Thank God for Noah (in Theaters now)

Noah2014PosterWhen The Prince of Egypt came out in 1998, I was excited to see it and a little nervous. I had heard that it was good and had some questionable additions to the story of the Exodus. When I did go and see it, I found it to be an engaging, well-told story, that was faithful to the story and, very importantly, has one of the best movie soundtracks ever.

But why had a heard all those negative things about the movie. it was a good movie and faithful to the story. Why take shots at it? It seemed that Christians were a nearly unpleasable group when their stories were told in movies. Then The Passion of the Christ came out and I saw a similar pattern. Many Christians were upset when our story is told, but not perfectly. I saw it again when The Nativity Story came out.

It seemed that no matter how much honest effort was made to be faithful to our stories and to make it a good film, we always found reasons to be outraged.

Fast forward to today, Darren Aronofsky chose to tell another one of our stories, the story of Noah. Christians, including myself, pulled out our prickles and prepared ourselves to be outraged. When we learned that Aronofsky was an atheist, we went ahead and panned the film without knowing anything about it. We were ready to be outraged and incensed by whatever popped up on the movie screen.

And outraged we were.

But yesterday, I imagined what it would be like to be Darren Aronofsky. He is trying to tell a story from our scriptures in the best way he knows how. He was able to get an enormous budget for the movie and many high quality actors and actresses. Additionally, he seems to have told a compelling story. If this were not our story that we are so prickly about, we probably would like the movie. It seems to me that it is not kind to the many people who worked hard to tell our story to prejudge it harshly.

This is not to say that loving the story of Noah is a problem. Certainly we should be vigilant in out churches and homes about keeping the story accurate. God was, in fact, punishing a desperately evil world for its sin. We should be very mindful of the fact that sin is that serious and that God is that powerful.

But I suspect much of our motivation for being angry at this movie is not a fierce love of the story of Noah, but out of a sense of being oppressed. We have this pervasive feeling that there is this evil liberal culture out there that is intentionally and harshly twisting our stories. We wince every time Christianity is discussed because we will be called intolerant and mocked. We feel our slipping cultural and political influence and it makes us afraid.

While I understand this feeling, it is silly. If we really serve the God of Noah who can cover the world in a flood and rescue a single family, I think he can handle a change in the religious demographics. We should not feel like an oppressed people who are being marginalized by our society. We are being embraced by a God who really loves us and is really in control. We should not be afraid, we should be free.

And what we should be free to do is love. We should love Darren Aronofsky and treat him like we would want to be treated. If I made a film about Mohammed, I would want the Muslim community to at least give the film a chance before condemning it.

Additionally, Darren Aronofsky has given us a wonderful gift. He is, in fact, telling our story. Sure he added some environmentalism and tossed out most of the idea of sin, but he still has a guy name Noah and a flood that wipes out almost all of humanity. He has presented our story to a huge audience. We should not condemn this, we should embrace it. Let’s let him tell our story  and get it 80% right, and let’s take responsibility for teaching our world the missing 20%.

Thank you, Darren Aronofksy. We appreciate you bringing Noah and his family to the forefront and allowing us the opportunity to talk about something that is precious to us. I’m sorry for my fellow believers that have been unkind to you. We love you and appreciate the lovely piece of art you have made.


As I Lay Dying

car accidentI never saw the ice.

Awakened by a tapping on the window, I look around. My head is bloody and resting on the door of the car, which is resting on the ground. The steering column is pressed against my chest. Each breath is very painful as I feel several broken ribs grinding on each other. My legs are pinned to the floorboard while a pool of blood begins to fill the broken glass to my left as the driver’s side window rested on the snowy ground.

Tap Tap Tap…

I look up across the width of the car too see a face looking down to me.

“I’ve called 911, there help coming for you man. Hang in there.”

I recognized the face of the trucker who had done his best to avoid hitting me. His face now showed grave concern. He had no way to get to me and I imagine I looked terrible.

Another agonizing breath.

I know I’m in trouble. I have a lot of blood coming out of my arm, my head is swimming. It will take them some time to get me out, probably too much time. My thoughts drift to Sam and the kids, what they will do without me. How will they be financially, emotionally, spiritually? Who will walk Rosie down the aisle at her wedding? Who will shovel the driveway? Who will support my boys through the disappointments of life?

I begin to panic. I need to survive. They need me. They need me to survive this. Yet a quick look at the blood I am losing reaffirms my belief that I am certainly dying.

