Archive for May, 2007

28 Weeks Later – A Review

“Life After the Fall”

Just when most people had written off zombies as a monster that had anything interesting to say about our life or culture (in favor of angst-ridden vampires), along came a British invasion of zombie movies: first 28 Days Later, then Shaun of the Dead (from the folks who then gave us Hot Fuzz), and now 28 Weeks Later. Revitalizing not only the creatures as a legitimate terror of interest, but also speaking to many of the fears bubbling beneath the surface of life as we know it.

28 Weeks Later features jittery camera movement often so dizzying, you can barely follow the action. Once again though, it produces an unsettling effect, both stylish and startling, not dependent on boo moments but an atmosphere of creeping terror. The movie only stops to breathe in order to set up the plot. Over six months have passed since the original movie. The rage virus has burned itself out and life is slowly being restored to London. The U.S. military, headed by Idris Elba (The Gospel, The Wire) and featuring Harold Perrineau (Oz, Lost), has stepped in to help restore order. It is their “we ain’t playin’” zombie protocols that sets up the bulk of the action, the U.S. military as much a threat as the zombies themselves.

“There are no survivors. It’s just us in here and them out there.” Jacob (Shahid Ahmed)

Zombies portray a resurrection to walking death. They are the living dead, with no hope, only the eternal existence in a “body of death” (Romans 7:24). They are particular reminders that there are worse things than death. However, this movie doesn’t stop at that level of spiritual connection. There is another story the movie seems to be telling.

London, District One specifically, stands terrifyingly empty, a green zone of safety and quarantine, Garden of Eden of sorts, waiting to be populated. People are slowly introduced into this new system, restrained only by one simple rule: do not cross into the forbidden zone. Free will being what it is, that one law can’t be followed.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned–” Romans 5:12

Donald Harris (Robert Carlyle, Trainspotting), the “first Adam,” introduces the virus into the new system after being tempted (burdened with the memories of his cowardice) by his wife, Alice (Braveheart‘s Catherine McCormack). The virus is like a sin contagion: like the nature of sin, it’s an infection that spreads and grows almost like a conscious disease. Because of the introduction of sin, the created order is disrupted, neither humanity (once infected with sin) nor creation are as they are meant to be. Donald now exists in a state of fallenness, no longer capable of living up to the potential of who he could be.

This virus transforms us, our way of life, our way of prioritizing what is important, our ways of thinking and going about life. Rage, fear, and insatiable desire seeking to be quenched only leads to a spiral of death. The U.S. soldiers become like angels caught up in this battle, both trying to seal off the Garden of Eden from any further intrusion/escape and being a judgment of fire.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”” –Genesis 3:15

Alice’s blood also acts as a carrier for a possible cure, so there is also a promise of future hope. Through her son, Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), there is a hope for a cure for that way of life, as he becomes the “second Adam.” With the potential, the nature, to be one of the zombies, but not being like them: 100% them, 100% other. Through him, there is the chance of being completely liberated from this virus.

“We can’t get separated again. Whatever happens, we’ll stay together.” –Andy

Against a cultural context of an AIDs epidemic and wars on terrorism, 28 Weeks Later has a stunning resonance. Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo establishes a claustrophobic horror, using both light and darkness to terrifying effect. And silence. Haunting images of an abandoned London, a civilization stopped dead in its tracks, provides a forlorn landscape to play out the wars. Like with most sequels, it doesn’t have the impact of the original because we’re now used to the language and rhythm of it. However, that doesn’t make it any less effective a horror tale, extending the original tale in a logical way and deepening its societal critique.

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Dresden Files – A Review

“Harry Potter, P.I.”

Murphy: What do you see?
Dresden: Just the world. A little darker.

Sci Fi Channel’s original series, The Dresden Files, is based loosely on Jim Butcher’s popular book series. I wasn’t familiar with the series, so if there are significant changes to it, I can’t have a nerd apoplectic fit. Harry Dresden (Paul Blackthorne, 24) is a modern day wizard (without the long beard and stylish hat, but with his hockey stick as his magic staff) and a paranormal investigator. Though he has a deadpan sense of humor, he also carries the burden of regret in his bearing. Lt. Connie Murphy (Valerie Cruz) of the Chicago Police Department, calls on him as a quasi-consultant for the police force. Rounding out the team is Bob (Terrence Mann), the ghost of a medieval alchemist, as a butler/mentor, the sardonic Alfred to Dresden’s Batman.

