Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Crowning the King

With less than a month to go before my team heads to Ethiopia, a classic hymn of the faith grabbed hold of me tonight. All Hail The Power of Jesus' Name is that hymn.

A couple of reasons that the lyrics jumped out at me as we sang them at choir tonight:

1. As you know from my last blog post, I just finished reading an incredible book called How God Became King. I began to see how the Gospels are the record of how Jesus the Messiah came to be declared King of all creation, being crowned through his sacrificial death on the cross. The God and King of Israel reigns over all the earth.

2. This gives meaning to everything I do. We are part of God's plan to proclaim that this world which was under the dominion of Satan is now ruled by the God of Israel as revealed through Jesus. As the hymn says, "let every kindred, every him all majesty ascribe." Everyone. Everywhere.

3. It also gives me hope for the future. Death no longer has a hold on me, and one day I will fall at his feet with "yonder sacred throng" - those who have gone into his presence before us. And I will "join the everlasting song", the one already resonating through creation.

Yes, he was crowned Lord of all at the cross. Soak it in as you listen:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review: How God Became King

In How God Became King, N.T. Wright addresses a very important question for Christ-followers. Why were the four Gospels written? What were they trying to communicate? How should we read them  today?

It came as something of a surprise to me that Wright considered this question worth asking. After all, I've read the Gospels all my life, and have found much in the them to help me live. Parables, miracles, and sermons are scattered throughout the accounts, all sandwiched between a description of how Jesus' ministry began and his death and resurrection. But as I began to read, I saw that this was the issue. The church has always been focused on the importance of the Virgin Birth, the Crucifixion, and Resurrection. And we diligently study Paul's letters providing context after the fact for what it all means.

But Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote a lot of stuff in between. So what is it? Filler? Random stories?

Or is there a theme that runs through the entirety of the Gospel accounts, including the parts we focus on so much? If there is, how should we approach the Gospels so as not to miss that theme?

In the book Wright makes a compelling argument that may change entire perspective. (Although perhaps most of you tracked the themes and I'm just dense.) He reminds us of the importance of context, and that Jesus came to be the Messiah, the One promised to Israel. He makes the case that YHWH promised to one day redeem his people and reign one the entire earth, not just Israel. And that he purposed to accomplish that through suffering and sacrifice.

In Jesus, all that was fulfilled, and that is what the Gospels are about: the  coming of the long-awaited Kingdom of God through the life, death,and resurrection of Jesus. Not something that was just for later, after we die - something was that initiated through Jesus' ministry and continues today through us all. Truly, the Lord's prayer expresses it so well; we are to pray that "Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." This is why Jesus came.

This is an outstanding book, and I plan to read more of Wright's material. If you want to know more, here is a link where you could order it: How God Became King.

Jesus came to bring God's Kingdom, and he made it possible through his death on the cross. I pray that I would do my part to continue the work in my generation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Two years later

Two years ago, there was a big blowout at my house, as we celebrated the end of the show LOST. It was, in my opinion, the most creative and overall best series in the history of television. It raised so many questions about the human condition and the reasons that the world's paradigm for living is broken, and explored how we search for those answers. And it did it with characters that we deeply cared about. For the best explanation of why it was so good, please visit (or revisit) this blog post from my friend Rob:

Why LOST Matters

So two years later, the feelings are still there from the fans. Some disappointed by the ending; others like me who found it extremely appropriate for the theme of the show. After all, it was called LOST not because they were geographically lost, but because they were lost as human beings. And, regardless of whether you agree with all the answers to our lostness, that was what the ending addressed. Powerfully.

That is why I found this interview with LOST producer Damon Lidelof extremely interesting. It's the most extended explanation I've ever heard, and in it he deals with the disappointment of the person interviewing him. The most telling statement in the interview occurs at the 5:00 mark:
There is no worse scene in the history of genre than the Architect explaining to Neo everything that happened in The Matrix...And I wasn't going to touch that with a ten-foot pole.
And that's just one of many fascinating observations from Mr. Lindelof.

It changed television. It dealt with mysteries of the human condition and our struggle for redemption from start to finish. It asked many questions that are important to those of us trying live out the Kingdom of God on earth. And I miss it.

