Monday, June 30, 2008

Redeeming The Hulk - One Stitch at a Time

I've been thinking about anger and how unchecked it causes so much damage.

That's what the latest Incredible Hulk is about: unchecked anger and the threat it poses to all.

But is it possible to use anger for good? To bind up wounds instead of causing them?

That's what Ang Lee's Hulk is about, and why it ends with a superior message in my opinion. In the end Dr. Banner is using his travels due to his curse to give medical aide to poor villagers - and when threatened by the oppressive regime, he's got an invincible card to play.

He ain't stoppable. At all.

And you know what other movie ends with an unstoppable superhuman angry beast getting healed and using their power for good? For restoration?

Stitch.

You know, the little alien beast from from Disney's movie
Lilo and Stitch?

*sigh* (If you watched Good Will Hunting, you can watch this...)

"Be angry, yet do not sin."

That's what Paul wrote.

Not "Oh mercy me! Don't ever get angry!"

No. Just don't disobey God IN your anger.

God gets angry. He expects us to get angry too. But He hopes it is at injustice, cruelty and oppression.

Not angry that our ego got hurt, but that others are getting hurt - or trivialized - or ostracized.

Jesus Himself got angry when rules became more important than people:
Luke 13: 10-17 - A Crippled Woman Healed on the Sabbath
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."

The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?"

When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.


When you get angry, let it be for those who are helpless and hurting, those who are being used. (Note wisely: not just those who SAY they're helpless - use your brain to discern, OK?) Be sure that you USE your anger to fight the RIGHT targets and not just add to the collateral damage of the Fall.

Wounded people need "Stitches" to get better. They need the Angry People of the world to get moving for the right reason - and bind up what is falling apart in this world.

That's all, folks.

"Yah!"

Love ya, Stitch.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Not-So-Incredible Hulk

This is a little late, but I think we can now safely review our latest Marvel superhero movie.

If you are a Marvel geek who wants the smash everything Hulk of the comics and care little for character development, plot and structure, you will LOVE this movie. It has all the right geek elements - down to some very impressive sonic cannons used to stop our great green behemoth.

But if you want excellent dialogue and mythology writ large, you are going to have to go nibble on Ang Lee's version - lambasted for its introspectiveness and complexity.

Iron Man did it right: show a hedonistic self-centered playboy who gets his life spared by another and watch him become a warrior for the good. There was something to love for EVERYONE - from cool tech to a powerful love story to nods to geekdom (Rhodey looking enviously at a silver suit of Tony's armor and driving around in a pitch black car - and we KNOW he's gonna be War Machine in the next movie.)

There is indeed good geekness in this Hulk movie: how Banner's very blood can transform any person into a Hulk-like being. But it was so obtuse in one scene, I missed it in fact - I had forgotten about the Leader , a villain with a very very large forehead and vast mental capabilities.

So as I said, if you are a geek, you will appreciate this movie. But if you are merely a filmgoer and have a decent knowledge of the TV show starring Bill Bixby, you will be a bit disappointed in the lack of depth. This loss is perfectly understandable when you realize the director for this does great action movies with no message besides "pound them". He did The Transporter and a few other hi-action martial arts films. All fight, no message. A bit like a bunch of Gamers on a Friday night.

I think we are all like that, however. We fight and fight and have no reason why. The Incredible Hulk is therefore a perfect movie who desire the flesh, the form and the action.

But Ang Lee's Hulk went deeper. It touched our wounds, why we are enraged, what manifests when we refuse to release others from their sins. What happens when loss is great and knowledge is also great. Monstrosities and deformities. But sometimes the very things that wounded us can become used as a strength, as a weapon to fight the battles that come our way.

I do think Ang Lee served us too much in one film. And this second director - Louis Leterrier - served us too little.

Its hard, making a film about a huge destructive beast that pops out of a brilliant man who gets angry and can't get close to the ones he loves because of the damage he might do.

But now that two have tried, and one was too hot and another was too cold, perhaps the third director will get it "just right".

Either way, "Hulk will SMASH!" - and make a lot of green.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Werewolves for Jesus

Justice reaching out to a young lady with the Love of JesusRecently I exited an online forum I have been visiting off and on for eight years, sharing scripture, hoping to open eyes to God's power and His love.

But I made a grievous error a year ago that recently escalated into my vilification. While I attempted an apology - replete with some explanation and a "sad smiley" (I was not so dumb as to not see how I had offended the person) what I got in return was character assassination (bigot, fool, etc.)

In other words, when the Spirit told me "Don't do it." I should have listened to Him. (Yeah. I got a spiritual "heads-up" before I gave my apology.)

Just so you understand the level of vitriol, the forum administrator came in and closed the thread, stating that this bashing was inappropriate and were exercising their "rarely used mod powers" to stop it.

Afterwards, I asked that my account be fully deleted, seeing that I was not doing what I was called to do on that forum - reach men with God's love in Christ - and knowing that Jesus DID say "If your [good thing, say your eye] causes you to sin [disobey my commands to love], cut it out [cancel your subscription, exit stage right, get the Hades out of there]."

So I left, a bit ashamed. But there was a good note: two people saw this as my good attempt to make right what I did wrong, so that was a positive.

