Let My Life be a Liturgy

Let my life be a liturgy

Formed and ordered by the Word;

So compel and control

My Body, Spirit and Soul,

That Christ may be known by all in me.

 

Let my life be a liturgy

Stained and covered by the Ghost:

I to listen and heed

In thought, in voice, and in deed,

That Christ may be known to all by me.

 

Let my life be a liturgy

Held and car’d by the Father;

He to plan and create,

Redeemed from our sinful state

That Christ may be known in all to me.

 

Let my life be liturgy

Lived and molded by the Fold;

We to worship and obey

As we repent, confess and pray,

That Christ may be known for all through we.

 

Let my life be a liturgy

Known and ‘membered by our LORD;

We to trust and believe

And in faith we then receive

That Christ may be known by all through Thee.

 

by T.S.O. Drake

Reflections on the Birth of my Third Daughter

“On behalf of every man
Looking out for every girl
You are the God and weight of her world

So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters too” – John Mayer
I remember the first time I heard this song by John Mayer. I didn’t get it.
Now that I have three daughters, it’s almost haunting how Christ-like these lyrics are for a father.
Whenever Ashlie and I had our first daughter, Aubrielle, I was struck with a thought, one that has shaped how I teach my classes, talk to my wife, and interact with my children:
If I can’t talk about God to my children in a way they understand, I have no right talking about God to adults.
For some, this is obvious – not so to others.
This is why I ask my daughters, “How did you get to know Jesus better today?” rather than “What did you learn about Jesus?” when we meet after Sunday service and I pick them up from the nursery.  God is not an idea, but a person, an objective reality who changes everything when you experience his presence. I’m preparing them for their encounters with God.
Now, with three daughters, Aubrielle, Aumerie, and Auria, I am once again confronted with the simple yet foundational idea:
If I can’t talk about God to my children in a way they understand, I have no right talking about God to adults.
Why is this so important?
Primarily, my job is to teach my children about the reality of God.
Secondarily, my job is to keep them alive.
Tertiarily, my job is to prepare them to live with out parents, but not without community.
Now, depending on the age and situation, these can flip flop easily. But they cannot be ignored.
The greatest good I can do my children is to teach them, show them, remind them, live for them, the reality of God.
I am blessed with a glorious purpose and responsibility. All fathers are.
So fathers, be good to your daughters.

My Favorite Films

What makes a film great?

People have been trying to answer this question since cinema first appeared on the scene. Pun intended. When asked, “What are the greatest films of all time?” the list actually doesn’t vary that much.

Generally, you see these ten films, not necessarily in this exact order each time, but very little variation occurs.

1. Vertigo

2. Citizen Kane

3. The 7th Seal

4. 2001: A Space Odessy

5. The Passion of Joan of Arc

6. The Searchers

7. City Lights

8. The Godfather

9. Seven Samurai

10. 8 1/2

Or something to that affect.  Feel free to include or substitute Casablanca, In the Mood for Love, The Mirror, Apocalypse Now, Raider of the Lost Arc, It happened One Night, Wild Strawberries, The Bicycle Thieves, Rashomon, The General, Battleship Potemkin, Raging Bull, and a few other as you please. Why these films? Primarily because they changed the established visual medium forever: the structure of story altered, editing shifted, music evolved, the camera moved differently, the acting raised the bar, etc. With these films, the cinematic landscape of movies advanced boldly to new levels. pushing the craft towards unexpected territory.

However, the greatest films of all time are not always a filmmakers favorite film. Greatest and favorite are not the same, and many directors and filmmakers got into the game by a film that wouldn’t be considered “One of the Greats.”

Here is a list of my 10 Favorite Films with a brief blurb about why each one is on the list:

  1. Hamlet (1996) – Directed by Kenneth Branagh:

This is the perfect film. It’s one of the few films that I have no complaint with. From the acting to the costuming, score to editing, cinematography to production design, this film uses the filmmaking process to every advantage. Not enough praise can be given to this adaptation of Shakespeare’s best work.

