Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fireproof the Movie - Part 2

I just wanted to add some more things to my previous post...

The movie was only released in 839 theaters but managed to pull in over $6 million dollars in sales over the first weekend. The film budget was a mere $500K...not a lot of money. I'm guessing they put a lot of the money into things that increase the production value. I'm not certain how much Kirk Cameron was paid, but it seems that he may have been one of the few to actually be paid.

Thankfully, Kirk is reported to have donated his salary to the ministry he founded. While that may seem somewhat self-serving, consider the following...quite a few ministers (such as Charles Colson) draw a set salary from their ministries regardless of how much their books, sermon tapes, etc may bring in. That keeps the "cult of personality, fame, & fortune" at bay. It's too bad that more people don't practice that principle. Maybe, just maybe, we would see fewer scandals.

Anyway, most of the actors were volunteers. Given the low budget and mostly volunteer make up of the actors, I am amazed that the movie was so well filmed. Simply outstanding.

Well, that's it for now.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fireproof...the Movie

Okay, I just got back from watching the Fireproof movie. For a low-budget film it was surprisingly well shot and well acted. I would say that it is worth the price of admission. Granted, the special they were running in the theater was pretty compelling. All military, police, and fire/rescue got in for free.

So, if you did not get to the movie, then do so. If you would like a link to play with, then here you go...Fireproof My Marriage. The movie was based, plot-wise, around a handwritten book, The Love Dare. You can find it at your favorite online bookstore. It might be a great read. There is also a book, Fireproof, that you can pick up.

Well, this is the end of my post. Not certain if the books or the movie will help your marriage, but I'm sure they can't hurt it anymore than it already is.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Performing Arts and Life Contradictions

I love being me! Whenever I talk to my coworkers, friends, family members, et al., I find that people are, generally speaking, one main type with maybe one or two lesser types. Not following me? Maybe an example would be good:

Some people:

Love rock music, like rap, hate country.
Read horror, like mystery, despise romance.

When it comes to music, I am mood oriented. I love rap (I try to focus on positive rap, but sometimes you need a really good run of Eminem, 50, or House of Pain), I love rock (especially classic and heavy metal), I love country (give me a good honky-tonk sound and I am in heaven), I love reggae (haven't been able to experiment too much, so I'm stuck listening to the greatest reggaeman in history...Bob Marley), I love classical music (Tchaikovsky has some of the most light and romantic music ever...Wagner blows my mind, I think he was his generation's Metallica), I love show tunes (despite my heterosexual nature, apparently...who knew that the secret handshake of the homosexual world was Broadway inspired? Oh, wait, that's a cruel stereotype...never mind).

One of my friend's says that he finds it interesting when he gets into my truck. He is constantly guessing what music will be coming through the speakers...and I don't listen to radio much.

We have been spoon-fed a lot of crap by our society. If you are like me (straight, married, born-again Christian) you will have to do certain things, be a certain way. I don't understand it. Why must I be a Republican? Because I'm in the military? Or is it because I'm a conservative person? Or, could it be, because I am a Christian? Who made the Republican party God's party? Forget that, Jack! I'm going to blaze my own trail. Even if it means running counter to every single other person in my church or my office. I'm not trying to be provocative. I can't really understand why we (Christians) have abandoned the Democratic party. Aren't we supposed to be salt and light to this world? How can we be that to a party that is considered too worldly, too liberal, too anti-Christian if we aren't working with the party? From the inside out, that should be our mantra. I guess we'll have to see, huh?!

Why can't I enjoy show tunes? Is it because I'm...gasp...straight? Oh, please, my gay friends listen to a lot of the same "normal" music that I do. Sure, not many will listen to Casting Crowns, but that doesn't matter to me. Why do some "straight" folks look at me with a weird look when I push play on my Zune and Elton John comes out of it (or at least his music...I'd freak if he actually materialized out of no where). Maybe it's because they don't approve of my Zune, eh? Why can't we all just "get along"?