“Sir,” I said weakly.

“Yeah man, I’m here.”

“I need you to tell my wife something.”

“Now don’t go talking like that. You’re gonna make it. You’re gonna tell her it yourself.”

“Shut up! I need you to remember this.” I yelled weakly. “I need you to tell her that I love her and that I am so sorry I can’t walk through life with her.” I inhaled with a harsh gurgling sound. “I need you to tell my boys that I love them and that I am proud of them.” Another painful breath. “I need you to tell Rosie that I have loved being her Daddy and that she is so beautiful.” Another breath, this one came a little easier. “Promise me you’ll tell them.”

“Dude, I don’t need to tell them. You’re gonna tell them. You’re gonna come out of this.”

“Promise me you’ll tell them.”

“OK, I promise. Now you tell me that you’re gonna make it.”

I was going to make no such promise. The reason for my pessimism was the same reason for the urgency in his voice. In our hearts, we both knew I was, in fact, not going to make it.

I saw some blue and red flashes on the man’s face and he quickly left to direct them to me. I passed into unconsciousness…

It is a strange sensation to die. The pain begins to fade as my grip on this world loosens. It is more pleasant that I would have anticipated before. The grinding of my ribs fades to obscurity. As my physical eyes close, I begin to have another sense. An awareness of things that must have always been there, but indiscernable.

It is like sight, but not like it. There is awareness of direction of things, of a beauty to the worlds that I missed before. It is like seeing the significance of something directly. Before I would use a poem or a painting to show me what I could not see, now I see it.

This is most acute with persons. I can feel the paramedics coming toward the car and I can see them. Not their bodies, their spirits. I see the man whose exhausted from a long shift and wishes he was home. There is another younger man who is excited to be on a real accident site for the first time. I can see the apprehension and guilt of the truck driver who is questioning whether this was his fault.

What is striking though, is the crowd of people there I hadn’t seen before. Thousands of them, tens of thousands. They stood in a wide half-circle looking at me. Sweet expressions of anticipation. They had been waiting for me. Waiting with excitement.

I recognized a young and beautiful woman toward the front. “Grandma Brushaber,” I said.

She smiled and nodded. I had never seen a soul smile along with a face before.

Looking over the crowd, I saw them. So many faces I recognized. Souls I recognized. Nanny, Jean Viar, Miss Quincy, Grandpa Gruver, and a vibrant and healthy Joshua Gruver.

It was strange to see Joshua’s childlike delight in the whole affair. While much of the crowd was somber and serious, he was honestly thinking of jokes about how I had found such a dramatic way to die. It was strange because the jokes were actually hilarious.

The other striking feature was the brilliance of the lights. So many lights. They were so crisp and bright.

“Grandma Hanson, I know what you meant when you talked about the lights!” I said. She smiled sweetly back at me.

But I knew there was someone missing.

“Jesus?” I said.

“We’ve come to bring you to him,” said a genial Danish relative who had prayed for me before I was even born.

It was then that I realized my body was still speaking even as I struggled to leave it. A paramedic had climbed down into the car with me and was doing his best to stop the bleeding. I couldn’t hear his words, but his urgent heart screamed, “Don’t you die on me. It’s not time to go to Jesus yet.”

But he was wrong. It was time.

Joshua and Grandma Brushaber helped me out of my body. I was a bit unsteady, but they are magnificently strong, not wavering a bit even though I am taller than both of them. We walked together as the crowd parted to allow me to pass.

Then he arrived. A small man, not taller than five and a half feet, came running through the crowd. He was obviously middle eastern, but even more obviously the God of all things.

He jumped to me and hugged me with an intensity I could never have imagined. Even though I could not see his eyes in our embrace, I could feel his heart. He loved me like I love my little baby children. It is a sweet and intoxicating love. It shouted off my soul and echoed back to his.

We may have embraced for a second or a thousand years, I couldn’t tell. But I had something I had to ask.

“Jesus, what about Sam and the kids. They need me.”

He answered with some words that I don’t remember, because what mattered was how concerned he was for them as well. He was worried for them too. It was not the desperate worry of the powerless but the delighted concern of one who can act. He was concerned for them and would make sure they were cared for. That was good enough for me.

“Let’s go meet our Father,” he said, “He has been looking forward to having you home.”

We walked through a bright doorway into a place that words don’t describe. It’s not because words haven’t been made to describe it, it is because words cannot be made to describe it. The place was like an explosion of joy filled an enormous room and kept bouncing from soul to soul and back to the God who started it all.