With its cast of characters, The Dresden Files will draw inevitable comparisons to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel . Angel especially as Harry, too, is a detective of sorts held accountable by a mysterious High Council/Higher Powers, h as more than his share of dark secrets, and is in search of redemption. Not to mention that Angel also began with a close/quirky relationship to a member of the police force. Still, I can’t help thinking this series is more Kolchak the Night Stalker meets the Rockford Files.

“For the working magician, the best tool in his toolbox is a little thing we like to call the false expectation. If played right, it can stun an audience into total submission.” –Harry

There are many spiritual connections in a show like the Dresden Files. The show reminds us that we live in a world of wonder, one of the reality of magic, where there is a spiritual dimension to our existence. Where characters like Liz realize “Safe? There’s no such thing as safe. There’s alive and there’s dead and anything in between is dumb luck” as they are confronted with the reality of evil and are caught up in the battles with the forces of chaos. The show speculates about that spiritual existence and what may come after it– the other side, the middle, it’s the transition–revealing our fascination with “the other side”. Dresden concludes that “We all come from somewhere. We come here, we do this life thing, and we go back.”

Shows like Medium and the Dresden Files reminds us that the occult, unseen spirits, are serious business We don’t like to be reminded of the spiritual battles waged around us, forgetting that the Bible, from beginning to end, is a supernatural book where magic is treated as real. From the sorcerers that competed against Moses before Pharaoh to the diviners, magicians, and sorcerers of the Babylonian court to Simon Magus, the sorcerer who followed the apostles around trying to bribe them to show him how to do miracles.

But the one thing I keep coming back to, as far as a spiritual theme of the show, is the issue of faith.

“The false expectation is also known by more aggressive illusionists as the dashed hope.” –Harry

The only thing that I can think of comparing faith to is love: Finding faith is like falling in love. There is an element of mystery to both, and in any proposition, we’re uncomfortable with mysteries (the “I don’t knows”). There are times while we are falling in love where we feel like we have been chosen and times where we choose to do it. Falling in love catches us off guard and sweeps us up.

“Here’s the thing about the dashed hope: you hit someone hard enough with it at an early age and it can make a blind spot in one’s habitual search for closeness and affection.” –Harry

However, too often we simplify our faith and cling to false ideas of hope. It’s akin to clinging to the idea of romance rather than the reality of love. Faith becomes a “don’t worry, everything will be fine” sort of endeavor that basically only sounds good in the sales pitch. The truth is more along the lines of accepting and following in faith will make your life harder. You will be thought of as intellectually simple, blind, irrational, or fanatical. And the experience of life quickly teaches us that things won’t always seem to work out for the best. We encounter sufferings, nastiness, and darkness and are expected to continue in faith despite these things.

“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” Revelation 22:3

There is an expectation of hope, a faith, a reality, that won’t be dashed. Until then, we toil in mysteries and faith; with sights unseen while contending with principalities and powers. Leading many to echo Murphy’s reaction: “I can’t join you there because my rules don’t apply there and I need my rules.”

The Dresden Files has the usual first season bumps as the show/writers find themselves and fine tune the voices of the characters. However, the Dresden Files is off to a good start and I can’t wait for it to develop and deepen its mythology.

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Friday Night Date Place – Meet the Friends Part II

So what if meeting the friends doesn’t go especially well? [The same questions could be asked of meeting the parents or meeting the kids.] In the final analysis, the relationship is yours and it is your life to lead. Everyone has agendas, and those of your parents, your kids, and your friends, might not be as pure as we would like. For example, some from those circle may not be operating from a perspective of not having your best interests at heart. So you have to weigh those opinions for what they are worth.

However, let’s not be too hasty in dismissing their opinions outright just because we may not like their conclusions. Sometimes friends, because they aren’t so personally invested, can see things that you can’t. People in love develop blind spots, especially when they are too close to a situation. They can’t always see themselves, their significant others, or their relationship objectively.

Some blind spots you think would be obvious to anyone with eyes:

-if the guy has an alcohol problem
-if the guy is abusive or disrespectful
-if the guy has no interest in the things fundamental to you (such as your faith)
-if you are so desperate to be in a relationship, to be loved, that you’ll settle for whoever pays you attention

Sadly, that last item is what usually leads to the blind spots. Which means you want to have ears open enough to hear what your friends are saying if things along these lines are being said. If you are that friend, however, there are certain responsibilities that fall on you:

-Talk to your friend who is in that dating relationship and let them know how you feel. At least do them that courtesy rather than have “war councils” with the rest of the circle of friends that don’t amount to anything more than gossip times.

