Sunday, November 22, 2015

Feeling blessed

Dash holding Evelyn Kay Cottongim for the 1st time

I know I should go straight to bed now, it's almost midnight and we are pouring 60 yards of concrete at 7:00 in the morning.  This past Friday evening, Tammy and I drove through the night arriving in Little Rock around 6:30 a.m., which meant we were up for over 24 hours.  We made it in plenty of time; Evelyn Kay Cottongim arrived healthy and whole Saturday at 5:32 p.m.  Today, I drove back home.  By time the week is out, I'll be needing to change the oil in our car again.

I'm tired, but I'm feeling rather blessed.  Being a grandparent is nothing new to mankind, but it surprising how joyful it is.  While Tammy and I took care of Dash for a little while this weekend, he told me to tickle him and he ran around their house giggling, wanting to be chased.  Evelyn is a beautiful baby girl, and thankfully Laura and Evelyn are both 100% healthy after a lonnnngggg labor.  And, I'm so proud of our son Drew, he's now going experience something I never have, raising a daughter.  I can't wait to see how this baby girl will transform our entire family.  

God is good.  We know God is good, but it's times like this as we celebrate a newborn's arrival that we are reminded of the gift of family, life, and love.  All I can really say is, I'm so thankful to be part of this -- so blessed to be able to see & experience this wonderful gift.  I could say so much more, but I think the picture above is worth more than a thousand words.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Hunger Games MockingJay Part Two: why people flock to this type of story

Tonight, millions of fans around the world will flock to watch MockingJay part two.   I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading stories within the same genre -- enduring stories like Orwell’s 1984, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and more recently, Lois Lowry's four-part series beginning with the Giver.  Why do we love dystopian stories?  

It seems strange to migrate towards these bleak stories, especially considering their settings are filled with Totalitarian regimes, the dehumanization of society, and they rarely have happy endings.  Furthermore, as dependent on technology as our culture is, interestingly technology rarely rescues anyone in these stories -- instead, tyrants hatch schemes to suppress people with technology.  

In such stories, many of our deepest fears take flight.  For example, computers conquer and enslave humans, dictators rule hawkishly, nature harshly turns her back on us, and the main characters are henpecked by peer pressure to conform to a decoy of civilization.

But then dystopian plots snare us with the old “battle of good vs. evil,” and as we become emotionally engaged, we eagerly root for the protagonists throughout their transformational character arc.  Even though the odds are stacked against the heroes & heroines, in a clutch they eventually soar past their enemies as they overcome with limited resources & a little grit, the strength of their community, and through a common determination to be free.  

If you were to raise a duckling in a desert wasteland, instinctually it would long for the wetlands.  Likewise, deep inside we know we are made for heavenly realms.  To some degree, existing east of Eden, we inhabit just the opposite of Utopia.  Since our world often has pockets of brutality & fanaticism and the dystopian genre confronts similar topics, we are drawn to these stories -- regardless of how much we might brood over them.

Basically, there’s enough reality within this intimidating genre to draw us in (along with the potential for these stories to actually happen), and we cherish freedom from bullies who seek to break the will of the masses.  We naturally long to be victorious over oppressive forces -- so maybe it’s not so cryptic that we enjoy these gloomy stories.

The dystopian genre isn’t a fledgling storyline, it’s been around ever since people have put quill to parchment, just take a gander at Scripture.  For example, in the opening of the book of Genesis we see disorder and chaos ruling over nature, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2 ESV)

Something cataclysmic happened in between Gen 1:1 & 1:2, perhaps a great battle resulting in satan being cast to the earth -- he is after all already strutting around the Garden when we meet Adam & Eve.  Also, consider the crisis mankind faced in the antediluvian period before Noah’s voyage.  And, what of John’s Apocalypse...?

Is it hard to see a dystopian world when you read this passage? “Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.  It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed.  It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.  And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.  Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.  This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” (Revelation 13:11-18 ESV)

Maybe in the end, the dystopian genre resonates with us because it’s a story-pattern as old as time itself -- with a niche lasting until the end of time.  So, if you are like us and you plan to see MockingJay part two this weekend, keep an eye out for Biblical principles such as good standing firm against evil even when it’s painful, the effect power has over us when we lose sight of goodness/compassion, and redemption.  Remember, many spiritual lessons can be learned from secular stories, since the story of humanity, created in God’s image but stained by sin, is so interwoven within them.   

Monday, November 9, 2015

Why boycotting Starbucks will backfire

We live in a time when people think inactivity is activity.  Such as the latest "christian" boycott of Starbucks over their bland holiday cup.  The thinking goes, if "we" don't purchase "their" goods, we'll show "them!"  But what really happens in a "culture-war" boycott?

People, in general, want to protect and rescue those who are being attacked.  So, when "christians" attack Starbucks over their red cup, the majority of people will naturally want to rescue Starbucks -- it's just the way we are wired.

What else happens?  People who boycott Starbucks over their red cups show their own inconsistencies are beyond measure.  Last time I checked, gas comes from oil and a lot of oil comes from the Middle East.  There are some people in the Middle East profiting from our oil consumption who really, authentically, hate Christians  -- and they don't use red cups to prove their point.  How come I've never heard of people boycotting gas stations over the ideologies of the nations producing the oil?

And, the old saying "There's no such thing as bad publicity" is true.  The more people rant about Starbucks, the more free advertising Starbucks receives.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, I could care less what Starbucks uses for their holiday cups.  We have two sons who work for Starbucks, and our sons have thrived with Starbucks.  We're very proud of our sons.  Our sons have had many opportunities to share their Christian faith & let their light shine by being engaged in our culture simply because they do work for Starbucks.  

It's highly inappropriate to assume the motives behind the red cup and many people are almost on the verge of slander with the claims they make.  All they really do by boycotting is reaffirm in the minds of people that Christians are hateful people who complain a lot.  Besides, if you want to change the culture, you engage it lovingly, you don't hide behind a paper cup.