We walked together with Jesus occasionally stopping to tell me how happy he was that I was with him. I was struggling to understand why he kept saying that. Why would he be so happy to see me? I am the one who got to be happy to be with him.

As unimaginable as the place is, it is a pale gray shadow compared to the Spirit in the center.

He is magnificent of all magnificence. Even with my new eyes, I needed to shade them from his intensity. As Jesus approached him, I could feel the vibrating energy between them. It was just on the edge of being seen. It moved in an eternal and endless dance between them.

Of course that energy was not a thing, but a part of God himself. No one will ever see that mysterious Spirit, but his quiet presence is everywhere.

“Daddy, I want to bring you one of your boys. This is Chip.”

It was like watching a seemingly endless sea of joy breaking into a storm. The delight that Daddy felt at me being there was so…wrong. Why would he be so happy to have me? I am the one who is lucky to have him. I am the prodigal and he is the Father and Older brother who are delighted to have me back.

Questions like that do not last long in this place. There is simply too much to experience to think overly long about myself. Even as I bathed in those opening moments of Heaven, I knew I had an eternity left to explore this place and this God.

And that is how long it will take.


Learn to Babysit Your Kids

613px-Father_with_childGuys, I’m talking to you.

Take a look at your wife. She is the lady you chose to spend your life with. Your soul-mate. The love of your life. The apple of your eye. You chose her to be the mother of your children. Your companion through thick and thin.

Now I know she is hard to understand sometimes. She wants to talk a lot about feelings and relationships. She is not quite happy with that thing you “fixed” last weekend. I know it’s functional, but she wanted it to look better than that.

At times, it can be difficult to know how to please her. She seems to want “time with you” and “your attention.” You spend lots of time with her. You can listen while playing Angry Birds, really you can! But she doesn’t see it that way. There is something mysterious about that femininity that pervades her. The movies make it out to be mysterious and seductive. It really is just odd. Why can’t she be more like a guy?

I don’t have all the solutions for you. I too am perplexed by my own wife. She is so pretty, so smart, and yet so very dedicated to the concept of sweeping the kitchen every single night. I don’t get it either.

But one complaint that the ladies have about us is legitimate. There are a lot of well-educated, competent men out there that cannot watch their children alone. How can this be? How can professional, organized men not be able to manage the adorable cooing poop factories they call their children.

To be honest, I really identify with the difficulty men have watching kids. They are complicated. It involves a lot of know-how from how to change a diaper to remembering when bedtime is and knowing how warm the bottle should be. There are actually a lot of skills to know to keep a little human alive.

In addition, there is the pressure. You can feel your mother watching with disapproval as you wash that baby’s bottom off in the bathroom sink. You know there are wipes, but you can’t figure out where they are. You are sure that if your wife, mother, friend, coworker, neighbor, mayor, mailman, evil twin, or dog catcher ever found out about this, you would be humiliated. The myth you believe is that they did it any better the first time.

To top it off, you wife seems to think that house should not be a trash heap when she returns. Seriously, where does she come up with all these expectations. Watching kids AND keeping the house clea…well…not filthy.

But in reality, every struggle you face in caring for you kids at home is one your wife is facing too. Have compassion on that poor woman and learn to take care of your kids by yourself. Ask your wife what you will need and talk with another guy who knows what he is doing with his own kids. Your wife needs you to be able to independently care for your children in such a way that they will not need therapy later.

You can do this dad.


P.S. Get one of those removable shower heads for your bath. It makes life a lot easier. You won’t have to use the sink to wash them off anymore.

Photo by Barbara Murdter and is used with Creative Commons Permission.

Sex, Lies, and Star Trek (Reblog)

This article by Cap Stewart is part of the inspiration for my article The Requiem For a Dream Problem. It is quite thought-provoking. Enjoy!

I confess, I’m something of a Trekkie. I’ve been looking forward to the release of Star Trek Into Darkness more than any other movie this year. While reading a few content reviews, though, I came across a snag. The film contains a scene in which a woman changes clothes after asking her male companion to turn his back to her—obviously for the sake of decency. After feigning compliance, the man sneaks a peek. So does the camera, giving the audience an unobstructed view of this woman in a state of undress.

Here’s what I have decided: I cannot financially support this movie. Why? Because I want to grow in my ability to honor God and love that actress.