2. The Lord of the Ring (2001-2003) – Directed by Peter Jackson

Epic. The word has almost no value in our modern society. However, this trilogy has no other apt description. The two dominant aspects of these films that strand out to me is the management and handling of of some odd dozens of characters and yet we understand the motives and intent of every single one of them, and the imagery. Cinema has the daunting task of having to provide images that become engrained into the culture and seared into the minds of the audience.

3. Ikiru (1952) – Akira Kurosawa

This is the first Kurosawa film that left me unable to move after the final scene. How do you present the story of a man who knows he will die; how do you explore that theme and not leave the audience bored; how do you discover the humanity in a character who doesn’t care for humanity? There is no other film that best deciphers man’s mortality than Ikiru.

4. Le Samourai (1956) – Jean-Pierre Melvile

When I discovered the Criterion Collection, this was the first film I bought mainly because of the cover: the title and the coolest man I had ever seen looking to the right, anticipating an unseen obstacle and planning his next move. This is Jef, a French hitman, and this is the coolest film I have ever seen. From the jazz score to the cat and mouse detective game, this film makes such a complex arthouse film look easy and simple.

5. Stalker (1979) – Andrei Tarkovsky

The most frustratingly philosophical film I have ever experienced. This actually might be my favorite film – I haven’t seen it enough. Only three times. Yet every time, the primary aspect that stands out is the movement of the camera. This is the best shot film I have ever seen – the camera movements emphasize the themes and questions the film explores. And there are no easy answers. Perhaps the reason I find this film so fascinating is that I discover more and more with each repeat viewing and not only am I made a better filmmaker for it, but a better person as well.

6. Pride and Prejudice (2005) – Joe Wright

I merely saw this film at the right time in my life to realize that every aspect of filmmaking has to work together to tell the story or else the film doesn’t work. Everything within the established film world has to make sense and follow the “world rules” presented in the film. This was the first film I understood that with. This film, every part of it, makes sense.

7. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) – Hayao Miyazaki

Miyazaki, possible the greatest animated film director of all time. He has not made a bad film. Not many in the industry can hold that torch. He produced classic after classic, but this one has always stuck with me. I think it’s because of the unexpected story and how its presented on screen. I remember finding myself (this still happens today) absorbed in the uniqueness of world, the quirkiness of the characters, the majesty of the art, and there’s a fire demon who likes bacon.

8. Heat (1995) – Michael Mann

The first time I saw this film was on VHS at Arlis Moon’s recording studio when I was in 8th grade while the band I was in (Too Few Forgotten) was recording our second EP. It was late and I was tired. But from the opening heist, I was hooked and awake. Not enough has been said about his film’s realistic portrayal of the honest criminal underworld and the corrupt police department. The coffee scene between Pacino and De Niro is the most intense conversation ever filmed – a perfect masterclass of the craft.

9. A Man for All Season (1966) – Fred Zinnemann

I hate “based on a true story” films. They bother me because film is essentially a lie – a fabrication. The actors are pretending, the script is ultimately the author’s interpretation of whatever they are writing about, editing doesn’t happen in real life. However, the story Sir Thomas Moore never succumbs to the inadequacy of the usual blandness and unnecessary exaggeration of these types of films. Still based on a true story, the grand story never feels forced or metallic; rather it is surprisingly warm and convicting, while being equally extravagant and intimate.

10. Sorcerer (1977) – William Friedkin

The sound. This film is the best example of how sound becomes its own character in the film world. Never has sound design and editing left me sweating – and the film is only PG! No music needed – no acting required – just the sounds of two truck’s being driven by four wicked men across roadless South America with unstable nitroglycerin in their trunks and every tire screech and twig snap and wind howl and wave splash and gun shot and labored breath to put us in their frame of frantic mind.

 

What about you? What are your favorite films and why? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading.

Why I Have My Kids Watch Hayao Miyazaki Films

The Bible can be a very difficult book to read. I believe this is why it is often misinterpreted, misunderstood, and misrepresented.

That is not to say that I have all the correct interpretations, understanding, or that I best represent what it teaches. I am still learning. But I have learned a lot. Some of my students think too much.

However, one of the most defining sections of the Old Testament is the History books, Joshua through Esther, in the Protestant Bible. These books are wonderfully scripted, expertly crafted, painfully detailed, and, above all, not at all western literature.

