When someone so well-loved, widely regarded, respected, and talented as Robin Williams was passes on it’s like losing a friend. Or a family member. This is someone who came into our homes week after week, who we visited at the cineplex, who was in the news.

So it hits hard.

Doubly so, and especially for those of is who grew up watching Mr. Williams’s work, because it reminds us of stark naked reality: if someone so rich, successful, and nearly universally loved as Williams was can die, so can we all.

We are not immune to death’s call. So far as I know there’s but one way to enter this world (birth), and though it take a myriad forms, one way to leave it:

Death.

As the story of Williams’s death broke we all felt you chill winds of mortality blow over our souls. Wealth, success, fame, power, regard are no antidote. While wealth may buy us extra time, it’s no guarantee. The late Steve Jobs was a billionaire, was able to extemd his life by a few years, yet still he had to pay the boatman.

Death, as Shakespeare said, is the “undiscovered country, from whose borne no traveler returns.” Even those of us who are Christians don’t know what awaits us on the other side. We have the Bible, and we have hope. But none of, despite claims to the contrary, has actually crossed over, seen what lies in that far country, and come back to report our findings.

It doesn’t work that way. God generally does not, as much as we wish it, gives us foreknowledge of our own ends. He teaches is instead to number our days, to live as if He were coming back, indeed to live as if each day was our last.

Because we never know. It could be a car accident, a plane crash, a heart attack, a tumor, or any number of things which could lay each one of us low. The only think I know that is sure, upon which I have staked my life, is this:

“He that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. He that lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

That’s what it comes down to, friends:

Faith, and

Trust

Where are you placing yours? Knowing that this one life you’ve been given here upon this earth will end, where–in whom–are you placing your faith, your trust?

Your (eternal) life depends upon it.

This post was occasioned by the Crash Synchroblog.

Apparently, I have been impacted by the death of beloved celebrities long before I knew what a celebrity was. You see, as a toddler I’m told I watched Bonanza with my parents. I wasn’t yet three years old when Dan Blocker (“Hoss”) died, and I’m told I cried. Many artists, actors, writers, performers have died since that day in May, 1973; I can’t say that I’ve again reacted with open weeping.

But I have felt profound sadness, even melancholy. When someone with whom I had spent many happy hours leaves this life behind I’m not untouched. The late Douglas Adams, with his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, made me laugh. Made me think. When he died–after a workout at the age of forty-nine, thirteen years ago this past May–it touched me more deeply than I would have supposed. I suppose it’s because I knew his work, had as I said above, spent many a happy hour reading of Arthur Dent’s galaxy-spanning adventures, busting a gut all the while.

Adams’s light had gone out.

I felt the same when I heard Robert Jordan had succumbed to cardiac amyloidosis in September of 2007. I had spent hours, days, months reading his Wheel of Time books. Though I didn’t know the man, it felt like an old friend had passed beyond mortal realms and into the undiscovered country (from whose borne no traveler returns).

I felt it again yesterday upon hearing the news of Robin Williams’s passing. I grew up watching Mork and Mindy, saw The World According to Garp in the theater, enjoyed Mrs. Doubtfire (“It was a run-by fruiting!”). Essentially, I had grown up with him. He was with me from childhood to marriage to childrearing. I was able to share his work with my children: Toys, Jumanji, the Night at the Museum movies.

Now his light, after a lifelong struggle with depression, has gone out of the world. I’m not going to disparage his struggles, but neither will I romanticize his death: suicide is never the answer, folks. Life is a gift, and is worth holding onto even thought it may appear all light has gone out of it. Because, even as dark as things may seem, there is at least the promise of dawn. Maybe I don’t understand at all clinical depression, and have never personally been deep down that dark rabbit hole. That’s as may be. I guess what I’m saying is: why now? After beating back his demons for 63 years, what made the man decide not to fight on (having slain those dragons before). What made him despair of living?

Maybe we’ll never know.

What I do know is that his legacy will live on through his work, and that he is being widely memorialized with words, and scenes, from his best know roles: Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, and Good Morning Vietnam. As iconic as those are, I’d like to leave you with this scene from 1984′s Moscow on the Hudson:

Good night, Robin Williams. When you said, in Bloomingdale’s, that you “vant to defecht” none of us knew that it would be this soon.

Time Off

randomlychad  —  August 6, 2014 — 2 Comments

I’m taking time off work this week to spend some time with my family before the school year gets into full swing. There wasn’t a plan–we didn’t map out the week’s activities.

Not to say we haven’t done anything; we have. It’s just that, tied to schedules as we are: church, small group, who’s got ballet, who’s sleeping over, getting to work, etc… It feels good to pause. Like a break in the action of a particularly intense thriller, or the quiet after a dramatic scene in a book (like Gandalf falling into the chasm at Kazad Düm), we needed a break.

Time to catch our collective breaths, time to pause, take stock.

A time free from rote routine.

