Monday, June 27, 2005

Why Is Most Christian T.V. Just Awful?

I'm usually embarrased by Christian television. I don't have cable, and though my trusty antennae picks up quite well and brings in the Big 3 crystal clear, most of what I get on the "upper" stations is classified as Christian TV. I'm happy to admit that I watch as little as possible - enough to be disgusted. I guess I'm glad I became a Christian before I knew about most of these folks. I can only hope that the vast majority of non-Christians are NOT watching this stuff, and that real Christians will get involved in their lives first before they stumble across some of these hairdos.

So there, my Monday morning rant. I could say more, but none of it would be nice. Trying to remember what my mom taught me. Here's a list of shows that would be much more entertaining, enlightening, and worth my time...

13. "My Big Fat Obnoxious Pastor"
12. "Nursery Fear Factor"
11. "Punked: Sitting in Gertrude's pew spot"
10. "The Simple Life with Davie and Goliath"
9. "Survivor: Little House on the Prairie"
8. "Pontiff for a Day"
7. "Gaithers: Extreme Makeover"
6. "CSI: Potluck"
5. "Pretty Much 'Left Behind': Still Not Sure Who's Going Where"
4. "Extreme Baptisms"
3. "COPS at VBS"
2. "Paul vs. Predator"
1. "8 Simple Rules for Dating my Theology"

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Moonwalking with the Man in the Mirror

OK, I'm coming out of the closet. I actually have seen Michael Jackson in concert.

I'm not kidding.

It was 1984 or 85-ish, and he and his brothers were doing the Victory Tour. It was a really big deal. My first time for getting "frisked" and checked with a metal detector wand as I entered the venue - Michael at that time was very concerned about his image and didn't want it snapped into anyone's camera. (Funny, I don't think I ever entertained the thought that someone might bring in a weapon...they were making a really big deal about cameras for this tour, as though they posed some sort of risk to society). I also remember that button-fly jeans were a big hit back then, and the girl that went to the concert with me set off the metal detector!

Anyway, we drove to Knoxville, TN, where UT plays football. The aforementioned girl I was with liked Michael Jackson's music. Pepsi Cola was a big sponsor of this tour, and since I had some family in the Pepsi business, I got tickets. Really GOOD tickets - we were on row 14 in a stadium that probably had 70,000 people in attendance. The biggest tower of speakers I'll probably every witness - 14 rows from my seat, right in front of me. Up to that time, I didn't know that sound could make you physically shake like that. (Now, I have flashbacks every time I pull up to my local convenience station and some dude who has spent every dime of his last 5 paychecks on his sound system decides to leave it on 11 while he goes in to get a Slurpie. I guess he wants to hear his profanity-laced rantings over the hum of the cappuccino most cases, the sound system is the only thing holding his car together anyway...)

Two observations that I made that night at Neland Stadim remember to this day...
  1. Though I'm not a fan, it was an unbelievable show. Lots of pyrotechnics and illusions and "wow factor" stuff. Probably happens in lots of shows (I'm sure Sting, Jagger and Bono have tigers and giant puppet-like figures that hover around the stage mimicing the actions of a frog drowning in a torrential rain, all the while sitting on the edge of the stage wiping tears with their hankies while singing "She's Out Of My Life..."). Up to that point, I hadn't been out of the house much, and I didn't hang with anyone like Michael in the foothills of Appalachia where I was raised. In fact, no one existed in Appalachia like Michael. So it was all new to me. I was impressed with the "show" part of the evening. And hey, Tito, Jermaine and the lesser-known Jackson boys were there too. Bonus.
  2. As peculiar (believe me, there are lots of words I would like to use here, but I'm committed to being nice) as MJ is, nothing scares me more than his legion of followers. I witnessed that night (remember, row 14) young girls crying, screaming, knees buckling (and not just at the concession prices!), the likes of which I had only seen before on old clips of Elvis concerts. As a side note, the girl I took to the concert wasn't buying all that either - we both just sort of looked at each other with that "what's wrong with these people" look.

That brings me to today. Couple of random thoughts as I was somewhat forced to see and hear everything there was to see and hear about the Gloved One - only becuase it was everywhere. First, what's wrong with people? I'm not talking about MJ or the jury. But people out in the streets crying, fainting in jubilation, spending 4 weeks away from families (not to mention THEIR JOBS!) to camp out at the courthouse. I've racked my brain and honestly don't know for whom or what I would behave in similar fashion, outside of blood relatives. Second, I'm a big fan of our country and our justice system though sometimes, granted, it puzzles me. What struck me this morning is the obligatory jury interviews. I'm not saying anything here about whether I think MJ is guilty, innocent, or odd. OK, I take that back - he's odd. I know he was found "not guilty" by our system. But did you hear the jurors? I know, there are lots of angles to this, but its almost as though they decided that the accuser's mom was "guilty" of being a money-hungry opportunist - not to mention a little weird herself - and once they wrote her off, MJ was free. Couldn't she still be all of the aforementioned things and he still be guilty? Just a thought...