In school I used to be a part of the performing arts section of the school. Nothing flamboyant, mind you. I sang Bass. I was part of an honors choir. A lot of my friends were involved in Drama, or band, or dancing. I was comfortable with them. Why did I turn my back on all of that? I don't know. Honestly, I was too afraid of being lumped in with a bunch of weirdos. Of course, I knew all along that I was weird. I shouldn't have been afraid. But, I was. I've learned. Sort of. I'm still afraid of certain stigma (like being divorced...scares me to death). Knowing that people will judge me if I tell them I'm in the military, or that I'm writing a novel, or that I love acting, or that I might just get up one day and tell a joke or two at an open-mike night. I'm sure it would blow people's minds if they found out that I'm a show tune loving, song singing, waltzing, novel writing, playwriting, joker. Oh, yeah, and I'm a born-again, straight-as-an-arrow, Christian man. Now that's a three letter word that will get you smacked down in certain ultra-liberal circles.

I'm 37 and I'm still trying to tie all the disparate little pieces of my life together. Some days, I feel like I'm going to have a psychotic break (reality sucks anyway). Other days, I can't believe how at peace I am with the little weirdness's that make me, me! Oh, the day that I become a whole person. That should be fun. Watch out world, here comes...Jim!

Never Use Old Technology!

I have just recently run into a problem that has me very unhappy. Before I continue with the rant, let me say that my lack of happiness isn't a major concern for other people. I'm fine with that, I understand that. No big deal. It is what it is. Anyway...

I have about a dozen or so document fragments that I wrote using MS Works 4.x. My version of Word doesn't play nice with that format. I don't know why. What I do know is that it is frustrating. I've downloaded half a dozen programs that are supposed to help out. So far, nothing has worked. I haven't run through each program yet and I did download and install two new programs today, so we'll see what happens. I am hopeful that I will be able to open each file, extact the data, and move on. Otherwise, I will have to extract what I can (Notepad opens them but with a lot of formatting issues, strange characters, and some of the text is missing) and hope that I've been able to capture the best of what I have written.

Here is to another night of frustration...

Update: Microsoft has a conversion tool that integrates with Word 2003 that worked just swimmingly. I now have all of my writings in either rtf or doc formats. Yeah for Jim!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Heavenly Presence

This was published, in January of 2007, in the book Praise Reports by Xulon Press.

It was the first of November, 1996. I had come home from Germany, where I was stationed, to bury my grandfather. I grew up in a home that didn't really know how to show love. The only times I ever really felt love was when I visited my grandparents' house. My grandfather did things with me that I longed to do with my father. He talked to me, he fished with me, and he even listened to me.

My pain weighed heavily on my heart as I sat in the living room of my grandparents house, my Air Force blues perfect. Small talk was punctuated by soft sobbing. I sat on a couch, completely absorbed in my own grief. The thought that I had lost my only real friend in this world kept repeating itself in my mind. Acting as dignified as I possibly could, I walked out of the house and headed to the barn.

The barn was where I loved to spend my time as a kid. Living in a city didn't really afford one too many opportunities to be around animals. Whenever I would come to visit I was given chores to do like water the pony or collect the eggs from the geese, ducks, and chickens. It wasn't really work to my young mind. It was an opportunity to express my love to my grandparents without having to really say anything. Emotions were not allowed in my world.

So, in a moment punctuated with heavy sobs, I let go of my pent-up emotions as I stood outside the barn. I raised my eyes to heaven, streaming tears down my cheeks and onto my uniform.

"God, why did You take him from me? You know how much I loved him! I would have died for him!"

In my heart I heard the response, "Now you know how much I love you!"

"How will I heal? The pain is too great!"

"Let Me heal you. Surrender all of your heart to Me. I have things I want to give you, but you need to let Me."

I bowed my head, surrendered to Him, and began to heal.

God's presence there that day let me know that He loved me unconditionally, just like my grandfather. By the end of the year, my surrendering to His will brought me to my wife, and, through our marriage, to real healing.

