Thursday, December 30, 2010

Purple Magnolia

I've been trying to draw a good magnolia for Sarah all year.  Finally, we spent a few hours looking through google images, and we came up with a photo of these flowers.  I was pretty intimidated by the whites and the double blossom - both new attempts for me.  I've been working on this for months.  It was such detailed work that I could only bear doing one or two petals at a time. 
The flower on the left has mostly colored pencils and pastels.  Half-way through this piece, Elizabeth introduced me to chalks, and I love how easy it is to shade and to fix mistakes with chalks.  The flower on the right is mostly color pencils for the basic colors and then chalks for shading.  The background is all chalks.  I also went over the flower on the left with some additional chalk-shading. 
This is probably my favorite of all the flowers I've done so far.  I like adding in the backgrounds.  I think I'll be working with chalks for a while to come.  It goes so much faster and makes the shading so much smoother. 

SONflower

This is one of my first experiments with color-pastels (earlier in 2010).  I call it SONflower.  The brown area is supposed to double as the crown of thorns and the flower's center.  I was thinking about how Christ's suffering is also beautiful and life-giving.  It's not fabulous art, but I kind of like it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The S.S. Work and the Call of Grace


Their people had rebelled against the King and started their own nation in the Land of Sin.  The King called them back to the Land of Righteousness.  He wanted to make peace with them. 
Some brave souls built a boat called the SS WORK, and they began to row their way to the Land of Righteousness.  “Row.  Row.  Row!”
They rowed until sweat dripped from their faces.  They rowed until their arms and shoulders ached.  They rowed through waves and wind and storms.  “Row.  Row.  Row!”
After days and weeks, they could still see the dock.  “Work harder!”  They rowed day and night.  “Row.  Row.  Row!”
After months and months, they could still see their own land, and they started to fight. 
“Why are you resting?” 
“Don’t tell me what to do.” 
“If you didn’t take so many breaks, we’d be there by now.”  
After years and years, they had traveled no more than a few miles on a journey of a thousand miles.  They were out of food, out of water, out of supplies.  The storms continued to come, and the ship slowly began to fall apart.  They kept rowing the desperate hope that they would somehow make it if they just kept rowing.  Row.  Row.  Row!!”
Then, one young lady heard a sound coming from outside the ship.  “I hear something.” 
“Shut up.  Row.  Row.  Row!” 
“I hear something ... a horn ... people calling.”
“You’re just dreaming.  Row.  Row.  Row!”
“I’m going up to see.”
“No!  Everyone has to row!  That’s our only chance.  Row.  Row.  Row!!”
She went up to the deck and blinked in the sun.  She could see a big, beautiful ship.  The Captain called out, “Ahoy, there SS WORK.  The King sent out a mayday call on your behalf.  We’ve come to rescue you.  The SS GRACE can hold your whole crew, but you’ll have to leave your boat.”
“Why?!  Why do you want to rescue us?”
The Captain rushed to the railing.  “The King loves you.  We are here to take you home.”
She rushed back into the inside of the boat. 
“Welcome back.  Now, get to work.  Row.  Row.  Row!”
A timid “no.”
“What?!  Row.  Row.  Row!”
“No” - with a little more courage.  “We don’t have to row anymore.”
“Of course we have to row.  Row.  Row.  Row!”
“No, there’s a different way.”
“Rowing is the only way.  Row.  Row.  Row!”
“There’s a ship here to save us.  It’s called the SS GRACE.”
“Grace - what does that mean?  Row.  Row.  Row!”
“Come and see for yourself.”
Then, one person stood, “I’ve heard of the SS GRACE, but I thought it was a fairy tale.  I’ll go.”
“Somebody shut her up before she gets somebody else to stop rowing.” 
The two seekers went up on deck, and they stared in amazement at the SS GRACE.  They saw the kindness of the Captain.  They saw the sails of the SS GRACE and noticed that there were no oars on that ship.  There was plenty of work to do, helping the ship catch the Wind, but none of the back breaking rowing of the SS WORK.  The crew of the SS GRACE moved with joy and purpose. 
This was enough to convince these seekers.  They returned inside their own ship, “It’s true!”
“Shut up.  Row.  Row.  Row!”
“The King has sent the SS GRACE to save us.”
“Why would the King do that?  This is the only way.  Row.  Row.  Row!”
“The King made us, and He sent the Captain to bring us back.  He came on a sailboat.  It doesn’t even have oars.”
“No oars?!!  How does it move?  Row.  Row.  Row!”
“It’s powered by the Wind of the Spirit.”
“I can’t imagine life without rowing.  Row.  Row.  Row!  Let’s just work harder.  Row.  Row.  Row!”
“This ship is going down.  You’ll never make it by working harder.”
“I’m not sure I want to be saved.  I don’t want to be pulled from the water like some drowning rat.  Row.  Row.  Row!”
“Maybe the SS GRACE came for you, but it didn’t come for me.  Row.  Row.  Row!!”
“The Captain said he’ll take everyone who will put their trust in the SS GRACE.  Who is coming with us?”
About half the crew of the SS WORK waded through the water to go on deck.  When they stepped into the sunlight, the rescue team of the SS GRACE gave them blankets and led them to the bridge between the two ships.  The rest of the crew stood at the railing cheering wildly as each person was rescued. 
As each person stepped onto the SS GRACE, the Captain hugged and kissed them.  Then, he sent them inside the ship to rest, to eat, to heal. 