A couple of things to wrap up...

  1. I can't believe I'm writing about this....
  2. If you have high speed access, watch Letterman's Top 10 list about the Jackson verdict
  3. As a Christian, I know we shouldn't judge. That doesn't mean we won't struggle with the temptation to do so. So I struggle, as do many. So if I have sounded judgmental at all, I'm sorry (was calling MJ "odd" judgmental? isn't that sort of like calling Shaq "tall?")
  4. I'm sure the "average" MJ disciple/follower who cries and faints and knees buckle in his presence could follow me for a day and find things/people that I worship, adore, praise. My hope/prayer/goal is that they might see that for me, God gets most, if not all, of my energy. I want to be after His fame, not my own or anyone else's.

"Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; YOUR NAME and RENOWN are the desire of our hearts." - Isaiah 26:8

Monday, June 13, 2005

Roaring Lambs III

Guy named Dean Batali, who works in the Act One program that trains screenwriters for hollywood and TV. This interview is good. He has written for both Buffy and That 70's Show. I never watched Buffy. Interestingly enough, I make my kids turn the channel when That 70's Show is on. Two reasons, 1) I don't like it; 2) the only couple of episodes I did see involved themes my 8 & 10 year olds didn't need at the time (if ever). HOWEVER, just like the covert "salt & light" guys who write for the Simpsons, I'm glad they're in the spots they are in, and pray that even more like them will penetrate this important piece of our culture.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Blog No Evil?

Originally uploaded by larzmarshall.

Thanks to my friend Kurt for sending this along.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Roaring Lambs II

OK, so I don't read much fiction. I guess I should, but when? I manage to get through a Grisham every now and then on vacation (I'm embarrassed to admit the last series of fiction books I read...more about that in the upcoming Cash Cow III). I did come across an article about a guy who writes fiction, and I read the article. Does that count? Anyway, his name is Brett Lott. His book Jewel was one of the first picked back in the late 90's for Oprah's Book Club, which most authors will tell you is the equivalent life change of a homeless man winning Powerball. Anyway, turns out Lott is highly respected, pretty good at what he does, and surprise surprise, a Christian! The article in Christianity Today tells more about him. You can get his books from lots of places (not sure about the Christian Bookstore - I sort of hope NOT...), but my favorite place for books is Books-A-Million (go ahead, join the Millionaire's Club and save even more - I just like saying I'm a member!) I hope scads of non-believers read people like Lott and find a connection with something bigger than themselves.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Where's My Helmet?

For some reason, out of nowhere, the seatbelt police are cracking down. I'm not sure if I missed a memo, or if some new law I didn't know about came into affect, but the seatbelt cops are everywhere.

A couple of days ago, I approached a popular intersection in my neck of the woods - one that I go through several times a day most days. There were 4 law enforcement officials with clipboards stationed around the intersection just waiting for people to pull up and stop. Those not strapped in would receive their obligatory seatbelt infraction ticket.

Before I proceed, two things you need to know....
  1. I was wearing my seatbelt like a good soldier.
  2. I have no problem with the seatbelt law; some people are stupid (as I'm about to describe) and need legislation to help them.

So I pull up to the intersection, notice the cop at my stop sign look into my car through his David Hasselfoff sunglasses, and sort of give me that nod that says "nice goin' pal - keep up the good work."

However, I couldn't help but notice directly across from me, at the opposite stop sign, a group of motorcyclists. Probably 8 motorcycles in all, with roughly 12 people total on for the ride. Not a helmet to be seen. None of the guys wearing shirts. As little clothing on males & females alike to take in as many rays of sun as possible. Oh, and no tickets being written, either.

Now, I'm in the trusty Buick. If I'm doing 39 mph and have a crash of any sort, many things could happen. Not the least of which is a steering wheel, an air bag, steel, etc. all of which should play a role at some level to keep me off the pavement. Not to mention the seat belt we already established I had firmly snapped into place. BUT, if I'm not buckled up, I get a $25 fine.

Perhaps its just me, but does this make any sense? The dude on the Yamaha? He has an accident of ANY kind at 39 mph, he's in a world of hurt. No protection. No padding. No airbags. Just sort of out there with seemingly nothing.

Its almost as though you're punished if you don't reach the pinnacle of safety (in your car with seatbelt engaged & airbags as a backup), yet rewarded for pushing the envelope of risk (bareback & helmet-free with nothing but sunglasses and a girlfriend holding on tight). I'm surprised the police officers didn't run over and give the motorcyclists high fives! "Way to go! Props to you for throwing caution to the wind! Keep livin' on the edge!"

I couldn't help but consider this as a snapshot of life. My life, at least. Particularly as it relates to being a Jesus-follower. It's easy - perhaps too easy - to take the simple way out. Follow the rules that are handed to us by others. Make sure your seatbelt is fastened when those that matter are looking. Clock in and clock out. Play it safe. Stay well within our comfort zone. And make sure that comfort zone only includes certain types of people. Never take a risk.

