Category Archives: Sacred Secular

Here’s Not Here… A Walking Dead Review

Yes, yes, I’m a fan of The Walking Dead.  If gore is one of those things you (as a believer) are lead to stay away from, please don’t go out and watch The Walking Dead just because I’ve mentioned it on my blog, and I also know the various arguments presented for Christians not to watch such things in the first place, let’s just skip ahead to the part where I disagree with blanket restrictions on watching TV shows (though I do think there are some movies, books, shows, etc.. that have no redeeming qualities, I don’t think The Walking Dead (TWD) is one of them for me).

So, this is an episode review and it is written solely for one reason… I can find no other reviews close to my thoughts on this episode and I had to ask myself why, and then blog about it.  I think I have the answer… it’s because many out there on the ‘net writing reviews are not Christian, nor do they have a degree in psychology, nor have they taught college philosophy courses, nor studied comparative religions.  In short, I found this particular episode one of the best TWD episodes ever for many and layered reasons and I’m not seeing others “get it” in quite the way I expected.  This review is going to proceed as if you, dear reader, have seen TWD on a fairly regular basis and have seen the latest eppy Here’s Not Here.  So, if you are not a fan you can stop reading without any guilt.

SPOILERS for all past episodes ahead, you’ve been warned.

If you are a watcher, you realize that Glenn’s “death cliffhanger” was the previous episode, and there is a  certain group of fans out there in TWD fandom whose heads were exploding because Glenn was not directly in this episode.  We still don’t know if he is alive or dead, or is now zombieGlenn, and that is apparently an unacceptable situation for many fans to be put in.  There are indeed several reviews praising the episode but hating the timing of it.  Here’s what they are missing: that’s one of the points of this episode.  The powers that be wanted you to go through a car wreck… not for sadistic reasons, but for effect.  They had everyone hurtling 80 miles an hour down the road, only to come to a dead stop with a seemingly out of place episode all about good ol’ crazy Morgan-gone-Zen.

One thing I thought everyone agreed on (Rick spelled it out for the group and the audience blatantly in an episode) is that “The Walking Dead” does not refer to the zombies, but rather to the humans having to live in, and adapt to, this new world.  The humans going through Hell on Earth are indeed the walking dead, and most of the characters we have come to know and love are suffering from PTSD.  The two characters in the latest episode, Morgan and Eastman, are the two characters picked to showcase the roller coaster that all the characters worth anything on TWD are on.  This show was not “just about Morgan” nor was it just about his backstory.  Morgan is the character chosen to carry the psychological and philosophical revelations for the whole audience.  Glenn was in the show.  Rick was in the show. Carol was in the show, etc… etc…  They were all represented, one just has to look for them.

This eppy raised deep philosophical and practical questions that have been around for thousands of years.  Our religions debate them, our fellow humans struggle with them, and to be truly human I hope we’ve all at least pondered them at some point in our lives.  Are you a pacifist?  If yes, are there times when your pacifism is actually morally reprehensible?  If no, when is killing ok?  Is killing animals ok?  How about people?  Only when necessary?  Are you for or against the death penalty? Under what circumstances?  Can humans be forgiven?  Can they be redeemed? Is there such a thing as evil?  What is PTSD?  How is it cured?  Is it possible to be mindful during a zombie attack?  And on and on… how can someone watch such an eppy and not be philosophically geeked out?

Let’s look at the character “Eastman.”  East-man.  He was used to show what the eastern philosophies may look like in this world of TWD.  I’ve seen people mocking the Way of Peace online (the book Eastman leans on for his own philosophy and the book Morgan uses to help return to sanity, and yes, the book is real), in essence arguing that some of the most ancient practices and philosophies “are like so stoopid, no, man, like really reallllly dumb, Carol should just off Morgan, cuz stoopid.”  We’ve ran into humans in the show that have given up their compassion and humanity and we’ve seen how they’ve turned out (Termites anyone?  How ’bout those Wolves?)  Did literally the whole internet miss that Carol was having this very revelation in the previous episode?  How ’bout Glenn’s treatment and forgiveness of the despised Nicholas?  How ’bout Rick’s descent into darkness?

