Monday, 7 April 2008


I should have been sleeping. But the temptation of Chocolat on TV was too strong. So I had to watch some of it.

Way back in 2000, I enjoyed the film Chocolat in the theatres. The film has plenty of poor examples with poor morals and even hints of witchcraft. But there are some highlights.

The rebel in me enjoys the questioning of tradition. But even more so, parts of the movie are about bringing life to a people who are in prison to man's traditions and various means that lock up, or perhaps more accurately, lock out our chances for hope.

The movie deals with the Catholic church. But some of the lessons apply to all of Christianity. At times the focus has been negative with more focus on the "don'ts" instead of the "dos". And, at times, politics and the need for control come into play. The early church used a fish as its symbol. The cross is definitely important. But sometimes death gets more focus in church than life.

The "River Rats" among us go by different names. But as this movie portrays, many of the Christians can learn from the pagans about loving those who appear to be less lovable. Unconditional agape love is not always easy. One sign of hope is the recent popularity of "To write love on her arms" at It started out with a young woman who cut on her arm that she considers herself a "F*** Up". If only she knew love! And there are millions lacking hope, lacking identity, lacking purpose.

If only they knew life and love and hope! There are plenty of short-term pleasures and promises. But the long-lasting hope and purpose is found in a life fully committed to Jesus.

The world awaits to see us demonstrating the life they have longed for. Lord help us.

Harlan County U.S.A.

Watching Harlan County U.S.A. on IFC was interesting for me. One of the kinda cool unexpected things was the songs. They reminded me of a 2000 movie Songcatcher that highlighted mountain music. In both cases, the people made up songs to deal with and comment on a wide variety of circumstances.

Years ago, I remember the United Mine Workers mentioned on TV news quite frequently. I'm not a huge fan of unions. But I don't remember having a strong opinion about their situation at the time. This movie Harlan County U.S.A. is a documentary about one mining community and life with strikes and violence. The movie won the 1976 Academy Award for a documentary.

Although I enjoy independent and foreign movies, my main interest in this case was observing their reaction to injustice. In this case the main injustice was greed. Greed is by nature self-centered and has little interest in the welfare of others, whether workers, persons who are or were close to them, or other people. As I have observed, the greedy have little interest in truth.

In this case the miners had a choice of how to react. They organized with ethics (sometimes). Despite their mixed motives, the movie was successful in helping me empathize with those who are victims of the greed of others. I understand the situation well.

I understand that people do not always wish to hear the truth. That isn't just the people involved. But it includes the government and the millions of observers that often require strong persuasion to care.

Injustice is happening around the world and in our neighborhood and other places close by. What will it take for people to care? What will it take for us to care?

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Bald Isn't Beautiful

Due to some circumstances, I have not been able to replace worn tires on my car. And now all four are bald with at least one preparing to blow soon. So far they have held out. And I have held off letting anyone else drive the car until I can get that fixed some day, some month.

Winter driving with bald tires has been quite stressful at times. Both stopping and starting have been a challenge many days. But I have stayed between the ditches with no collisions or heart attacks. God has been gracious.

Yesterday we got a heavy wet snow that left a layer of ice on most roads. I stayed at work until 6:30 p.m. hoping there would be less traffic for the hour-plus drive home. There was still some daylight.

In an effort to get to a freeway and plowed roads soon, I took my usual route. Yankee Doodle Road (a real name) is mostly up hill leaving the Minnesota River valley where I work. I slipped a little at the first stop light. But that was okay.

The next one was quite interesting. I stopped going up hill just fine. I was first in line. After the light turned green, I made little progress. Other cars ended up going around me. I even backed up a little after spinning towards the curb. Seeing little forward progress, I attempted to turn right on a mostly level side street. I did not even get that far before the light turned red again. I yielded to another vehicle and finally made some progress on the side street. I turned into an uphill driveway to turn around so I could back on to the street downhill. From the side street, I was able to get some momentum to eventually get up the hill. But that progress was mostly via bogged down anti-spin control and an occasional spin.

At the top of the hill, it was still icy. I made it safely through the intersections and down onto the freeway. The road home was slippery in many areas. I was content to make steady progress at 30-40 miles per hour. I was glad the rest of the route required no stopping, and especially not the usual stopping uphill in downtown Saint Paul.

So why do I share all this? Life is like that some days, some seasons. There are times we do all we can with all the resources we have. And still, progress appears to be minimal, if at all.

That can certainly be frustrating and disappointing. It can be confusing as well. Not all of life has a neat tidy ending. After repeated setbacks, there is a temptation to give up hope and quit trying.