(This story will be published in The Standard, a compliment to the Adult Sunday School curriculum for the Church of the Nazarene, in January of 2012.  To read the original, full-length story, click here.)

Birthing a Royal - Luke 2:1-20



Read Luke 2:1-20.

    The Roman Emperor called for a census, so Mary and Joseph took a trip.  Trips are not always easy.  When my family travels back to the USA, it usually takes us more than 24 hours to get from our front door to our family’s front door.  It is stressful, tiring, and not very much fun. 
    Mary and Joseph had to take a much longer trip - at least in terms of time, and Mary was very, very pregnant.  Doctors suggest that pregnant women should not travel in the last month or two of their pregnancy.  There are two reasons why pregnant women should not travel.  First, it’s not safe for the mother and baby.  Second, it’s not safe for the dad!  Have you ever been around a pregnant woman?

    When my mom was 9 months pregnant with my sister, Dad was driving them to church.  A few minutes away from the church, Mom started crying wildly.  My dad looked over at her, confused: “What’s wrong?”  
    “My dress doesn’t fit.  It hangs crooked.”  Her belly was so big that the dress didn’t go down as far in the front as it did in the back.
    Dad said, “You’re 9 months pregnant.  Your dress is supposed to hang crooked.”
    “Take me home!”
    “But we’ll miss church.”
    “Take me home!!”
    “Can’t you just sit in the back?”
    “TAKE ME HOME NOW!!!”
    “OK.”

    I’m telling you it’s not safe to be around a pregnant lady. ...

To continue reading this post, click here.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cold


The cold nips at my face
Like a dog at play.
See me.  See me.
Feel me.  Feel me. 
Know that I am here
And that you are alive.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pansie

This was my first experiment with chalks.  We were having dinner at Elizabeth (Sarah's sister) and Michael's, and Elizabeth suggested that I try out her chalks.  I found this Pansie in a magazine and knocked out this picture in about an hour (making a chalky mess all over the table).  I loved how easy it is to rework the shading with chalks.  I went out and bought my own set and started incorporating them into the final touches of a magnolia I'm making for Sarah using mostly colored pencils.  (For some reason it has loaded sideways, but it the green line should be horizontal.)

Christmas 2010 - Darkness to Light


This sermon is part of a unique Christmas service, moving from darkness to light.  The service will begin in darkness.  While some Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah scroll across the screen, a single candle will enter as a sign of the Christ-light entering the world as a small, fragile child.  Slowly, throughout the service, the room will get lighter and lighter.  All the while, a series of artists will be adding a few strokes at a time to a single picture of Advent Candles and the Christ-Light.  We will finish with each person holding a lit candle and singing "Joy to the World."  The sermon is in three parts, with three different preachers.

