Monday, February 28, 2011

Dancing Thom

One of my favorite bands, Radiohead, came out with their eighth studio album a two Fridays ago called The King of Limbs. There is a video out for one of the tracks, Lotus Flower. It's basically just Thom Yorke (the lead singer) dancing in way that some might call weird but I call amazing! Check it out:

In honor of his moves, a site was recently launched called Dancing Thom. People are basically mashing up the above video with other random songs. It's definitely worth checking out. Here's my favorite so far:

You can also check out Paste's favorites here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Encounter with Aslan: The Dawn Treader

My favorite Aslan encounter in the Narnia series comes from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace, who had been turned into a dragon, is explaining to Edmund how he got turned back into a boy:
"Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly toward me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn't that kind of fear. I wasn't afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it -- if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn't any good because it told me to follow it."

"You mean it spoke?"

"I don't know. Now that you mention it, I don't think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I'd have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I'd never seen before and on top of this mountain there was a garden -- trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well."

"I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells -- like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words out loud or not."

I was just going to say I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that is what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales started coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it deals after an illness, or if I was a banana. In a minute of two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down to the well for my bathe."

"But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin tore off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe."

"Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I had looked at myself in the water I knew that it had been no good."

"Then the lion said -- but I don't know if it spoke -- 'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it."

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is fun to see it coming away."

"I know exactly what you mean," said Edmund.

"Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I had no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phony if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them."

"After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me -- "

"Dressed you? With his paws?"

"Well, I don't exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes – the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think that it must have been a dream."

"No, it wasn't a dream," said Edmund.

"Why not?"

"Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been -- well, un-dragoned, for another."

"What do you think it was then?" asked Eustace.

"I think you've seen Aslan", said Edmund.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tim Keller on MSNBC

It's refreshing to hear a Christian leader graciously and winsomely talk about the truth of Christianity in a TV interview. Keller does so here

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, February 21, 2011

Encounter with Aslan: The Silver Chair

I've been reading through The Chronicles of Narnia recently, since I received them for Christmas. It is my very first time through and I am loving them. It's opened up a new world of C.S. Lewis for me, as this is the first of his fiction that I've read. Not surprisingly, I love his way with words and his imagination.

My favorite moments of the books have been the encounters with Aslan. I finished The Silver Chair last night and wanted to share my favorite part of the book. It is a conversation between Jill, as she first meets Aslan:
“If you are thirsty, you may drink.”

They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink,” and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time,and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.

“Are you not thirsty?” said the lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the lion.

“May I – could I – would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

“Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion – no one who had seen his stern face could do that – and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.

Friday, February 18, 2011

An Inside Look At Scientology

My friend Bailey recently told me about an article in The New Yorker entitled The Apostate. It is looking at Scientology, mainly through the experience of screenwriter and film director Paul Haggis. Paul, for a time, was very involved in the "church," as he made it as far up as you can go in their ranks. But in 2009, he began questioning his involvement and has since become an outspoken voice for many of its harmful practices and teachings.

I have some special interest in Scientology because I (along with Bailey and many others) spent three summers in the early 2000s in Clearwater, Florida, a couple miles from its worldwide spiritual headquarters. We would often witness the odd behavior of the members walking around the streets in their strange uniforms. With much intrigue, I began researching to know more about this movement/religion/cult or whatever you want to call it.

It was founded in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard. Here's a quick overview of the "church" from the article:
The Church of Scientology says that its purpose is to transform individual lives and the world. “A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology,” Hubbard wrote. Scientology postulates that every person is a Thetan—an immortal spiritual being that lives through countless lifetimes. Scientologists believe that Hubbard discovered the fundamental truths of existence, and they revere him as “the source” of the religion.

Hubbard’s writings offer a “technology” of spiritual advancement and self-betterment that provides “the means to attain true spiritual freedom and immortality.” A church publication declares, “Scientology works 100 percent of the time when it is properly applied to a person who sincerely desires to improve his life.” Proof of this efficacy, the church says, can be measured by the accomplishments of its adherents. “As Scientologists in all walks of life will attest, they have enjoyed greater success in their relationships, family life, jobs and professions. They take an active, vital role in life and leading roles in their communities. And participation in Scientology brings to many a broader social consciousness, manifested through meaningful contribution to charitable and social reform activities.”
And here's a good description of their practice of Dianetics:
“Dianetics” purports to identify the source of self-destructive behavior—the “reactive mind,” a kind of data bank that is filled with traumatic memories called “engrams,” and that is the source of nightmares, insecurities, irrational fears, and psychosomatic illnesses. The object of Dianetics is to drain the engrams of their painful, damaging qualities and eliminate the reactive mind, leaving a person “Clear.”
After reading the article, it becomes obvious that Scientology is almost exclusively a religion based on pragmatism rather than truth. No one seems to make any truth claim apart from commending how the beliefs and practices make life work better. But it's ironic that, pragmatically speaking, it seems to fail. People don't seem happier. They seem controlled and much poorer than when they started.

I'd encourage you to read the entire article, because it is quite fascinating. Though I should warn you that it is rather lengthy.

