates.

1,054) Ditto for Briarcrest classmates.

1,055) That God loves the crazy people as much as the “sane” ones.

1,056) The short spontaneous conversation I had with the girl named Rebecca who was reading that Mark Batterson book.

1,057) Every one of the 300+ pictures I took at the Set Free VBS this year.

1,058) Seeing those kids being prayed over and loved on and shown Jesus.

1,059) Every time the Kingdom of God takes back a person or a place from the kingdom of darkness.

1,060) Mastering the art of making pimento cheese.

1,061) Saying the words “pimento cheese.”

1,062) Classic devotionals by people like Oswald Chambers and Charles Spurgeon.

1,063) Bowling a game over 100.

1,064) Silence. Sometimes.

1,065) That even my fidelity to God is a gift from God (thanks to Thomas Merton for that one.

1,066) Friends who know the song in my heart and can sing it back to me when I’ve forgotten the words.

1,067) Any old Frank Capra movie.

1,068) Not being in a hurry all the time.

1,069) Knowing that I have an Advocate and Defender who pleads for me before the Throne of God.

1,070) Not nearly being close to finished with these lists.

Things I Love 29: She’s The Tear That Hangs Inside my Soul Forever

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“How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter into His gates. I can only do so with thanksgiving. If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can’t I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy- and seeing shows the way in.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)

Just to give you a context for this particular blog, I have the TV on. Late Night with Conan O’Brien to be specific. So I apologize in advance for any random goofiness that filters into this blog. Oh wait. That’s filters in every other time. Never Mind. Back to #836.

836) Impromptu dashes to Starbucks in the pouring rain for a cold foam mocha that was totally worth it.

837) A tall glass of orange juice.

838) Conan’s wacky brand of humor.

839) Watching a thunderstorm from a safe place.

840) Hugging my grandmother and telling her I love her.

841) The way my little niece’s eyes light up when she sees me.

842) The way the song “Easy to Love” as sung by Ella Fitzgerald perfectly captures the way I feel about a certain someone.

843) Any day without Fox News.

844) Bacon.

845) Kevin Bacon (just because he’s the coolest . . . and in a very non-gay way).

846) Peanut M & Ms

847) The most recent screen adaptation of Les Miserables.

848) Changing machines that could turn my brother into a puppy (if only I had a brother).

849) Finally getting past level 33 in Candy Crush Saga.

850) Melatonin that helps me sleep at night.

851) James Bond movie marathons.

852) Encouraging facebook messages sent at just the right time.

853) Remembering when Bruce Willis had hair.

854) BOTH pairs of  Crocs that I still wear, regardless of whether they are in fashion anymore or not.

855) Every single episode of Firefly and the movie follow-up called Serenity.

856) Pretty much everything Joss Whedon has ever been associated with.

857) The peace of God that comes out of nowhere when I least expect or deserve it.

858) The drive-in movie theatre in Watertown.

859) Driving anywhere late at night with good friends.

860) That the wheels on the bus DO go round and round.

861) That Nosferatu is still the creepiest and most effective adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

862) God picking me up every single time I fall.

863) The concept of flying monkeys. Brilliant.

864) The ending of It’s a Wonderful Life that tears me up every single time.

865) That the thief on the cross was the first person Jesus welcomed into heaven.

866) Never having seen a single episode of Honey Boo Boo (a record I intend to keep going).

867) The first two Die Hard movies (after that. . . . not so much).

868) True beauty that comes from within.

869) Those rare moments when I am totally selfless and God-focused.

870) That God knows me and calls me by name.

Things I Love 13: Not Written on a Friday Nor on the 13th

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I normally make some witty and socially relevant comment right about now, but we’re skipping that to get to the list. I do want to get to 1,000 before I’m 80. So we’re starting this one at #293.

293) The moment when gratitude wins out over self-pity, hurt, and anger.

294) Knowing I can never go back to the way things used to be but that the future will be so much better.

295) Iced Tazo Tea Lemonade and sympathetic baristas.

296) Condemning words and harsh unforgiving texts no longer will define who I am or wreck my life.

297) The idea that one day one girl out there will not only want to go out with me on a date, but will actually want to spend the rest of her life with me as my wife.

298) Christmasy candles that fill the air with apple and pumpkin spice aromas.

299) I’ve gotten so used to typing instead of writing that I automatically expect to see that red little line under a word when I’ve misspelled it.

300) The word phonetics isn’t spelled phonetically (otherwise it would be spelled starting with an f).

301) Alanis Morissette’s song Ironic contains no actual ironies– now, isn’t that ironic? Don’t you think?

302) Lost hopes restored and broken dreams reborn.