In James 1:27, which I recently wrote about, we are told, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James gives the two distinctive fruits that grow from the root of genuine Christianity: love and holiness. Followers of Christ should exemplify these traits when interacting with the world—including the realm of entertainment.


Let’s talk about holiness first. Believers have grown to ignore, accept, or even endorse tantalizing sexuality in films. Based on the lax standards of Christian moviegoers, an unbeliever might conclude that the Bible takes no clear stance on immodesty and nudity. But God is far from silent on these issues.

Scripture associates public nudity with shame (Gen. 3:7; Isa. 47:3; Nah. 3:5; Rev. 3:18). Because of this, God Himself provided clothes for Adam and Eve after the Fall (Gen. 3:21). Job made a covenant with his eyes so that he would not look lustfully at women (Job 31:1). David fell into adultery by seeing a naked woman, even though it was in a “nonsexual” situation (2 Sam. 11:2-4). Jesus refers to a wandering eye as adultery worthy of hell (Matt. 5:27-30). In using the human body as a metaphor for the church, Paul describes it as having “unpresentable parts” that require “greater modesty” (1 Cor. 12:23). Whether sexual or nonsexual, nakedness outside of marriage is shameful.

Countless Christians deny that movies with nudity and/or sex scenes affect them. But as Doug Wilson has pointed out in Reforming Marriage, such denials come from two types of men. The first man is a liar; he is either attempting to fool himself or someone else—and probably both. The second kind of man is telling the truth, but only because he “is so deadened in his conscience that it would take a lot more than that to get him going.”

When Noah became naked in a drunken stupor (Gen. 9:20-27), his son Ham took the situation lightly and told his two brothers about it. Shem and Japheth, on the other hand, treated their father with respect and covered his nakedness without looking at him themselves. This story shows that, even if it is possible to encounter nudity without being aroused, it still cannot be considered a legitimate form of entertainment.

See the rest of the article by clicking here to go to Cap’s blog

Miracles Do Not Happen Every Day

Miracle Toast

Miracle Toast

I suppose first I should define what a miracle is.

When miracles are mentioned in scripture, they are events that defied the natural order. When a man is healed of leprosy or water is turned into wine it is a God who created nature directly intervening within it. He is bending or breaking the rules he created within nature. Miracles are not just unlikely events, they are impossible events. That is why the cross is so amazing, it is not unlikely that a man would rise from the dead, it is impossible. There is no natural explanation for it.

But when I define what a miracle is, I am also defining what a miracle is not. It is not an unlikely event. When a child is born, it is not a miracle. God has created a process and a natural order that makes birth possible. It is amazing, even breathtaking, but it is not outside the natural order. Modern medical treatments with antibiotics, chemotherapy, and medicines are not miraculous. Again, the way God made penicillin in that fungus was designed to kill bacteria. It is amazing, but not a miracle.

So if miracles are simply unlikely, positive events then yes, miracles happen all the time. But if you take the supernatural out of the word miracle, we are left with yet another meaningless positive word. English already has plenty of those.

Now I’m sure this comes off as extremely cynical. Why would I poke holes in other people’s enjoyment of a positive event? God ought to be praised when good things happen. Why would I be such a stick in the mud?

First, I am afraid that the abuse of the word miracle has, in fact, diminished when actual miracles occur. My wife suffers from serious back pain in the not too distant past. She had strained muscles in her back from compensating for the pain. A friend came and prayed for her and her pain went away immediately. It went away and it stayed away. She is not prone to exaggeration and I have no explanation for how she felt better.

I think she was healed miraculously.

So when people abuse the word miracle it cheapens the work God actually did for us that day. My wife’s back problems did not all go away, but the muscle damage she experience did go away. I’m sure that there is a natural process that would explain her healing, but none that would explain how she recovered within a single day. God was very kind to us that day. It is difficult to describe this as a miracle and be heard because so many people are presenting so many events as miracles that simply are not.

Second, we are in a habit of ascribing to God every unlikely happy event but not every unlikely sad one. When a loved one is struck by lightning are dies of a rare disease, we are very reluctant to ascribe these unlikely events to God. Many times, this comes from a commendable desire to not blame God for evil, but it rings very hollow to me to credit God for every good in the world and not have an answer for every evil.

As it is, I believe scripture is clear that he is wholly in control of every good and evil in the world. When Job’s wife told him to curse God and die, Job did not respond by telling her that she had a poor theology and that God would never have done all of these terrible things to him. He said,

“You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:10

I think we lose a lot of credibility in a scary world when we are ready to call anything a miracle that is good and then sit silently with no response to evil.