-Support your friend. Mistakes are theirs to make and we can’t live other people’s lives for them. We all have regrets, mistakes we can hopefully learn from.

It is tough seeing those you love about to make what you are sure will be huge mistakes. You don’t want to burn the bridge of friendship in the name of being heard (read: being right) or doing “whatever it takes” to sabotage the relationship in the “best interests” of your friend. A friend offers council and support, when asked and sometimes when not asked. But there comes a point after that when you need to step back and be prepared to catch your friend should they fall.

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Havoc After Dark – A Review


Written by: Robert Fleming
Published by: Dafina Books

After lamenting the state of the horror market for black readers as well as black writers, I stumble across Havoc After Dark, a horror short story collection by Robert Fleming.

The stories are thoroughly black stories–with black characters, black POV, and black sensibilities–without overwhelming the reader with “blackness.” Let me unpack that a bit. One can read a Stephen King, a Brian Keene, or a Gary A. Braunbeck and know you are reading about blue collar folks in blue collar worlds doing blue collar things. The stories feel natural and the reader is drawn into their world.

At the same time, the stories draw on the mythology and folk wisdom of African Americans, lending Havoc After Dark a historic feel at times. Fleming tells the tales of soldiers from World War II or the terror of being at the hands of a lynch mob. Some of the ideas feel a little tired, like the bluesman who makes a deal with the devil, but are saved by Fleming’s voice and narrative. Though sometimes the racial aspects of a story are forced, even intrusive, such as in “Bordering on the Divine”, told through the eyes of Edgar Allan Poe’s Negro servant.

“Do you believe in God?” the redbone man suddenly asked. “You know, all of that garbage about original sin, shame, guilt, and repenting your sins. Judgment Day, Satan, Heaven, the Bible, and all that foolishness.” –Speak No Evil

We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) and at the root of what it means to “do” horror is the idea of fear. Part of the cathartic experience of horror is out exorcizing of some of the things that scare us, that shadow of fear that we live our lives under. Ultimately, horror is about the fear of death and horror is excited by the reality of evil. We fear for our lives and the lives of those we love. We live in fear of good being consumed by evil. Frankly, evil should be feared because we live with the consequences of evil all around us.

We have to wrestle with the idea of “the depravity of man”. Sometimes this comes out as wrestling with the theme of man having a darker nature to resist, restrain, or kill. It may have characters wondering, when confronted with personified evil, “Where is the part of God within him?” (Arbeit Macht Frei).

“He thought briefly about praying, but only briefly, since he wasn’t especially religious and not a person to be screaming and shouting in some Baptist church on Sunday. God had forsaken him anyway. He really didn’t want to think about what happened after Death or the final tallying of sins. All bullshit. But the notion of going to the Other side did sometimes intrigue him. Did you face Judgment Day immediately after dying?” –The Inhuman Condition

Horror not only acknowledges a spiritual dimension to life, but that transcendent reality often intrudes into our own. Even as we hunger for this transcendent realm and can’t help but grapple with the idea of its existence, nothing scares like the unknown. This is why speculation about the afterlife intrigues, if not terrifies, us.

“Value your life. Waste not even a minute. Life is a precious and wonderful gift.” –In My Father’s House (115)

We often sense, if not experience, an existential terror; a gnawing emptiness that claws at our souls. A darkness, the deep, that threatens to suck the joy for all aspects of our lives, that can lead to a spiraling sourness to life that makes us want to crawl into bed and never get out. The darkness helps focus us on what is truly important about life. Living life in light of death means to love without regrets and always be answering the question “how are you going to spend today?”

Havoc After Dark is ambitious, but falls short in execution. An inconsistent collection with stories that either come off like black Twilight Zone tales, too dependent on twist endings, or need to much longer. I was frustrated with each of the stories for the first third of the collection when it hit me: some of his stories want to be novels. Short story writing exercises a different set of literary muscles than novel, which leaves my quite hopeful of Fleming’s novel length work, Fever in the Blood.