Part 1: The Beginning  (Josh Broward)

    This is not the beginning.  Christmas is not the beginning.  We usually think of Christmas as the beginning of the Jesus Story.  This is when Jesus was born.  But this is not when Jesus began.
    Jesus is the very Logic of the universe.  Jesus is the Fiber of our global cloth and the Stitching at the seems of the universe.  Jesus is the Glue between the atoms.  Jesus is the foundation on which the mountains were set.  Jesus is the metaphysical Space in which the stars were hung.  Jesus is the Supreme Contractor of creation and at the same time the one and only Construction Supply Company.  Jesus is the Math before math, the Science before science, the Art before art, the Word before words.

John 1:1-15
1 In the beginning the Word already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God. ...





To continue reading this post, click here.




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Sunday, December 19, 2010

First Bird of Spring

And Joy returns
Like the first
Songbird of Spring.
She twitters among
The snow-covered
Twigs of my heart
And beckons the Sun
From her long Sojourn South
To linger longer
And banish the shadows
From my cold sky.
Joy flits about
Singing her song of Spring
Awakening my
Long-slumbering earth.
Her simple symphony
Coaxes forth
Buds and flowers,
Grasses and leaves,
And, yes, even me,
The long-buried me.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flower Art from 2001

These are the first real art pieces I've done as an adult.  I drew these four as a Valentines Day Present for Sarah just before we got married in 2001.
The one on the left here is the first one.  It is IRIS, and I actually used an Herbal Essence Shampoo bottle as my model for this one.  This one is probably my favorite so far.














The one the right is DAISY.  I can't remember exactly what I used as a model for this one - something from a book, I think.   I didn't have enough variety of colors, so I wasn't happy with the shading of the actual pedals, but the shape is cool.







This next one is probably the most realistic - at least that's what my artist sister-in-law Elizabeth says.  It is SUNFLOWER.  I guess I drew it in February of 2001.














The last one in this set is special.  On Valentines Day, Sarah and I went to Barnes and Noble.  Sarah looked through some gardening magazines and chose this flower.  Then, we sat at a rickety table for 2 hours while I drew it.  It is BELL FLOWER.


I didn't do any art again until this past year.  I'll try to get some of that up next.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Role

I am not
an independent contractor
hired by God to complete a building.
I am not
a mercenary soldier
paid to fight for a battle
that is not my own.
I am not
a freelance journalist
writing my own stories
and then selling them to God.
I am not
an outside consultant
talking to people
I do not know and do not love.

I am
a willing slave
bought and paid for
body and soul.
I am
a simple servant
taking my daily post
in the house of my Master.
I am
an errand boy
delivering messages, not my own,
in the King's great army.
I am
a child of the Father
joyfully obedient
exhuberantly loved
passionately home.

Walk in the Mist

The misting sky
sprinkles miniscule
peppering droplets
of heaven-chilled rain,
glossing every surface
with sheen and shine,
chasing away
the casual strollers,
paving silky streets
thick with solitude,
fogging the air
with whispering peace,
calling my soul
to venture forth
out of its cave
in my battered breast,
wooing my heart
to rest outside
safe in the
sea-spray of life.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The MORE Myth - Luke 1:36-59



Read Luke 1:39-56.

    Today, I am going to get some help from some other pastors.  I’m going to call in a pinch-hitter, if you will.  Listen to what Ron Lewis and Andrew Edwards have to say about Christmas and God’s upside down Kingdom.  (The video frames may be a little off, but the videos seem to be playing OK.)







    So Mary’s Song is the great, global myth buster - our global, universal myth of more. ...


To continue reading this post, click here.


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Monday, December 6, 2010

The Gospel in a Pluralist Society - Review

Lesslie Newbigin's The Gospel in a Pluralist Society is one of the best ministry books I've read in a long time.  It starts out kind of heavy as he addresses epistemology and the deep philosophical issues of pluralism and multiculturalism.  However, once he lays the foundation, it really picks up steam about half-way through.
He has a few basic premises:
1. A pluralist society is a natural given - in terms of multicultural diversity.  We have lots of different cultures, religions, preferences, and perspectives.  This is just how it is, and it's probably never going to change.

