Category Archives: tv/movies

The Zombie Craze

9780988741355-FRONTsince The Youth Cartel has a book coming out very soon (probably late august, but we’re already pre-selling it!) called The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers: 27 Principles of Wisdom When You’re Running for Your Life!, i thought it would be cool to interview the author — Jonathan McKee — about our culture’s current fascination with zombies.

so, here you have it!

MARKO: This past TV season Walking Dead was the number one watched show on television. We see even more zombie movies emerging: Warm Bodies, World War Z… Why is America so obsessed with zombies right now?

JONATHAN: It’s funny, when I was in high school I remember watching the original Dawn of the Dead. The zombies were slow and clumsy… but I was hooked! Not because I liked watching blue dead people walking around, but because I liked watching a group of people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. The original Red Dawn had the same effect on me.

I don’t think it’s just zombie movies that are the fad right now… it’s survival against adversity. The Hunger Games provided this, and Divergent will as well. Young people are intrigued with tales of surviving against the odds. The zombie genre provides this in generous portions.

MARKO: World War Z is the newest in the zombie genre to hit the theatres. Should people go see it?

JONATHAN: I really enjoyed it. My daughter Alyssa (17) and I saw it on a daddy/daughter date. It was suspenseful and intelligent. Brad Pitt’s character cared about his family and was dedicated to do anything necessary to save them.

The film provided a few unique elements we haven’t seen before—that’s not always an easy feat. The most original was the way the “dead” moved and climbed.

I saw a review from one guy ripping on the film because it didn’t have any gore (the movie easily kept to a PG-13 rating, with no sex, nudity or gore of any kind). This film was actually a little milder than the Walking Dead TV show. But I don’t think the lack of on-screen violence dumbed it down in any way. The film provided moments of off-screen horror where your imagination was able to paint the picture of what was happening. Sometimes that is far more terrifying.

I thought it was a very creative entry to the genre.

What did you think of it?

MARKO: I totally dug it. Saw it with my wife and 15 year-old son. I mean, it wasn’t the “movie of the year” or anything; but it was worth the price of admission, for sure.

JONATHAN: Definitely.

MARKO: Can you see youth ministries using this zombie or “survival against adversity” trend for good?

Jonathan McKee 300JONATHAN: I think it’s wise to use pop culture as a springboard to conversations about Biblical truth. This doesn’t mean saturating ourselves in this culture, but it does mean noticing what people are intrigued with and using that to jumpstart dialogue about truth, in the same way the Apostle Paul used the idolatry of the people of Athens as his discussion-springboard for his famous speech on Mars Hill (Acts 17). Like your free “YouTube You Can Use” discussions each week.

Young people are looking for answers to deep questions. They’re facing more dilemmas each day. Characters from shows like The Walking Dead make life or death decisions every episode and face immediate consequences. This is something young people never got from Jersey Shore. Walking Dead is a great discussion piece.

MARKO: What’s your pick for the best zombie movie ever made?

JONATHAN: That’s a huge question.

When I grew up, one of George Romero’s films would have been at the top. But now we have talented directors like Zack Snyder doing remakes. The first 5 minutes of Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake was probably one of the most terrifying survival film moments of all time. Shocking visuals. Terrifying film.

But then we have some candidates who might not even label their films “zombie” films. Take Will Smith’s battle against the “infected” in I Am Legend. Does that count? Or how about director Danny Boyle’s truly frightening film 28 Days Later (a film released in 2002, which has a beginning soooooooooooooo similar to The Walking Dead, whose first comic was released in 2003, it would be hard to deny giving 28 Days Later the credit for originality on that one)? 28 Days Later, although bleak, was one of the first films offering an explanation for the disease and a possible cure.

So if I were to include all those possibilities, even including the 1979 movie Zombie with the famous shark scene, I’d probably go with 28 Days Later.

Marko: Given all these entries to the zombie genre, what’s unique about your ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR TEENAGERS that will be in our store next month, and what can we expect from it?

