Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Magic Lantern Show

Here at Written Without Ink I am proud to unveil my second blog titled The Magic Lantern Show. The purpose of The Magic Lantern Show will be a journal and discussion site for engaging our faith with films. I have been thinking about this project for quite some time and looking ahead at the movies scheduled for release this summer I decided now was the time to begin.

My hope is that The Magic Lantern Show will be a true b'logue, which is a term I coined for a web dialogue. So please visit the site and post your comments. Let us know what movies you have seen.

The opening of The Magic Lantern Show does not mean the end of Written Without Ink. I will continue my journaling here and its purpose remains the same. To get you started on your way to the Magic Lantern Show, here's a preview of an upcoming entry . . .

I have always enjoyed the movies. For most of my life I thought they were just a diversion. I went to the movies to waste time, enjoy a laugh, or thrill at adventure. Then I began to notice how some films are discussions of serious subjects. I discovered that some films made me think. At times, they even disturbed me. The more I started to notice this, the more I realized that more was going on at the movies than entertainment.

Come to The Magic Lantern Show! Opening Friday at a web browser near you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

CBS News: The Threat of Scattering

Genesis 11
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

I just finished reading Michael Crichton’s latest novel, State of Fear. The best part of the book is the author’s commentary and notes in the appendix. He makes the astute observation that we have become a society preoccupied with safety and precaution. Our fear is no longer generated by the Red Menace or the threat of nuclear holocaust. Now we are afraid of the environment, global warming, disease, and a host of other unknown dangers.

I do not recommend the book to just anyone. The story contains crude language and situations. (For a better review of Crichton's book that mine, read what my friend Jeff Richardson has to say at his website .) I do appreciate Crichton's insights about the increasing level of anxiety in our culture. Really, all one has to do is tune in to a TV network morning talk show. They will be ready to update you on what invisible force threatens to kill you suddenly and silently today. Just listen for the sound bite phrases: “Should you be worried?” or “How can you protect yourself?” We are not running into bomb shelters like those “Chicken Little’s” of the 1950’s who feared the A-Bomb. No, we are much more sophisticated than that; after all we know that the annihilation of the human species will be from a huge meteor due to strike the earth in the next twenty-five years.

The Genesis story of the Tower of Babel convinces me that "States of Fear" are common to the human race. The anxiety and stress of our current age of transition have some novel nuances, but we have always been afraid of being scattered. Translation (this is Babel after all): We are afraid of losing control so we rush headlong into desperate efforts to save ourselves.

Can you imagine one of our morning talk show reporting a story on the efforts to build the tower? Imagine that they aired the story on CBS, the Canaanite Broadcasting Service . . .

"This morning we have the head of Shinar Construction with us to warn us about the problem of scattering and what you can do about it. Good morning sir, is scattering a real problem or just an urban myth?"

"Scattering is definitely a problem. Last year alone an independent report showed that 55,000 people, 30% of them children, were scattered in Shinar alone. "

"That’s terrible, but what can be done about it?"

"We at Shinar propose building a city which will help us make a name for ourselves. Studies show that . . ."

"I hate to interrupt, but a city? This has been tried before hasn't it? And the efforts never seem to quite work. A government report suggests that collapsing towers have caused a 72% decrease in the confidence of city life. People seem to be really scared that this will happen to them. What do you say to that?"

"Well, that may have been the case in the old cities, but new technology has changed that. With the invention of the brick we are certain that we will be able to build a tower that should be 48.6% higher that the average mud hill and at Shinar we have introduced a tar adhesive that will safeguard against collapse to an even greater degree. It is in the experimental stage right now, and once the adhesive is cleared by our scientists and legal advisors we expect construction of a tower at Babel in the next year. We think this is a major achievement in the war against scattering."

"Mr. Shinar of Shinar Construction, thank you so much for joining us this morning and we wish you all the best. Sounds like it could be hope for all of us against the dangers of scattering. Up next, environmental experts warn there could be yet another flood like the big one and, get this, it could come in the next hour. Are you prepared? You may not be as safe as you think! We will tell you what you can do to safeguard your family -- but first these messages."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

In Transit

If someone were to write a theme song for my life as I know it right now it would be called “Transition!” The lyrics would be set, ironically, to the song “Tradition!” from Fiddler on the Roof. I can hear Topol singing in my imagination:

Who, day and night, must scramble for a flight,
Kiss his wife and children, pay his daily bills?
And who has the plight, because of downsizing at the plant,
To get relocated and look for a new home?