I've been angry, ashamed, hurt, repentant, angry, sorry, upset, etc. in cycles every time I think on this. Today I got some peace. In fact, I started to laugh.

What did they accomplish by attacking me? My freedom.

What did Jesus say? "If they won't listen to you or your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that [people group]."

So their vilification gave me a reason to 1) Practice humility, and 2) Obey Jesus.

By obedience, we conquer our pride, and we conquer our shame, too.

Even Buddhists understand this. When a young monk watched as a man insulted his master, he was astounded at the master's calm demeanor.

"Master?" he asked. "How can you stand there as he says such vile things?"

"My son," replied the master, "if a man offers you a gift and you do not accept it, whom does it belong to?"

I'm afraid everything said about me is true, at least on occasion. But it is also true that God approves of me and has paid for me. He loves me and corrects me.

"Brothers, if we say we have not sinned, we lie and the truth is not in us."

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."

"If we are faithful and confess our sins [say we are wrong], He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

I admitted my sin. They just spewed more hate.

Which is more godly, I ask?

And if they judge me, who will judge them?

So I'm laughing today. I know it may sound cruel, but if you knew the "Fear of Jacob" like I do, you would be shaking your head. God doesn't mind if we screw up, but when you kick the guy apologizing to you in the teeth, you may find a terrific lesson coming your way.
"Do not fear men who can kill the body but after that do nothing. Fear Him who can throw both body and soul into hell. Yes, I tell you fear Him!"

Yes, Lord.

Exit stage right.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hating Heroes, Its Bound to Happen, Pt. 3

Yesterday I declared that Abraham Lincoln was a hero - a man used by God to end slavery. His calling and destiny touched me deeply, and I shared that I wept as I read his First Inaugural Address.

As a Christ-follower, I weep more at the Second. It is so beautiful, so full of wisdom and care for the vanquished that I am astonished at it.

Lincoln did not promote hate for his enemies. He promoted reconciliation, again and again.

Here's a story that illustrates his character:

After Richmond fell, Lincoln went down to find General George Picket, C.S.A., who was his old friend in better days and found him absent (understandably), but his wife, carrying Picket's infant boy, answered the door. Finding a stranger at her door, who admitted to being Abraham Lincoln, she froze in amazement. It was quite a shock.

But when her son reached for Lincoln, he took the babe in his arms, and for this, received a wet kiss.

Lincoln said playfully, "Tell your father, the rascal, that I forgive him for the sake of that kiss and those bright eyes."

[Edit: the story has been wrongly attributed to Lincoln's encounter with the wife of Jefferson Davis by Dr. James Kennedy; an easy error to make in my opinion. Read source in entirety here, scroll down]

Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Lincoln did that.

Jesus tells us to forgive and trust God as a righteous judge. Lincoln did that.

Yet online you will find men saying he wasn't a Christian because he was not a member of a particular denomination. Well, frankly, that was like Jesus too. Jesus was not interested in puffing up the pride of men in their theological stances, but in changing their hearts to "Love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength" and "to love their neighbor as themselves."

Lincoln said if he ever found just those two commandments of Christ inscribed in a church, foregoing all other distinctives, he would "join with all my heart and all my soul."

Lincoln did the scariest things to preserve the Union. He broke the law -and he was a lawyer.

But also like Christ, he knew the law existed to protect and serve the people. His complete lack of desire for revenge, and desire only to restore the Union gives validity to his temporary use of extreme powers during a rebellion against those who defended slavery and demanded autonomy - demanding their own freedom while denying it to their neighbors. For this action, they wanted to kill him. And that was like Christ as well.

I believe Lincoln went through a process of placing his hope in God and in His Son. He changed from trying to reason with men to trusting only "our Heavenly Father." Here's his Second Inaugural Address in its entirety. I've highlighted every scriptural inference and direct quote.

"At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

"Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
I have never seen a man on the edge of victory quote that much scripture, appealing to the Christian worldview and refer to the Lord as a righteous judge utterly unprompted unless he was confident in Him and trusted Him.

Lincoln has been outed by his own words, mere weeks before his assassination on Good Friday.

And I am not alone in that assessment.

"That's all I need to say 'bout that."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hating Heroes, Its Bound to Happen, Pt. 2

A few days ago, I wrote on why people will hate heroes. My reason was that this is a Fallen world and if Jesus had trouble being accepted as He obeyed God, you really cannot expect much better treatment.

Now I am not saying if you are an ass, and people don't like you, you are being persecuted like Jesus. Nope. In general you can trace back in a calmer frame of mind WHY no one wants to talk to you or have you around. Many of us recovering co-dependents and children of same have to work twice as hard to be:
  1. Non-controlling
  2. Non-advising
Sentences that begin with "You have to..." and "Let me tell you..." are bad relationship builders. We take on false roles of superior knowledge and that will get you the door with emotionally secure people.

But it will also get you the door with fearful, spiritually lost people. So how do you tell the difference? Or in other words, when do you take the blame for being unwise and when do you stand your ground?

You look at what they are upset about. Are they upset enough to call you names and malign your character, or are they upset about your actions and are fearful of the consequences?

In other words, is it an "ad hominem" (Latin - "to the man") attack, or is it an attack on the decision, choice or action?

If the first, you can safely blow them off. Every single time.