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Walk for Breast Cancer

My story “Man-O-Gram” was first published in Morbid Curiosity #8 (and ran on this blog in part I and part II). Morbid Curiosity, a non-fiction market for true life tales of horror, sadly came to an end with its tenth issue, but copies of issues #3-10 are available at the website. Loren Rhoads, the editor of Morbid Curiosity, is doing the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer this year and asked me to help get the word out. I thought I’d do that by posting the note she sent me:

Dear Maurice,

I write to you in honor of your Manogram story, which is much on my mind these days. I’m doing the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer again this year — and you’re still the only man I’ve met who faced the possibility of the disease.

I’m starting to panic in the face of my fundraising for this year’s Avon Walk. The Walk is a little more than 6 weeks away and I still quite a ways to go.

Would it be possible for you to help me out by blogging about the Walk? You could link to my Avon page or livejournal, where I’ve been talking about my training. Anything else you might like to add on the subject would be appreciated.

Contributions support medical research into the possible causes of and cures for breast cancer, early detection programs, and clinical care and support for women with breast cancer. There is a special focus on helping medically underserved women, the poor, minorities, the elderly, or those with inadequate health insurance (read: writers). Much of the money granted by the Foundation goes back to the communities where it was raised.

Donations can be made online at www.avonwalk.org. Click “donate,” then “donate to a participant,” San Francisco 2007, and enter Loren Rhoads. If you forward this email, people can simply click on the link at the bottom of this message. Every dollar helps!

This weekend I’m walking 20 miles. I’m almost up to the first day’s walk of 26.2. Good thing I’ve got some time left to train.

Thank you so much for your help getting the word out.

Loren

I often get requests from folks who want to do something to help make the world a better place but don’t know where to start. For Loren, it starts with a walk. For you, it can be the simple click of a button and donating. Every little bit helps. You’d be surprised how quickly all of those little bits add up. Thanks in advance.

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Making Your Pastor’s Job Easier

“Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching.” I Timothy 5:17 (The Message)

I’ve often railed about our consumer mentality as church-goers, the “me, me, me” spirit of people coming to a gathering to have their needs met. To be spiritually entertained. There are times when you simply need the gathering to prop you up, to realign your spirit back into the rhythm of God. However, there are times when the gathering needs you. So how can participation in the gathering be your act of service?

-Prepare yourself for worship before you get there. Pray in the car on the way to church. Listen to whatever music pumps you up. Enjoy the silence in order to meditate on the things of God. I realize this is often easier said than done: I have two children.

-Regular attendance. Nothing deflates a speaker faster than speaking to empty chairs. Not that they write sermons directed at folks, but pastors talk to their people through the week. They know the concerns of their flock, what they are going through, what might speak to them. Only to see them not there come Sunday morning.

-Participate in the service. Pray. Pay attention. Communion. Being a member of the “bride of Christ” means participating in the worship (the purpose of the gathering). Reading the Scriptures, hearing them preached, reciting the creeds and confessions, and remembering our baptism with one another.

How might this spirit impact a community? To realize that you aren’t there for a service, but to serve. Not there to leech from others—even if it’s just a matter of being a pew potato/there to be “fed”—but rather to contribute.

You aren’t going to feel moved every week. The sermon might not be clicking, the music might have left you flat, the mood of the congregation (or more likely you) might seem off. You might check out of the gathering, go have a smoke, go hang out, find a quiet spot just to be. That’s fine. However, sometimes, you ought to consider staying in it, if only to encourage the pastor. Lord knows he’s heard enough of your complaints.

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Painkiller Jane

“Pain’s a Bitch”

Based on the comic book created by Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada few people had heard of, Painkiller Jane is now a SciFi channel original series. Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) plays Jane Vasco, a DEA agent who discovers that she has an amazing ability to heal rapidly from any injury. She is then recruited by a secret government agency to help hunt Neuros, people who can do things with their minds.

“Perhaps we’re not meant to have all the answers to our questions.” –Jane

Here’s the thing, after watching a few episodes of the television series, I am ready to dig through my attic and re-read the original Painkiller Jane comics, because I don’t remember them being this uninteresting. Loken gives it a heroic effort, but the show surrounds her with a cast of cut out characters. Worse, the show is mired in clichéd and stiff dialogue, the just-this-side-of-hammy acting, an uninspired mission and an unclear mythology.

There is an over-the-top aspect to the show which is hinted at but not exploited. The show should go with its impulse to let loose and be campy fun, but it shows a restraint which only exposes all of its flaws all the more. There is little real drive–to use the technical language, no oomph–to the series. There is a rawness, a vulnerability to a woman who suffers intense pain that is ignored (or the writers have yet to figure out how to deal with).