PS - It was an amazing time at the Manis crib that night two years ago. Here's a video we made of the fun:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A daring rescue

So have you heard about the boy who was rescued from a waterfall this week. It's an amazing story. Watch:

Wow! I can't even imagine how scared this kid must have been. Or how much pressure the rescuers must have felt. And it's obvious they were risking their lives to save him.

My favorite part of story is something that was shared on the news today. According to interviews, the boy - clinging to the rock for his life - asked the rescue worker, "Do you have a plan?" When he got a positive response, he then asked, "Is it going to work?" What presence of mind by such a young boy!

It did remind me of my own condition as a human being. There was a time when I was clinging to whatever I could hold on to, desperately trying to avoid slipping into the abyss created by my sin and selfishness. I don't think I was smart enough to ask God if he had a plan. But he did. And it worked.

Thanks be to the Father, whose plan was to send Jesus to take on my punishment. And to rescue me from the kingdom of this world to be part of his Kingdom.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Softball...yes, softball

My name is Donnie, and I am a college softball fan.

I never thought I'd say that. Softball is the "other" game being played across the street from baseball, right? And admitting I'm a fan - well, it feels sort of like coming out of some kind of sports closet.

But I am. It's amazing what winning will do. Alabama has had a championship level softball program for several years now, and it's contagious. I'm not the only one. Reserved season tickets sold out this year, and so the only tickets that can be bought at the gate are general admission - which buys you a seat in the Brickyard. That is, the grassy area beyond the outfield wall. Bama softball averages close to 3.000 fans per game in a stadium with less seats than that.

Packed house for 2012 NCAA Regional game
It's been called the most electric atmosphere in college softball.

And that's why I think I've become a fan. not just because they win. But because it's fun to be at a game. And that, after all, is why we go to sports events - to have fun.

This is no second class sport. The young ladies playing the game are fantastic athletes. And the Tide has some of the best in the country.

So this weekend, as they began their quest for a national championship, I didn't just follow from home. I am in Tuscaloosa as I write this, and I am here for the weekend. Bama won their first round game tonight 5-1. They play again tomorrow and the championship round is Sunday. I am rooting as hard as I do for any Crimson Tide sport.

My name is Donnie, and I am a college softball fan.

And it's fun!

Roll Tide.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


This trailer is for a promising-looking new show from NBC...especially for this fan of Jericho, which was not on nearly long enough:

For a discussion of what looks intriguing about this show, I can't do any better than my online friend Carmen. Check out her comments in this blog post.

Here's hoping it lives up to its promise.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Their happy is too loud

Tonight I rented We Bought a Zoo, the latest movie from director Cameron Crowe.

I guess I knew the basic plot line from the trailers, trailers that did not motivate me to see it in the theater last December. I picked up on it being a movie about taking chances, starting over, even about life being an adventure. What I had missed was that it was movie about grief, and how it affects not only us but those we love.

Such movies have drawn me ever since my sister's passing 16 years ago. Movies such as Signs (which, yes, is about grief as well as loss and recovery of faith), To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, and many others have themes that have helped me process loss. This one did as well. Especially in this one moment...

It has been six months since the death of the little girl Rosie's mother. All of a sudden, her dad hears her call for him. He comes to her room to comfort her, and discovers that once again their neighbors are having a party outside her window. And she says to her father with great sadness, "Their happy is too loud."

One of the toughest things in the world is knowing how to help friends and loved ones get through the grieving process. We don't know the right thing to say. We don't know when they want us around and when they want to be alone. In fact, those answers are different for different people, making it that much tougher.

But I do know this from being on the other side: when I'm hurting, it's comforting to know that those who love me hurt for me. I know that sounds an awful lot like "misery loves company", but it's not. It's just the nature of love - when you really love someone, you come alongside them and feel what they're feeling. Life is about shared experiences, good and bad. In fact, Scripture comes right out and says it in Romans 12:15:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
It couldn't be any clearer than that. Love is when you let your heart beat in time with others.

So yes, when your heart aches, it is very easy to look around you and think, "their happy is too loud." It's natural. It's human.

And it's something that I need to be sensitive too. I pray for wisdom from the Father, that I would know when to rejoice with my friends, and when to mourn with them. And do both at the right time.

So that my happy will be just the right volume.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Avengers: All the elements

The other night a friend asked if I were going to do a review of The Avengers on this site. How could I not? It was a movie with all the elements - everything that makes a movie worth seeing.