Yes. They are not western literature. This is eastern history telling. Middle-eastern history telling. That is why there are sections that sound like other Middle-eastern writings also from that time: they shared a same literary identity. This is no different than modern day literary styles and techniques: literature, though not necessarily the content of that literature, is a product of its time.

And the history books of the Old Testament are Middle-eastern historical literature.

So, what does this have to do with why I have my kids watch Hayao Miyazaki films?

Simple: they aren’t western literature either.

Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese animator, often called the Disney of Japanese animation ( a title he abhors). He has made some of the greatest animated films of all time (yes, even compared to Disney). We study him in my filmmaking class (or will, depending on when you are reading this), especially how he uses plot to serve the characters and his depiction of evil (of any of his characters could be that).

For clarification, Japan is not Middle-east, it is far-east. Nevertheless, it still shares a great distinction of not being the west.

In my own life, I have fallen in love with Miyazaki’s imagery over and over again. From my first viewing of KiKi’s Delivery Service in my grandparents lake house to rewatching The Wind Rises in my own house with my wife (Ashlie), watching Miyazaki’s work has done something that not many other films have, at least for me:

They have helped me understand an  eastern form of story structure that is almost completely absent in the west, and by doing so, helped be better pick up the varying literary styles and shapes of the Historical Books of the Old Testament.

Disney is western visual literature; Miyazaki is eastern visual literature – the cinematic language used by both master is only distinct by how they format a story.

The Old Testament is not western; it is eastern.

This is why  I have my kids watch Hayao Miyazaki films, so that they will hopefully have a better understanding of how eastern story telling works.

I hope that ‘s what they get out of it.

A Personal Ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Film.

As a lover of film, the influence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe cis undeniable. It has changed how Hollywood does film franchises. This type of language, a cinematic universe, was unheard of until now (although you could argue that Laurel and Hardy did it first, or the Universal Classic Monsters did). Now, studios are trying to create the next big thing. Good luck.

So, following a long line of movie goers, I hopped the bandwagon and arrived at my ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Not in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but definitely better films are X2: X-Men United and Spiderman 2 (the Tobey McGuire one).

18. Thor: The Dark World

17. Iron Man 2

16. The Incredible Hulk

15. Avengers: Age of Ultron

14. Ant-Man

13. Captain America: The First Avenger

12. Thor: Ragnarok

11. The Avengers

10. Captain America: Civil War

9. Spider-Man: Homecoming

8. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

7. Iron Man 3

6. Doctor Strange

5. Black Panther

4. Iron Man

3. Thor

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

1. Captain America: Winter Soldier

 

And there ya go. What do you think? Leave a comment below and let me know what’s your favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe Film.

The Best Argument for God’s Existence.

As an apologist, the primary question we are answering is simple: does God exist.

Some will argue that God does not exist because existence implies creations (this is more obvious in the latin). However, most people aren’t versed in dead languages enough to be aware of the subtle nuances. So the question, “does God exist,” is still an applicable one for the general population and laity.

There are many arguments for why it is reasonable to believe that God exists, however. Though some take more defending than others. But don’t let that fool you – of the six main classical arguments (classical because they have been in use longer than others) – contingency, kalam, design, morality, actuality of evil, and ontology – the one that best explores whether or not God exist’s, I have found to be, is the Moral Argument.

The argument is simple:

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Pretty straight forward.

The main opposition to this argument is two fold: 1) Objective moral values do not exist, implying, morality is often (if not always) subjective and 2) well, if objective moral values do exist it’s not because of God.

The first fold is easy: yes, objective moral values do exist and we all know it. The second fold naturally follows.

Opposition: Different societies have different morals. Who are we to say they are wrong?

Reply: Are you saying the Nazis weren’t wrong?

Opposition: No, they were.

Reply: But that worked for the Nazis society. You just said you can’t say they’re wrong.

Opposition: Well obviously we all agree mass genocide is wrong.

Reply: Then objective moral values exist.

Opposition: Well, we still don’t need God. Society can decide what best for itself.

Reply: Like the Nazis?

Opposition: Well, no. Not like the Nazis.

Reply: But they were the leaders of their society.