“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” –Colossians 1:24

Painkiller Jane heals but she still feels pain. That was one of the fascinating aspects to her character. Despite being a “super hero,” she felt pain, she had to deal with the very real reality of pain. We see Batman slug it out with bad guys all the time, stabbed, shot, or otherwise taking a pounding. Spider-Man, even in the latest movie, regularly gets dropped or rammed into buildings. They might give a nod to the fact that they got hurt, but they keep going as if they have just stubbed their toe. What set Painkiller Jane apart was her constant hurting, which we don’t get to see on the show.

Suffering can be meaningful, if you let it. Granted, you can’t tell someone experiencing pain that it’s worthwhile. Pain is real, especially and particularly to the person experiencing it. Pain is individual, experienced alone. Pain is theirs to deal with.

However, suffering can also be a continual prayer, the flipside to thanksgiving. The idea that suffering can be redemptive seems contrary to how we experience and live life, but you can let it teach you, to make you more humble. As we go through pain and are transformed by it, so we can be there for others. Just as pain can be used for good if you allow it to be used for good, it can also make you bitter.

“I’m not convinced we’re brought up to deal with our problems. Mostly we just distract ourselves when something tough comes up.” –Jane

Drugs, sex, games, work. As Jane says, “Avoid [your problems] long enough, and you never lead a real life.” Suffering is a part of life, one which causes us to question “why?” in the face of it, one we are quick to want to dismiss as random, meaningless, and unfair. However, there are a couple points to consider: If suffering is meaningless, is joy and pleasure? Are you truly serving if it’s not some sort of sacrifice?

We see voiceovers done successfully quite a bit in television (Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, My Name is Earl), providing if not a moral then a unifying theme to the show. The voiceover helps sink Painkiller Jane: it promises a layer of depth but only further points out it’s strained writing and the fact that the show has nothing to say. The SciFi channel has no one to blame but itself for any disappointment with Painkiller Jane. It raised the bar with Battlestar Galactica and Stargate, so we now know to expect better from them. Painkiller Jane reminds me of the Witchblade adaptation on TNT, except with not enough Jane being Jane. But you keep watching because you see the potential in the series and each week you keep coming back hoping to see it find itself. I guess the show wants its fans to feel pain, too.

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Pipe Down, IPS

I wanted to skip my graduation.

As a Northwest High School grad, I was fairly certain I would be in for a dull proceeding, feature a speaker I didn’t care about, and be a long list of names being read. Two things prompted me to go: 1) my parents who wanted to see their eldest receive his diploma and 2) me knowing my people were going to act a fool in the stands. And not just my people, but the folks of friends of mine were going to keep it from becoming too turgid an affair.

Now they are going to cut back on half of the fun.

Some parents are leery of edict that urges cheering as grads enter and exit but not as names are read. Hold your applause or you’ll be thrown off the property. That’s the message Superintendent Eugene White is sending to the families of Indianapolis Public School graduates who will attend this year’s commencement ceremonies.

This reminds me of the NFL cutting down on touchdown celebrations (and thus being dubbed the No Fun League). Boos I could understand. Total obnoxiousness I could understand. But this is a moment of pride for parents and some people need to celebrate loudly. There’s nothing indecorous about pride given voice. The ceremony isn’t a solemn occasion as much as a celebration of achievement, the excitement of clearing one of life’s rites of passage. Sorry if that breaks your precious sense of proper decorum.

Why don’t you tell us not to cheer or support your team at your next sporting event? If you fear that not each student will be able to hear their name, you’d think the person reading the names ought to have sense enough to go “hmm, they’re still cheering. Why don’t I wait another second or two before I read the next name.”

At every one of my kids’ graduation, I plan on embarrassing them. If it were my folks, they’d go ahead and cheer. It wouldn’t be the first time we were asked to leave a public place. Plus, they’d beat the crowd.

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Earn the Right to Complain*

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

Every now and then, I get the question “what does a facilitator do?” when folks wonder about my role at The Dwelling Place. Ideally, my job is to take people’s visions, things they’d like to see done or do themselves and put them into action. Practically speaking, however, I end up listening to complaints. From all sides. Members, pastors, visitors, everyone has a “suggestion” (read: complaint) about something.

