'Control' photo (c) 2010, runran - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’m proud.

Egotistical.

Stubborn.

Fiercely protective of my work.

Handle criticism poorly. (This gets me in no end of trouble).

While I can be at times mellow, catch me at the wrong time and I’m downright mercurial.

I come from a long line of overreactors.
My name is Chad, and I’m a recovering control freak.

My One Word© for 2014 is actually two:

Letting. Go.

How about you?

Can we “let go” together?

Happy New Year!

randomlychad  —  December 31, 2013 — 4 Comments

What? You’re here–reading a blog? Why? Today’s New Year’s! Go eat, drink, and be merry.

But don’t neglect your soul–feed it, too. May 2014, in fact, find you feasting yourself upon Jesus.

I can’t think of a more worthy pursuit.

Happy New Year!

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At the outset, let me just state that I loved The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Now let me tell you why:

The movie opens on Walter, alone, in his apartment, dressed for work, futzing around on social media. More specifically, he’s trying to work up the courage to send a “wink” to a coworker on eHarmony. He finally does, and… it doesn’t work. He can’t send the “wink.”

This begins one of the movie’s funnier subplots (it’s no spoiler to say that this involves Patton Oswalt, as he’s listed in the credits. You’ll just have to watch and find out how the whole eHarmony subplot is resolved). In fact, because I’m something of a literature nerd, this is but one instance of a Chekhov’s gun in the film. Chekhov’s gun, for the uninitiated, is a rule established by dramatist Anton Chekhov stating that one cannot introduce a gun in the first act that is not used later on.

There are numerous instances of this technique on display in Walter Mitty–none of which actually involve a gun. (If you see it, pay attention to: the aforementioned eHarmony subplot, a piano, a skateboard sequence, and a wallet). I bring this up because there is nothing wasted in this movie–the storytelling is tight, and focused. Within that framework, Ben Stiller has crafted a motion picture filled with great whimsy and flights of fancy. It is simultaneously grounded, and yet has its head in the clouds.

What a difference, say, from his 90’s era film, Reality Bites. In watching it, one gets the sense that, yes, reality can bite, but this is no reason to lose heart. In its opening sequence, in drab apartment, inside an even drabber building, that wistful tone is expertly portrayed: Walter is altogether too close to being a man who has lost heart. But it is upon arriving at work that day, when he learns of his company’s impending demise, that his journey begins. In storytelling terms, this is the inciting incident: the catalyst by which a character is forced to act. Walter’s is two-fold:

First, his company is reorganizing, and its next issue will be its last;

Second, a photographer with whom he has closely worked for sixteen years, has sent  negatives, stating that number 25 is his best work ever, and represents “the quintessence of life.”

Thing is, this negative is missing. Helping Walter track it down are his associate, Hernando, and a coworker named Cheryl.

Thus begins Walter’s journey. What begins as a quest for excellence becomes so much more. Walter thinks he is on a trip to find a photographer, but really he’s on a quest to get his heart back.

Isn’t that the same path we’re all on? We want to reclaim our hearts. We know there’s more to life, but have somehow lost it upon the way. On his way, Walter transitions from imaging himself to be a hero to actually being a hero.

He goes from existing to living, from surviving to thriving.

There are potholes on the way, the  temptation to lose heart arises again, but he digs deep, and gets the job done.

And if Walter can, so can I.

So can you.

So go see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. You’ll be glad you did.

Our founding fathers, in an attempt to keep government out of the church, gave us an amendment stating, “Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, nor prohibit the free exercise thereof.” This was meant to safeguard the sanctity of the church, keep government from meddling in its affairs. This Establishment Clause, however is increasingly interpreted to mean that religion has no place in government.

Or in the public discourse.

We’re told it’s a private matter–faith–and as such should be discussed privately. If at all. God help anyone who voices a conservative, biblically informed opinion in the public arena. Because it’s time to get with the program, toe line, march in step with the times.

What was good enough yesterday no longer is.

Is it any wonder?