303) Candy Crush Saga– and yes, I can quit at any time.

304) Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

305) My sister, who is much prettier than Joan Jett.

306) Fruit Ninja.

307) Hearing Emmylou Harris sing just about ANYTHING.

308) Someone will read these lists and be inspired to start one of their own.

309) The beauty of seeing a classic film in the high definition format of blu ray and noticing details and textures that even the original movie audiences would have missed.

310) I’m a guy who has Breakfast at Tiffany’s in his top five movie list and am comfortable with that.

311) Still knowing all the words to the Don McLean song American Pie.

312) Knowing just about all the lines from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

313) Any movie starring both Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

314) A perfect God using imperfect people to accomplish his purposes in the world.

315) God using nobodies to shame the who’s who and turn the world right-side up again.

316) Even the worst commercials are only 30 seconds long (or on rare occasion, 1 minute).

317) Chillin’ like a villain.

318) Being like Phoebe Buffay from the TV show friends (in personality, not looks, in case you were confused).

319) Cereal at midnight.

320) One day God will wipe every tear from every  eye and everything wrong will be made right again.

321) Being me.

Things I Love 4: The Slow and The Lackadaisical

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In case you didn’t get the title, it’s the opposite of those never-ending series of movies called The Fast and the Furious. I think we’re probably looking at at least 18 more of those, so gird your loins.

But I digress. Back to the list of things I love, starting at #81.

81) Spontaneously starting up conversations with strangers with small dogs at Starbucks. The best part is that we’re not strangers anymore, but friends.

82) Finding out I wasn’t the only one who struggled with that or felt that way.

83) Finally getting around to seeing a movie I missed years ago and finding out it was worth waiting to see.

84) Listening to Morgan Freeman’s voice (if he ever narrated a book on CD, I’d buy it, even if it was Intro to Trigonometry.

85) Finding out that U2 finally has a NEW album coming out later this year.

86) The elegance and beauty of Grace Kelly.

87) That the end of the Greatest Story Ever Told has already written and it’s has the best ending ever.

88) Or if you prefer, all of history is like the title page and table of contents, and after it ends is the real beginning of the Real Story in which every next chapter is better than the last and where you don’t want to ever put the book down.

89) The peace that comes with acceptance that a friendship is over and that it has served its purpose and best of all, being thankful for the time we had.

90) Every time I see the transformative power of the risen Christ in my life.

91) Believing in love again and especially believing that there really maybe someone out there who will want and desire me.

92) Being in a place at night where you can see the stars.

93) The smell of chlorine. I know it’s weird, but it takes me back to going to the Y as a kid.

94) The smell of bus exhaust. Again, it’s strange, but this time it takes me back to the days of marching band trips.

95) Watching fireflies and listening to a symphony of crickets on a slow country night.

96) Seeing a mother who isn’t preoccupied or busy or glued to her smart phone and is loving on her child and living in the moment.

97) Those little candies called Smarties.

98) That I really can taste the rainbow when I eat a Skittles.

99) Listening to my cat snore.

100) The good feeling I get after eating a really good Southern home-cooked meal.

101) That there will be more of these blogs because there are so many more little things that I love.

Magical Movie Moments

I had one of those magical movie moments tonight. Yeah, it’s exactly like it sounds. It’s one of those moments that you tell yourself can’t be happening, one that only happens in those cheesy Nicholas Sparks movies that no one admits to liking yet pretty much everyone does. One of those moments.

A very pretty girl came up to me and started talking to me at Best Buy, asking me all sorts of questions about music and movies. We ended up chatting for over an hour, past when the store was supposed to close. I completely lost track of time. Even though I had never seen her before, we talked like old friends. The conversation wasn’t forced. It was natural. I think I found my musical and cinematic soul mate (in that we share pretty much the same tastes in music and movies).

Looking back, the scene was like the opening sequence from the movie Serendipity. Minus the soundtrack and Kate Beckinsale.

Oh, in case you’re reading this, I didn’t get your cell number. I was too stunned to ask. So you can text it to me at (615) 556-5850.

Even if I never see or hear from her again, I still think this ranks as a top 10 night of my life. Just to know that someone like that wanted to talk to me makes me feel good. Like maybe I could be romantically desirable to a girl and that maybe God does have someone out there for me.

I never cease to be amazed at what God does anymore. I just know that whatever it is, it’s always better than anything I could have scripted on my own or dreamed up in my best dreams.

And why should I be surprised? God is the Ultimate Romantic at Heart. He invented romance and marriage and true love. He’s the one who yearns to captivate our hearts and bring out the best on all of us. He’s the one who never stops pursuing our hearts, no matter how we spurn him or run away.

So, all in all, not bad for a Thursday night, eh?