2. Pluralism as a philosophy or religious perspective is illogical.  It is (and has been for 30-40 years) vogue to say that all religious belief is subjective.  "It may be true for you, but that doesn't mean it's true for me."  "All religions are equal or equally true."  The problem works back to the logical problem with relativism.  "All truth is relative - except of course the truth that all truth is relative."  It is impossible for mutually contradictory religions to be equally true.  Assuming the position of a pluralist is assuming a position of arrogance, one who stands above all conflicting truth claims from a superior moral or intellectual position.  This is making the biggest truth claim of all.  We always make truth claims.  We always advocate a non-relative truth (even if we are advocating relativism). 

3. All belief systems are founded upon some unprovable beliefs that are simply taken as assumed truths.  We have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is a point of faith.  Even the sciences take certain faith points as their beginning (for example, that the universe is logical and discoverable). 

4. Truth exceeds cultures, but all expression of truth is cultural.  We cannot think or communicate anything without culture.  Any use of words or ideas is embedded in a particular culture.  Therefore, there is no "truth" and no "gospel" that can be expressed in a culture-free fashion.  The gospel is always embedded in a culture.  There is no other way.  However, the gospel itself is able to root in any culture.  The gospel is not limited by our cultural wrappings.  It can be wrapped in any culture, and it equally challenges every culture to reform in the light of the gospel.

5.  Jesus provides the clue for history.  The unifying point that can make sense of all of our plurality.  This may seem deeply arrogant.  However, it only seems that way.  Actually, if we remember that all truth claims begin with a faith stance and move forward calling for total acceptance, then Christianity's quest to gather the world under Jesus is not so different.  Also, claiming Jesus as the center point of history cuts the legs out of all truth-related power moves.  The center of history is a crucified man.  His power comes through voluntary suffering for the benefit of others.

6. Christianity converts individuals as well as cultures.  We cannot neglect either of these and be faithful to the gospel.  The gospel challenges every part of our society and every individual in society to align with the Lord and Messiah Jesus.  The greatest difficulty for Christians is to become aware of how Jesus challenges those beliefs and attitudes which our culture blindly accepts as natural faith points (as just the way it is).   Becoming a Christian is the life-long process of reorienting our worldview around Jesus instead of the pivot points of our local culture.

7. The Church is the best proof and explanation of the gospel.  Because the gospel is so thorough, so permeating, so deeply challenging, so different from our normal way of life, there is only way people can really see and understand what the gospel truly is - and that is sustained contact with a community that both believes and lives the gospel thoroughly.  We prove the truth of the gospel by living it in our daily lives.  This is how the Church functions as "the priesthood of believers." 

8. The gospel must always be expressed through word and deed.  Jesus always taught and healed, preached and helped.  The gospel is not a set of truths but a way of life and the power for life.  We must always both preach and live the gospel.

I joyfully recommend this book.  Without reservation, I give it a strong JJJJJ!

For Me

For me, for me
Why is it so hard
for me, for me
I have preached
I have taught
I have counseled
Truth and Trust
Love and Grace
Peace and Patience
So why is it so hard
for me for me

Alas
Grace remains
Necessary for me
I cannot escape it
cannot avoid it
cannot live without it
Yet freely it is here
Necessary for me
Grace remains
Grace remains
Grace remains
Alas
And yet
Grace remains
For me


(11-22-2010)

The Prophet Cries

When the prophet cries
Who will change their lives?
Who will recognize
The truth of their lies?

When the prophet cries
Who will wipe his tears?
Who will calm his fears
As the months drag into years?

When the prophet cries
Who will listen?
Who will hear?
Who will care?

When the prophet cries
In the desert
In the city
Does anyone hear?
Does anyone care?

When the prophet cries
Because he cannot be silent
Because he cannot not
What place inside him dies?
And what place explodes to life
Like a cactus to bloom
At the first drop of rain?