Lewis wrote of (then) contemporary education producing “men without chests.” People, by and large, devoid of magnanimity and sentiment. He said, “We castrate, and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

A large number of our Ivy League colleges started as seminaries, the Bible used to be used as a reading primer, we used to allow prayer in schools. These things, however, changed over time as we (supposedly) became more enlightened. Certain things were deemed to be in violation of the establishment clause…

Our collective values as a nation shifted away from their foundations in Judeo-Christian tradition. Personal liberty seems to be the order of the day. Is it any wonder? Personally, I blame Darwin. Because, with the advent of evolution, what need had we of God?

When once we knocked the Creator from off of His throne, what tether is there anchoring our values in something solid–something concrete?

Something transcendent?

Nothing.

I submit to you that the fractured nature of our current public discourse has its origins here, in Darwinism. For if we take away from mankind the dignity of being created in the image and likeness of a Creator, what is he but an enlightened beast?

Once God is gone, anything goes.

Sin is no longer sin–just an inherited trait, or a genetic predisposition. A beneficial mutation. Whatever we can conceive of goes. Because we no longer have an anchor tying us to to past, to our “inalienable rights,” “endowed by our Creator.”

Abraham Lincoln said that “all men are created equal,” but how can that be if there is, in fact, no Creator? If we are not created at all? We give lip service to the ideals upon which our nation was founded, but term such language “old-fashioned,” or “traditional.” Surely Lincoln was speaking metaphorically, or poetically, and did not all actually mean we have a literal Creator? Surely, it’s the ideal of equality which matters more?

Upon what are we basing that equality, upon whose standard?

Nothing but prevailing winds of the day.

Evolutionary theory is at the heart of a whole host of things which plague us:

Utilitarian bioethics, which deems some lives more important than others.  If you’re old, infirm, no longer able to make a meaningful contribution–watch out! Or if, say, you’re an embryo with identified birth defects, you don’t deserve a chance. In fact, I contend that without evolutionary theory undergirding it, abortion on demand would never have been legalized.

It’s also at the heart of so-called “values clarification” taught in schools. The idea is children aren’t to taught what to value so much as they supposed to figure it out for themselves. (“Men without chests”). Because they are apparently so very wise and discerning…

I could go on.

With evolution on the table, and with God gone, life no longer has any “endowed” value–for there is no Endower. Life no longer has any inherent value. There is no longer anything to defend at all costs… The only value it has is what we say it has.

And what’s best for humankind seems to be determined by an elite few, or by those with the loudest voices. Or as Owell put it, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

Call me backwards, a fundie, a wingnut, a denier of evolution. I don’t care.

Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God.

No, not the movie starring Tim Allen. No this one stars you. That is to say it’s not a movie at, but rather your life. And it’s unfolding around you in living Technicolor©, blasting your ears with Quadrophonic sound.

You’re at church.

You’re a tither, a regular attender. It’s normally a safe haven–a refuge from the cares and worries of life. But it’s Christmas. And all bets are off. Because the place is packed. Don’t get me wrong–you’re glad all those folks are there. God knows they need to hear the good news.

But you wish they were just a little more attentive.

And that little Johnny (not his real name) behind you would stop kicking your chair. Where are his parents anyway? Then there’s the kid right in front you, whose parents have given him an iPhone to pacify him. You keep hearing the squawking of Angry Birds©!

But, you keep reminding yourself, this is church.

Time was, people knew how to comport themselves, how to keep their children well-behaved… But not, it seems, anymore. You’re just about ready to slay someone in the spirit, but then the rousing rendition of “Joy to World” is followed by the minister, who has come to speak about the “Colors of Christmas.” How what can such a dark time in people’s lives can be made light in Christ. You’re enjoying it, trying to listen, when the mom, who was talking to a friend ask throughout the song service, begins reading a story book to her squirming, squalling child.

Boy, it sure seems like all the bored, distracted, tired people all around you just don’t love Jesus like you love Jesus…

Then you catch yourself wishing that none of them were there… That you could just have a minute to engage with what the pastor’s saying. That people, who likely only go to church twice a year, would act more like you…

Then you swallow, draw in a deep breath, as it dawns on you that maybe, just maybe, the Christmas cranks aren’t the unruly masses all around you.

It’s you.

Bowing your head in silent prayer, you ask for forgiveness.

And you thank God for Christmas.

For Jesus coming to redeem such a one as you.