Opposition: But not everyone agreed with them. Just because the majority of society says something is right doesn’t mean it is.

Replied: Agreed. Especially if part of that society was being killed by the majority of that society because of whatever reason.

Opposition: Right.

Reply: So objective moral values do exist.

Opposition: Well, no. That’s just your opinion.

Reply: No it isn’t. According to the rules of logic, a truth value statement, like objective moral values exist, is either true for false. There is no room for opinion.

Opposition: Well, then I believe they don’t exist.

Reply: How come?

Opposition: Because morality is just a bi-product or our evolution.

Reply: But that would imply that morality, the distinguishing between good and evil, actually has nothing to do with good and evil and has everything to do with survival. If that’s the case, then morality isn’t about truth, justice, fairness, discipline, correction, or punishment, but about survival. If that’s the case, how can you trust your sense of morality?

Opposition: Huh. Good point. I’ll have to think about that. But why do you think that this means God exists?

Reply: I believe that we are made in God’s image.

Opposition: What does that even mean?

Reply: Primarily, that we are reasoning creatures. And since God wills that which is good because he is good, we all have a sense of morality. Would you agree that the world is a messed up place?

Opposition: Yes.

Reply: Me too. And I think we would both agree that this is because humanity keeps screwing things up, right?

Opposition: Yes.

Reply: But then, why if we know what we ought to do, where does this idea of “ought to do” come from? We believe from outside humanity and from God.

Opposition: But then why would a good God allow evil to exist?

Reply: That’s a good question for another time, but that’s not what we’re talking about right now. The very fact that all of humanity acknowledges that there is “right” and “wrong” even if they disagree with what is right and what is wrong helps us understand that morality is an abstract concept that has to exist outside humanity for us to grasp it.

Opposition: Do what now?

Reply: Do you see good and evil in reality?

Opposition: Oh yeah, all the time.

Reply: Such as?

Opposition: Such as rape is evil and sharing is good.

Reply: No, those are actions that we have assigned a moral value to.

Opposition:  Gotcha. I see.

Reply: So how do you know there is such thing as good and evil?

Opposition: I never thought of that before.

Reply: Because God is good, and we are made is his image, we have an acute awareness of God’s existence, and therefore, the distinction between good and evil.

Opposition: But that doesn’t prove that God exists.

Reply: I haven’t heard a better explanation for the existence of objective moral values from you.

Opposition: Well, I have to be going. you’ve given me some stuff to think about.

Reply: I hope to talk to you soon.

 

Of all the arguments, the Moral arguments carries an amazing weight of practicality and immediacy to the conversation.

What are your favorite arguments for God’s existence? Please leave a comment below and let’s see what we get!

 

The Importance of the Ascension

As my relationship with God depends, a facet that I thrive in is theology and apologetics. For some reason, I have a very good mind when it comes to systems, structure, logical flow, and understanding implications. Or so I have been told.

I am speaking at my alma mater this week and the topic is THE ASCENSION.

I don’t remember the last time I heard a sermon on THE ASCENSION. I don’t think I have ever heard one on tTHE ASCENSION. As part of a sermon, yes; but a whole message dedicated to the meaning, purpose, and value of THE ASCENSION, nope.

Needless to say, I has been convicted and blessed during this time of study and prayer. From this time, there have been a few key thoughts that have engrossed me and my sermon planning and writing.

  1. “The Ascension is where Christ takes Captivity captive.” Coming from Martin Luther, in his death and resurrection, Christ defeated sin, hell, death, and the Satan; however, in hi ascension, Christ returned to the throne and holds all his enemies captive – not dead, for their purpose and desired end is not yet completed.
  2. “The Word now has Flesh in heaven.” Cyril of Alexandria explains that Christ is now the perfect Mediator of the New Covenant. Humanity as the image bearer of God is now restored in Christ as he intercedes for his people and desires his enemies to repentance.
  3. “All that Christ accomplished in his earthly body is now present in the believer through the presence of the Holy Spirit, creating a new earthly body of believers.” We are not alone in our faith and the accomplishments of Christ now dwell within and empower believers to be his witnesses wherever and whenever they are.

This, to me, has greatly deepened my affection for my Savior and has bettered my understanding of his great love for us.