Also, a few years back, I saw a special that the BBC did on Scientology called Panorama: Scientology and Me. The reporter has multiple interactions with Tommy Davis (who you would find from the article is Scientology's main PR guy), and it's crazy to watch how much effort Tommy goes into as he tries to stop the BBC from doing their story. You can watch it in four separate YouTube videos:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Whole Point of Being a Christian

After referencing this quote by Margaret Durham (1668), Ray Ortlund says this:
"...Personal communion with Christ is real. It is the whole point of being a Christian. It is what the Bible is for. It is our endless future.

...The Puritans, among others, knew a lot about it. They experienced it. They pursued it. Have we graduated to a spiritual level above them, such that we can smile condescendingly? Or is it we who have drifted from the sacred center and need to repent and come back and reengage with our Lord in profound and very, very personal ways?"
This seems to be a simple truth, one that should be very obvious to me. But as I read these words, I have become profoundly convicted.

Somewhere along the way I have preferred to read books about biblical truth than actually read the Bible in order to commune with my heavenly Father. I have become complacent and lazy. More than that, I have become rebellious, preferring entertainment and everything else to fellowship with Him. I repent. Lord help me desire You.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Jesus Wants to Meet Us in Our Shame

Over at the CCEF blog, Ed Welch writes about the differences between shame and guilt. He says that guilt is usually black and white. You either did wrong or you didn't. Shame, however, is harder to pinpoint. He says, "With shame, we feel like we did wrong, but we can’t always identify what that wrong was, or we can identify a thousand wrongs, though none of them might be the actual trigger for shame."

He goes on to talk about how shame is not something that is talked a lot about in church or our communities. Because of that, shame is often left unidentified and continues to to plague us. We must seek to identify those things in our lives that have brought shame.

I began this process in my own life a few years back. I knew I struggled with anxiety and nervousness in different social situations but never knew why. I also knew I was an approval junkie, constantly needing others to validate me. God began revealing how I had believed certain lies growing up and had massive amounts of shame associated with this anxiety. Because these lies and the shame have been brought more into the light, God has begun bringing great amounts of freedom in this area, freeing me to let God's love be enough for me.

Back to Ed Welch's post, here are a few key paragraphs that I thought were helpful::
Shame has to do with your standing before God and your standing in the community. You think you should be unaffected by the opinions and words of other people? Not so. We were created to live in community, and anything that jeopardizes our inclusion goes against who we really are.

Worthlessness is an easy place to begin defining shame. Have you ever felt worthless? I am guessing that I am not alone in this one. I feel worthless when I notice student indifference after a lecture, when I preach and know that I was less than helpful, when I become alert to my weaknesses as a counselor and wonder why I am inflicting myself on people, and, of course, I could go on.

Worthlessness evokes images of value. It means that your standing with others has gone way down. You know you are a failure, so does everyone else. Our despair over our worthlessness could reflect our pride. That is, “I feel so bad because I want to be great.” And, no doubt, there is pride mixed in with worthlessness. But Jesus doesn’t go to lepers and talk about their pride. Instead, he touches them as a way to show his fellowship and acceptance, and he restores them to his community, though acceptance into the community of mortals like us is not guaranteed.

Shame. You feel worthless, rejected, dirty and exposed. Sometimes you feel it because of what you have done, in which case your badness must exceed community standards. For example, there are some things that Christians confess in public – a little bit of lust, anxieties about money, not listening to a spouse, erratic quiet times. These are the sins that, when you confess them, everyone is nodding in agreement. But there are other acts that leave everyone else in silence because these sins are less common and less acceptable. Shame attaches itself to these sins. But not only to these sins...

Shame does indeed have many faces. It seems to be everywhere and yet still be elusive. Maybe that’s why you can’t do anything with it until you put words on it. But God puts words on it, so we should too. That itself can be hopeful. It can also leave us wanting more. If you want more right away, just watch Jesus. He goes out of his way to meet, touch, bless, and restore the shamed:
  • a Samaritan woman who is not measuring up to community standards
  • a woman who sexual past identified her as a “sinful woman”
  • lepers
  • tax collectors
  • a woman whose bleeding renders her unclean
  • a disciple who denied any association with him
The Gospel of Jesus is “I am yours and you are mine, and I’m not letting you get away.”

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

American Hyper-Instrospection

Ethan Watters, the author of Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, responds to a few questions from Adbusters. One question Ethan responds to is summarily stated "What is the root cause of the epidemic of mental illness we are currently experiencing? His response:
"If I had to put my money on one idea then it would be the American notion of the egocentric mind – the idea that you are the captain of your own destiny and that you should be able to chart your own path and find your own happiness and control your own destiny fundamentally without the need for others. I think that this idea in the West – and in America in particular – has led to a great deal of insecurity and a general loading of our psychopathology. I think that the human animal is much more of a group animal than the American idea of the mind suggests it to be."
Later on, he expresses the need for more community:
"I think that human beings cannot feel at ease mentally if they are disconnected from their sense of a role within a group. I think that the human mind is deeply permeable to the goals and expectations of the people around us, and if we don’t pay attention to that, if we think of ourselves as the captains of our own destiny, always able to pick ourselves up by our own individual bootstraps, then we are likely to experience that sort of postmodern insecurity that leads us to a certain form of American hyper-introspection – always looking inward."
Also, here's a brief video of Ethan explaining how we as Americans have incorrectly exported our ideas of mental illness to the rest of the world:

(via Roy)