You can buy the book that this is printed in here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Consequences of Our Inaction

Here is another paper I wrote about ten years ago.

Recently, as everyone is now aware, we had a massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. This event weighs heavily on our national conscience. The price that we have paid in Littleton is something that we must explore and come to terms with. This tragedy should be very instructive to today's Christian.

You may be asking why I might think that this tragedy would be instructive, especially to Christians. To me, the answer is quite simple. This event shows clearly the extent that others will go to persecute, torture and kill those that they do not agree with. No longer are we living in a largely Christian culture, nor a world that follows a set system of values and morals. Thus, we must be prepared to shine the Light of His salvation, even if it means our death.

Young Cassie Bernall, 17, went to school on Tuesday, April 20th, believing that it would be like any other. Unbeknownst to her, she would become her generation's most famous martyr. When asked if she believed in God, she very quietly answered, "There is a God and you need to follow along God's path." Would we have blamed her for answering that there was no God, or that she didn't know? Would we have had the courage necessary, at the point of our greatest distress, to answer as she did? Will we have that same courage when it becomes our turn?

We say that the murders were a great tragedy. Indeed, they were. But, the greatest tragedy is the fact that these two young gunmen died without first giving their lives over to God. For eternity, they will have the opportunity to be tormented by the response that one of the gunmen gave to Cassie, "There is no God." How much is their anguish? They are eternally cut off from the presence of God. No more joy, no more laughter, no more anything except torture at the hands of Satan and his minions. Eternal darkness, gnashing of teeth and only the thought of escaping the fiery pit of Hell.

The second greatest tragedy that comes out of this incident is that no justice was or ever will be done. We will point fingers at our popular culture, at violent video games, at movies that lack any social benefit, at the rampant gun-worshiping sub-culture, at the parents of the two teens and at our own indifferent society. None of this finger pointing will solve the core problem. The problem at the very heart of this incident is the fact that these two young men and our society at large are indifferent to the call of God.

Why? Why are we, as a society, so indifferent to God and His message? I can only speak for the sinful life that I have lead and in many ways continue to lead. I am just as guilty for the eternal damnation of those two boys as any other person within helping distance could be. Why? I have not heeded the call of Christ! I have ran for all of my adult life and most of my adolescence. If I do not follow Christ as He requires me to, then I can not expect anyone else to follow Christ. Your salvation is not sufficient to save me from my damnation or anyone else's. We must all work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

We will ask several popular questions about this tragedy. The first one is why? Why did God allow this tragedy to occur? The second one is how? How could this tragedy occur or have been prevented? I say, let's forget about such trivial questions. Let us instead ask this question: what? What can we do to ensure, not that this never happens again, but, what can we do to ensure that we are ready. Ready to present the Gospel message. Ready to provide comfort to those in need. Ready to die, if that is to be our lot in life.

How do we present the Gospel message in a society that is so quick to plug it's collective ears, turn it's back and sneer at our "narrow-mindedness"? First, we must live each day, each moment as if it we our last. This would give us the proper perspective, the perspective that is known as having "eternities values in mind". If I live in such a manner, I will not miss any opportunity to present the gospel to the "dying". Second, we must live out our salvation in a credible, tangible fashion. Our friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances would see how Christ would have lived. They will see that salvation is more than our souls being saved. It is about living and breathing our Christianity.

This is not to say that we must shove God down everyone's throats. We must be quietly proclaiming the Gospel with our actions, not just our words. We must truly walk the walk. We must prove that not all Christians are just talk. In our meekness, we must boldly proclaim Christ's Lordship of our lives.

If we do not do these things, then we are just rejecting Christ and His redemptive sacrifice. If we do not do these things, then we will be just as guilty as those two boys are for taking those lives. If we remember that we are the only living representation of Christ and His redemptive work on Earth, then we will have Christ's values in mind. We must be ready, in season and out of season.

