Monday, August 17, 2009

Yo Joe Finally

I love comic books. I've been reading them as long as….well as long as I've been reading. I remember some of my earliest comic books were when I was in the second or third grade. And superhero comics are a big part of my collection. Yes, I collect comic books also. Spider-man has always been one of my heroes. And the Avengers were my favorite superhero team. But there is only one comic book series that I have collected almost every copy of and the accompanying toys (yes, I collect dolls….erm, action figures).
When G.I. Joe hit the shelves in the early '80's, I grabbed the first copy. I still have it. Nope, it's not worth anything, so don't come looking for it. It is ripped and stained and frayed on the edges. It has no monetary value. But its condition should tell you where its value lies. I read and read that book over and over. This was not the story of G.I. Joe, the soldiers of World War 2. This was not the story of G.I. Joe, the toy soldier and adventurer line of the '60's. This was a new G.I. Joe, a team of top of their skills special forces operatives. Their mission was to do what the regular armed forces couldn't accomplish, even special forces. In the comic book, the characters were non-regulation military. Uniforms, weapons, skills, etiquette, grooming habits, none of them would have passed muster in regular military life. But they were excellent at what they did.
Their primary nemesis was a terrorist/for-profit organization called Cobra. The Joes waged a balanced struggle with Cobra. They were just as over the top as any other comic supervillain. The Joes had their work cut out for them. And they fought the good fight through 155 issues. Larry Hama was the principal writer for the entire series. And he produced some compelling characters, engaging stories, and memories that will last a lifetime.
Fast forward to this past weekend when Lisa, Andrew, and I went to see the first serious feature length life-action G.I. Joe movie. I love comic book movies. Except Superman Returns. And The Hulk. So the Joe fan in me had to go see this movie.
Let me say up front that I liked the movie. It was light years beyond Transformers 2 in terms of enjoyment. There were plot holes. There was some campiness that I could do without. But I liked the movie.
They really messed with my story. I say my story because these were characters I had grown up with through my teen years. The stories of their life are as real to me as a soap opera junkies "stories" are to them. As I watched them being totally re-written for a new generation (who rarely ever picks up a book unless they must…much less comics) I felt that I was losing the opportunity to share with my boys what was a big part of my youth. I am going to have to tell them the stories to help them understand how passionate I am about this.
Or better yet, maybe I'll drag out the comic collection and let them share it.
No. On second thought, maybe not that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fear Not

Yesterday morning I was out on the back porch, drinking my coffee and enjoying E. Stanley Jones. For those who are not familiar, E. Stanley Jones was a Methodist preacher and evangelist in the middle part of the 20th Century. He was also what may be considered a prolific devotional writer. I am currently collecting and reading through his writings. Most of ESJ's writings were devotional books that were structured to be read completely through (and could be done in one sitting…if you were only reading in a shallow manner), read thematically (he broke the writings into themed sections and not chapters), or daily (each page gives a daily reference). As a frame of reference, think about the Upper Room devotional or Our Daily Bread. Only chewier.

What I mean by chewier is that ESJ wrote some real serious thinking and introspective material. He was writing for life change, not just simple devotion. He wasn't trying to give people a brief "time with God" kind of moment. He was looking transform people in such a way that their lives were radically altered. He was an evangelist after all. Titles such as How To Be a Transformed Person or Abundant Living hint to the depth of where ESJ wanted to take devotees. Currently I am reading The Way. And I want to share something that I came across yesterday in my reading.

ESJ was dealing with fear. The first thing that really struck me as I was thinking about the subject was my own fears. I have identified three fears that are obvious in my life. I'm afraid of water (although I shower regularly), I'm afraid of heights, and I'm afraid of roller coasters. ESJ speaks to dealing with fears and presents 16 steps to dealing with fears. This is not a short term, easy fix solution.

The first step he describes is by saying that there are only 2 inherent fears in human nature – fear of falling and loud noises. By remembering that all other fears are learned behavior we begin to see that there is control over them.

Second is to talk over those fears with someone you trust. Really talk about the fears. Third is to decide on a plan of action. Fourth is to look at our surroundings (environment), our past history, and our present ideas and attitudes. Fifth he encourages us to think faith (Proverbs 23:7; or even Philippians 4:8). From the 6th point through the 16th point he talks about surrendering that fear to God instead of fighting those fears. If you want to know more detail, I suggest picking up a copy in an old book store or trying to find it on line. Or come for coffee some morning.

But reading all of that got me to thinking about something else. Do we ever see Jesus afraid in the Gospels?

The only thing that I feel may be close was the scene in the garden on the night of his arrest. But was it really fear that motivated the prayer, "let this cup pass from me"? When he was a youth separated from his family, there was no fear. When Jesus faced the crowd that wanted to stone him, there was no fear. When Jesus was being pressed by the religious leaders on his beliefs, there was no fear. When he was in new territory and surrounded by strangers, there was no fear. When he stood before a kangaroo court, before the seat of Roman power, was led from place to place under arrest, walked to his execution, and even on the cross facing the end of his mortal life Jesus showed no fear.

Fears control so many people. I don't just mean actions. I also think about how fear controls emotions, attitudes, opinions, and even health. Fear is a cancer. It takes healthy life and turns it into something negative and destructive.

But throughout Scripture, when God's appointed messenger shows up on the scene, what is the first word – fear not. It isn't easy to fear not. But it is possible; especially when we begin to tap into the power of surrender. Surrender is not a natural human inclination. In fact surrender is blocked by fear. When we face something in which surrender is an option, we encounter the natural inherent human response – fight or flight. This is fear response. So surrender, even to God, the lover of our souls, is fear inducing. But when we overcome fear through surrender to God, we are bringing power beyond imagination and grace beyond degree into our lives to bring fear into control. Healing occurs, forgiveness abounds, and love fills.


Fear not – for God is on your side.