When the prophet cries
Alone
At night
While others sleep
Where is the comfort?
Where is the Comforter?

When the prophet cries
And people leave
And his heart rips in two
And it feels so personal
Does it help to remember
the prophets in prison
or sawed in two
or chained and gagged
or beaten ad whipped
or crucified?

When the prophet cries
And the prophet cries
What is normal?
How can one return to that?

When the prophet cries
Why do the NO's
Sound so much louder
Than the YES's?

When the prophet cries
Who knows the prophet's pain?
When the prophet cries
Who else dies?


(This one is from a while back when I was going through a hard time and struggling with my role as a pastor/prophet.  I guess enough of the pain has worn off now, so that I feel more comfortable sharing it.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

The God Gamblers - Luke 1:26-38

KNU International English Church
Josh Broward
December 5, 2010

    William Carey was born in 1761 to a simple family in Paulerspury, England.  His father was a weaver, and when Carey was 14, he became an apprentice of a shoemaker.
    In his 20s, he transitioned from shoemaking to being the local schoolmaster, and soon after, he became the pastor of a local Baptist church.  He lived in a simple cottage with a thatch (or grass) roof, but he taught himself Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Dutch, and French. 
    As he read about the adventures of Captain Cook (one of the first great English explorers), he felt a growing passion for world missions.  He realized that there are whole lands, whole nations out there who have never heard about Jesus and God’s amazing grace.  One day, he heard the missionary calling in the quiet of his workshop, and he answered with tears in the words of Isaiah, “Here am I; send me.” (See Isaiah 6:8.)
    However, his fellow Christians and even his fellow pastors were not all that supportive.  In one pastors meeting in 1786, Carey raised a challenging question.  He asked if Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples of all nations” still applies to us today.  (See Matthew 28:19.)  One Dr. Ryland snarked back: "Young man, sit down: when God pleases to covert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine."
    We don’t know if Carey sat down in that meeting, but Carey did not give up.  In 1792, he wrote a book about the history of Christian missions, the current state of the world, and a basic plan for establishing a missionary sending organization.  Later that year, when the Baptist Missionary Society was formed, Carey was so poor that he could only promise that he would give the profits from his book. 
    In the same year, Carey preached a sermon that sparked the modern missionary movement.  Throughout the sermon, he repeated one line again and again: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
    In 1793, Carey and his family left for India.  However, they didn’t get very far.  The British government stopped their boat because they feared the missionary activities would endanger the trade interests of the British East India Company.  A few months later, they found a Dutch ship willing to carry them to India.
    Carey was a God Gambler.  ...


To continue reading this post, click here.


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Friday, November 26, 2010

God's Beautiful, Broken Drama - Luke 1:5-26

Josh Broward
November 28, 2010
KNU International English Church


Do you ever feel confused about life and God?
Do you ever wish God would show himself more clearly?
Do you ever wonder if God cares about you and your life?
Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions?  Wake up.  Go to work.  Go home.  Sleep.  Wake up.  Go to work.  And on and on and on.
Do you wonder if your life has any larger meaning?  Is there something in life that is bigger than us?   Is there a larger plot that gives meaning to our little dramas and comedies?
Do you ever feel like nothing is ever going to change?
Do you struggle to obey God or to maintain active faith in God? 
Do you ever feel like God and the Bible are so far from our natural world that it’s difficult to see the connection, or at least difficult to live in a connected way?
Do you ever feel disappointed with the way your life has turned out?
Do you ever feel like you’re too human, too sinful, too broken for God to really use you in a significant way?  Do you ever feel like real Christianity is for those other people who are holier or smarter or have easier jobs?
Do you ever feel that church is boring or irrelevant or maybe even corrupt?
Do you ever feel that it’s hard to connect with what’s going on here when we gather on Sundays?  Maybe there are just too many happy people for you.  Maybe you don’t believe everyone is actually this happy, and that puts you off.  Maybe the style of music or sermon or whatever is not what you want. 
Do you ever wonder if you’ll ever find a church that feels right for you? 
Do you ever wonder if you even want to be part of a church at all?