The second is trickier, 'cause we all have different ethics. What is shameful in one culture is common and acceptable in another.

Christians are called to transcend their culture and keep whatever is God-honoring within it.

We are not to fear men or their customs - but we are to respect and learn and compare it to Christ's P.O.V. We are called to be salt and light in this world and that means we affect the world positively.

We are not called to "fix" the world, but rather simply be agents of change, aiding the weaker - whether they are mentally, physically, financially, emotionally, or spiritually weaker than us. (You might want to re-read that and realize how many people can fit into one of those categories.)

I used to think that being financially poor made me a better Christian of faith, especially in America. No, but it has shown me that what I need and what I want are two VASTLY different things, and that is essential in spiritual growth. It clears the mind for action.

And an active hero decides to help the weaker against the stronger and change what is not God-honoring in his or her culture. He goes through loss to refine his or her soul, not to be crippled.

In my opinion, Abraham Lincoln was one of those men.

As you know from last week, I went down to Springfield, IL and visited the Abraham Lincoln Museum. They did a masterful job of showing his early years with a log cabin that had been preserved from that time period and his early years of self-discovery and self-education. How he literally won the hearts and earned the respect of his peers in Illinois with his wit and wisdom and well-known honesty. He worked hard and faltered several times before finding his calling in law.

But in the tour, you are taken from his Springfield years (his professional career and growth over two decades) to the White House and the first room you enter - the very first - is filled with all the negative caricatures, political cartoons and ridicule he received upon being elected President of the United States.

It was merciless. There's an obvious reason - Lincoln was elected with only 39% of the vote - and there were four candidates (Stephen Douglas was not the only Democrat, and it split the party's vote), so he was immediately outnumbered, as all true heroes are.

Lincoln is vilified in ways I could never have imagined. He is given the role of Satan in more than one cartoon. The designers for the museum did far more than let you see the attacks - they let you feel them. The nightmarish gallery is dark with its low lighting; monochromatic blue is everywhere and most picture frames and the false doors are warped and skewed. Overly dramatic? Not when you see the tens of illustrations and, thanks to voice actors, actually hear out loud much of what was being said about Lincoln.

I read the speech for his first inaugural address and began weeping. I did not mean to. I simply began weeping for Lincoln the man and his destiny.

It is my earnest opinion that God raised up this humble man to end slavery. No matter the political engines that initially drove his choices, the end result was that Lincoln ended up doing what no one else could or would do. He himself came to that conclusion as well, I think.

So whence all the attacks? Need I be blunt? Who fights against God and condemns His chosen, His elect? Who accuses us of malfeasance for simply showing up to do the job we are called to do?

Yeah. The Enemy of Mankind. He has plenty of unwitting slaves, full of fear and anger, embroiled in their own desires and hating those who might end their reign. And that was one slavery Lincoln could not abolish.

But Jesus Christ did, thank God.

I'll write more tomorrow, but for now, just think who opposes you and why. And if God is for you, no one can stand against you.

Just ask a little boy named David. Or any African-American you know or work with.

Was Lincoln serving God?

You betcha.

Was he hated for doing so?

You betcha.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Green Lantern for a Day


I've been running around enjoying this beautiful June day, flying here and there and visiting friends and just did not have time to be contemplative, but rather "let my light shine" everywhere I could on this GORGEOUS day.

I'll be more investigatively spiritual tomorrow, I promise, but for now, I am wearing my newest Green Lantern ring and flying under blue skies... wheeeeeee!

Matthew 5:15-16 (NIV)

"Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
If you are feeling joyous and forgiven and free, do the same today!




p.s. For us GL geeks, here is a FANTASTIC fan vid on YouTube. It's not the real deal, but its hard to tell...

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Month of Supers

Hi. I'm back and unpacked from Metropolis. Why so long, you might ask?

'Cause I'm also back and unpacked from Springfield, home of Abraham Lincoln.

And I went to the comic shop yesterday and did something I haven't done in 15 years: I bought some comics. Not collected in a trade, but just singularly. I even put it on my credit card. Insane, huh? Taking a loan for comics?

I think I did it because I didn't want to lose the flavor of what I've been tasting - heroic lives with hard choices. (Have you ever eaten a ReesesTM peanut butter cup and then found yourself hungry for just plain peanut butter, because it tasted SOOOO good? It's a bit like that.)

I suspect God gives us a taste of something, and then we like the taste and chase down the thing itself. We wouldn't say this out loud - its far too subliminal for that, but I think I loved comics and that genre and did not realize it was an echo of the real thing, not the thing itself. (I have an on-line bud who loves comics & superheroic role-playing, but in real life, he's serving in Iraq and at home in the States he's a deputy for the sheriff's department. IMO, he's living out what he loved - protecting the innocent, fighting evil, helping the wounded, etc. Heroism.)

But let's table that for a moment. I called this blog "a Month of Supers" and here's why.

I think we all will need a lot of heroism soon, and God is giving us as many tales of heroism we can take. Iron Man, Batman (The Dark Knight), Hulk are all out this summer. Prince Caspian, Hancock, for other ends of the spectrum.

And its Superman's 70th anniversary.