If we wake up in the morning and we do not know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we would go to heaven if we are to die, then we need to do some soul searching. I have no doubts that Christ wept for the lives of those two boys, the lives of those who were not saved and died, and ultimately, for those sleeping Christians who stood by and failed to reach out to those two tortured souls.

Ultimately, we must be the ones who show this ailing world the love of God. For if we don't, then who will?

The Christian Walk is Like a Mountain Biking Trip

Here is something I found recently on an old 3.5" floppy disk. Read and (hopefully) enjoy:

Just last week, a couple of friends of mine from work talked me into going mountain biking with them. They planned on biking in the foothills of the mountains that surround Spokane. Now, these men had a reputation for being fast and reckless as well as fun and wild riders. When I brought it up to my wife, she simply stated that she wanted me back in one piece. I don't know why, as I felt that two of me would be a great gift to all mankind, not just her. I guess she was just being selfish and short-sighted. Anyway, I agreed to go with them.

A few days later, rented mountain bike in my car, we met at a friend's apartment. We would then convoy on over to our jump off point. Upon arriving at a local state park, we assembled our bikes. Then some ground rules were explained to me. I was not expected to stay with them, that I should go at my own pace. I figured that they didn't want me to embarrass them with my speedy biking. Come to find out, they didn't want me to hurt myself or possibly over-extend myself. I would show them. I was reassured that whenever they changed trails, someone would wait for me in order to guide me along to the right trail. I guess my wife didn't tell them about my great sense of direction. Then again, maybe she did. I think I'll have to ask her when I get home today. Anyway...

As we cycled on from our jump off point, I quickly realized that I was significantly out-classed. I didn't care, though, I was simply determined to go to the end of the adventure that they had planned out for us. The only thing they didn't tell me was just how far we were going to go. Nothing, in my mind, would stop me, except maybe a bear or mud slide or ....

We rode down little, narrow trails. Some were icy, some wet. Some were up to a few inches of tire stopping mud gumbo. We even traversed paved roads from time to time. Some of the trails were so overgrown with saplings that we would get slapped silly by the branches of the little fir trees. I even managed to lay my bike down on a patch of slick ice (read, I slow motion...yes, I am that talented). This elicited cheers from my comrades.

From time to time, we would leave the trails to go up the previously mentioned paved roads. Some were very steep inclines, so steep in fact, that they threatened to pull me down to the base of the hill. The going was rough, the pain in the legs and lungs was excruciating. I had to often times get off of the bike because my legs were too sore for me to ride on. Instead of stopping completely in order to rest, I walked the bike over and around the really rough spots. I didn't stop, I simply kept on keeping on.

The biking was hard work. The pain of the hills and the thrill and ease of the declines are not to be forgotten anytime soon. Yet, through it all, one of my fellow cyclists would double back to check up on me and to encourage me to go on a little further, even to give me a drink of their refreshing water. It made it all seem worthwhile, that the end was in easy biking range, even when we were many miles from the end. They never let me get lost when they changed trails. They would even stop and let me catch up with them.

Though I was the last to arrive back at our vehicles, I still made it. Even though I had to get off of the bike and walk over some rough spots, I still kept going. Yet, without my friends, I not only would have probably given up, I would never have even attempted to go mountain biking. Eight miles I traveled that afternoon, all because of my friends.

While I was riding along, I had the opportunity to compare this little trek with my friends and the Christian walk. I could see many parallels:

1. Someone, maybe a friend, convinces you that you need to take the Journey (that you need God's salvation).

2. You meet your friends at a central location (maybe church, maybe at a coffee house or a friend's apartment).

3. You are instructed on the ground rules (you are taught the Word, usually in simple steps and simple words).

4. You are told to go at your own pace, not to try to go too fast or too hard.

5. You start down the trail (you start your Walk) and it seems easy.

6. Then the trail gets bumpy, maybe even slick and nasty (we all know that we must suffer trials and tribulations).

7. At critical junctures, someone points out the new, correct trail to take (the words of direction or maybe admonishment that I needed).