Finally, a clarification. When some of you read this, you will think I am saying that every good should not be ascribed to God. Quite the opposite. God has provided food, clothing, heat, beauty, and a host of other goods to us. All of these goods come through a couple of extraordinary miracles. The act of creation, making something from nothing, is an astonishing miracle. The act of changing my foolish heart into someone who loves Jesus is compared to raising the dead in scripture. It is a miracle.

We should be grateful to God for all of these things. But let’s not abuse the term miracle by using it to mean unlikely. God certainly controls whether a coin lands on heads or tails and within that choice, it happens 50% heads and 50% tails. We need not list coin tosses as miracles and neither should we list events that have a one in a million chance either. Someone will win the lottery, but it is not a miracle if it is you.

So point out God’s goodness when you see it, miracles when you see them, but please don’t mix the two up.


Photo is by Matt Gibson and is used with his permission

The “Requiem for a Dream” Problem

Requiem_for_a_dreamAs anyone in the pornography recovery community can attest, there is a real challenge in determining what is safe to watch at the movies. There are bits of culture that are more difficult to avoid like commercials and billboards, but what we pay for at the theater is very much in our control.

The classic case of this is what I call the Requiem for a Dream Problem. The movie, Requiem for a Dream, is the story of how heroin addiction destroys the lives of four friends. Everything about the movie appeals to me. I have struggled with pornography addiction myself (not heroin, by God’s grace) and I love the raw nature of the movie. By all accounts, it is a classic film and worth seeing.

Unfortunately, it also has graphic sexuality and nudity which is only aggravated by the fact that I find Jennifer Connelly to be one of the loveliest actresses out there. So this movie is my equivalent of  an alcoholic walking into a bar. I should not watch it.

Hence, the Requiem for a Dream Problem. At what point does the artistic merit of the film fail to outweigh the sexual temptation it will cause me. I suppose it could be called the Black Swan Problem or the American Beauty Problem, both of which are thought-provoking movies with serious sexual content. I wish I could watch them, but I can’t.

As with most problems, one should first look at the Bible. I looked for the movie watching guide in there and wasn’t able to find one. But there are important principles that apply. I should be cognizant of my own weaknesses for lust and considerate of the harm the film may do to others. Requiem for a Dream might make put a friend with a history of heroin addiction in a terrible position for entirely different reasons.

We should remember that movies are just stories and storytelling is an important art in all cultures. There is real artistic value that serves my soul in many films. We should be looking for the good in them. The Passion of the Christ may have an attractive woman in it, but the merit for honoring God is so profound that I should resist temptation and enjoy the wealth of God-honoring praise this movie brings to my heart.

There are also many foolish ways to approach this problem. For anyone who struggles with lust (read men), the idea of flipping through channels or going to a movie with no research is foolish. No plan is a plan and in this case, it is a very bad one. Our art culture is far to saturated with sexual imagery for us to march on with no plan. If you’re going to a movie, check it out online to see if it meets your conscience’s standard.

This begs the question, What is my conscience’s standard? How do I determine when a film (or any piece of art) crosses the line from being flawed but acceptable and when it becomes too harmful to warrant watching at all? This is a very personal line, but I want to discuss some ways to think about the issue.

Redeeming Value vs. Tempting Content

To be sure, images and movements are not evil in and of themselves. Sins only happen in my heart. A nude image of a women is not inherently evil (in fact, she was created “very good”). What if that image were of my wife? It would be good and even holy for me to drink deeply in delighting in her. The Bible in unblushing in its recommendations to enjoy one’s spouse (Pro 5:18-19).

Additionally, there is merit to the idea of redeeming value in a film. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the greatest films ever made and yet it opens with a sex scene. It holds out such virtues as perseverance, hope, kindness, and justice. I love the line that Andy Dufresne gives, “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And a good thing never dies.”

I don’t know if Andy is right, but it is a great quote in a wonderful movie. Is the film worth the temptation I face in the opening scene? I think so. I often skip the opening entirely as it is not that pertinent to the rest of the film.

But I must be careful. More often than not, I am tempted to find a movie I want to see, then I go scrounging around for artistic merit so I have an excuse to watch it. I am not an unbiased observer. Many men are looking for excuses to see these films and it is not in a search for holiness, but in a search for cute girls not wearing much.