It is also the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's famous "House Divided" speech - he gave it June 16th, 1858. There he frankly confronts what slavery MUST become in America: everywhere or nowhere. (Side note: I am in the grip of the Almighty. We had NO IDEA that was THIS week or on the very day we were to arrive in Springfield. I got to watch two re-enactors in the Old Capitol building on Monday. I even got my picture taken with "Lincoln".)

I cannot believe this influx of heroism in the mainstream media (and in my own life) is not there to enhance or to encourage our hearts for upcoming trials. Lincoln wrote this personal theology into the Second Inaugural Address about the cost of slavery for our nation and the goodness of God:

The Almighty has His own purposes.

"Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.

Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

Lincoln saw the God-ordained price for violating human rights: war and bloodshed. He also saw God was in charge of the affair. He also saw our duty to side with the Lord and not against Him.

It may be said a hero is not a man with a great desire to do great things, but rather a man who does what is right no matter the cost to himself.

So I start with Tony Stark in May and end with Abraham Lincoln in June. Funny, huh?

But its tough, kids. Standing firm when no one else is with you. Being responsible.

And not for fame or glory, but because God in His providence has set you up. I'll say that again:

God has set you up.

He put you where you are. He's given you what he wants you to do. Your assignment isn't to figure out how to escape His ordination. Your assignment is to do what is in front of you well, with justice and mercy and love.

Jesus knew this. Lincoln caught on to it. And every good hero accepts his destiny, his duty without fatalism.

I must really be getting off-track because it has taken me a month to see this; I am "just" a caregiver. Let me end with Oswald Chambers, a great saint who died in World War I while serving as a chaplain in Egypt:

My Utmost for His Highest, June 16th

Jesus does not ask me to die for Him, but to lay down my life for Him. Peter said - "I will lay down my life for Thy sake" and he meant it; his sense of the heroic was magnificent. It would be a bad thing to be incapable of making such a declaration as Peter made; the sense of our duty is only realized by our sense of the heroic.

Has the Lord ever asked you - "Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake?" It is far easier to die than to lay down the life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling. We are not made for brilliant moments, but we have to walk in the light of them in ordinary ways. There was only one brilliant moment in the life of Jesus, and that was on the Mount of Transfiguration; then He emptied Himself the second time of His glory, and came down into the demon-possessed valley. For thirty-three years Jesus laid out His life to do the will of His Father, and, John says, "we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." It is contrary to human nature to do it.


May God call you to His service. May you hear His call this day.

And if you want to have power to go beyond your human nature, call on the Hero of Heroes.

Jesus.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Geek in Metropolis

I am soooo geeking - today (Friday June 13th) I went to the Superman Museum in Metropolis, IL, and I'll tell you it is a visual barrage of EVERYTHING from the last 70 years of the Man of Steel. From George Reeves' costume, life mask and "breakaway" shirt to suits and props used by Christopher Reeve (and Gerard Jones and Dean Cain and Brandon Routh), it is a superfan's dream come true.

I ain't gonna say much now, but I should. I've been sitting at the feet of Michael Eury and Josh Elder and MURRAY ANDERSON - oh, MAN am I GEEKING!! Curt Swan's inker!

And if you know who Curt Swan is off of the top of your head, and are in city of over ten thousand people, you too are a geek (in Metropolis).

(great spiritual insights later, after my geek EEG flatlines)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It's My Birthday, and I'll Cry If I Want To

Not sissy-girl tears, but good manly ones - like those shed at the ending of The Iron Giant: "Suuupermannn!"

(*sniff* aw, man - I gotta get back on track here.)

In preparation for leaving for Metropolis and Superman's 70th birthday, I had to get a LOT of things done early. One of those things was to send my dad a Father's Day card. (It's this Sunday, June 15th, bucko.)

Men have weird relationships with their fathers. Statistics show one out of four young men grow up without a father at all (divorce, born out of wedlock, etc.) really, one of two grow up without any real interaction at all. Absent fathers, they are called. Work and other pursuits have kept them out of their children's lives.

It is stunning. If you look only at the prison population, you find it even worse. Far worse.

Let me tell you a story I heard. I think it is true.

Hallmark wanted to do a public service for inmates at a certain prison. They set up booths for Mother's Day so any inmate and every inmate could send his mother a Mother's Day card. Couldn't write so well? They'd take care of it for you. It was a touching gesture to these men and they lined up in droves to fill out the cards. It was an astounding success, so Hallmark decided to do it again for Father's Day.

Not one inmate showed up.

You see those men had been nurtured by their mothers and respected them. But the "naturing" aspect - when to fight and when not to, how to use their masculine strength and the lessons they needed to be wise in a world that caters to pleasure - was not given to them. So when they hit those trials they were unprepared. They got slaughtered by the Enemy.

In other words, the Captain of the ship was derelict in his duty. One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller describes this pain of absent fathers in his book To Own A Dragon.

Like I said, men have weird relationships with their fathers.

At a certain point, we have to fight with them - maybe even get physical - just to say, "No. I'm a man now. I make my decisions, right or wrong, but I have to do it or I'll never be a leader for others - my own household, my own wife and family."

We love them but we also have to stand against them. The Swordmaster wants to see if his pupil can parry and thrust and repartee, facing his very best attacks - and all so they can be ready for the battles they must face. Within themselves, with others, with the world.