    If you ever feel like any of this, then today’s story is for you. ...


 To continue reading this post, click here.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Engage Magazine

Engage Magazine is a webbased, missions magazine for the Church of the Nazarene.  They recently posted two of my articles.
First is "Our Asian Jesus," a reflection on the Jesus Film showing we witnessed on our trip to South Asia this summer.  (I have been asked not to use the name of the country, for security reasons.)  I was surprised at several points during the showing, and this process removed some of my scepticism about how the Jesus Film is used. 
The second, is "Culture Shock: Surviving, Thriving, and Helping."  This one is an adaptation of a sermon I preached last year on culture shock here in Korea.  If you're a newby or are friends with a newby, this is a must read. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

For Whom the Bell Tolls - Movie - Review

I thought this was on AFI's top 100 movies of all time, but it's just an old classic.  It's a good classic though.
The movie is based on Ernest Hemingway's novel by the same name.  Hemingway was involved in the production of the movie, even choosing Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper for the leading roles.  However, Hemingway was reportedly unhappy with the movie because it removed most of the political content associated with its context in the Spanish Civil War.
The lead character, "Roberto" is an American voluntarily assisting the guerrilla, mountain bandits fighting for "the Republic" of Spain -- against "the Nationalists" or fascists who began a military coup and civil war.  Before the war, he was a Spanish professor in the USA, but now, he travels by the name "Ingles" (English man) as an explosives expert, blowing up bridges and trains on secret missions.
This movie shows many of the painful realities of war, especially for the underdogs.  However, it also offers a complex set of characters.  Although, the over-all plot is fairly straightforward and predictable, the individual character development (especially of the supporting roles) is beautifully complex and surprising.  For example, a woman ends up being the unspoken, then spoken, chief of the mountain bandits, and she is exceedingly loving in her rough and tough, lonely way.  Also, the former chief continually alternates between good and bad, so that at the end of the movie, the audience is still left with ambiguous feelings about him.
Incidentally, after seeing Ingrid's hairdo, Sarah said, "Now, I see why all the grandmas have short, curly hair."  That is what the ladies of highest fashion were wearing when they were young, so that image is etched in their minds as beautiful.  It makes me wonder if our generation will stick to the styles of today's stars even in 40-50 years.
Overall, I would say this movie is a good watch.  However, be prepared to stay a while; it's almost 3 hours long!  But, it lacks some elements of greatness (largely in it's predictable plot, and partly in some of the cheesiness of the romantic dialog).  I give it 3J's: JJJ.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jekyll and Hide - Review

Sarah and I are on a classics kick, and we recently finished (reading aloud) Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  It was well worth the time and energy. 
Most of you know the basic story.  There is one guy with two personas - one good and one evil.  However, I had forgotten (or never learned) some of the details. 
Dr. Jekyll invented a concoction that would actually change his physique as well as his psyche to express his inner evil side.  Hyde was shorter, younger, and uglier than Jekyll.  Hyde was supposed to be the pure physical and mental expression of the evil nature of Jekyll.  While Jekyll was the combination or moderation of his own evil and good sides, Hyde was unfiltered evil.
Dr. Jekyll had already been leading somewhat of a double life before the invention of the concoction.  In public, Jekyll was an upstanding citizen and philanthropist.  In secret, he was a different person, giving over to his temptations.  The concoction only allowed the bifurcation of his nature to become more extreme and more physical.
Over time, after repeated use of the concoction, Dr. Jekyll could no longer control when he turned into Dr. Hyde.  In fact, eventually it was a great effort to maintain his status as Dr. Jekyll, and the potions were used only to return him to his original state.  Though he wanted to be "good," he no longer found it within his power to be the person he wanted to be.
Obviously all of this has great implications theologically and morally.  This story represents the downward slide into evil that is possible for all of us.  If we try to live a double life - good outside and bad in secret - then we will often find that the bad is slowly taking over.  Slowly, like Jekyll we become addicted, making the transition to evil actions and attitudes more frequently.  Later, to our horror, we discover that we have lost control.  Evil overtakes us in the worst possible times and ways.  Without outside help (from God and loving community) we are lost in our own depravity.
I know that sounds really theological and preachy, but nonetheless, I think it's true. 
So for a good story AND a good point, I give this book a strong 4J's: JJJJ.  The only weakness was the somewhat anticlimactic ending.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Godfather (Part 3) - Review

