What Her says about Him

Her_Theodore in front of computerTheordore Twombly was a sweet, soulful and complex man who lives in a virtual world. If you’ve seen the movie Her, you would recognize him as its main character played by Joaquin Phoenix.  Little seems to be real in Theodore’s world. His work involves writing heartfelt letters on behalf of others he does not know. For recreation, he cozies up to a larger than life video game. Outside of the venues, he has little interaction with others, expect for the sporadic encounters with his neighbors…and an earwig that pretty much stays implanted in his ear and serves as his lifeline to his parallel universe.

To be sure, Theodore lives in two worlds, preferring the company of electronic stimulation of his senses to the extent possible. Yet despite all the stimulation, Theodore appears to be a lonely man. Having experienced a recent divorce, he strives to find pleasure in this detached reality but never quite getting there.  That is, until he meets Samantha. She turns him on. She seems to provide him with what he lacked despite all his stimulation. She makes up for the pain of the loss of relationship and draws him to herself.  She is an OS system with a seductive voice and witty charm. If you’ve not seen the movie, you might find this strange but it seems even stranger watching it. It is both odd and captivating the way  Theodore finds relief for his frustrations, need for companionship and even sexual tension through a relationship with an OS system, whose voice streams through his constant companion of the ear wig.

Yet Theodore instinctively knows there is something better. Something is missing. Why else does he search? He knows there is a goodness to be grasped that will touch his soul – something tangible; something real. He mistakenly believes it is in this virtual reality. As the movie progresses and the relationship between he and Samantha explore depths beyond human imagination, he simultaneously finds relief and discomfort.  Samantha ends up pulling the plug on the relationship, leaving Theodore grasping to fill the void.  Through the complexities of this human-machine relationship, his friendship with his neighbor Amy intensifies, and the machine dumped Theodore and Amy end up turning to each other for solace.  Though safely now in boundaries of human relationship, it is nonetheless a glimpse that we yearn for something more. Continue reading

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When Your Eyes Have Seen the Glory…but not so much now

eyes in darkHave you ever gone through a dark period of time in your Christian walk? And by dark, I mean a stretch of time marked by endless trials, barrenness and/or uncertainty about what to do? I came across this picture that I thought captured it so well. As we traverse the Christian walk, we’ll have high times when so much seems to be working. But then we’ll have times when we don’t know what in the world is going on.

Now there’s a sect within Christianity that says you just have to have strong faith. Stand and declare your promises. God won’t bless you unless you’re declaring the victory over your circumstances. Nothing personifies than Hank Hanegraaf’s article on the Osteenification and What it Portends. The premise behind Osteen and his ilk is that in order for stuff to happen in our lives, we need to be positive and strong.

One of my Facebook friends provided this wonderful commentary the other day in response to this article and kind of mentality;

“Osteen is such an easy target that I can debunk him without even using theology, by sheer experience alone. The VERY few times (that I can count on the fingers of one hand) where God spectacularly intervened in my life over the last 30 years, was when I was at the weakest in my faith, doubted him and had no conviction or assurance whatsoever that he would actually DO anything.

Glimmers of hope and desperation was all I had left in the tank and some times not even that. I felt about as strong as a beggar begging for scraps. On one particularly painful season I felt so gutted that I couldn’t even bring myself to pray and ask for anything, so I asked others to do it on my behalf and they obliged. I wish I could be more specific but some of the details are too painful to regurgitate and I am mindful of others who are still waiting on an answer to prayer on some personal and pressing issues.

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Looking in the Driscoll Mirror

Mark DriscollLord knows I am no fan of Mark Driscoll. For some years now, I’ve been chagrined at his approach to ministry, his bully-like posture and evidence that he has treated staff disrespectfully and with disregard. Though I think he has contributed some good things to contemporary evangelicalism, it was difficult for me to see past the stains.

My disdain for him only grew when plagiarism charges emerged and there was no apology. The final straw came when it was discovered that the questionably ethically tactics were employed to market his book…and there was still defense. Or at least, that is what was portrayed in the articles I read. And I was angry. Angry that the celebrity status had apparently insulated this man from suffering the repercussions of his actions. Angry that so many still defended him. Angry that he was getting away with it.

Then he apologized publicly and acknowledged his error.  He volunteered to take some action to rectify the situation. And he put up a mirror for us to look at. The mirror reflected something back that raises the question of how we treat the repentant and examine the attitudes of our own heart.

Driscoll’s apology shined the light on my own history of transgressions.  It put up a mirror to those extended periods that I acted unseemingly, especially a 13 year rebellious period away from the Lord. I’m a person who battles many regrets in life and wish I had done many things differently.  I even recall times when those around me tried to bring things to my attention but I was so seeped in my own way that I blew them off. Even when I repented in 1999 from my rebellion away from him, I still had stuff that wasn’t dealt with, ways that I operated in and unaware of its stains on my Christian walk and rebuffing attempts at exposure and correction. Continue reading

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A Theology of Jerkiness

shouting guys_anger managementRecently, a friend put a plug in my ear about intellect vs. empathy and something I want to do some further research on after this last hump of school assignments is over. But the more I think about these two dynamics the more I’m giving a nod to the fact that Christians are to operate out of the latter. So I wanted to sketch out some preliminary thoughts.

Now, I don’t want to draw any false dichotomies. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we should be anti-intellectual. Heavens no! Our intellect is “the power or faculty of the mind by which one knows or understands”. Intellect has nothing to do with being smart but using reasoning and logic.  We need to use our mind, critically evaluate, analyze and reason. This is a good thing when used properly.

Empathy on the other hand, allows us to put ourselves in the other person’s place and discern what’s right for a situation. Empathy doesn’t neglect intellect but doesn’t allow it to take the reigns. Where intellect cares about the information, empathy cares about people.  Empathy knows when an intellectual response is inappropriate and has the ability to keep quiet or fashion a response appropriate to the situation.  Yes truth matters. Yes the right information about the gospel and the triune God matters. Empathy will know when information has to be contextualized because of the people involved. But see if I’m operating out of intellect and not empathy, I’m only concerned about information and what is correct and logical. I will justify my actions to prove what is the right information as I see it. Right information can actually be harmful if not treated with empathy. Continue reading

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Re-thinking Facebook Prayer Requests

MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAOut of a light-hearted reaction to a question I’m asked quite often, I posted an update on my FB status that indicated the next time someone asks me what I plan on doing after seminary I might just go postal. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing this week. Then I added “pray for me”.  Of course its not always obvious in the one dimensional on-line format when when is serious or just being silly. In this case, it was the latter….pray that I don’t go postal on people. It was kind of a joke. Though I appreciated the people that indicated they were praying, it felt a bit hypocritical of me to send that out since I’ve come to the conclusion to not send out prayer requests on Facebook or Twitter.

On a more serious note, let me explain. I have come to the increasing conviction of how we utilize social media for pray requests. And when I say social media, I mean the feed that everybody sees, not private messages. Now, I want to be delicate here because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m downplaying the importance of prayer, that I don’t want people praying for me, or that we should not pray for others. Please don’t go there.  In fact, it is the significance of prayer that leads me to believe how blanket prayer requests on FB can actually undermine it.

For all the good that social media has done in connecting people and ideas together, it has also burdened us in a way. If you are an active social media user like me, just thinking about how much of the information you are exposed to now you would have been exposed to a decade ago.  Its a pretty big difference. This exposure has an overwhelming effect, which has actually created a greater superficiality. Just because we have a snippet of information does not mean we have substantial information. But more importantly, we have an expanded amount of superficial information through which requests come. Continue reading

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