Women work in collectives - put two women together and you have friends. Put three and you have a group. Put four and you got a party.

Put four guys together and you got a gang - or a squadron - or... well you get the idea.

We band together to wage war against other men. But its always to "win" together. All that strength has to go somewhere.

But we don't always like that role. And truthfully, a boy only weeps over this absent father because he loved him and he wasn't there. He was less important than his dad's work or entertainment, his buds or his new wife. Or at least it felt that way. So the boy weeps.

The hidden one, deep inside the man.

I wept today as I wrote my dad's card. I acknowledged that we are two very different people, but as I grew older I realized I was wearing his smile, his values, and his faith.

My dad is in an institution now - a nursing home. He was running around town in his scooter a month ago, but he kept getting stuck. His wife could not care for his physical needs anymore. Being paralyzed on the left side is tough for person, but at 250 lbs. it is even tougher for the caregiver who must meet all those needs.

The last time I talked to him - and we cannot talk for long, our shared interests are few - he said, "Son, follow the Lord and He'll take good care of you. He'll feed you and clothe you and give you a home." This from the son of a dirt poor sharecropper, born in the Depression, who survived a Kentucky flood at the age of 5. Poor? You don't know poor. But he knows his True Benefactor.

So I weep. I am glad of my dad's faithfulness, though there is much he does not understand theologically - Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Covenant theology, etc. - he does understand that God is good and has been good to him.

I'm sorry. I have to stop now 'cause I can't see the screen anymore.

I'll damn well cry if I want to.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Up, Up and Awaaaaayyyy!

Yeah, baby. Metropolis, IL is having their Superman Celebration this week - 70 Years of the Man of Steel, and you-know-who is gonna be there!

Does it get any better than this for a geek? First, I get Iron Man, my fave character - with whom I have a more than passing resemblance, and it is a GREAT movie, and then I get ordained and now, I get to go down the day after my birthday to METROPOLIS!

June 1938, he was born. My birthmonth. Wow.

I know, I know. But if you love comics and loved seeing good beat the tar out of evil, then you know the sweet geeky coolness in finding such correlations.

God is very good to me. My landlady and I are heading down to see all the cool guys and gals from League of Heroes (see link on right,bunky) and if THAT is not enough, two buds I know from Memphis - Dave Beatty and Lin Workman are going to be there. They are some seriously good cartoonists and artists bar none. And THEY are coming up HERE this WEEK?

Yeah. We're gonna celebrate Superman. But down in my heart, I'm praising Jesus.

You see, I was coming to Christ just as I met these men. I worked with them a very, very short time and then moved on. Dave and I did a T-Shirt design or two together and Lin - well, I did a mural of the Southaven Charger Knight in Ms. Frances McGuffey's classroom (the Adv. English teacher of THE John Grisham), and Lin followed up two years later doing a humongous one in the center stairwell of the school.

I was an artist dilettante. Lin's the real thing. Still, I feel that I helped break some ground for him by being the first to do the 'Knight as a mural.

There are a lot of heroes now, ever since the Big Blue showed up. But he was the first.

And since I have begun following Christ, I hope some of my old buds will follow suit.

"Follow me - and I will make you fishers of men!"

Jesus was talking to fishermen when He said that. He was making a pun. To me He might say:

"Draw near to Me, and I will make artists draw near to you!"

Here's to the greatest superhero of all time who's leading me to them again, out of the blue.

Jesus.

Monday, June 9, 2008

My Super Ex-Girlfriend

Have you seen this comedy? Seriously funny and not at all "family-friendly" since it has a guy having sex with a super-heroine, breaking up with her and almost getting killed by her for it.

Watching this movie - yeah I had to fast forward through certain parts - I was struck by the wisdom of the Almighty in NOT letting us have more power than we know what to do with.

Sex is dynamite. It bonds us to another person and then, if that bond is severed, there is a great deal of grief as both walk away wounded, unfulfilled - with promises we must now cast aside.

Its been nine years, I just realized. Nine years since I met her, fell hard for her, fell into sin and then had to end it. I think I cried harder over that loss than my divorce. Crud, I know I did.

'Cause my ex-girlfriend was super in so many ways (Valedictorian, Magna cum Laude in Law School, etc.) And still she had her own problems. The discipline of holiness had not caught up with her, and I was JUST beginning.

How super was she? She was smart, she was sexy and she was funny. She was also wounded, isolated and working to understand God's grace. Especially hard for us ex-perfectionists, because grace sounds like "do whatever you want" and we can't imagine that's right.

It really means God intends to love us to holiness, one step at a time, not demand it of us in order to win His approval. In other words, God says to the one who places his or her faith in Christ, "You just got an A+. What are you going to do with it?"

And we really don't know what to do with our victory except abuse the privilege. Sort of like getting drunk at graduation, and then getting killed by a train.

I would like to blame her or even my church for not preaching holiness more. For not warning me how much it would hurt. For not preaching a balance of grace and faith - trusting God and doing it His way. I also wanted to blame God for not "delivering me from evil" and letting me get so close to someone I fell so hard for.

Oh, to add insult to injury, this was when I was in the middle of my very first ministry. I was praying and fasting and even asked a pastor for help and got nothing. Actually, got vilified on one occasion.