This weekend, Sarah and I finally finished The Godfather trilogy.  We were surprised by several things. 
1.  Part 1 was filmed in 1972, and Part 2 in 1974.  However, Part 3 was filmed 16 years later - in 1990.  The writer and director originally wanted to call this "The Death of Michael Corleone," which gives more meaning to the final scene.  However, for marketing reasons the studio insisted that it be called "The Godfather - Part 3."  That makes sense.  However, the original title gives a good frame for understanding the movie.
2. Mary was actually Copolla's (the director) daughter.  Julia Roberts was originally cast in the role, but she backed out.  The quality of Sophia  Copolla's acting is much disputed, with some claiming her simple style ruined the movie for them.  Sarah like her, but I thought her character was a little stilted.  However, that could have been the fault of the script itself.
3. The scandals related to the Catholic Church are loosely based on actual historical events.  The writers just mixed the Corleone family's story into that network of events.
4. Godfather 3 is consistently rated lower than Godfather 1 and 2.  However, I definitely liked it more than 2 and maybe about as well as 1.
5. More than any of the other Godfather movies, this movie deals with spiritual themes.  It tells the story of Michael Corleone's original intentions to "legitimize" the family business - in other words to get them out of the mafia ... and his subsequent failure to do so.  He is drawn back in as he seeks revenge for the attack on his father. 
There is a poignant and theologically deep scene in which Michael Corleone is talking with his ex-wife about how he did everything with the mafia and the killings to protect his family, but it was these actions in particular which caused him to lose his family.  To me, this is a beautiful and painful picture of how when we turn to violence and greed to get what we want, we end up losing what we care about most.
There is also a beautiful scene in which Michael is talking with a Catholic bishop, and the bishop convinces Michael to do a confession.  Michael feels that he is beyond redemption, but the Bishop says that Michael could in fact still be redeemed if only he were willing.

Overall, this is a very good movie.  I'm still uncomfortable with the violence which a mafia movie basically necessitates, so that costs it a J in my book.  I give it a strong 4Js: JJJJ.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dangerous Safety - Luke 21:5-36

Josh Broward
November 14, 2010

    You have all heard the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” but have you heard the sequel - “The Tortoise and the Bees”?  After winning the dramatic, ever-so-slow victory over the Hare, the Tortoise decided that it was time to lay her eggs.  Yes, the Tortoise was a girl.  But don’t blame old Aesop for that mistake; it’s very hard to tell with turtles! 
    So the Tortoise made the slow journey back to her ancestral breeding ground.  She found the same sandy field where she was born and the same tree where she had been laying her eggs for many years.  It was perfect.  There was plenty of water.  There was plenty of soft green plants nearby.  It was not too sunny but not too cold.  It was perfect -except for one thing.  This year, there was a beehive in the tree. 
    The bees were not happy about the arrival of the Tortoise.  They buzzed about her head and told her to scram.  She quietly said, “You can sting me, but you can’t kill me.  This is my home, and I must produce life.”  She quietly went about her work, moving the sand and preparing her nest.  The bees began to sting her.  They stung her head, her legs, her tail.  They lost their stingers in her shell.  She continued preparing her nest.  “You can sting me, but you can’t kill me.  This is my home, and I must produce life.” 
    Slowly, slowly, slowly, the Tortoise prepared her nest.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, she laid her eggs.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, the tiny tortoise babies developed inside their eggs.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, the attacks from the bees began to wane as more and more bees lost their stingers in her shell.  No matter what the bees buzzed as they stung her, no matter how much it hurt when they stung, she always quietly replied: “You can sting me, but you can’t kill me.  This is my home, and I must produce life.”
    Finally, after many long months of waiting and patience and endurance, her eggs began to move.  The baby tortoises began to poke through their shells and emerge into the fresh clean air.  When all of the babies were out and free, the momma Tortoise prepared her babies for the annual journey to the watering place.  As they were about to leave the nest, she said, “Never mind the bees.  They can sting you, but they can’t kill you.  This is our home, and we must produce life.”