Jonathan: I guess the most unique element in this guide is that it’s a devotional. Whodathunkit? A zombie devotional. It very unique in format. It feels like a fiction book, but then it pauses for moments of reflection and scripture.

It’s also unique in the story. As a fan of the “survival against the odds” genre, I wanted to create a realistic story about three teenagers enduring hardships. Yes, they’re on a daily quest for water, food and shelter, but even more daunting is their emotional battles as they face the loss of their loved ones and they encounter the worse kind of adversary… selfish human beings.

As I wrote the story I made myself a promise: I’d keep it real and relevant. I never forced anything into the story that wasn’t real. That’s probably why a few publishers turned it down. The story is gritty. Never gratuitous, but very raw and real.

But the book is also so relevant to real life today. The story consistently reflects to life before “the havoc” (which occurred on March 18, 2019), back when teenagers could lie around their rooms listening to their headphones, walk into their kitchen, open the refrigerator and pour themselves a glass of fresh lemonade. The contrast between surviving in a post-apocalyptic world and… wanting a new case for our iPhone 5 is eye opening. That’s where the discussion questions I provide at the end of each chapter get really interesting. These scenarios get young people thinking about real life.

I think young people will relate to it.

Marko: I agree. It’s so much more than a Young Adult Fiction book; it’s a unique devotional for teenagers. Yeah, a Zombie Devo. That’s part of what I really loved about it.

Jonathan: It was a fun project. I actually had a group of teenagers “screen” it in its final draft and give me feedback. They really liked the questions and thought I talked about issues that many people were afraid to avoid. I’m glad to see a publisher taking a “leap” on something this edgy.

Marko: Well, I’m stoked other publishers were too afraid of Zombies to publish this, because I’m really pleased to have it in The Youth Cartel’s catalogue of outside-the-box, fresh resources for teenagers, youth workers, and parents of teenagers.

Jonathan: Thanks for this opportunity to dialogue.

why i’m taking teenagers to see Blue Like Jazz (guest post)

marko here: dave palmer has been my friend for a decade or so. we’re in a group of guys who meet once a year to dig into each others’ lives. and he worked with me at ys (as our vp of marketing) for a couple years. dave’s a buddy, and someone i really believe in. all that, and that i agree with what he’s written here, is why i agreed to have him guest post on my blog (something i rarely do). that, and, i’m on vacation, and this was a good post i didn’t have to write! Blue Like Jazz opens friday (or, with some midnight shows tomorrow night). here’s the website (where you can find showtimes), and here’s a section of the site with tons of free resources for ministry (and home).

Why I’m Taking Teenagers To See Blue Like Jazz
As the Blue Like Jazz team has screened the film for audiences across the country and across the spectrum of faith, one of the things that keeps coming up is the “appropriateness” of the film for high school age teens. The film’s PG-13 rating and depiction of collegiate parties and hijinx seems to give some people pause, and I understand that. I’ve been a volunteer youth worker for the better part of the past 20 years, and have scores of friends who are in the same position. And so aside from my obvious bias in the film’s favor that I have as part of the team that is promoting it, I’d like to express a few thoughts about why, as a youth worker, I am taking a group of teenagers to see Blue Like Jazz this weekend.

1) I’m taking those that I believe are ready for this conversation. Among the teens with whom I’m in regular contact, I know 13-year olds who will devour this movie and have their souls refreshed, and 18-year olds whose minds will be blown. I also know their families, and have taken steps to talk through the themes of the film with them to assure that we’re engaging the right kids, as well as offering to equip parents. That said, most of them have seen The Hunger Games, Transformers, The Social Network and other PG-13 films with content that is, in my estimation, equally as challenging, racy or mature as Blue Like Jazz, if not moreso in the racy department (Transformers & Megan Fox, I’m talking about you).