But we must go on. God has kept us alive because he still has plans for us. So persevere we must. Most of the time those periods with little (apparent) progress eventually come to an end. And we can sometimes learn things from the experience in hindsight.

Some things in life we just need to move through hoping for better things ahead. I have had, and am in, some great challenges. You may be too. So I have to tell me, you, us, to not give up hope. Make those adjustments in direction and perhaps methods. Perhaps try another route to the destination. And maybe, just maybe, you will come out of the experience stronger and with new insight you could not have learned any other way.

Even with baby steps, keep moving forward.

We Are Going to State!

It has been tournament time once again. Even my high school returned to the basketball tournament after missing it for 35 years. And I am reminded I still haven't written my "Going to State" thoughts that have been hanging around in the back of my head for at least three years.

It is with great excitement that most schools and individuals exclaim "We are going to State!" This is especially true for those who rarely have that opportunity. Going to State is an honor.

As part of any tournament or competition, the competition gets tougher with each step. This is true whether you are competing in sports, music, speech, drama, quiltmaking, or some other activity. Each level brings greater and greater challenges. And we look forward to that.

We know that the challenges will reveal our capabilities, our limitations, and our possibilities. But regardless of the risks and the cost involved, we still regard it as an honor.

But then there is real life... We hear others, and perhaps ourselves, complain about our challenges. Despite the testimonies of many that challenges made them stronger, we still tend to complain when circumstances are difficult.

Besides the people around us, even nature shows us the benefits of difficulties. Roots go deeper during drought. Plants and animals can get tougher in the most trying times. And we can too.

One of the "benefits" of a whole bunch of "challenges" is that we can learn to persevere. And the next challenges don't seem so daunting when they aren't a huge step bigger than the past "impossible" situations we lived through.

I haven't consistently conquered the temptations of attitude. I can complain with the best or worst of them and I have my moments of pity. I too often forget God's faithfulness in helping me through past challenges. And I would be lying if I claimed to look forward to every hard time coming my way. But over time, a person truly can have some peace regardless of circumstances. And eventually I might be able to occasionally embrace the difficulties with the hope of what may result from the experience.

Are you looking forward to "Going to State", or whatever big challenge may be in your future?

What Is So Good About Good Friday?

Most Americans have attended a Good Friday church service at some time in their lives. Quite often the experience is a rather sad and gloomy time with the lights low and plenty of silence.

The message is usually pretty accurate. But there is rarely any explanation to children, or adults!, of why it is called "Good" Friday. The best I have heard from some pastors is that it is good for us, not necessarily for Jesus. And Jesus dying to cover the sins of those devoted to him truly is good news.

As Jesus was near death, his words were "It is finished." Our first interpretation when we hear those words is that it is all done. Our hopes are now gone (at least for a couple days). So the word "finished" is a negative one.

But another way of viewing "finished" is that something is complete. Jesus completed the mission he was given. He did what he was supposed to do. He could truly say to the Father, "Mission accomplished." And anytime we can give a report like that, it usually is a "good" experience.

Similarly, thousands around the world retain joy even as they suffer and are even killed for being Christian. There is joy and satisfaction in remaining faithful regardless of the cost. There is peace and hope in what may result from that suffering. So, yes, dying for God's purposes can truly be a "good" day, a Good Friday.

On a more personal note, one pastor knows that some years ago I wrote that if it takes my funeral to get one particular individual to start living for Jesus, it will be worth it. Assuming I stay committed to God, then the transfer from earth to heaven is only a matter of timing. In the mean time, if he is truly Lord in my life, I should be open to God using me in whatever way is most strategic in the lives of others. Obviously, I don't know if my funeral is days or decades from now. My hope is that my life, or at least the spoken message at the funeral, will truly make it a "good" life-giving day for somebody - hopefully some of my family and friends.

Have a "good" day.


I am obviously not in the habit of writing daily, or even weekly!!

I don't follow the church calendar much. But for the past several years, I have tried to treat Lent as a special time. I usually do some fasting. But mostly it is a time of learning and listening. I hope to gain new direction and insights during the time.

This year I had the pleasure of getting an updated version of the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class (audio only). Throughout the year, I focus mostly on hearing from innovative church and mission leaders, primarily via podcasts.

Since I like to learn, I can easily become like a sponge, taking in all kinds of information and wisdom. But a sponge is not fulfilling its purpose until it is applied to some situation. So now that Lent is over it is time for more action. Or, at the very least, it is time to share some of what has been absorbed.