This is listed first, as it is the ultimate test of a whether a movie is worthwhile. Life is about stories; you have one, I have one. History has one. Ultimately, a good movie, book, or TV show has to have a story worth telling. That is the thread that holds together all the action, drama, and comedy.

This movie had a story that had me riveted. The earth is in danger from forces from the other end of the universe. There are a number of people with extraordinary powers that are our only chance. Some of them have complicated relationships with each other. But individually they are not enough - they need to come together if we are to stand a chance. Yeah, great story. 7/10


So important, because a great movie has to have people we care about. The characters should be multidimensional, complete with virtues, quirks, and flaws. And, most importantly, they must be cast correctly.

This is one of the real strengths of The Avengers. Several individual movies led up to this one where we were introduced to characters like Iron Man (Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey, Jr.) and Captain America (Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans). Would these characters mesh with each other, and with other characters like The Hulk (Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo) and Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff, played by Scarlett Johansson)?

Oh yeah. Amazing job, north individually and as a group. It was a joy to see these characters with massive egos encounter each other, clash, struggle, and deal with the reality that they must depend on each other to have a chance.


This was one of the surprising aspects of the film, although it should not have been. If I had just thought back to the Iron Man movies or last year's Captain America, I would have known to expect great comic timing at use the right time to break tension.

I won't ruin your enjoyment by quoting any of the individual humorous moments. I'll just say, expect to laugh.


Good movies have highly interesting interaction between characters. They have conflict that almost make you wish it would get over with, because the risk of a sour end is almost suffocating. Conflict not just from the bad guy, but between characters and even internal conflict.

Whether it was Natasha having to deal with her dark past, Banner fighting off the beast inside him, or Stark and Rogers battling over their differences of idealism and cynicism, it was all there.


Not expected in every movie; in fact, sometimes there is so much action that the story gets lost. That kind of movie, despite chases, fights, and things blowing up, has a tendency to put me to sleep. Action is fun, but the story is the thing.

The Avengers, of course, had to be an action movie. It's the genre. And it did not disappoint. Lots of fights. Chases. Explosions. Special effects. THey were done extremely well and were a lot of fun. But, and this was the best part, they did not overshadow the story.


If you know me, you know I'm all about major themes. Sacrifice, redemption, love. teamwork - the great threads of human existence that reflect God's plan for us.

There is a wonderful scene about halfway through the movie where the heroes begin to argue over the best way to attack the challenges before them. As Stark's cynical approach is contrasted with Rogers' almost naive world view, we wonder whether hope is something to cling to or abandon. Later, we see know what, I'm not going force myself to post spoiler warnings. Just see it.

Can you tell? I sort of liked the movie. In fact, it was worth seeing a second time with a different friend, and I was just as enthralled as the first time. Yep, pretty dang good flick.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Keep looking up

And God said, "...I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16)

Fringe, the best show currently on TV, had an episode this week that was reminiscent of this promise. A little background before a video clip:

Hang with me on this. There are two parallel universes, and they discovered at one point that only one could survive. As the result of stuff we don't have time to go into, one of them was dying. Now, after fixing that stuff, the universe that was dying started to heal. But now an evil dude has attacked the stays quo and both universes are in danger. As they try to fix it, there is a powerful scene between Olivia Dunham and her doppelganger from the other universe. It starts at about the :43 mark:

Earlier in the episode, a reference was made to Noah's ark. It's apparent to me after another site pointed it out (I can be dense sometimes) that this was likely not a coincidence. Noah built the ark because God was fed up with man's sin and sent a flood to destroy the world as they knew it. When it was all over, the Lord set the rainbow in the sky as a reminder that he would never do that again. It was a beacon to comfort people and remind them of the Lord's mercy in allowing humankind to continue.

So in the world where destruction was inevitable, the physics were altered where rainbows were no longer possible. No reminder of God's mercy, no reassurance that he was in control. But that Olivia longed to look up and see a rainbow again. She was hopeful that the healing would bring it about.

Signs are important to us; I think it's just the way people are made. Fringe reminded of that me through this little moment. I won't take the next rainbow I see for granted. I'll look up, and I'll remember that God loves me and wants the best for me. And that he has spared me from the wrath I deserve.

And I'll say thank you.