Someone once said "Evangelicals like to shoot their wounded." I am afraid so.

In the end, I hated myself. I was isolated and alone.

So I did the only thing a man could do: I became a mystic. I wanted God and NOTHING ELSE. In six months I was utterly hopeless, unemployed and directionless. Three months after that, I left my hometown of 30 years. And three months after that, I was teaching in a jail.

I began understanding Moses and Elijah and Job. How they had been rejected and even if, as in the case of Moses, had committed a grievous sin, it ended up humbling them for ministry.

God used their misunderstanding to glorify Himself. He was just breaking their egos.

Its been nine years since I lost my last romance. Lost, did I say? No. Ended it. It hurt like hell and that makes sense because it was supposed to. If it DIDN'T hurt, I'd be worried.

I speak from pain (and the truth of that pain) when I speak in the jail. I am not always compassionate or really want to hear about YOUR ex, but I understand. My men can hear it in my voice. I don't give them "positive thinking" stupidity.

Dr. Steve Brown, a funny and gracious minister from Reformed Theological Seminary, a son of an alcoholic, a proclaimer of the radical grace of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ says this to the wounded:

"Yeah, I know. It hurts. It hurts."

"Now get up."

I have been proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ for eight years now, the power of His love and His Spirit. So I guess the following is true:

Romans 8:28 (NASB)
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Thank God for that. Thank God.

Here's to the Lord who saves us from our selves: thank you, Jesus.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hating Heroes - Its Bound to Happen

One of my heroes is C.S. Lewis. Oh, sure a lot of Christian writers say that, but I have a heartfelt connection to him.

His writing saved my mother's faith even as she struggled with cancer. And as I researched his life, I found out later he was a WWI vet with shrapnel still in his chest (hey - Tony Stark!), had a functionally alcoholic brother and lived with a very demanding woman he called his mother. Yet, during the worst time of crisis in WWII in Great Britain as bombs were falling on London, he was being broadcast on the BBC explaining the Christian faith.

He helped them to see it was NOT idealistic gas but rather a robust faith that answered the "problem of pain" in our world. In fact, he wrote a book on it my mother read - 35 years later in 1978.

His clear thinking in crisis, his steadfast faith when the world was - literally - coming apart around him, revealed his heroism. Add to this that he was a very active professor and answered (with his brother's help) EVERY letter sent to him, and we have someone remarkable, a pastor by correspondence.

Do you know what fellow colleague said about him? "[Lewis] is possibly the most evil man I have ever met." No, I couldn't believe it either. Later, when it was put before the university to grant him a very proper recognition for all his excellent academic work - a friend of Lewis heard two men say "Well, ready to go cast your vote against Lewis?" Not FOR the other guy who was on the same ballot, but AGAINST Lewis.

It stuns me. Evil? How in the world can you call a man who has done such good in such crisis as "evil"? Why hate him so?

Let me tell you how: the same way Cain whined to God after he had killed his brother. The self-pity just drips in every word:

Genesis 4:10-16 (NIV)

The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."

Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."

But the LORD said to him, "Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

God doesn't curse Cain - Cain cursed himself for violating the law of love and truth, i.e. the absolute Spiritual Laws no one can violate without consequences.

I cannot emphasize this point enough. I have heard this pitiful exegesis again and again from too many well-meaning Bible teachers: God does not curse Cain - Cain complains God is cursing him. (Furthermore, God did not "drive Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden" because of their sin, but because He could NOT let them eat of the Tree of Life and live forever - in nakedness and shame. If God is so tyrannical, why CLOTHE Adam and Eve? Why PROTECT the world's first murderer? Sheesh.)

In other words, if we often portray God as heartless and callous, like Cain did, how easily can we do the same to godly men? To men who in humility did the things that MUST be done for a greater good - and often at great pain and suffering to themselves?

I think godly men who stand against the seductions of the world are pretty awesome. And everyone who capitulates is going to, like Cain, complain that they are not being treated right.

I have more to say on this topic, but I wanted to just lay this foundation for my next post.

Oh - what was Jesus called for healing the demoniacs? Yeah - the religious folk called him "Baelzebub" - a Prince of Demons.

Wow. The most loving, sinless and humble man of all time: a Prince of Demons.

I think the counseling terminology for that is "projection". What I am feeling about you on the inside I project onto you. So if I am angry, I go around telling people YOU have the problem: "He's so angry!"

What comes out of our mouth about a Hero - who sacrifices his own good for others - tells us more about ourselves than about that person.

Let us praise those who give of themselves to save others. For they are, by reason of duty and calling, very rare individuals.

And if the superhero genre is any gauge as to our soul's insight, there is usually only one hero for an umpteen number of villains.

Be a hero. And do not be surprised if you are hated.
I John 3:12-14
Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers [in Christ]. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

No truer words can be said.

Prepare to be hated.

Its part of the job, bucko. Its part of the job.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Our Fortresses of Solitude

When I was growing up Superman had a cool place to retreat, a Fortress of Solitude, situated far away from the regular world at the North Pole. The movie gave this an environmental reason as well - Krypton was a frozen planet, dimly lit by its red giant of a sun. So it was a piece of home for him.

