I like the Bible. I like the whole story. To me the Bible is an extraordinary work of art, masterfully painted with exacting strokes, contrasting colors, and the most amazing Light source we could ever know. There are parts of this painting, certain parts of its composition that I don’t like in and of themselves; there are dark, foreboding shadows that I don’t even understand. However, when I see the finished piece, Genesis to the Revelation, I marvel at the simplicity and complexity.
The first time I carefully studied The Last Supper (da Vinci) it came to life. I had seen a print of this famous work hanging in Grandma Caldwell’s dining room many, many years ago. I never knew why the disciples looked upset, I didn’t know the context. These days I have to be honest and admit that I don’t really like the painting, mainly because I don’t like this part of the Jesus story–I know the darkness that is soon to come. I do like the technical ability of da Vinci and am amazed at the creativity and skill it took to paint this story. Leonardo allows us to see biblical drama; he tells a story with his brush.
I have spent much of my Christian life just learning to see. That’s a request I share with a blind guy whose request of Jesus was simply, “Lord, I want to see.” That’s a pretty good request, to see. The crazy thing about it is, Plato claimed we could only see lines and shapes; he was certain that true form was beyond our paltry five senses. I suppose he was correctly guessing that there must be something more, something eternal. The theme of our humanity is just that, there must be something more. The Scripture explains it this way, “God has placed eternity in our hearts.”
I’ve often thought of my life as a painting. For one thing, that’s the only way I can understand my choices against God’s almighty plan. Continue reading The Truth in Art→
“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” Acts 4:32
The first time I read this passage I thought, “Wow, that sounds pretty idealistic, a community that could share like that.”
The word common is found in many important words: Commune, Communion, Community, Communication, Commitment, and yes, Communism . . . For your rumination this day I simply offer the idea behind all these words — BELONGING.
To whom does it belong? What belongs to us? Where do we belong?
Across the Red Dirt State there are a fantastic number of communities. I haven’t lived in Apache, Oklahoma in over 38 years, and yet I am connected, I belong. I am most familiar with the western part of the state. These communities are beautiful; they are a tapestry of hard working, caring people. It takes people to act and demonstrate the meaning of each word in my little word-bank above.
Do you have a community? Are you committed to it? Do you commune there?
Why community? The first community is the Holy Trinity. God has always existed in relationship and we are created in His image. We know there something beautiful about:
Unity – Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace Ephesians 4:2
Shared labor – Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Harmony – And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14
Belonging – Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. I Corinthians 12:27
Connectivity – they had everything in common.” Acts 4:32
As we approach Easter weekend, let’s pray that church communities will come to life in a revival of sorts. The best individual revival is communion with God, through Christ, convey through the Holy Spirit. When this brings us wonderfully to our knees, I pray we can look to our left and to our right and there see others in communion too.
“Ave, imperator; morituri te salutant” These words were supposedly the salutation of Roman Gladiators, “We who are about to die salute you.” It is a homage of sorts, a tribute to the mighty State. Two-thousand years ago it was Rome. Today it’s Survivor or American Idol. However you want to cut it up, the outcome is the same. Sure, you get a hero, but the entertainment is watching the pain and suffering; it’s about watching one contestant after the other have their dream, their hope finally put to death. After all, “The Tribe Has Spoken!”
What’s next? In Suzanne Collin’s future world, next is Panem, and the made for TV mega hit, The Hunger Games.
I have spoken with several parents of young adolescents and they voiced a common concern. “My kid really wants to read The Hunger Games, but I just can’t let them.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“All that violence, I skimmed through it,” a very responsible mother confided to me, “and I just think the premise of children killing children is horrible!”
“Fair enough, and if I thought that was the crux of the story I would agree, but I think the book is about something good, something true, and something beautiful.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Love,” I responded, “it’s a story about this dark and painful existence in a world gone wrong — still, there is love, a I Corinthians, chapter 13 kind of love.”
It’s likely that a young person is going to read this book or watch the movie and like it . . . a lot. The question is “why?” A few weeks ago I sat with a group of about twenty-five kids who had read The Hunger Games. They came in on their lunch periodto discuss the book with some adults. Here is what we unpacked:
There is a clear and distinct villain in the story. We talked about violence, oppression, fear, poverty, indulgence, manipulation, and how that the “bad people” in the story put us off. Sure, there is the evil President Snow, but what about all those shallow people who have succumbed to the violence and oppression? The teens had no trouble seeing through to the hollow souls of the citizens of the Capitol. Say, these young kids are pretty smart.
The clear and distinct heroine of the story is Katniss, a wonderfully strong female character whose skills simple and beautiful. These talents represent her relationship with her father. Though this fact was a small offering at the beginning of the book, the students all nodded their approval when a freshman girl said, “I just liked the way Katniss and her dad related.” Her skills were used for sustenance, hunting for food — daily bread. The kids liked the relationship between Katniss and her father. Katniss is awkwardly good with relationships, and that seemed altogether good according the group of kids I talked to. (Every teen can relate to feelings of being socially awkward.)