2) Teens are capable of more than we give them credit for. By the time our teens are in high school, many, if not most of them, are reading Plato, Aristotle, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Keats, The Brontes, Twain, Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck and others. It’s mind-boggling to me that teens that are eminently capable of tackling great works of literature can be treated with kid gloves when it comes to more conventionally faith-infused entertainment choices. If these teens are engaging with these great works of literature, then rest assured they are grappling with the meaning of existence, what they really believe and where they find truth. This really funny movie, Blue Like Jazz, that asks many of the same questions, is not above their heads or beyond their years, and it’s disingenuous of us as leaders to assume that that’s the case.

3) This is a huge opportunity for huge conversations. We know from the research done by Fuller Youth Institute and their Sticky Faith Project, as well as studies by the Lily Foundation, Barna, and Notre Dame youth scholar Christian Smith, that the ability to foster an atmosphere that allows for the articulation of questions and doubts about faith is one of the greatest factors in developing a faith that extends beyond high school. If we shut down those questions in faith communities, where do we think they’ll happen, if they happen at all? I’m not romanticizing doubt, as it is hard work, and often disorienting, but I also don’t think that we are serving our youth well if we shut down or shut out the ability to ask and wrestle with big questions, and this movie does just that.

4) The opportunity extends to parents. For parents, having big conversations about faith and doubt and questions and longing can be as nerve-wracking as conversations about sexuality, divorce or other tough topics. But the chance to have those conversations allows for a greater sense for teens to better know their parents, and vice versa. Mike Gaffney, VP of Young Life College, has this to say about the film: “When I first saw this movie, my hope was that every parent of a graduating senior and college freshman would see this with their child and that they would discuss it afterwards. This could make a huge difference in helping these students transition, and parents understand, the things their kids are struggling with. It would be great for those of us mentoring these students to see it and dialogue with them as well.” By letting the story of Blue Like Jazz be the template, conversations can be focused on that story first before parents and their teens weave their own stories and experiences into it.

5) It takes the taboo power out of doubt. When teens realize that their parents, friends, pastors and other adult influences may have had similar questions, doubts and seasons of struggle, it takes the taboo out of doubt and makes it something that can be addressed openly. It also lets teens know that they are not alone in this struggle, which can create a vacuum that is shut off from the real heart of the process – that we can go through this together.

6) It’s funny. Often lost amidst the loftiest conversations about Blue Like Jazz is that it is a comedy. It’s hilarious, pointed, sharp-witted and beautifully whimsical in places. I believe in the redemptive power of humor and how it allows us to open ourselves up in a way that feels safe and fun – no small challenge for anyone to create.

7) It’s real. As one of the 13 year olds in my Sunday School class asked rhetorically about the recent brouhaha over the rating of the documentary Bully, “are the ratings people afraid that we’ll see what we already experience at school every day?” Blue Like Jazz shows a real struggle of faith and doubt in an honest way, with the college experience captured in spirit, and an inspiring look at what happens when people take real risks by asking big questions and walking through that process together. It’s these risks that help us to know others and be known ourselves. It also helps us to model the search to know God and be known by God, which is perhaps what all of the struggle is really about.

As people who want our teens to be in relationship with a redemptive God, it’s natural that we can be afraid of big questions to which we may not have answers. But I am certain that these huge questions do not scare God. In fact, I think that God applauds us when we emulate Jacob, wrestling through the night and refusing to stop unless a blessing is given, a part of us is known and recognized, and the questions are given respect. I believe that the teens I’m taking will rise to the challenge of this movie and embrace it as something that affirms their search for truth and understanding. I invite you to join me along the way.