Complaints are like nails on chalkboard to me. I don’t deal with them well. At my day job, my boss asked me not to answer the phones because “customer service isn’t my strong suit”. (I’m working on it.) Have you heard the axiom of the 80/20 rule? That 20% of people do 80% of work? I’m working on one called the 99/1 rule: that 1% of the people do 99% of the complaining.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” Psalm 1:1

At some point in our culture or in our mentality, church became about being about “me.” We go to church with a consumer mentality: we seek out churches based on who has the best show, where you don’t have to do anything and, heaven forfend, you don’t have to reveal anything. You can just sit and be “fed.” Coming with the attitude of “serve me” leads to a spirit of complaining. I can go anywhere and find something wrong and we all know “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” How sad is that? The complainers get the attention because we want to shut them up. The reality is that people are often rewarded for their grumbling: someone pays attention to them. Most times.

Most folks don’t complain to me because I’m known to have a low tolerance for it. To be honest, I tend to tune complaining out; it just becomes this pleasant haze of white noise and I get this faraway, dreamy look on my face (since I have no poker face) that says “I’m no longer paying attention. I’m in my happy place.” Usually this translates into them going to the head pastor and complaining about me.

But there’s a reason I tend to quit listening to most complainers. The complaints typically come from the least involved or those who attend the least regularly. How much has complaining ever helped anything? When folks come to me with their “suggestions” the implication is that I (or the “staff”) am to fix the problem. Again, this isn’t entirely their fault. A consequence of the mega-church Sunday production is that a “few” put on the worship. The “up front” people do things. When folks are paid the thinking becomes “they earn their check by handling this”.

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:2

Let’s see if there is another way we can all come at this. Participation is your voice. Not everyone gets automatically ignored by me. The fact of the matter is that I do listen to the concerns of our members. In fact, I want to hear from our members. I want to know their concerns, I want to know how best to see their vision of what church should be about put into action. I want to help them to do it. Those members are present, doing something, already a part of things.

There’s also a big difference between complaining and constructive criticism. Again, this boils down to doing something. When folks come to me with their complaint or suggestion, they get the following question from me: what have you done to improve the situation? This usually separates the wheat from the chaff: complainers notoriously point out other people’s failings/where others fell short, that’s easy. Coming up with a solution, now that’s a bit more difficult.

(A part of my theory is that complainers complain because they weren’t consulted before hand. There might be some merit to consulting those most likely to complain during the design of a program since they are less likely to complain if they have ownership in it). If folks have thought of a way to address a problem, then the solution is already in front of us. You have the passion, maybe you should lead.

I suppose you could look at it as a chicken and egg sort of scenario: we’ve earned the right to speak into your life once you think you’ve earned the right to complain about things; but most folks only complain if they feel some sense of belonging (or prospective belonging).

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalm 1:3

*sigh*

And then for those who aspire to leadership, realize that the more “power” you have, the more you are called to serve. The more you have to be mature. The more you have to hear the complaints. Being missional is what you are every day, a church can’t do that for you. We are to try to be reconcilers wherever we go. Helping Christians. Helping non-Christians. Helping those within our church body. Helping those outside the church body. Discovering how to do that. Facilitating the process of learning within a community. Together.

*I might have to begin all blogs with what I call the Brian Keene disclaimer: “The following people should not read this entry … People who often read themselves into the things I say, even when I wasn’t talking about them. Seriously, if you are the type that says, “Oh, I wonder if he means me?’ then stop reading now … Indeed, the people I’m talking about probably won’t even realize that I’m talking about them. So don’t start inserting your name.” Then again, if you see yourself in this, do something about it.

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Update on My Sister (Ro) – Updated 6/11/07

[I know, some of you have been wondering and I thought this was easier than having to keep telling the same story over and over again.]

My sister, who has already had a pretty rough year or so, has been on hospital bedrest for the last month or so. Unfortunately, her daughter was diagnosed with hydrops, so the pregnancy has been a series of complications and emotional ups and downs. Yesterday, I got a frantic phone call from her telling me the doctors said they were going to do the C-section then rather than try to wait another week. Six weeks premature.

I got to the hospital a little after four o’clock, having just missed my brother. Most of my sister’s bridal party was there (look, she had 10 ladies in her bridal party, so the room was crowded, plus some family). Ro had called in her people to support her no matter what happened. Just so you know, Broadduses only know one way to grieve or deal with tense situations: joke. Our role is to keep the mood light and I have been especially “gifted” with the ability to laugh in inappropriate situations.