The Papa, the Papa! Transition!

Have you noticed how the word transition has the word transit in it? Since I am currently travelling, I cannot help but notice that the structures that make up our society and culture are devoted to transit. I am surrounded by them today.

I am in a hotel room that is similar to most hotel rooms I have stayed in. It has a little coffee maker and a little refrigerator. I have a little bottle of shampoo and a little bar of soap. They are little because I will not be here for very long. I am in transit.

I have a wireless internet connection and I can stay in touch with my people far away on my portable laptop computer. Computers once filled a room and now I carry one on my belt. My computer, which is faster than a million speeding Univacs, is portable and I connect to the Internet super-highway without a wire or cable because I do not stay in one place for very long. I am in transit.

I am driving a car that is rented. There are nearly a dozen companies devoted to supplying me and other sojourners with a vehicle of transit. At DFW they have a huge complex about it, literally! Once you get off your plane you leave the airport and get on a bus that takes you on a ten minute trip to a large complex devoted only to renting cars. I fly. I ride. I drive. I am in transit.

When I was renting the car the desk clerk asked me if I wanted Sirius radio. I said, "How serious is it?" (Okay, I didn’t really say that). It was only $3.00 so of course I got it. Am I a sucker or what? I paid for something that is free – radio! However, Sirius radio is different. It is radio for people in transit. I can leave Dallas and listen to the same station all the way to Abilene. I can hear that same station in Fort Smith, Boston, Chicago, or Muleshoe. The signal is always there. Local broadcasting is so 20th century. Now we are Sirius about our radio and I can listen anywhere and I will because I am in transit!

This is the reality we live in dear readers. It is appropriate to lament, celebrate, explore, be nostalgic, be concerned, and be hopeful. What is not appropriate is to do just one of these to the exclusion of the others. We are surrounded by structures that strive to accommodate us and comfort us in our transition. And yet so few of these comofrts and accomodations really soothe our growing anxiety. What if we had in the midst of our transits and transitions a sense of the presence of the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever? Could we have the courage and hope to get up and leave the land we know and trust in the structures that only He can build? Let’s talk about this. Why don't you check in from time to time during your transits and sign the questbook – I mean, guestbook.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Nostalgic Refugee

I have always felt that you don’t really live somewhere until you take a trip away and return to it. At that point you are trying to get home. It becomes the place you know and love. It becomes the bookend setting in your there-and-back-again excursions.

Fort Smith became that place for me quite some time ago. In fact I could describe the last fifteen years of life as a multi-volume there-and-back-again story. I left my homeland all those years ago and now I have returned to it changed and wizened by my astounding experiences and amazing adventures in far away places with strange sounding names like Clyde and Clute.

I am on a little quest right now. It is a quest for knowledge and insight. I am in Abilene, Texas for the 2005 Ministry Summit. Alan Roxburgh has been lecturing on the changes taking place in our culture and world and what it means for church leaders. As a culture, we are all on a journey and we have left the land we know. The bad news is we can’t go back to what we knew. It isn’t there anymore. The good news is that God has a future for us if we are willing to trust in him to guide us through the wilderness of transition.

I become something of a nostalgic refugee when I am away from home. Absence, my absence, makes my heart grow fonder I suppose. I learn not to take my family and my community for granted. On my journey, I listen to the tales of others pilgrims, some I know and some I do not know, and the stories always draw me back to my family and my congregation and how much I love and appreciate them. Yesterday, I had dinner with a friend who is a gifted preacher and church leader. I told him that I thought of him just the day before and asked him if he remembered how eleven years ago from the day he and another friend were bored undergraduate students playing around on the elevators at Hendricks hospital while my wife was in labor. He did. I am just a nostalgic refugee and the topic always seems to come back to the world I know and the people I love.

I have many more reflections and comments on change and transition, dear reader. So come back to Written Without Ink and join the discussion. I welcome your comments and encourage you to change my blog into a b’logue — that’s short for web-dialogue. You read the word here first, dear reader!