I think that’s a good thing. We, all of us, can only push so hard at life before it pushes back, and the stresses of demands, obligations, schedules threaten to overwhelm us.

It’s nice to take time, and simply do nothing. Face life without a map, or even a compass, and just enjoy it. I, of course, write this from a place of calm and comfort. My holiday will end, back to work I’ll go, and the kids will be back in school.

I hope to take just enough of the calm with me to carry me through. Because I think the point of mountaintops isn’t to live there (having summited Everest, none may abide in that place), but rather to take enough of mountain back into the valleys with us. <-- That is the art and skill of life well-lived, friends.

Now: how do we make it reality?

Changes

randomlychad  —  August 2, 2014 — 3 Comments

I’m not one to do things by half measures. I’m, like most men, sort of binary like that. I either don’t workout at all, or (like now) I’ve joined a gym, and am working out days per week.

It’s all about changes, really. I see my body changing, my energy flagging, and my waistline expanding. Time was, I didn’t have to do anything about it. I could eat what I wanted.

But the carefree days of youth are gone–replaced by sobering reality:

Things cannot continue as they have been. It’s time that childish ways were put behind me (while simultaneously keeping my childlike sense of wonder intact). I think about the future, about being there for my family…

It’s about far more than just exercise–as important as that is. It’s about setting an example, about leaving a legacy. To that end, while I’m exercising the self-discipline to condition my body, I’m also involved in counseling. Because I want to discipline my soul. I want to free myself from the wrong ways I’ve handled things.

I want to set an example for my family that continues long after I’m gone.

I want to finish strong.

So I work, and strive, now to build not just a better body, but a better soul. For it was for freedom that Christ set us free. I don’t want to continue to be entangled in the negative influences, and patterns, that have shaped me until now. It’s time to let that go.

I’ve learned something along the way I’d like to pass onto you:

It’s not enough to just let something (bad, negative, hurtful, sinful) go; no, else we risk leaving a void.

We have to replace those former things with something good, uplifting, holy.

You see, I’m making a lot of changes lately. I’m tearing down one house in order to build it upon a better foundation.

Changes.

Are there any you need to make?

noah giveaway_1

As you may, or may not, know, the Noah movie has been released on Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital. This movie generated quite a bit of dialogue both before, and during, it’s theatrical release. While we as Christians may not agree with the artistic license Darren Aronofsky employed in making the film, I think we can all agree that he had that right. Before we get into a debate about the movie’s artistic merits, or lack thereof, we would do well do remember that written works (such as the Bible is) and films are very different artistic mediums. What works well on the page doesn’t always translate to the screen. And the account of Noah as recorded in Scripture is very short. It is also completely without conflict. What I’m saying is that Mr. Aronofsky had scripted, and filmed, his movie with slavish adherence to the text it wouldn’t be a movie worth seeing: it would be woefully short, and without conflict.

Conflict is what drives stories. At their most basic, stories are about a character who wants something, and undergoes conflict to get it. In an industry dominated by the almighty dollar, name me a studio that would finance a wide theatrical release films which clocks in about twenty minutes. Who would pay to see that? (I wouldn’t. Movies are frightfully expensive these days. I’m not plunking down my hard-earned scratch on something unless it tells a compelling story. It has to be worth my time). There isn’t one. Added to that is that fact that Hollywood, by and large, isn’t in the business of catering to Christians. Why should we expect them to do so? Is that reasonable? In Celebrate Recovery, they have a maxim that goes: “Accepting this sinful world, as Jesus did, as it is, and not as I would have it to be.” Which is to say that, as people of faith, we would do well to moderate our expectations of the entertainment product coming of the movie industry. They, being very being very much interested in the bottom line, have to make a product which appeals to the broadest audience possible. That said, I have no compunction about avoiding most of the films, T.V. shows, what have which originate there. I know very well what the Scripture says about the love of money being a root of all kinds of evil.

That’s a given.

In this particular case, that of Noah, yes, Aronofsky used both the Bible, and extra-biblical sources (midrash, etc). We may not agree with that. We may not like all of his choices, or the way Noah is depicted on screen. However, let’s not forget the one, singular truth here: a director has been given the greenlight to make a big budget film about Noah, the ark, sin, justice, forgiveness, redemption. Again, we may not agree with everything that takes place on screen. Nevertheless, the fact that this film was made gives us a giant opportunity to talk about: Noah, the ark, sin, justice, forgiveness, and redemption. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees here. The good news is that the Bible has been brought back into the multiplex in a big way (this December, director Ridley Scott’s Exodus Gods and Kings will bow).

My opinion? When God hands us an opportunity this large we best use it. People that aren’t normally open to discussing the Bible will be open, will have questions.

And we need to be there… with the Good News.

And there’s more good news for anyone reading this post: in conjunction with Grace Hill Media, I’m giving away a special edition box set of Noah. Just follow the instructions below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway