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My ecclesial history began with Protestantism; to wit, as a lad I having Jewish friends, Catholic friends, having Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on the door, asked my mom what religion are we?

Her reply? “We’re Protestants.” That apparently was to be the end of the matter, as no further explanation was forthcoming. I had no idea at all (at that age) what a Protestant was, or what were in fact protesting.

I guess we were protesting the whole thing, because the only church we ever darkened the doors of as a family was my grandma’s. And that only when we annually traveled to visit her. That, aside from maybe a VBS (“Vacation Bible School”) or two was the sum total of my church experience growing up.

Quite frankly what piqued my interest in church was the cute girl at the drugstore who invited me. We spent countless hours together talking about life, the universe, and everything. We visited:

Assemblies of God

Charismatic

Vineyard

& Nazarene

Churches

As I had no prior experience, or theological instruction, upon which to draw I had no preconceived notions about what church was. And darn if some of it didn’t stick! I prayed the sinner’s prayer, and promptly went to a party to get drunk.

I didn’t have a fat clue of what a Christian was, or how they comported themselves. I don’t know how much praying I did, but I did carry around a Bible given to me by my grandma; it was a large, white KJV (King James Version) affair. At the time, I didn’t know it was a family Bible, and was meant more for a coffee table than for constant, conspicuous carrying around.

As I awakened to the the message of the Gospel, it seemed the next step was to get baptized. I mean that’s what believers do, right? Get dunked/sprinkled/submersed/wet…

So I did on a warm September evening some four months after “accepting Christ.” I really didn’t grok at the time that it was some kind of big deal to be baptized, as my then-girlfriend’s family indicated that they wished they’d been there.

I didn’t know it was some kind of symbolic affair significant of anything other than basic obedience to one of Jesus’s commands. Afterwards, I didn’t feel anything other than wet.

Somehow, after being baptized at an Assemblies of God church, we ended up attending a Charismatic fellowship. It wasn’t until much later that I knew it was weird. And by weird I mean I had a fun experience being prayed over by a group white shirt wearing, yellow pit stained elders who wanted me to “recieve the initial evidence of the indwelling.”

Translation: they we’re praying for me to receive the gift of tongues, or in more formal parlance, glossolalia. They, being Charismatic, made it a doctrinal certainty that speaking in tongues was the evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; in other words, the practice tongues were to make me a living proof text of God’s work in my life…

The result? I mean I was willing, wanting whatever God has for me. So, sure. I was young, naive, and having no religious background thought why not?

When it didn’t happen, as these four grown men, sweaty-faced, their voices rising in ecstatic fervor, lapsing in and out of their Heavenly Languages, as they circled my seated form, finally (and flatly) stated: “Don’t worry, brother; it’ll happen. Just start muttering.”

Just. Start. Muttering.

I’m not sure that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote of the gift of tongues. Although I suppose I have been muttering to God ever since…

Through

Highs and lows

Successes and failures

Jobs lost and found

Health issues

Death, and new life.

And I’m thankful He’s never yet despised the bleating of this wayward sheep.

So. Moviepass is another in a long, long long of companies that way over-promised, and woefully underdelivered. Ostensibly a NetFlix for the theatergoer, promising one movie/day for $9.95/mo, the service fast hemorrhaged cash. To the point where the service was frequently unavailable. In addition to which, the company imposed blackouts on the most popular titles, imposed surge pricing, floated the idea of a pricier service, etc.

All of the above transpired without prior communication to its customers. In other words, no moviez for yuo!!!!

Of course none of these restrictions affected MoviePass’s eTicketing partners; all shows were available. Conveniently giving the company an out if anyone were to level an accusation of a material change in the terms of service. Thing is, eTicket theaters are about as readily available as meat in a vegan deli.

The latest changes to come down the pike from CEO Mitch Lowe are as follows:

No longer will subscribers be able to see one movie/day; now it’s three/month, with a possible discount on additional tickets.