Blue Like Jazz The Movie and The Way Bible Giveaway

any reader of this blog knows how completely stoked i am about The Way bible, a bible i spent 2 years developing for tyndale publishers. it’s an NLT bible with hundreds of stories and elements that curate the message of scripture and the kingdom of god. developed with 17 – 30 year olds in mind (but, heck, i think it’s a pretty killer bible for high schoolers, and i’d like it as a 48 year-old), the intent is to create space for questions, doubt and hope.

and, since, you know, i have a hook up with the publisher, i get to give some of ‘em away.

but i also have friends connected to Blue Like Jazz (The Movie), which has its theatrical release at the end of this week. of course, many of you have read the book, and some of you have seen a screening of the movie (as i have). and i think you’ll see why it makes sense that i would think this movie (which is great, btw) and this bible would connect with the same kind of people (regardless of age). the cool thing is, i get to give away movie tickets also.

seriously, this is probably the best giveaway i’ve ever gotten to host on my wee humble blog. i’m going to award 20 winners with a prize package including 2 movie tickets (which can be used at any theater, any showing of Blue Like Jazz, good until april 30) and a copy of The Way. the movie tix will be a download code, and the copy of The Way will be shipped to your eager little hands. (so, each prize is worth something around fifty bucks!)

i’d love, love, love it if you would show your support by doing a couple things:

heck, i’d love it even more if you would spread the word. tweet this. send people here to this blog post. use the little social media sharing options at the bottom of this post. send people to the BLJ website or The Way website (which, for what it’s worth, is more of an extension of the bible than a marketing site).

i’ve gone ’round and ’round on how to decide who gets the 20 prizes. i thought about giving ‘em to the first 20 peeps who bought something from The Youth Cartel store. but i decided that wasn’t ethical (and probably not even legal!). i thought about just saying the first 20 comments win, but decided that was way too boring, and would be over too quickly.

so i’ve settle on this: tell me why you want them (the tix and the bible). keep your answer to 1 – 3 sentences (no need for massive paragraphs and emotional pleading). i’ll pick the first 10 winners at the end of 24 hours (roughly, that is — i’m on vacation this week, so i’ll pick ‘em tuesday morning at some point). and i’ll pick the remaining 10 winners a little later — probably on thursday morning.

this is one of four similar contests launching today. i corralled my friend, and The Way contributor, scot mcknight, into doing one on his blog. so, hey, if you don’t win here, maybe you can win at one of the others!

ok… here we go! why do you want the Blue Like Jazz movie tickets and copy of The Way?

oh, and how about a couple trailers:

THE FIRST 10 WINNERS

choosing winners has been MUCH more difficult than i imagined it would be! i grabbed about 40 that caught my attention and copied them into a word doc; then kinda went with a combo of random choosing and my gut from there! sorry to all those who aren’t in the first 10. i’ll be choosing another 10 on thursday.

but, the first 10 are…

Mookie
Eric McFarland
Vik Schaaf
Stuart Delony
Todd Graham
Rachel Kurtz May
Deena
Jordan Wiseman
Jenny Call
Marv Nelson

and, the 2nd (remaining) 10 are…

Kevin Ibanez
Bobby Mooney
Ian Robertson
Chris Saulnier
Danny Eiler
Dawn Wisner-Johnson
ryan guard
Tim Gleason
Mark (from Topeka First)
Brian Barnett

that’s it folks — thanks for playin’! go see the movie even if you didn’t win, and pick up a copy of The Way also.

my thoughts on ‘divided: the movie’

“every generation, in the history of the church, has had its defining issue. in our generation, the issue that’s facing the church is whether parents will be able to raise up a new generation for the future”

really? that’s our defining issue? you can’t think of any others?

that’s a direct quote from the documentary film ‘divided the movie.’ weeks ago, an online friend sent me a link to the film and asked if i knew i was in it, and what i thought of it. i’ll admit – i was kind of excited… until i watched it.

i’ve been sitting on this for weeks now, because i general try to avoid ripping on things in christendom (unless it’s snarky fun, like my old ‘jesus junk of the month’ awards). i know, or believe, that the creators of this film had good intentions. i believe — i choose to believe — that they were genuinely and rightly concerned about some stuff they saw in youth ministry and the church, and were motivated to use their trade to do something. and so much of what i think they were trying to say aligns with things i’ve been trying to say. all that to say, i really, really, really wanted to like this film. but i hated it.

i still wasn’t going to blog about it, though.

