Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Little Sprouts Circus Day

Lisa is the director of our Mother's Day Out program. This summer's theme was circus. She and the teachers came up with the idea of closing the summer out with a circus. Only in this circus, the kids were doing the acts.

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The jumped through hoops of fire

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Stood on stools and roared

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We had clowns

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And a Ring Master

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Our skilled and talented teachers did a great job of getting the kids ready

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And of course our refined

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And always dignified director pulled it off.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Having what it takes

The family went and watched Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix yesterday.

Now before I get scathing reprimands for a.)taking my children to see that very grown up movie and b.)exposing my children to witchcraft, understand that I never said I was trying to qualify for parent of the year.

My boys have watched every Harry Potter film so far. They get the basic story of good (Harry and friends) vs. evil (Voldemort and cronies). They can handle the heavy story lines and serious plot even if they don't understand every angle.

As to the second point, the magic of Harry Potter offers great teachable moments. Christians would do well to study magic as a sociological feature a little more. It would help clear up some very poor theology that's out on the landscape. Magic is manipulating a power greater than yourself to accomplish your own ends. It is not about wands and spells. It is about selfish desire and the means we go to make desire reality. And I believe that there are some Christians who practice just as much magic as anyone at Hogwarts.

But that is a topic for another time.

This is about Harry Potter. The plot of the movie is that the magic community is turning against the most prominent teacher (Headmaster of Hogwarts Dumbledore) and against the so-well-known Harry Potter. There is a move to deny the presence of the embodiment of evil Voldemort. The move against Dumbledore and Harry causes a tightening of rules at the school in harsh ways. It also leads to a "head buried in the sand" worldview.

This leads to the formation of two secret societies: the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's Army. The first is made up of adults while the second is a band of students. I will leave the plot there to talk about what, for me, was the most meaningful scene.

The students know that they need to learn to use their magic to defend themselves. But none of the teachers will teach them. So they decide to learn on their own. The only person who is qualified to teach them is Harry. He is qualified because he has the practical experience and hands on education that can be passed down.

Harry, on the other hand, does not see himself as qualified nor having the right stuff to teach them. His arguments for why he shouldn't lead them becomes the very reason why he is the best choice. From there, Harry teaches and leads the students in learning to use their magic to defend against the evil that is rising.

This scene was moving because it captures a very real attitude among the believers and church-pew sitters. It is the attitude that, "I'm not qualified to do what the Bible calls for."

Matthew 28:19-20 calls on believers to go into the world, making disciples, baptizing, and teaching. Acts 1:8 says that the believers will receive power and be witnesses of Jesus throughout the world. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says that each believer has received a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

We are all qualified to do what God has called us to do. We all have a task in this work of kingdom building. No, we do not have the same gifts as everyone else. We are not all eloquent preachers or gifted singers. We are not all able to serve others will a joyful heart or give significant financial sums. But every one of us has been called by God to disciple making, teaching, witnessing, and contributing to the common good. God's Spirit manifests or makes itself known in our lives. Every one of us.

So we are all called to step up. We are called to use what God has given us for the good of the kingdom and one another. We can no longer sit back in our chairs and say, "Someone else is more qualified. Someone else can do it better." God has called you to do and to serve. God has called you to rise up and go.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Going home

Before I was an Okie I lived in Wichita, Kansas. We moved when I was about 10. We had lived in Wichita for about 7 years. I still remember some things, but most of it is a blank.

Lisa and I took a romantic reconnecting weekend away to, of all places, Wichita. A lot of it had to do with connecting with an internet friend as well as nostalgia.

Let me first say that we stayed at a fantastic bed and breakfast. The College Hill Bed and Breakfast is nestled away in central Wichita. You can get anywhere relatively quickly from there. The house itself has been beautifully remodeled and offers three rooms as of now. We stayed in the Tropical Room. It is a warm and cozy room with a separate bath and huge closet. It is decorated in African stylized animal prints with greens and browns. The bathroom has a tropical feel with palm fronds and a rain shower shower head. The breakfasts that were prepared for us were fresh and very tasty. Even through I'm not a fruit nut, there was enough to fill us both up to energize our days' activities.

I would highly recommend the College Hill Bed and Breakfast.

Now on to the trip itself. Going to Wichita always plays tricks with my mind. I remember so little about living here. But what I do remember is vivid in my mind. I remember two of the houses we lived in. I remember the school where I attended 1st through 3rd grade. I remember places and events very clearly. I remember so clearly that I can locate them even though I have been gone for 20+ years.

But the mind has a way of storing memories that don't reflect accurately. The entire city seemed so much bigger in my memory. The school was a lot bigger also. And then there is change. 20 years offers a lot of opportunity to change. "My" school isn't the same. It was closed and sold to a private institution. The candy store I used to visit on the walk back to the babysitter is now moved. The homes I lived in are more run down. Life changes those wonderful memories and transforms reality as well.

In our faith walks we encounter something very similar. We experience powerful movements of God's presence in our lives and it leaves a mark on us. But as time and life progresses, that moment in time is transformed. But many times our nature is to preserve that moment. This happens with many youth who attend camps. They want to re-experience that moment in time where God did something powerful. So they return to re-experience it only to discover that it cannot be repeated.