The blackouts continue to be in effect, e.g., it appears that from the slate of titles in theaters now, customers have a field of two to choose from on any given day.

From virtually unlimited to this–in less than year. In addition to which, where one previously could view a title more than once, this has been disallowed. No repeat screenings, yuo!!!!

Monthly subscribers will see the transition to the new 3 movies/month plan towards the end of August, 2018. Pre-paid customers will maintain previous terms of service until renewal date.

All of which brings me to the following proposal. This will require some advance planning, but is quite doable. To get the most out of MoviePass going forwards, I submit that customers could:

1) Proceed to theater supported by service.

2) Check-in to an available screening.

3) Purchase ticket using MoviePass card.

4) Take picture of ticket of required by app (supposed to be going away).

5) Exchange ticket at box for the movie one really wants to see, or wait until after showtime to exchange ticket for re-admit pass.

Following the above, one could potentially bypass the arbitrary restrictions enforced by MoviePass, thereby approximating the service’s original promise.*

*The foregoing is provided for informational purposes only; following the steps could result in revokation of one’s MoviePass subscription. The author does not condone fraud of any kind, no matter how wonky a service provider has become. And remember: is it’s not personal, it’s business.

Taking the challenge out of life also largely takes the fun out of it as well. Don’t get me wrong here; I’m most thankful for an indoor job, and the ability to provide for my family it affords me. I’m saying that if we aren’t on guard against it that it’s altogether too easy to wake up one day as Miss Havisham (from Great Expectations), wondering why life seems to be something that happens to someone else (just not, you know, us).

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Creed II is coming this fall; as with all Rocky stories, it’s about overcoming obstacles, going the distance. Fundamentally, that is the element of story itself: a character who wants something, endures hardships, and overcomes obstacles to achieve that thing. The fact of the matter is that life is story. We are all of us living a story–living stories. Where we get tripped up is that we often delude ourselves into the belief that life is a movie about moi.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I don’t want to speak for you, but in my life those times when I think I’m entitled to this, that, or the other thing–that life owes me–are generally the darkest, bleakest days. Not to say that there’s not such a thing a healthy belief in one’s self, one’s abilities, but rather that this requires an honest, humble assessment.

And it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I, we, need others around to: encourage, rebuke, guide, cheer. Often we have to get out our own way to hear just what others have to say. I mean it’s true in life, and it’s true in the Rocky films. Rocky wouldn’t be the Rocky we’ve all come to know and love without: Mickey, Apollo, Adrian, Paulie, and now Creed. And Creed wouldn’t be who he is without Rocky by his side.

That’s really the crux of it: we, like Rocky, have to be willing to put in the hard work, believe we can even when it feels like we can’t, listen to the wisdom of others, get out of our own way, then invest in others, and pass the hard won lessons on.

Not to put too personal a spin on it, but my wife and I are in a season now where we are facing difficult health challenges, are in a season of transition as our oldest child is preparing to leave home, and our younger one approaches the teen years. All in the midst of financial concerns, helping our aging parents, looking towards our own retirement years (not really all that far off). And honestly some days it doesn’t feel as if we’re overcoming at all.

It’s rough. But it’s life. And if there’s one things that’s true it’s that if there’s any blessing to pain, any comfort in it, it’s that it means we’re still alive and kicking. Still in the arena. To feel pain one has to be alive. Let’s be honest: the dead don’t feel it. And truthfully, more than the good times–the easy times–it’s the hard times that shape us. If my faith in God has taught me anything it’s that. In a sense, Rocky (and Creed after him) is like Jesus, “who for the joy set before him endure the cross (the training, the blows, the scorn), despising the shame.”

So, yes, the hard times shape us–If we allow them to.

I’m still walking through it. My wife is walking through it. And chances are so are you.

How do you go the distance in your life?

Photo Credit: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Oh, the things you’ll see!”, © 2011 Michael (a.k.a. moik) McCullough, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Relax. No, I don’t have cancer, but it runs in my family. I’ve lost both a grandmother, and an uncle, to it. Because of this, despite not yet being fifty, I’m supposed to get an annual colonoscopy.