In Eastman and Morgan we have two characters that are not cowards, are not stoopid, are not naive, and yet decide to not kill a fellow human unless absolutely necessary.   We also have these characters showing us a different side of nature (again, a central theme in eastern philosophy); we are used to the beautiful environment of Georgia turning into a enemy at the worst of times, and a forgotten background the rest of the time.  In this eppy we have the environment reintroduced as a thing of beauty and life.  It’s all about balance and this season is centered (pun intended) on that theme.  Eastern philosophy captures that perfectly.  Life/death, black/white, good/evil, male/female, love/hate, active/passive, bravery/cowardice… and that is just scratching the surface.

This episode had it all; the themes of man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self, and I just happen to think the powers that be did a wonderful job presenting those themes in a way that was trying to force the audience to stop and think, which again is why we were slammed to a stop with Glenn’s cliffy.  This eppy was to help us see that there are other ways of dying, and there are other ways of becoming a walker, rather than just in the literal sense.  The fact that many on the net are howling in anguish and are now spitting on Morgan, but holding Carol up as the perfect human are proving that this was a much-needed episode.  I have no idea how it will all turn out. Perhaps the writers are all nihilists.  Perhaps they are all naturalists/materialists.  Perhaps they will paint a picture of the world I’ll disagree with, but man, Here’s Not Here was surely one of the writing highlights of the show that put forth that humans have a choice to become animals, or to rise above.  As a Christian this episode was everything I had wished for Gabriel’s character, but, I’ll take it in eastern guise if I have to.

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Breaking Benjamin is back… and so am I.

I’ve posted several times about Breaking Benjamin, but it has been a while.  They were, and are, a favorite band of mine, though the current members are not the same as when they first arrived on the scene.  They have an all-new lineup except for Ben Burnley of course.  He finally won the court case enabling him to keep the name “Breaking Benjamin” and the rights to the songs.

The new boyz in the band; Jasen Rauch on guitar, and if you recognize the name he was indeed from Red, Keith Wallen also on guitar,  Aaron Bruch on bass, and Shaun Foist on drums.  Some of the guys sing backing vocals, which is unusual as Ben used to sing alone and do all his own backing vocals on albums.

It took me a long while to buy and listen to the album, Dark Before Dawn, I suppose I didn’t want to be disappointed, but also my musical tastes have changed over time, and I was strangely nervous I’d hear them and hate them.  I shouldn’t have worried, their style both remains completely recognizable as Breaking Benjamin, but allows Ben to showcase his journey and his maturing through an unexplained illness that causes him daily suffering.  I like the album a lot, and it is definitely worth the cost of a download.

If you don’t like alternative rock, this isn’t for you and they aren’t a Christian band… though if Ben’s not a believer by this point, I’ll eat my hat.

Here are my earlier articles about BB:

Breaking Benjamin Interview

Jesus; The Lamb and The Lion via Breaking Benjamin

And, yes, I hope this marks my return to blogging.  Honestly there is so much to say about world events, these times we live in, and how biblical wisdom is indeed that answer, that it is sometimes hard to know where to start.

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Dare to Believe and Share the Gospel

If you discovered the cure for cancer… would you share it?  Of course you would.  Are you a believer in Jesus Christ?  Do you believe the gospel of the Bible and have faith in Jesus?  If so, do you realize you have something infinitely more precious than a cure for cancer to share.  You have something of eternal consequence, of eternal power.  What you know can change people’s lives forever.  You have no power over them directly, but you do know the truth; in order to have your sins wiped out, and in order to be raised from the dead and take your place in Heaven, you need Jesus.  You need His sacrifice, His grace, His blood.

You, my dear brother or sister (in other words my fellow believers), have been given much.  I don’t care about how popular you are or how rich or how poor you are, what you own or what you eat.  The fact is you have been given much.  And, to whom much is given, much is expected.  Embrace the fact that you are watched; unbelievers are watching you.  How do you act?  How you act does not save you, this we know, but how you act shows a bit of Jesus to the world.  Don’t use His name in vain… that’s not about cursing, it is about calling yourself a believer, and then acting like the world while others watch you.