We are like a kid at the grand canyon. We don’t ask what is a safe distance to view the canyon from, we ask how close we can get to the edge without falling.

What is tempting to me?

Another important consideration is what specifically tempts me. Obviously, nudity is very tempting and I almost never watch films with nude women. I had to give up the shows House of Cards and Game of Thrones for this reason. I really like both, but it was simply not worth the temptation and sin it was causing.

I can’t watch any movie where girls kiss other girls. For whatever reason, this is a weak spot for me. A film need not have nudity or even sex scenes to be problematic. So when you are determining what is acceptable for you, know your own heart and steer clear of your own weaknesses.

What is loving for the actor or actress?

If 1 Corinthians  6:18 is right and whenever an actor or actress sins sexually, they sin against their own body. It would be unloving in that case to support their efforts to hurt themselves. The fact that it is consensual is irrelevant. I recently had a compelling discussion with a friend who said that he will not watch a movie where an actress had to undress in front of the camera crew even if no nudity is shown on screen. He argues that it is unloving to her to support her exploitation by men.

A more compelling argument is to ask, What if she were my daughter? I love my daughter very much and it would break my heart if she were to be ogled by a whole camera crew (who, by the way, would immediately go an jack off in the bathroom). It would break my heart.

To be honest, I don’t know how far to carry this standard, but I found it very compelling. If you want a more clear discussion about it, check out Cap Stewart’s excellent article Sex, Lies, and Star Trek.

Is it Lawful? Is it Helpful? Is it Enslaving?

In the book Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll makes the case that many of the wisdom decisions we make need to not simply ask, “Is this a clear sin?” There needs to be a higher standard. He suggests 1 Corinthians 6:12 as a guide. In Paul’s argument, he asks whether something is not only sinful, but helpful. Pastor Mark then applies this more broadly to ask the following three questions.

Is it lawful? This excludes everything the Bible forbids and that the state forbids.

Is it helpful? This asks if the film benefits me. Is there a good reason to consume the film beyond the fact I have an evening free.

Is it enslaving? Will the image of that girl follow me around the rest of my life? Will I have to use extra self-control later because I won’t use it now? Will I sin because I watched this film?

Will your freedom cause others to stumble?

Let’s say you set a clear standard and have satisfied your own conscience. You are fully convinced in your own mind what is safe for you and are comfortable with a film. Wait, there is a final consideration.

Romans 14 is a whole chapter about how Christians should give deference to the weaker brother. We should always ask if this will cause another to stumble. This is strange for me to say because I may be the weak brother. I am asking you not to put me in a tempting situation. Almost every time I see someone cite Romans 14, they assume they are the stronger believer. Not so this time. I am the weaker brother.

We need to be very cautious and respectful when recommending and watching films that we are not setting up a brother to sin. Practically, this means no one should ever watch any of the Transformer films (they are so sexualized and they are just awful movies anyway).

So What do I do?

If you have asked all the above and your conscience is still uneasy about a film, you probably shouldn’t watch it. The solution to the Requiem for a Dream Problem is that I will never watch the movie. I want to. I really do. But it is not safe for me.


The Movie Poster above is under copyright and is used under a Fair Use.

When Is Public Indecency Acceptable? (Reblog)

girl_covering_eyesThis article by the wonderful blogger Cap Stewart is one of my favorites. It is reblogged with his permission. 

During a recent plane ride across the country, I looked up from my seat and encountered two people pretending to have sex—right out in the open. They didn’t act in the least bit ashamed or embarrassed. They weren’t completely naked, but discarded pieces of clothing were clearly visible.

A quick glance around the cabin revealed that some of the other passengers had seen the incident as well, but none of them were reacting to it. Some continued their business, while others seemed content to watch passively. No flight attendants intervened; no one protested. It was a surreal experience—one which provided me with an opportunity to apply God’s grace in fighting the temptation to lust in my own heart.

What happened after that? Well, the bedroom episode ended and the movie went on to another scene. Yes, it was “only” a movie. But does that relieve you at all? If so, something is dreadfully wrong.

There seems to be a huge disconnect between what is inappropriate in “real life” and what is inappropriate in front of a camera. We have laws against public indecency. But the same indecency, if put on film—where thousands or millions more might see, and which can be paused or replayed at any time—is suddenly socially acceptable.

You’re probably aware of the debauchery-infused performance of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke at the Video Music Awards last week. It seems that most people, Christian and otherwise, agree on the impropriety of this VMA dance number. But my guess is that if that same dance routine was a scene in a movie, no one would have responded with such outrage. In fact, many Christians would likely have gone to see the movie—as long as it had some “redeemable” content, that is.

(click here to read the rest of the article at

The Sixth Love Language (for kids)

child laughingIn the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, he makes the compelling argument for five major ways that we give and receive love. They are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Gifts
  4. Physical Touch
  5. Quality Time

This list is, of course, not exhaustive for the ways that people can give and receive love. I should probably keep working at my job despite the fact “Working at a Job” is not a listed love language. It is loving for my family even if it does not fit comfortably on the list.

As I have had children, I have been amazed at how much they just drink in physical touch and words of affirmation. They are just sponges for love in those ways. I can watch my daughter just brim with excitement when I tell her that I think that dress looks beautiful on her. She will then dance and twirl around the living room to make sure I have noticed every last pink frill.

But there is a strange way that kids accept love that I had not anticipated. Far from the more glamorized and acceptable ways of giving love listed above, this one is different. It is the sixth love language (for kids).

6.  Acts of Silliness

Kids just flourish when parents are ridiculous and silly around them. I think God is like this. We will be amazed in Heaven by how much God is speaking in baby-talk just to speak with us at all. I think we will also be amazed at how very funny God will be. He is not simply the judge of the Universe, he also knows all the best jokes.

One such joke that is common in my house is that a child will walk into a room and I will intensely point and smile at them. I won’t say anything, just point. The child stops, considers for a moment, then they smile. “You’re so silly dada.”

My pointer fingers on both hands are called my “Poking Fingers.” The kids know that if I walk up to them with my poking fingers out, they are about to get gentle pokes in their bellies. They twist up and giggle and have a good time even if I don’t poke them. A favorite thing they do is try to prevent my poking finger from poking them. When they succeed in stopping a poke, they are quite proud of themselves and give me five year old smack talk.

The point is that we men should not be too serious in our home. Our kids need us to be representative of the Sovereign God who commands infinite respect AND the God who is funny and delightful. Yahweh is both.

Gentlemen, we need to love our kids using Acts of Silliness. Tickle them, tell them a nonsensical joke, make funny sounds, pretend you are a giant pink panda bear. Be very, very silly because you love them so much that you don’t care if your neighbor’s laugh at you as long as your kids know you love them.

Ironically, Acts of Silliness make you most respectable.


The delightful image above was use with permission from Cheriejoyful.

Ten Observations of a Visitor to Tallahassee

Florida State University - Talahassee, FL.It is not often I travel these days. With a small army of young children and a full life in Minnesota, I don’t get out of the state much. Over the past week I did make one of those rare excursions into the wide world when I traveled to Tallahassee, FL to visit my sister. Usually I see a city and it leaves no impression on me, certainly not enough to be worth a blog post. Tallahassee is different. So sit back, relax, and enjoy my top ten observations about the mighty capital of Florida.

10. The Beautiful People

One does not need to be in Tallahassee long to realize that is full of lovely people. Through some combination of wealth, genetics, skin care, hair and nail treatments, gym memberships, and surgery the people of Tallahassee are an attractive lot. I’m sure having Florida State University there doesn’t hurt, but it is more than that. I began to wonder if I, as a gentleman of modest appearance, was going to be whisked away by the looks police and told I can’t go back into the city. Maybe being with my attractive sister protected me. I shall never know.

9. The Protesters at the Capitol

Throughout my stay there I drove by the Florida Capitol Building several times. It is a stately structure that represents well the people of Florida. In front of the capital, as is there right in a free society, were protesters. This is well and good for a people who possess free speech and use it. The only problem with these protesters is that after driving by several times, I still don’t know what they were protesting.

What was observable is that they were angry, wearing white shirts, and had signs that did not tell me what they were angry about. Not only that, these generic signs made such a firm impression on me that I can’t remember what a single one of them said. So if you are planning to protest in Florida or anywhere, please make sure I as a passerby can know what you are protesting.

8. Lucy and Leo’s Cupcakery

There is a quaint pink building on Thomasville Road with a cute little sign that says Lucy and Leo’s Cupcakery. Inside you will find a green entryway with an artsy appearance and a few tables that have some of Tallahassee’s beautiful people sitting in them.

The counter on your left is where the good stuff starts. Cupcakes! Lots of delicious and lovely cupcakes. I had the Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake and I must say it was delicious. At $2.75, this is well worth a visit

7. Gameday Chic

At the back of Lucy and Leo’s there is a cute little clothing and fashion shop called Gameday Chic (pronounced Sheek not Chick). Normally I not go into such an establishment as it is fashion related and I am actually a living Neanderthal. They don’t make good clothing for hominids with sloped foreheads like me.

This one has a special appeal to me because my sister owns it. I must say it is a cute little shop and I enjoyed looking around. If you should ever visit, check out the manikin in the back left corner by the dressing room. That one was my idea. My one and only business acumen.

6. The FSU Seminoles

One of the strange things about universities is how obsessed they get with their team names and colors. My own alma mater, The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, is awash with orange and white at all times. We even shout about being the Tennessee Volunteers despite the fact that I don’t think we are particularly good at volunteering for anything.

FSU (that is Florida State University) is no exception. They are bombarded and bombarding their world with how much they are Seminoles despite the fact that the university has only a nominal connection with the tribe itself. As an outsider, it was both amusing and strange to see all of the Native American based apparel and colors with little or no real connections to a Native American heritage.

5. The University Center Club

On the FSU Campus there is a prominent brick building (or I should say there are many prominent brick buildings) called The University Center Club. It has large meeting rooms and is rented out for various meetings and parties. I had the privilege of attending such a party with my sister and other family members. The occasion was Tallahassee’s Top Salon competition which my sister’s salon had been nominated for.

The decor is the classic southern pillars that I have been used to seeing since I was a child but never at this scale. We were in a large rectangular room that was dimly lit. Being with some of the most beautiful of the beautiful people of Tallahassee, we also got to see them becoming increasingly inebriated as the evening progressed.

Overall the evening was enjoyable and memorable. Unfortunately, Kiersten Smith Hair and Beauty didn’t win.

4. Unconquered?

Outside The University Center Club there is a large statue of a horse-mounted Seminole with a spear prominently brandished. It is a striking sculpture that really creates a sense of awe. Below that there is a single word inscribed in the base.


Now this fits very well with the statue and with the school’s aforementioned obsession with the Seminole people. But the more I thought about it, I have come to believe that it is a liability.

As many of you know, FSU was the National Champion this year in college football so the inscription is actually quite fitting. They were, in fact, unconquered. It struck me that this is one of the very few times in FSU history that the inscription was actually true.

So imagine another year where they are repeatedly and severely beaten in any sport. The opposing team needs to simply pull their bus in front of that statue and allow the banal college humor to roll. While the moment I saw engraving was profound in its appropriateness, it must spend the vast majority of its time being humorously inappropriate.

3. The Roads

Tallahassee has many things going for it. It’s roads are not one of the them.

The road system in Tallahassee sucks. It is difficult to get your bearings and once you do, you will find you are going the wrong way on a one way street. If you would like to find out for yourself, try visiting the intersection between Thomasville Rd, N. Meridian Rd, and E. 7th Ave. If you are on Thomasville then you will pass by with no trouble. If you are on any of the other roads, Heaven help you. There is a special magic to this intersection that it reads your intended destination and somehow blocks you from going there.

The confusing nature of the roads can only be aggravated by the angry intensity of the other drivers. I think Tallahasseeans drink road rage with their breakfast. I had more people riding my bumper and blasting their horn than in any other city. One look at the complex streets and the MN plate on my car should have helped them to see my desperate plight. But no, better to hit the horn and give me the finger.

2. Meridian Road

Amidst this mess of one-way streets and angry drivers, there is a single and profoundly beautiful road. North Meridian Road is a straight drive of several miles with beautiful trees and spanish moss overhanging. In the full sunlight of north Florida it creates a lovely shaded ride that I would recommend to anyone visiting the area. Just don’t look in your rearview mirror because there will be someone riding your bumper and likely scowling at you.

1. Kiersten Smith

Let’s face it, I would never have visited Tallahassee except that my adorable and lovely sister lives there. What is Tallahassee’s greatest draw? Why Kiersten of course! Even though you may not be related to her, I would recommend getting a haircut from her and visiting Gameday Chic. She is a delightful person and, if you ask, I’m sure she can find a good look for you.

So, for all my adventures in Tallahassee, I had a good time. It is a city worth visiting. So go there, bring your GPS, have a cupcake, get a haircut, and take a cruise down Meridian Road.

That’s what I did.