but i keep being asked about it (partially because i am in it, for about 5 seconds). i think people must assume i have something to do with it, or at least that the filmmakers had cleared it with me, or at least that the filmmakers had informed me. none of those assumptions would be true, i’m very sad (and slightly angry) to report.

the original guy who had contacted me knows the filmmakers. i do not. when i told him i was thinking about posting about it after all, he told me that he thought the makers would not be offended if i offered an honest critique, rather than just sarcasm or flippancy. that was a good gut-check, as my normal approach would have be a tendency to sarcasm or flippancy, at least some of the time. but resorting to sarcasm on this one is really just using a tool the filmmakers used that really frustrated me: tearing down straw men. more on that in second.

here’s the film’s website, where, at least at this point, you can watch the entire movie online. you can decide for yourself, and not agree with my slant. if you watch the bonus material clips, you’ll see more truth about this “film” revealed, which is that it’s less of a film, and more of an extended promo piece for the national center for family integrated churches.

so. the basic premise of the film is that parents should be responsible for the spiritual nurture and upbringing of their children and teenagers. good. i’m with them there. and we have plenty of research now (in addition to theology) that backs up the impact of parents taking the leading role. good. they also contend that isolating teenagers from the rest of the church is harmful to them. good. i’m with ‘em on that one too. and, they say that intergenerational relationships are key. yup. go get ‘em! let’s preach together!

but…

the problems from there on out are so numerous i hardly know where to start (and certainly don’t know where to end). but let’s start with that straw man thing. if you’re not familiar with the phrase, the idea is that it’s easy to tear down an idea or set of ideas if you construct a fake version of the idea in the first place. that approach is employed throughout the film. some examples:

- the oddly earnest young adult narrator (whom we can only assume is present in the film to give it a sense of ‘i’m one of them’, but who instead comes across as a puppet of some adult with a bigger agenda) interviews teenagers at a state fair like event (is it a christian festival? i think it was), asking about their various beliefs. from the three or four we’re shown, we are to conclude that all teenagers are going to hell in a handbasket. conclusion aside, the methodology of showing us a few selected camera-in-your-face interviews with teenagers, given pop-quiz questions about their faith in front of their peers, is hardly research. you got on a plane to film that?

- same thing is true for the filmmaker’s visit to the simply youth ministry conference. i’ve never been to this event (sure hope to someday!), but i know it’s a good event. i thought the filmmakers portrayed youth workers as idiots. and there’s not much more infuriating to me that that kind of set up.

- there’s a giant rabbit trail fairly early on about how many teenagers no longer believe in a literal 6 day creation. this is offered as the ‘shocking proof’ that we’re in deep doo-doo, and is corroborated only by ‘experts’ who would be promoting this point of view themselves.

- in fact, throughout the entire film, the ‘experts’ (who are all from an extremely right wing edge of the church; there’s not even a moderate interviewed (well, other than the clip of me!)) are there to offer soundbite, emotionally packed, fear-tinged, support of the film’s points, points which are–in theory–being suggested by a 19 year old in a snappy vest with a big travel budget. that math is not working, on any level.

when you construct straw men, then tear them down, it’s all very easy to be mean-spirited (which this film is), cocky (which this film is), and protective of your biases (which this film is). in fact, i think i can safely say that the whole thing is extremely manipulative (a lie?). for the narrator to say that he wonders about some things, and he’s setting off on a quest to find answers, becomes an obvious falsehood. there was no honest inquiry here. there was no genuine journalism. what there seems to have been is a well-funded donor with a pre-determined set of agenda items.

i was deeply bothered by this one underlying thrust that eventually got said in clear words more than once, even put on the screen in text:
‘there’s not a shred of evidence from genesis to revelation that age-segregated programmatic youth ministry ever existed.’

so? what a completely absurd claim! but it kills me, because there could have been some good stuff in there — i agree we have too much age segregation! i agree our youth ministries have been too program focused! but saying this approach to youth ministry is wrong because it’s not found in the bible?