This is not about beating people about the head with a Bible; is there anything more off-putting?  What I’m talking about is a quiet faith that is shown in what we do, what we don’t do, what we say, what we don’t say… how do we control our anger, do we love our family in Christ, do we love God and love our neighbors as ourselves?  Notice that; love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Many Christians act as though you have to hate yourself, no, that’s not the answer to pride.  The answer to pride is to love God first and foremost.  A believer’s right pride comes from Jesus and what He has to offer.

Sharing your faith should be a lot like breathing, breathing is not flashy or showy, it’s natural.  The Bible is clear; a proof of God and His Son hinges on us loving each other and treating our brothers and sisters AS brothers and sisters.  Care about one another.  Pray for one another.  Pray for our country because we need it.  We don’t need a president, we need God.  Our founding fathers were, in the vast majority, Christian.  They repeatedly reminded us that our nation is a strong nation because of our moral beliefs rooted in scripture.  We know there is sin.  We know there is grace.  We share the gospel in the lives we lead, how we treat our children and other people’s kids.  We share it in the way we treat our family… we share it in the way we treat our enemies.

I heard Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame being interviewed today, and he was right as usual; the answer is not a man-made ideology, its not liberalism, it’s not conservatism, the answer is God.  The greatest story ever told is one centered on forgiveness of sin, and the power of Jesus over death, Hell, and the grave.  Before someone has correct ideology, they need the creator of all in their lives, it is the only way they can think straight. I’m dumb, God is brilliant.  I’m weak, God is strong.  I’m sinful, God is perfect.  We, and all people, need God in our lives.  Share Him, in whatever way you are called to.  Read your Bible.  Pray. Pray hard.  The world needs it.

Our country is made up of states, states are made up of counties, counties of towns, towns of families, families of individuals.  In the age of grace God deals with individuals, not with nations as in times past (that time will come again, but is not yet).  That means the individuals that make up this country need to be rooted in Christ.  If the individuals are rooted, the nation is rooted.  You can’t control anyone else, but you can work on you with God’s grace and power.  The answer to our “secular” problems are indeed sacred in nature.  Grow deed roots and help others do the same.

Grace and peace be with all of you who believe in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, my prayers are with you, pray for me, pray for our nation, and our family in Him.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Prayer, Religion and Politics, Sacred Secular

The Christian and Debt

Debt is all around us, and most of us have some type of debt currently.  I just read a statistic yesterday that less than 50% of all Americans have any net worth at all, meaning that less than 50% of us have monetary value (including assets) over the amount of monetary debt we owe.  Financially, then, most Americans are worth less than zero. Think about that.  Our country has changed over time and we are a nation of debtors living in a nation of debt.  Yes, debt has always, and will always be around, but we are now going into debt for things people in the past would never have considered signing away their future earnings for.

So, what does God teach us about debt, money, and how we can faithfully handle our finances? Now, obviously I’m not going to be able to cover every scripture or every situation.  There are many good resources out in the market today that do a better job covering all of that than I ever could.  But, I did want to cover a specific aspect of debt that people tend to wink at; Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.  Really think that over; you are a slave to anyone you have borrowed money from.  Do you owe a  bank, credit company, hospital, the government, etc…?

Whoever you owe money to, you are their slave.  You work for them.  Your money is theirs, and that is a Biblical concept.  In an age where we borrow money from all of these places, we have so many masters we can’t count them.  Remember where it says that we can’t serve two masters? Wow.  We just don’t think of these things, and what we want, we want it now.  If we need an automobile, why of course we take out a loan because the masters make it easy to make monthly payments.  We demand a college education, so we take out a loan because the masters act as though we’ll be able to easily pay it back.  Our very nation is sinking in debt, and whoever holds our debt is our master.  Scarey, hunh?

Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another… If we owe someone money, we give them power over us, and it limits what we can do with our work.  Everything that we have comes from God, and our best position is to be free to use what God blesses us with how He sees fit.  If we owe money, our money is yoked to the lender.  Now, if someone is in need, the answer can be giving, not borrowing.

Giving someone money (or things) freely, with no strings is different than lending.  It by-passes usury, and hard feelings.  The other answers come in how we view the world and our needs.  When I taught logic and philosophy at college, I urged my students to sit and write out their actual needs; what do you need to live?  It’s a short list.  We live in a world that tells us we NEED all of these various things, but it is a lie.  Don’t believe the lie, live below your means, surround yourself with wise people, read wise words, control you money, don’t let it control you, etc…

We should strive to be aware, strive after Godly wisdom and Godly ways.  We should also chafe a little bit when contemplating who are master, or masters are, and finally ask ourselves if our money is serving us (and God), or are we serving it?