It is our nature to desire to hold on to those powerful experiences. It happened for Peter, James, and John when they went up on a mountain top with Jesus. Luke 9:28-33. Peter and the others see Jesus changed before their eyes and encounter the living spirits of Moses and Elijah. Peter's response is to build booths or tabernacles to commemorate the event and to honor Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Peter wanted to hold on to the experience with a place to return and remember what happened.

But what would have happened had those booths or shrines had been built? Would they have been a reminder of the real, living experience within Peter? Or would they have become sacred sites hollow of true meaning? The experience wasn't located in the place but within the people. For Peter, God moved in him. God didn't just move around Peter. But was real within his heart and mind. The moment of the Transfiguration was to be carried within Peter.

Just as those experiences we have with God are to be carried forward. They shape who we are. They transform us to become the person God desires us to become. They are integrated into our life stories. But they are not the end or the point to our lives. God is our end and our purpose.

Friday, July 06, 2007

More than meets the eye

If there is one thing about summer that I really enjoy it is the summer movies. At no other time in the year do you have such a choice of over the top action movies. And this year is filled with movies. So far the family has been to the movies more since the first of May than we have been all year long. Spiderman 3, Pirates 3, Ratatouille, Meet the Robinsons, and I know I missed something else. But the last one requires some relfection.

When the trailers were being shown, I knew I would have to go see Transformers. I was a huge Transformers fan back in the '80's. I had the comic books and toys. I watched the cartoon on t.v. I still think it was an awesome show. So when the movie came out, I knew I would have to see it.

I got Nick totally into seeing it. He had the opening date on his calender. So it was going to be a fun thing to share. We got to the theater at about 3:00 to see the 3:10 show. Sold out. And the line for the 3:45 show was already out the front door of the theater. So we got our tickets and got on line. When we got going inside we saw that it was going to be a packed theater. (I heard the lady at the ticket window say that they only had 25 seats for the 5:30 show.)

I will do my best not to ruin any surprises (but there aren't any real surprises). This movie isn't about plot twists and unexpected developments. This is about telling the story of the Transformers in a new medium.

If you don't know the story, here is the recap. The Transformers are an alien race of robotic beings. Their primary form is large human-type. But they can transform into vehicle shapes. Their race is divided between two philosophies: the benevolent and peace oriented Autobots on one side and the warmongering and resource draining Decepticons.

There is one object that the Transformers seek that can change the balance of power, the All Spark. It was lost into space and thus begins the cosmic search. It, of course, leads the Transformers to Earth.

In the course of the story a teenage boy becomes the crucial figure in this cosmic search. Sam Witwicky (played by the rising star Shia LeBeouf) wants nothing more than to get a car and a girl, in that order. But his car is more than he expects. And the story takes off from there.

This movie is designed for two groups of people: sci-fi, special effect addicted teenagers and Gen-X nostalgia hounds who loved the Transformers from the beginning. And this movie does not disappoint either. It is loaded with special effects. How could it not when some of the main characters are 30 foot high robots who change into vehicles.

And speaking of the vehicles, GMC/Chevrolet paid a pretty hefty sum for this movie. Every one of the Autobots is a Chevy made vehicle. But everyone of them is sharp looking. It made me glad we just bought a Chevy Avalanche.

But the effects are outstanding. The 'bots transform with smooth and flowing movements. The way they look is "realistic" and not cartoony. If you enjoy special effects, this is a great movie for them. In fact they are a little overdone.

The story is very cartoony. This is not high literature. This is pure sci-fi taken from the comics. If you are aware of that before going in, you will be ready to enjoy it. If you are expecting some deep philosophical or meaningful answers, this isn't it. So don't go in looking for it.

I was expecting a revisioning of the Transformers story. I figured we would be treated to some campy, silly just-for-funsies approach (Starsky and Hutch). But this movie was faithful to the original characters and approach. This was the story of a war between two sides with humanity in the middle. Other than the cartoony storyline and supporting characters, this was a great movie.

This movie kicked into overdrive when an Autobot and a Decepticon appeared on screen together for the first time. Watching them on that screen sent shivers through me. And then hearing Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots, utter his famous line, "Autobots, roll out." This movie took treasured childhood characters and made them that much better.

This was an awesome movie. I loved ever minute of it. I walked out of that movie wanting to go back in and see it again. If you do not like science fiction or comic book heroes, then go see something else. But if you can suspend your need for reality then go see this movie.

Monday, July 02, 2007

What color are you?

Last week I was at camp. Not just any camp. JEM is a camp designed for Junior High School (rising 6th through 8th graders) who are or can be leaders in their home church. It is by recommendation only. It is designed around intentional leadership training at age appropriate levels. The name stands for Junior-high Effective Ministry camp.

I am on the design team and have been involved with it for 7 of its 8 years. This year was our largest camp. We commissioned 77 students to send them back into their home churches and communities to put into practice what they have learned.

One of the most powerful things that the youth learned was personality type. We have used the same personality profile system for many years. It is one the design team is very familiar with. It is from the True Colors Program. It separates personality into 4 categories that are grouped in Colors (Blue, Orange, Green, Gold).

Try this personality quiz to see what your color is:

Color Personality Quiz

I am predominantly a Green. I'm so Green, I could be

(but more like -