ok, first of all, ask a jew how children and teenagers are trained in spiritual matters. you are not, i promise, going to hear a story about nuclear families (the way they’re defined in america, btw — not the way families were understood by a single original reader of the bible) doing all the work. kids were sent to training with a rabbi. at least through age 12 or so, when they were bar-mitzvah’d. and that was about the age at which they were expected to begin functioning as apprentice adults in that culture. and when the family was involved (certainly, they were, as all of culture revolved around the extended family relationship at that time), it wasn’t just dad (which increasingly, becomes the cry of this film, near the end. moms seem to fall by the wayside as the film progresses, leaving kids without dads SOL), it was a freakin’ clan! grandparents and aunts and uncles and that weird cousin benny. why do you think jesus’ parents weren’t worried about him for 2 whole days when he wasn’t with them on the trek home from jerusalem? was that a failure on joseph’s part?

secondly, let me list a small, non-exhaustive list of things most likely found in the churches and theologies of the filmmakers (many of which are in my church and theology also) for which ‘there’s not a shred of evidence from genesis to revelation’:
- baptismal pools
- church buildings
- hired clergy
- church budgets
- the word ‘trinity’ (though i certainly believe the concept is there)
- church busses
- sound systems
- children’s ministry
- men’s ministry
- women’s ministry
- senior adult ministry
- christian radio

i’m going to stop there, before i actually get snarky (that wasn’t, believe me). to say that youth ministry has to go away because our approach to youth ministry isn’t found in the bible is what, ultimately, pushed me to post on this.

if you read my post from last week, thanking youth workers for their work, on behalf of a dad, you’ll see some of my (righteous) anger surfacing.

let me try to land the plane here. yes, there are problems with the approach we’ve developed for youth ministry in the past four or five decades. i hope The Youth Cartel can do something about some of those. but the issues are much more complicated that simply pulling kids out of youth ministry, or shutting down your church youth ministry. i think youth ministry needs to change (that’s why The Youth Cartel is all about ‘instigating a revolution in youth ministry’); but i think youth ministry needs to stick around. yes, for those countless teenagers who do not have parents who will take the lead (i almost broke my ‘t’ key when i just typed ‘do not’, i was typing so hard!). but not just for them. i need youth ministry to stick around for MY CHILDREN! and, darn it, the guys who were in my last small group were from awesome homes, all with 2 original parents, all of whom were highly engaged in the faith development of their teenage boys. and i PROMISE YOU (YES, I’M YELLING) THAT EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE PARENTS WOULD SAY THEY (AND THEIR SONS) NEEDED ME.

(breathe)

i want us all to talk about this stuff, because i think it’s massively important. i applaud the filmmakers for taking a risk. frankly, i’d enjoy some healthy and feisty dialogue. we should do a panel on this at some youth ministry event! “Divided over Divided the Movie” i pray a blessing, not a curse, on their heads. and i hope that somehow, as god has done over and over and over again through my flawed messages, that god will use your film to draw parents into relationship with their teenager sons and daughters. if that’s the result, i will will praise god with you. if it’s not, maybe we can still praise god together.

after i wrote this post, i discovered that my friend walt mueller, of the center for parent/youth understanding, wrote a fantastic post on divided a week ago. honestly, it’s a much better post than the one you’ve just read, and i encourage you to read it.

(btw, the filmmakers make an attempt to address some of my arguments in the FAQ section of their site, but not adequately, in my opinion.)

two-sentence book reviews, part 2 (memoirs and graphic novels )

back in the day, i used to post a full review in an individual blog post for every book i read. after rebooting my blog in the late fall of 2009, i changed that practice to posting 3 or 4 “mini reviews” at a time — one paragraph each.

but in 2011, i’ve gotten behind, and haven’t posted any reviews. i kept meaning to, but just didn’t get around to it. so, i’m catching up. and i’ve decided to do it in a different way, since i have 27 to post.