8. Even when the going gets rough, or maybe lonely, someone who cares takes the time to stop or to double back and give you encouragement or even a little rest (the words of encouragement from someone who has been down the trail before and knows just how hard it can be for a newcomer).

9. With such encouragement and direction from fellow travelers, we find that we are able to keep going, despite the trials. Even if we have to get off the bike and walk it, we can keep going and just around the bend we will find the going easier, the air fresher, and a sip of cool, refreshing water waiting for us. We can do it.

10. In the end, after all is said and done, we are wrapped in a hug from Jesus and told, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter paradise".

In the end, I came away from the experience a wiser man. My friends didn't cheer me on as if I was a victorious warrior home from battle. But they did give me what I needed at the end of my journey...the end!

Now (23 Sep 08), almost ten years since I went on that journey, I haven't gone mountain biking again. As for my walk with God? Yep, you guessed it, I sometimes have to get off the bike but I always keeping moving forward. And when my race is done, I will be given the Crown of Life from my King. Then, and only, then, can I rest in Him for eternity.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Good bye, Sweet Innocence

This week has been really difficult. On Tuesday night, I was told (via Facebook) that one of my classmates from high school had died the previous day. Jason Gracia wasn't a close friend of mine. He was, though, friends with several of my friends and acquaintances. He was a jock, of sorts, like most of the people in my hometown. He could be the life of the party, the center of attention. He could also be brooding, just like every other teenager.

What we celebrate is his life, not mourn his death. Jay will live on. In the hearts, the minds, and the souls of all who knew him.

Through his death, several of us have grown closer. There is something life affirming in death. Especially at the young age of 36 (brain tumor). Hopefully, each of us who were affected by the death will re-examine our lives, put the important stuff at the top of our priority list, and live our lives to the fullest. Only then will such times of sorrow bring about lasting beauty and joy.

Rest in peace, Jay, you are not forgotten.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Babysitting, Transformers, & Eric Liming

I haven't posted in quite some time. Life has been sort of busy. Not excessively so, mind you, just...sort of.

Right now I am tired and I am watching three neighbor kids. The dad is deployed and the mom doesn't get too much time "away". So that is what I am trying to do, give someone a moment to take a breath.

Have you ever wondered how you come across certain thoughts? I was watching Transformers and I thought about someone I hadn't really given too much thought to over the last twelve or so years. Eric Liming was a fellow Security Policeman way back when. He was awkward and didn't fit in too well. Oh, sure, he had his niche, and he was nice enough. But he wasn't one of "us".

You know the type, the "us"-type. We were self-assured. Young. God's gift to...selfishness and cruelty. Yeah, we were horrible. And back then, we didn't care, not even a little bit. Nope, not at all. If I were to come across the me from back then I'd probably despise myself. I'd sit myself down and explain how what I was doing, saying, and how I was acting was hurting someone who was loved by God, who Jesus would have died for even if he was the only person on Earth who needed Him to sacrifice Himself for. What a total jerk I was. Shame doesn't come close to describing the depth of the feelings I have right now.

Eric, I am so sorry. I want to apologize publicly to you. Please forgive me.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Our Reasonable Service

What is our reasonable service? Is it merely supporting the programs that are available at our church? Is it simply giving 10% of our wealth? What is it, truly?

1. Supporting our church programs - a genuine necessity, to be certain. What is a reasonable amount of participation?
2. Tithe - do we give on our net or our gross earnings? Or, do I give based on the extra entitlements that I receive that are uniquely military in nature? Is it appropriate to give ten percent of our take home pay and ten percent of the income tax return? I realize that wars have been fought over lesser arguments, so I'm not trying to start a controversy. I'm just trying to understand what my reasonable service is.
3. Should we devote most of our "donated" time to our church or should we try to be salt and light to our community by volunteering at secular venues that don't run counter to the mores and values that Christians should espouse? One could easily make a case for both, I suppose.

These are just some of my struggles as of late. Feedback welcome but not mandatory.