We all like to retreat to familiar surroundings, where we're comfortable. In My Cousin Vinnie, Joe Pesci plays a former criminal turned legal counsel and when asked to defend his young cousin, he does so happily, but they are stuck way out in the country, and he's a former crook from the Big City. He can't get a night's rest until he's locked up (for contempt of court).

So Superman goes to his frozen north, and Vinnie goes to his jail and heck, that guy with pointy ears up above? Yeah, he goes to the Batcave - which is underneath his ancestral mansion.

But underneath it. In the dark.

In the movie, Batman Begins Bruce Wayne tells Alfred in anger that "This house is a mausoleum! If I had my way, I'd tear the damn thing down!" He unfortunately gets his wish - and then decides it must be rebuilt -his pain over his parent's untimely death should not destroy his family's legacy. "What are you going to do?" "Rebuild it. Brick by brick. Just the way it was." This is his closure, his healing. He has a different path now, but it is a good one. He's going to move forward, no matter the painful past.

Last night I watched someone in pain receive comfort in their Fortress of Solitude. Their spouse had walked out on them - again - and I must say, I understand why the spouse did it.

But what amazed me as I ate with them and fixed a broken garage door and relaxed by watching snippets of cool movies- Escape from New York and Dances with Wolves (yeah, that's quite a double feature, eh?) - that this was NORMAL for this person. This is where they lived: surrounded by animals, in pain and all alone. Like Snake Plissken. Like Lt. John Dunbar.

This was their Fortress of Solitude. This was their comfort zone.

Why? Well, years of pain and isolation and anger have turned relationships with the opposite sex into junk food: you want it, you can stomach so much of it, then you get sick and swear off of it.

Till next time. Unlike the heroes above, who's solitude refreshes them to fight again, this solitude re-affirms pain and painful memories.

I don't have an easy solution for this. Intimacy is scary and those who have been wounded are scared of getting close or letting others get close again. We demand of them what we should find in God - perfect love.

Oswald Chambers saw this, some 90 years ago:
"If we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him (or her) every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give.

There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Why Our Lord is apparently so severe regarding every human relationship is because He knows that every relationship not based on loyalty to Himself will end in disaster.


Sound harsh? No, not for us recovering co-dependents. We want love, forgiveness, moral excellence and purity given to us while we "keep on trucking".

Only God can be put up with that and still love us. Only God can fill that void in our hearts. But until we learn that, we stay isolated, alone and, sadly, feel justified in our assessment of their sins and failings. "Do you know what he (she) did to ME?!"

Let me give you a heads-up: on the day that I yelled at God and He Himself replied, we did not talk about my ex-wife's sins.

He showed me mine.

God has a Fortress of Solitude called Heaven. Or, if you prefer, on Earth, He appeared in the "Holy of Holies" deep within the Temple.

But then He left heaven to rescue us. At the crucifixion, the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the world was "rent in twain" (KJV). From top to bottom, which physically no human could do.

I have prayed for this wounded person, because I remember when I was there. I was hurt, angry and despondent. I needed God. I needed a person to love.

On that magnificent day, at that moment of terror, I told my Lover off.

And He accepted me. Crud, how do you hate a God like that?

Somehow He is humble enough to come after us through locked doors. He knows that there is only one Key that will open them, and it is cross-shaped.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock, it any man hears My voice and opens to Me, I will come in and dine with him."

But we are invited also to go to Him: "Come to Me, all you who are weary, and heavy-laden, and you will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Maybe it'll be you leaving your Fortress to find Him. A bit like the finale in Jerry Maguire, with God saying to you:

"Stop."

"You had me at 'hello'. You had me at 'hello'."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Reverend Justice -and a Free Koran BBQ

Sorry I didn't blog yesterday, dear reader but I was a bit busy.

I went to pick up my certificate of ordination after dropping my landlady off at work and then, if that wasn't enough, I went on to help set up dinner and bless the food at the Billy Graham Center Telephone Ministry later that evening - I had to lead the prayer room after that.

Doesn't that sound delightfully holy and noble of me?

Let me set you straight: I ain't holy. God is holy. Jesus is holy. The Holy Spirit is holy.

And by virtue of the fact that I became a Christian, He very kindly decided to live in me.

"Which He?" you might ask. Sorry to sound mystical, but all three actually. They work together in collusion and I am the recipient of their beneficience. In other words, I just get to move around and let the Trinity do something with me. In this case, get ordained, help set up food - (which just means carrying three heavy things for ladies who cannot lift them), and in front of everyone talk to my heavenly Father.

I am the first to realize a title does not make you "holy". In fact, if I were not already doing the job by the power of the Holy Spirit, I shouldn't have been ordained. (Its strange how it works in real life. You get working for Jesus and, after eight to ten years, someone ordains you.)

I wouldn't have even asked for it, except my earthly Dad asked when I was going to do it. (And I thought I might look rally spiffy in some new duds - see photo at the top? THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!)

Now, you also need to know, you too can be ordained if you are a serious Christian by the folks at http://www.ordination.com/ . For a donation of $48 you can get an honorary Doctorate of Divinity. That's be nice to have, don't you think?

"The Reverend Doctor Justice Carmon."

Oh, yeah, baby.

Bwahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahaahaa!