introducing: TWO SENTENCE BOOK REVIEWS

for each review, i only allowed myself two sentences. in each, the first sentence is a summary of the book, and the second sentence is my opinion of the book. i’m still giving 1 – 5 stars (5 means “excellent”, 4 means “worth reading”, 3 means “ah, take it or leave it”, 2 means “take a pass on this one”, and 1 means “do NOT buy or read this book – it sucked, imho).

up first was 7 young adult fiction books.
here, in part 2, i’m covering memoirs and graphic novels:

Memoir

I’m Not High: (But I’ve Got a Lot of Crazy Stories about Life as a Goat Boy, a Dad, and a Spiritual Warrior), by Jim Breuer
2 stars
Jim Breuer of SNL semi-fame pretends to have insight while sharing his life story. Barely funny, self-inflated blah that regularly left me muttering, “Who cares?”

A Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir, by Bill Clegg
5 stars
A rising star as a New York literary agent, Bill Clegg narrates – in real time – his slow and crushing plunge into crack cocaine addiction. Painful and honest, brutally written (in a good way), poignant and cautionary.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey
5 stars
America’s sweetheart tells her story. Drop-dead hilarious while maintaining humility; no wonder everyone loves her.

Graphic Novels

The Walking Dead, Compendium One and volumes 9 – 14, by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore
4 stars
The focus isn’t the zombies, but the internal changes of the small cast of characters who are trying to survive. Awesome art and an interesting angle, even if it’s a tad over-the-top at times.
(Note: I’ve since watched the 1st season of the TV series built on this comic series, and it’s fantastic.)

Mr. Wonderful: A Love Story, by Daniel Clowes
4 stars
Insecure, self-loathing middle-aged loser guy seeks love and companionship. A little hard to justify the expense for the length, but a lovely little story.

Black Hole, by Charles Burns
1 star
1970s teenagers live with a parallel-universe version of STDs that turns them into mutants. Verging on soft porn at times, with weak characters and a lame plot.

——-

up next: leadership and theology/christian living

my sermon on regret, based on the movie “get low”

i preached this last weekend at my church. each year, we do a “god at the movies” series, which is wildly loved. the point of the series isn’t so much to recommend movies, or to preach against them (!). it’s more about looking for god-story threads as we find them all over our culture. this year the series was only four weeks long, and the first three sermons were all on blockbusters: the king’s speech, the social network, and inception. i had suggested a gorgeous little movie hardly anyone saw, called “get low“. so when i was asked to preach in the series, they asked if i would take that film. it’s an amazing movie, with robert duvall, sissy spacek, lucas black, and bill murray. really worth seeing.

i’d originally planned on preaching about redemption, since the movie is so strong on that theme. but as i thought about it, i started to realize that all great stories are, in one way or another, stories of redemption. another very strong theme in the movie is regret. so i went with that.

the audio is online. but, for legal reasons, the clips we used from the movie aren’t included. it’s really not the same without the clips; but you can still get the gist of it. you can go to the download page here, or just click here to stream the mp3 directly. or, you can grab it in itunes here.

i’ll paste the high points of my outline here also:


The power/durability/resiliency of an idea – so take extreme care about which one you embrace.

What if the idea you embrace is that you’ve done something unforgiveable, or something you will regret for the rest of your life?

Living with regret can linger for decades – even an entire lifetime – and destroy every aspect of your life.

The evil one would love for you to be shackled by regret. It is the direct opposite of what God desires for you: freedom.

Two unhelpful extremes:
Narcissism/no remorse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Debilitating regret
|—————————————————————————————————-|

A better metaphor for facing regret: dealing with the TSA
You have to go through it, and it’s not going to be pleasant. You’d love to avoid it, but you can’t, or you won’t get on the plane. And if you make a bigger deal out of it than it is, you only make matters worse for yourself.