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The Fast and the Furious Series Review

This is going to be the first time for some of you to read one of my more “secular” posts, but as always I believe you can often find the sacred in the secular.  I admit it, I’m a Fast and Furious fan.  I fell in love with the first movie when it came out, and have followed it ever since.

If you find cussing, violence, and scantily clad women offensive, or if you’ve been led away from those things, avoid these movies.  So, why am I writing this review?  Because I believe most people are missing the main point and feature of the movies in this series.  I also believe that Vin Diesel is trying, in his own way, to get people to realize several key themes.

First, that the world is now connected in ways that it never has been in the past.  Culture is bleeding over political borders, and with it the good and the bad.  Crime, and crime bosses can now go global.  They can do so digitally or physically, and this is one lesson that we all need to learn in a very real way.  Two examples spring to mind; the recent reports of Chinese hackers invading US systems, and the violence on our Southern border.  We all now owe it to our society to start thinking more and more globally, and our news organizations will hopefully wake up and begin providing us with global coverage.

Of course, there are good things coming from this blending of cultures as well.  New styles, new food, new friends, new conversations to have.  And I think that this connects to Vin’s other main theme in these movies; faith and family.

The latest F&F installment, Fast and Furious 6 kinds slaps you upside the head with it, but apparently many reviewers are missing the point.  Faith and family.  Each installment in the main series always has a moment or two of Dom’s running rule; when you sit down to eat, whoever eats first (or tries to) has to say grace.  Some do it with more learning and style, and some try their best.  Dom’s cross also becomes a continuing plot device.

This lesson wasn’t something that was full-force in the first movie; Dom cared more for his own feeling of freedom than for his team, but that quickly changed as one-by-one his family was either hurt, or killed.  Over the course of the series we’ve seen Dom’s family grow, and with it, his loyalty.

Family.  This is where the “sacred” comes in.  This string of movies does a very good job of showing how those people that are not directly related to us can become our family.  In fact, each person that is a born again believer in Jesus is our family.  How often do we really truly see that in our church communities?  It’s rare.  If we truly wake up to what Jesus is telling us, we should help and protect our fellow believers, because they ARE our family.  They are not “like” family they are true family.

I believe this series does a superb job showing us this, in a secular sense of course… annnddd, you really do have to sit through a bunch of racing scenes to get there, but I do believe Vin Diesel is purposefully communicating that idea of family across all borders; language, culture, background, etc… And, yes, Vin isn’t technically a writer, but I hear him and Paul Walker have input into the series, especially when it comes to things the fans demand.

What else do I love about the series?  I love the cars.  I love the humor.  I love the way it self-deprecates.  I love the characters, and their interplay.  There is also ideas such as self-control and forgiveness taught throughout.  The series has become a huge blockbuster and the special effects are there to prove it, but at the heart of it, this series is still about family.  Sure, there are now over-the-top explosions, and cheesy physics defying crashes, but the film never takes itself to seriously on that score.

These movies are definitely not for everyone, but I can’t wait til the 7th installment!

Oh, and if you are interested, here’s the watch order if you’d like to see the whole series chronologically and, Han’s first appearance was not in the F&F series, but in a movie called “Better Luck Tomorrow” it would come before Los Bandoleros):

  • The Fast and the Furious
  • Turbo-Charged Prelude {short}
  • 2 Fast 2 Furious
  • Los Bandoleros {short}
  • Fast & Furious
  • Fast Five
  • Fast & Furious 6
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

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The Moon By Night…

This is the second in a series about Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin family books.  If you are new to what I’m doing with her books, please check out this link to know what the point of this “review” is about; Madeleine L’Engle.  This book was also new to me, so it was my first time through it.  It is also a good, but easy read.

What suppers did the Austins enjoy? Steak with salad, potato salad and marshmallows, scrambled eggs with hashbrowns and coffee of course, spaghetti, pork chops with turnip greens and salad, stew and salad, hash, tuna and veggie salad, fried chicken with potato salad and lettuce salad, and hamburgers.