I assume that part of the attraction of the helmet-less motorcycle rider is the feeling of the air blowing through your hair and the sense of freedom and exhilaration that comes being somewhat suspended between earth and sky at breathtaking speeds. At least that's what my motorcycle-inclined friends tell me.

Unfortunately, I believe that the Creator God has that same sense of freedom & exhilaration in store for us all! Problem is, we've interpreted "freedom & exhilaration" as some form of cosmic uncertainty. Much better to create some rules. To put on some seat belts. To never take a risk.

I like how The Message states Hebrews 11:1-2 - "The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd." Of course, the entire chapter of Hebrews 11 goes on to describe these ancestors, for whom faith wasn't something you achieved like some sort of finish line or award then sit on for the rest of your existence. Rather, it was an ongoing pursuit that changed and shaped their lives. No seat belts allowed! But rather a life of risk, knowing that He who instigated the risk in the first place was who He said He was. So if you and I believe that God is who He says He is, then....

Saturday, June 04, 2005

India Trip 2003

Ajai & Indu Lall
Originally uploaded by larzmarshall.

In the fall of 2003, I was privileged to travel to India with a group of pastors, sponsored by Christ In Youth. I spent some time today thinking about that experience, and how incredibly moved I was (and still am, though its frustrating how time can erode those feelings). Ajai Lall and his wife Indu are amazing. Their accounts of ministry and how God is working in and around them are humbling, exciting, and often breathtaking. Their vision of planting churches in central India is somewhat daunting - 80% of Indians are Hindu, 12% Muslim, and a meager 2.5 % Christian. Oh, and well over 1 billion people! But to spend a few minutes with Ajai, you walk away believing that he really could be a catalyst for God to change that nation. It's really incredible, and puts so much of our happy-go-lucky approach to Christianity into perspective. When I met pastors who had been beaten in public because they renounced their Hindu or Muslim beliefs to follow Jesus, that changes the way you think and approach ministry.
A note from my Operation World prayer calendar regarding India...
"Pray that the Church worldwide would rise to the challenge that India presents. India has the greatest number of unreached people and people groups in the world. An overwhelming number have no Christians, churches or Christian workers. Pray that Christians would embrace continued freedom to proclaim the Gospel in India despite intimidation and persecution."
Pray for me, too, as I 1) sort out how to integrate all of this into who I am and what I do, and 2) as I try to get to know the new gentleman from India who just started working at my neighborhood convenience store. He's on my heart at the moment...

(BTW, if you click on the photo above, you can go to a page and scroll through some additonal pics from my India trip. I promise they're worth your time!)

Here I Am

My focus isn't always that good. Often its downright helter skelter. On several occasions this past week, I've found myself praying, out loud, while driving to work or wherever I'm heading. I've followed that up with this song played very loud. A great way to start a day.

I lay myself at Your feet
Asking You won't You meet, Won't You meet me
I cannot do it on my own
I cannot do it all alone
Here I am, oh, tonight
With my arms open wide
Won't You come inside
Won't You come inside,
GodCome and fill this heart of mine
I'm in need of You
Of Your touch, of Your life, of Your love
I need You
I need You
Shawn McDonald is his name; the song is called "Here I Am." Its especially good on his "Live from Seattle" CD. If you're looking for some passionate worship & focus & devotion & thought-provoking stuff, that CD is a must-have.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

God @ The Centre

"First, God. God is the subject of life. God is foundational for living. If we don't have a sense of the primacy of God, we will never get it right, get life right, get OUR lives right. Not God at the margins; not God as an option; not God on the weekends. God at center and circumference; God first and last; God, God, God." - Eugene Peterson, from "Introduction to Genesis,"
The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language
It's pretty easy to do the opposite, isn't it? To put God in the margins of our life, on the back burner, in the "on deck circle." Always at arms length and easy to grab when needed. But seldom the epicenter of all we are and all we do. It's a lot easier to figure out what MY will is for ME and then try to wrap God's will around that, rather than starting foundationally with God's Will and then grafting in the things of me. That's my prayer for today and every day. Three fleeting bullet points that sort of relate ...
  • Jami Smith's song "Be The Centre" is resonating in my head and is my mantra for the day;
  • "In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God's existence" - Isaac Newton, English physicist, 1642-1727
  • Brief interview with Lee Strobel, author of tons of stuff, but most recently The Case For A Creator; interview can be read by clicking here

For what its worth...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Bar Code Jesus

bar code
Originally uploaded by larzmarshall.

This is from my fledgling collection of Jesus pictures. Saw it today, and it reminded me of the notion of seeing God in the little things. David Crowder's book Praise Habit has been a good reminder - been reading it over the weekend. Kinda makes me wonder if this is where that dude came up with the whole Da Vinci Code nonsense...anyway, this reminds me of some of the VBS crafts I did as a kid.