I've been teaching for years, and the pastor who is ordaining me has years of physical and spiritual warfare under his belt. In fact, I have been filling in for him at the jail because of health issues he has had. He is a fine brother in Christ, and we both know this is a formality, 'cause of what Jesus said (I replace "rabbi" with "reverend" because it is the equivalent; same with "teacher" and "doctor"):

From Matthew 23:5-12 (NIV)
"Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their ['prayer boxes'] and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ['Reverend.']

"But you are not to be called ['Reverend,'] for you have only one [revered Lord] you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and He is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ['Doctor of Divinity,'] for you have one [Doctor of Divinity], the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant.

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

And that says it all kids.

If you really know Jesus, you can minister. You don't need a man or an organization to ordain you. That's for the government and them religious folk. For those who want recognition.

Still, I'm such a card I'll prolly get some other titles sooner or later so I can cause trouble anywhere I go. I'm like that.

"Who are you, mister....?"
"Reverend Carmon."
"Oh, sorry, Rev..."

:D

But the irony is I got ordained by God the day I decided to serve Him and Him alone. I was given a supernatural revelation of what scripture meant and began teaching others what God showed me.

And Jesus? He's my brother. I think of that less and less as a metaphor now. He's very kind to me, you know. He loves me and hugs me and says "Don't do that." And I say "awwww, c'mon..."

"We love Him because He first loved us." Amen.

We do it all out of love for Jesus. No other reason suffices.

Oh - I almost forgot.

Yesterday, someone hung a Koran on my door. The neat and personable notecard said it was the very Words of God. I checked and found all the references in it that said Jesus [Isa] wasn't the son of God and that He was just a prophet. That He did not even die on the cross.

Crud, even the Romans weren't that stupid.

They wanted me to return it if I did not want it.

I took it out back and burned it.

I got my work cut out for me. Last thing I need to do is save some Muslims money so they can damn another soul.

It was quite a day, I assure you.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Turning Evil into Good

There are defining moments in all of our lives. We who love the superhero genre accept this as part and parcel of every superhero origin.

In Alan Moore's Batman: The Killing Joke, the Joker says to Batman - "You had a bad day once, am I right? I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed. Why else would you dress up like a flying rat?"

I have an online friend who's father was an abusive alcoholic. A brute of horrific proportions. One day after having years of martial arts training, his father began beating him and it came to his mind that he could kill him on the spot. Literally. He chose not too. He made a decision and now helps children go through the toughest stages of their lives - High School.

"Do not fret when evil men prevail -it leads only to harm."

I understand this. I have had to learn it the hard way. And, sad to say, I have been on the wrong side of the equation at times.

But evil can be transformed into good; pain into power for healing.

My friend now uses his mental and physical prowess to help others. His wound is not his defeat. It is common for the abused to stay a victim and not gain victory, but I believe God has greater plans for our pain (even if it just to say "I saw the person I never want to become. Ever.")

Today I saw God's work on a young single mother. She wears a promise ring and has a young man who wishes to marry her. He's been a friend for years and is very gracious.

Only one thing prevents her: he has not given his life to Christ.

I hope he will. I think he's on the right track. He's got a good open heart. We're praying for him.

But what does this have to do with turning evil to good?

I said "young single mother", right? Let me re-phrase that.

She's a head-turning girl with a bow-shaped mouth and milk and honey complexion. Nearly four years ago she was hanging around a pool hall and was forcibly impregnated by a male acquaintance. His lust overrode everything. He professed a desire to marry her; he's fortunate he did not go to jail.

She could have decided to have an abortion and not one person would have argued. But I saw something unusual in this, and in counseling, she agreed with me.

"I find it strange that this one incident has turned into pregnancy, don't you?"

"I've been thinking that too."

I pointed out that she might want to go through the Bible and find all the unusual, miraculous pregnancies. She did. A few weeks later, she said "I've decided to have the baby!" I rejoiced at her courage. It was difficult, but she has a very understanding family.

And today that boy aged three was sitting his mommy eating in McDonald's. (I had seen him previously in the same place some 10 months earlier with his grandma, so I wasn't overly surprised.)

But as I was greeted by a hug and caught up with her, she told me about a young man who wanted to marry her. I noticed the small ring on her finger. "Its just a promise ring. We're thinking about next year some time," she said. "But he's not a Christian, so we're not engaged."

I was floored. They were going to have premarital counseling, a pastor overseeing this, and if he does not become a follower of Jesus, no-go.

She was gentle and wise and forthright with this information. No gooey idealistic gas.

Now, that's miraculous if you know single moms and their situation. There is a sense of desperation, of incompletion. Not her. I agreed fully with her - the jail I teach at is some few hundred yards away (yeah, its THAT McDonald's) - and shared that "Men need to fear God. They need to know that He's bigger than them. It is a comfort to them and women they live with.

"God is a Bear Who Loves us - and will give us a growly hug when we need it."

She smiled at that. She knows she is safe if she obeys Him and listens to His Word.

She isn't going to marry based on her fears but on her heartfelt desire for a godly man. God is good and has been good to her when she was in the worst situation of her life.

She knows Jesus now. The Man she can trust. And she isn't going anywhere without Him.

As I said, evil can be turned to good. But the transformation happens when we learn Who to trust and let Him fix the situation.

"God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose."

Amen.