Three essentials to living without regret:

1. Dive into grace

Hebrews 10:15-18 — The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

2. Clean up your mess

a. Clarify the regret and grieve it

b. Ask forgiveness; Make amends when appropriate

“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” – Zaccheus, in Luke 19:8b

c. Accept the consequences as a learning opportunity

Proverbs 24:16 — for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

d. Process your take-away

2 Corinthians 7:8 – 11 — Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.

e. Move on

Philippians 3:13-14 — Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

3. Start planting trees (live ruthlessly to prevent regret)

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is today. (Chinese proverb)

Proverbs 10:9 — Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

colbert calls out our hypocrisy

saw this on mike king‘s blog, and clicked over to watch it on colbert nation. so good! sure, it’s funny and all; but truth of it is inescapable.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog March to Keep Fear Alive

go see narnia this weekend

i got to see an early screening of narnia: voyage of the dawn treader, a few weeks ago in nashville. and i really liked it. the little dude who plays eustace scrubb is an amazing piece of casting. he is so comedically annoying, it’s uncanny. there are some great effects (my favorite is the early scene where lucy and edmund, along with eustace, enter narnia through a painting).

but more than the effects or casting, or even the storyline, i loved the themes. i’ve had many people tell me voyage of the dawn treader is their favorite of the narnia books; and i can see why. strong themes of greed and redemption permeate the film. i got seriously choked up at a couple points, and laughed out loud at others.

there’s a scene where lucy is facing her greatest temptation (as they all do), which has to do with her desire to be as beautiful as she perceives her older sister to be. it’s such a powerful scene — i want every pre-teen and teenage girl to see that scene.

the only bummer, in my opinion, was the de-dragoning scene where aslan helps eustace the dragon return to eustace the boy. that section of the book is classic in its portrayal of the painful process of transformation. but it all happens too easily and too quickly in the film. a little magical shimmering, and it’s over. the point is still made, but i wanted more.

there are some great (free) resources for pastors, youth pastors, and other church leaders on the narnia faith website. i’d encourage you to check them out.

but, mostly, i encourage you to see the film during this opening weekend. opening weekend is everything in hollywood; and i’d love to see this film do well, so we can have more like it!

free ‘voyage of the dawn treader’ (narnia) screening for youth pastors and pastors

here’s a cool thing to get to announce: fox and my friends at grace hill media are making a whole bunch of screenings of the next narnia movie (voyage of the dawn treader) available for FREE, for pastors and youth pastors. screenings are all over the country this week and next.

you have to have an email address that matches the url of your church (like, [email protected] and www.churchofwhyismarko.org), in order to sign up.

i’m going to the screening in nashville, next thursday night (nov 18). anyone who’s gonna be in town for the nywc want to join me? c’mon — we’ll party like it’s whatever-year-it-is-in-narnia!

click on the image below, or on this link, to sign up!

save blue like jazz, the movie

donald miller has stirred my imagination and shifted my thinking and encouraged my heart with his writing and speaking. and he’s just a darn swell guy also, from what i’ve experience when he’s been at ys events in the past.

i’d love to see don’s book, blue like jazz, in movie form.

but there’s another factor here: steve taylor. steve is somehow both the quirky christian music icon i listened to non-stop in the mid-80s, as well as the music label exec who had the very best bands in christendom in the 90s, and also a dude who i came to consider a friend (thanks to a few mutual friends).

steve has been working on a movie version of don’s ‘blue like jazz’ for four years (don wrote about the screenwriting process in his last — absolutely brilliant — book, a million miles in a thousand years). i even had a chance to read an early draft of the screenplay.

but now, a major funder of the movie pulled out just before they were ready to start shooting. steve shut the whole thing down. but, apparently, fans of don’s book, and fans of steve’s work, wouldn’t let it go away that easily. people started a little campaign to raise the funds needed; and it’s looking reasonably likely that the funds are truly going to come in.

so… if don’s book(s) had an impact on you…
or if you think steve taylor is cool…
or if you want to support this kind of culture creation by christians…
or if you just want to be able to say “i helped fund that movie” when “blue like jazz, the movie” comes out…

then click here to learn more, and give. i did.