Thursday, April 16, 2009

A daily devotion I'm using

If you want to get a good daily devotion via email, here's one I found that I really enjoy: "The High Calling of Our Daily Work". When you go to that website, you'll see that you can sign up either for a daily reflection (that's what I get) or a "weekly calling." Currently, the daily reflection is based on the book of Romans.

These daily reflections are the work of Dr. Mark D. Roberts, formerly the senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine, CA. His bio says that he's now the Senior Director and Theologian in Residence of Laity Lodge in Kerrville, TX. Roberts got his Ph.D. in New Testament and Christian Origins from Harvard. He also teaches at Fuller Seminary.

Each daily devotion consists of a Scripture passage (with a link to the NLT), a short reading by Dr. Roberts, some questions for reflection, and a prayer. The readings are practical expositions of the passage.

If you're in need of a resource to help you grow in Christ, try it out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Longest Trip Home

Yesterday I finished reading John Grogan's memoir, The Longest Trip Home. Grogan is also the author of Marley & Me (the movie version of which I reviewed here). He's a highly entertaining writer: funny, thought-provoking, and able to pull on the heartstrings. At the end of the book I was crying, it was so poignant.

The Longest Trip Home takes us through Grogan's life up to the present. Most of the emphasis falls upon his relationship with his parents and what it was like growing up in the suburbs of Detroit during the 1960s. Grogan is about my age, so I could identify with his illustrations of the generation gap between him and his parents and the changing mores of American culture during that volatile period. He breezes quickly through most of his adult years, concentrating instead on his formative years and the time period surrounding the death of his father a few years ago.

Grogan is frank about many themes and events in his life: his sexual awkwardness, drug use, deceptions, political and moral ideology, feelings toward his parents and siblings, and (especially) religion. In fact, religion is the leading theme of the book. Grogan's parents were extremely devout Catholics. Yet Grogan grew up dismissive of Christianity, skeptical of everything his parents believed, and hostile toward the Roman Catholic life. Slowly but surely, Grogan grew more open to the spirit (if not the letter) of his parents' faith. By the end of the book Grogan is assimilating some of his parents' religious values back into his life, sans the Catholic trappings.

While Grogan's parents may have gone over the top in how they lived out their religious faith, they did a lot of things right. They walked the talk. They set good examples. They were consistent. They were bold in challenging John to examine his heart and not ignore God. They managed to challenge their kids in the area of religion while making sure their kids knew they loved them immensely. Those are accomplishments I would hope one of my kids could write a book about someday.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Martian Child

Martian Child is a 2007 film starring John Cusack. I rented it recently and found it moving and engaging. It has a lot to say about God's love for us and our acceptance of other people.

Cusack plays David Gordon, a widower who decides to adopt a little boy out of the foster care system. Interestingly, the story is based on the novel The Martian Child by David Gerrold, who wrote the book about his own experience adopting a little boy. Cusack, one of my favorite actors, is believable in the role. The child actor is also excellent.

The story goes like this: Gordon finds a boy named Dennis, who claims to be from Mars. Dennis spends his days hiding in a box so he doesn't get damaged by the sun. Gordon wins the boy's trust, and eventually his love. Along the way, each of them learns to accept the other just the way he is.

The movie presents a truthful picture of the very real tragedies of death and child neglect. You can feel the emptiness in the house and in Gordon's soul as he mourns the loss of his wife. Later in the movie, his beloved dog dies too, and that is a particularly poignant and honest scene.

But my favorite take-away from Martian Child is the analogy it provides to God's adopting love. Like Dennis, we all have sinful, wounded hearts. And like Dennis, we deal with our sins and wounds by creating and living inside our own stories that seem to offer life without God. As Dan Allender says in The Wounded Heart, we develop "self-protective defenses that operate largely outside of our awareness, guiding our interactions with others, determining the spouse we select, the jobs we pursue, the theologies we embrace, and the fabric of our entire lives." Only as we are willing to look honestly at our sin and explore our wounds can we begin to find the joy we seek in a relationship with God and other people.

Through Christ's person and work, God sought out and adopted for his own children a bunch of broken, misguided human beings (Galatians 4:4-6). We are all Martians. We have run from reality and from relationship with God. We would even disintegrate God if we could (as at one point Dennis tries to disintegrate David Gordon). Nevertheless, God set his love upon us - not because of anything in us, but because of his electing covenant love. And like Gordon tells Dennis in the movie, God will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever let us go (Hebrews 13:5).

Friday, April 03, 2009

My Friday group

I am having the best time meeting each Friday morning with three college-age guys who attend my church: Ted, Antonio, and Michael. We meet for an hour at Boston Coffeehouse. During the week we read 10 chapters of a book of the Bible on our own, then on Fridays we walk through those 10 chapters together. We share what we learned, ask questions of the text and each other, and offer whatever personal insights we have.

These guys re-energize me and often give me wholly new perspectives on Scripture. I don't normally sit down with college guys and hear about their world. It's awesome.

We finished the book of Genesis last week, and today we discussed Exodus 1-10. They ask the best questions, and together we're able to hear God speak in ways we might not individually.

Movies lately

I've been bad about not posting any reviews for a long time. Here are some movies (good and bad) I've seen in the past few months:
  • Gran Torino - a moving, gripping, at times funny but convicting story about prejudice, repentance, and community that points very clearly to Calvary. I highly recommend this one, just be ready for a lot of street language.
  • Slumdog Millionaire - Theme: God's grace to the despised and rejected. It's hard to watch for the violence involving children, but if you can get past that it's a wonderful story.
  • Margot at the Wedding - This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Don't rent it. Talk about depressing! And the stuff the child actors were exposed to...sad.
  • Watchmen - Hated every minute of it. Pretentious, pornographic, manipulative, etc.
  • He's Just Not That into You - Don't give me a hard time for seeing this; I was with my wife on a date! Actually, I liked it! It had a positive message about marriage and commitment.
  • The Wrestler - This is not for everybody. It's very raw. Scenes of men damaging each other's and their own bodies are perfectly horrible. But great acting and a compelling story of "redemption received and refused" make this a powerful film.