I’ve yet to have one.

The reason for this is simple, stupid, but nevertheless true: I’ve had a flexible sigmoidoscopy. What’s that, you ask?

A sigmoidoscopy is colonoscopy’s younger sibling (or maybe its second cousin, twice removed). All of the prep work is the same; meaning no food beginning 12-24 hours prior, stool softeners, and that lovely Cascara, which is like drinking chalk-flavored Gatorade.

In case you missed that, one’s mission–whether one accepts it, or not–is to self-induce diarrhea in advanced of undergoing the procedure. On purpose.

People died of diarrhea during the Civil War!

In any case, while the preparations are similar, there is one crucial difference between the flex sig and a full colonoscopy; namely, that a colonoscopy is done under general anesthesia, whereas the sigmoidoscopy is done fully awake.

Yes, you read that right: it’s done entirely conscious. And while both are out patient procedures, the former is usually done in a hospital, while the latter can be done in one’s doctor’s office.

If my understanding is correct, the prevailing medical thought is that because the flexible sigmoidoscopy doesn’t go as far into the colon, it’s less a pain in the butt, and can consequently be done awake.

Let that sink in.

One reports to one’s doctor’s office, after having quite literally crapped one’s guts out, to lie prone upon a table, in a too-cold room, with nothing but a paper gown on to ward off the chill. The doctor enters, with a nurse, because like the boy and girl scouts this requires two-deep leadership (it wouldn’t do to have anything untoward occur). And then, without so much as a by-your-leave (or even dinner), lube is lugubriously applied to a region reserved as an exit only zone. After that, a long tube, at a snail’s pace, is inserted. All the while, the nurse is encouraging relaxation; “just breathe,” she says.

As if.

Photo Credit: “Colonoscopy?”, © 2009 Rollan Budi, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Relaxation is about the farthest thing from one’s mind at that point. It’s more like grin and bear it–or grimace and bear it. One of the two. The best that can happen is an uneasy peace; it’s not going to last forever, or one will die right there of embarrassment.

There is after all a long, dark tube right up there in the Hershey Highway.

But the worst is yet to come:

Air, like helium into party balloons, is pumped up in there so that the doctor may better appreciate the structures of the lower bowel. Only it’s no party; it’s quite literally a pain in the butt. And beyond.

As a patient, whether one can, or cannot, see the monitor upon which the Colon Cam is displayed, one’s doctor will typically begin a descriptive video service. (Nowhere did this item ever even begin to appear on my bucket list: have your sigmoid colon described in vivid detail by your doctor). “That’s a hemorrhoid! There’s another one! Good! Don’t see any polyps! Oh, look! A piece of poo!”

If one felt embarrassed before, that right there would be where the bottom fell out of the nadir of embarrassment. Oh, to melt through the table, into the floor, and be no more! Curse this too, too solid flesh!

Then at last it’s over, one is handed tissues to wipe off the thick, viscous jelly from one’s nethers; the doctor and nurse exuent omnes, and one is left to contemplate the series of events leading to this tube time and place.

Wiping, washing, and dressing complete, one is free to leave; breathing a sigh (or several) of relief, thinking the worst is behind you.

Oh, how wrong that is!

The air pumped up in there, no longer having a tube occluding its exit route, discovers the point of least resistance–namely, one’s anus. If the blow-by-blow of the colon highway was the bottom dropping out of the nadir of the experience this is somehow even lower.

It’s not just a little gas; it’s like the inevitable results of a weeklong refried bean binge, the Vesuvius of anal expulsions (think pyroclastic flow–all hot ash and gas, no lava), and the Manhattan Project all rolled into one. In other words, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Yet other than death there is no escaping these noxious emissions.

Photo Credit: “Fart Bomb”, © 2006 basibanget, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is why I have yet to have a full colonoscopy. The defense rests. I place myself upon the mercy of the court.

Have you had a colonoscopy/sigmoidoscopy? How did it go?