What did they listen to in this particular story?  The Emperor Concerto, and the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, as well as Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, also sung a lot, including All Through the Night, Now the Day is Over, I Will Lift Mine Eyes unto the Hills, Tallis’ Canon, and the Eddystone LIght.

What were the kids reading or the adults reading to them? A Connecticut Yankee, Anna Karenina, Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict, and The Conquest of Space. The poem “Patterns” by Amy Lowell was also mentioned.  The Diary of Anne Frank played a bit role, but the play was the focus, not the book.

Their furry companions were in the story a bit less, but still there;  Colette their french poodle, Mr. Rochester their Great Dane, and Prunewhip.

What was the fam up to in this story?  Traveling and camping across country, and lots of people watching.  We also learned that Wallace “Daddy” Austin has a blackbelt in Judo, and were also introduced to Zachary Grey for the first time.  As they traveled they played several games, including one I’d never heard of; the Botticelli word game.  They also did a twist on the alphabet game; going through the alphabet naming a song or poem that begins with the letter; for example A = Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” begins with “Afoot…” and B = “The Blessed Damozel.”  (The only other one mentioned was I = “I Will Lift UP Mine Eyes…”)

Good prayers and quotes included? (BTW, when I can, I try to find the reference and the correct form of the quote,)

“Mark Twain’s” attributed quote, “When I was seventeen I was amazed at how little my father knew about life.  At the age of twenty two, I was amazed how much he had learned in five years.

One that became a theme, “Comparisons are odious” attributed to Donne, Fortescue, AND Marlowe amongst others. lol

One of my favorites from the book:

The Rain is Raining all Around

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

– Lord Bowen

The themes of growing up and also God was strong in this book; the different characters weigh in either directly or indirectly on their own beliefs or thoughts on God.  I think my favorite character in this one was Uncle Douglas…

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Meet the Austins…

Dear reader, check out this link to know what the point of this “review” is about; Madeleine L’Engle.  This is one of her books I just read for the first time…I’d met the Austin family previously in books that come later in the Austin family series.  I really enjoyed this story, and it did serve as a good introduction to the Austins, which in turn, sets up the rest of the books in the series.  It is a very quick read, and “easy” reading.

What suppers did the Austins enjoy? Standing rib roast with roast potatoes and carrots, spaghetti with carrots and garlic bread, Spanish rice, Shepherd’s pie, strawberry mousse, pork roast with applesauce and carrots, pot roast with deep-dish apple pie, bread pudding with raisins, tapioca, jell-o, raisin bread, steaks with baked potatoes and salad, baked beans with hot dogs chopped up in them, and the ever present beverages of coffee and hot cocoa.

What did they listen to while preparing all of this?  Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto, Rosenkavalier, Schonberg’s Verklarte Nacht, Handel’s the Cuckoo and the Nightingale, Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, Handel’s Royal Fireworks, and John liked to listen to “The Gambler.”  The crew liked to sing; Cockles and Mussels, The Eddystone Light, You take the High Road, Oh, Susannah, Ash Grove, and Tallis’ Cannon.

What were the kids reading or the adults reading to them? The Jungle Book, Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Garden, The Sword in the Stone, and Doctor Dolittle.  Also, a book on Albert Einstein’s spiritual views was quoted and talked about, but no title was ever given.

Their furry companions that curled up at their feet?  Colette their french poodle, Mr. Rochester their Great Dane, and at least three cats; Prunewhip, Hamlet, and Creamy.

What was the fam up to in this story?  Skywatching as usual, including star gazing.

Good prayers and quotes included?

St. Francis’ Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

A quote from Hildevert of Lavardin;

God is over all things, under all things; outside all;
within, but not enclosed; without but not excluded;
above, but not raised up; below, but not depressed;
wholly above, presiding; wholly without, embracing;
wholly within, filling.

A poem from Thomas Browne;

If thou could`st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, `This is not dead`,
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes, He says, `This is enow
Unto itself – `twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.`

Fun book to read, the themes of childhood, change and death were interesting.  This book, more than L’Engle’s others that I’ve read, seemed geared toward “younger” readers, but adults who like her style and characters will enjoy this book as well.  On to read the second in this series…

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