As we waited on Eric, her husband, to arrive (his work wouldn’t let him out early), we prayed. Upon his arrival, the doctors then filed in to deliver the news. They presented a series of options, all of whom ended with prepare yourself for the worst, mortality in this situation is expected, usually within a few minutes to hours. The lungs would be underdeveloped. There were a series of procedures they were going to attempt, including traeching her while she was still attached to her placenta. And, as a premature delivery, her small size would be an issue. Once the doctors left, Ro in tears, we did another round of prayers.

A few minutes later, the nurses and doctors came back into the room to wheel Ro out, but then they suggested that we pray. I was all prayed out, so a nurse/chaplain led the prayer this time. After than came the interminable waiting – every time the doors open or footsteps came from down the hallway, we looked up expectantly, waiting for any sign of hope. If you have seen the movie Rize, you may have a bit of an image of what came next. We heard the footfalls first, interrupted only by the occasional clap, then we saw Eric steppin’ down the hallway.

Yalaina Symone was born at 6:18 pm May 11th, 2007, at 6’ 8 oz. There were able to not only get some of the fluid off from her stomach, but there was no swelling in her head, so they were able to do all of their procedures they didn’t think they could get done. In under a minute. Her lungs are doing okay and she is on an oscillator (a type of ventilator) right now. For now, she is doing as well as she can. The word “miracle” has been tossed about, including one doctor remarking that “you’d think with all the stuff we see, we’d get used to the idea that there might be a higher power.” So we remain cautiously optimistic.

Please join in our prayers: That as we come to the end of our ability to control things, we know God loves us. So help us to trust in that, no matter what happens. We thank Him for that love and for His love reflected in our friends and family. We continue to pray for the doctors and nurses as they attend to Ro and Yalaina. And we pray for Ro, Eric, and Yalaina, for their health and for their faith during this time.

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Here’s what I said at Ro’s baptism (which was on Easter Sunday):

Ro made me promise not to say anything that’ll make her cry. That’s a tough promise to keep because she’s pregnant and hormonal. But also because I’m her big brother and she’s not used to me saying nice stuff about her. I don’t have a particular story as a testimony of her faith, but more of an observation.

One of the duties of the big brother is to protect his little brother and sisters. It’s the same duty we feel as parents. It hurts us when we aren’t able to shield the ones we love from harm.

As I’ve watched Ro’s life, sometimes life happens that is out of her or anyone’s control. She’s gone through a lot of trials in the last year or two. I hate that so many of our lessons have to be learned through pain, but there are several things she’s taught me during her trials.
-she’s taught me how to question God. When things started happening in her life and she didn’t know why, she went to God and wrapped her community of faith around her to support her when she didn’t think that she could go on.
-she cried out to God, kept getting on her knees to pray, even when times kept getting darker.
-she showed me what it means to be faithful in times of doubt and how to persevere when it would be easy to give up

She didn’t know what God was trying to teach her, but I know what her faith taught me.

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5/29/07

This time has been quite instructive on the discipline of prayer. I have realized how much we’ve come to depend on the “prayer warriors” around us. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster, good days followed by really bad days. So continue to keep everyone in your prayers.

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6/11/07

My wife sent out the following e-mail that I thought I would share:

Earlier tonight (6:50 pm) I got a text message from Ro

“The baby is doing worse right now than she has since she’s been alive. It’s really bad and she’s in a lot of pain. Please Pray.”

Then two hours or so later (9:35 pm) I get this message from Ro:

“In a few minutes she is gonna undergo an incredibly risky procedure on her lungs. If it doesn’t work. they’re pretty much out of ideas. Please pray hard.”

then right as I sat down to write this e-mail (10:25 pm) I get this message from Ro

“the procedure didn’t work so now they’re gonna make her comfortable and hope for the best”

I don’t know what God has in store for little Yalaina, but I hope for the best and she becomes a beautiful healthy big girl. (I started to say baby girl, but I want mo
re than that) It’s frustrating for me to think that Ro went thru all that stuff while she was pregnant and then be in the hospital on bed rest for a month just to give birth to an extremely sick kid and then have so many up and downs and now this… this can’t be what’s planned for Yalaina.

OK it’s late, I’m tired and I am in a mood and very frustrated and that just leads me saying the wrong things… I will end by saying I place Yalaina in God’s hand and will try to deal with the outcome of that if it ends up being not what “I want”.

Please pray for Yalaina along with the Griffin Family (Ro, Eric, Emmy, and Calvin “Bubby”)

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