Truth and Love
The MOMENT OF TRUTH is early in the story. Katniss’ young sister, the delicate Primrose basically receives a death sentence, and the good, true, and beautiful words are cried out, “I volunteer!” She is NOT volunteering to go kill other children; she IS laying down her life for save her sister. In that moment we see a life poured out. It’s sad, but it is beautiful.
We talked about sacrificial love. We discussed giving, serving, helping and caring; the idea of sacrifice was brought up and a student quickly noted how parents work and sacrifice to provide for their children. And the teens talked about the love of Jesus. He too sacrificed much. The Son of God looked at the judgment of the cross, the price to be paid for sin, and those words resounded, “I volunteer!”
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” After all the pretenders and all the fakes have come and gone (the movie did a great job of re-creating a the outward facade of the shallow/lost cosmopolites) , only the Son of God will reign supreme. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
If you’re a fan of the Hunger Games, think about all that the Capitol represents. Base entertainment, acquiescence to outward appearance, and selfish indulgence, it’s a world gone bad, fake, and grotesque. “Truth” is what is left after all the facade is pulled away. Katniss is who we hope we can be in the face of all that is wrong. She is an aggressive protector, but it’s hard to interpret her as a violent character.
Teenagers are not put off by the violence; they see that kind of violence everyday in middle schools across America. It’s the violence against every person’s soul (but that another blog).
Katniss is pulled from her world of family and a very stark existence. Welcome to the Capitol where appearance is everything and substance is a rare commodity. Welcome to the real world, except, there is not much that is real. (Do not love the world, neither the things in the world…” I John 2:15) Katniss is introduced to indulgence at the grand level; here is the outcome of a world without truth — a society that is anesthetized by entertainment, food, and appearances (“…for all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.” I John 2:16)
Though her world may be stark, we learn that Katniss is rich in what matters most. She is rich in relationship, she is rich in spirit, and she has empathetic capacities that matter in this story. Mostly, she demonstrates selfless love.
There are a hundred other little nuances of The Hunger Games that cause me to reflect on my faith and the virtues of personal identity, character, strength of will, and hope. I have learned this, you might be surprised to learn what you can learn from a teenager and The Hunger Games.
GROWTH — I’m a Papa. I have grandchildren and a garage full of all the right tools. I am 55 years old growing. I have been reading my Bible, praying, serving, and trying to honor God for the past 35 years. I don’t always like it, but I am still growing. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to be when I grow up. God is still working on me. Yes, there is still plenty of room for growth.
I think of my desire to continue to grow and mature. I want to become the right kind of follower of Jesus Christ. I want to reflect the love described in I Corinthians, chapter 13. It’s what the Apostle Paul calls, “a more excellent way.” As an educator I picked up on the biblical standards for growth that a Stanford psychology professor applies to adolescent brain development.
According to Carol Dweck (Mindsets and Equitable Education), growth happens best with teenagers when rightly responding in five key areas their lives:
SUCCESS OF OTHERS
That’s great for kids, but I find that when I am growing God is using these things as my “growth agents.” Let me explain…
Challenges must be something I embrace; I learn something new from them; “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Obstacles help me become stronger and build fortitude, think obstacle course; “…perseverance produces character and character produces hope…” Romans 5:3
Effort becomes the active manifestation of the faith I hold. “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:17
Criticism is painful, but I recognize, not only can I learn something, but criticsim won’t destroy my true foundation. “and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” I Peter 3:16
Success of others is to be celebrated. Oh what joy when I trust God so much that I am happy when others receive praise. When I trust God I am free from despair or resentment when others are exhalted, even when they don’t deserve it. “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” Romans 12:15
It’s been over 45 years since Mom gave her first haircut in Caldwell’s Barber Shop. And though so many years have passed, she will tell you exactly who her first customer was and what he said. Mom was a nervous twenty-nine year old and had just graduated from the Lawton Barber School. Dad needed help, especially on Friday afternoons and all day Saturdays.
Mom is quick to remind anyone asking, not hair-stylist, not hair-dresser turned hair-cutter; Mom didn’t take short cuts with clipper attachments and she used a straight razor around the ears. It was in a barber shop after all, not a salon. (You go to a barber shop to get a flat-top or tapered clipper cut; you go to a salon to get highlights and over priced scissor cut. I think much more highly of the barbershop, but I am biased, I’m the son of barbers.)
I like the smell of a real barber shop. Give me some Jeris hair tonic and I’m home again.
The barber shop is the ultimate man cave (though I read recently that “man cave” is passé). My point is, it’s a man’s world inside an old fashioned barber shop. My Mom handled herself quite nicely inside the mancave, she learned to trade barbs with the guys and not to take the smart alecks too seriously. When a fella made a crack about the lady barber, she could crack right back. Continue reading Big Little Words→
Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.