    This world is full of bees.  Bees of all kinds buzz about us and try to distract us from our calling.  Sometimes they attack and sting.  Other times they just do one flyby after another, trying to get us off course, trying to cause us to lose focus and to lose faith.  In our passage today, Jesus calls us to be like the Tortoise: quietly faithful and unafraid.



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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Korea Tip # 100: Coffee Tree on a Hill

Nestled in the foothills of Taejo Mountain, lies a hidden treasure.  Coffee Tree on a Hill (언덕 위 커피 나무) is a quaint but spacious coffee roasterie and cafe.  Their menu includes coffees from a dozen different nations, scrumptious sandwiches, and lush desserts. 
The coffee beans are delivered green and roasted on the premises.  The red and chrome roaster churns all afternoon.  A single cup is a bit pricey at 5,000 won.  However, if you stay for a while, they will refill it about once an hour with whatever happens to have just been brewed.
The bacon and chicken sandwiches include savory grilled onions and peppers, fresh tomatoes, pickles, and a tangy sauce (making the napkin mandatory).  Be sure to order the bacon crispy (basakbasakhan 바삭바삭한), or else it will come out half-done in the Korean style. 
The New York Cheesecake is thick and creamy.  The Big Brulee Cheese Bar, with chocolate chips sunk into the crust, has just the right combo of tangy and sweet to match a steaming cup of black coffee. 

Perhaps the best part of Coffee Tree on a Hill, though, is the hill itself.  Taejo mountain is within sight and walking distance.  The large bronze Buddha, one of Cheonan’s minor claims to fame, is a peaceful 20 minute walk up the street.  From within the temple complex, one can enter the trail head that runs along the Taejo Mountain ridge.  A morning walk on the mountain is a beautiful set up for a peaceful afternoon with a good book and freshly roasted coffee. 
A few warnings.  Coffee Tree is open late, but its doors are shut until 11:30am.  Conversely, the temple complex is open early but closes at sundown.  I’ve been on the wrong side of these time limitations more than once.
To get here, take the #24 bus from the Cheonan Bus Terminal (on the Dunkin Donuts side of the street).  Wait until the very last stop (about 20 minutes).  The bus will probably pull into a parking lot.  Walk down the hill to the first gravel driveway and turn right.  Coffee Tree on a Hill is on the second floor of the orange brick building, with a nice walk out patio.  The only English on the building is a pink sign for the “Face to Face” skin clinic.
(This review will be published in Korea's 10 MAGAZINE, February 2011.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wild at Heart - Review

I just finished reading Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul by John Eldredge.  This an old best seller from 2001, but I can totally understand why it has sold some 2,000,000 copies.  John Eldredge also wrote another of my favorite books (with Brent Curtis): The Sacred Romance (also a minor modern classic).
Wild at Heart is about the loss of the man's heart and how to regain it.  The first premise of the book is that men (at least in modern Western culture) have forgotten how to be men.  We have exchanged the essentials of manhood (battle, adventure, and rescuing beauty) for reliability, safety, and good manners.  In the process, we have buried our hearts deep within us, and we have come to doubt our own manhood.
I deeply resonated with Eldredge and his analysis of manhood.  In fact, I've been ready a minor flurry of articles about the loss and struggles of manhood.  It seems that he has really hit on a key struggle of our culture. 
The middle portion of the book is about identifying and healing the deep wound in every man's heart.  We all have received deep wounds that strike us at our core, where our identity and self-worth originate.  Somewhere along the way (early or late or both), we have all received crippling arrows that tell us that we are not good enough and don't have what it takes to be a real man.  This may sound like pop psychology, but it is actually very deep and real.  The path to healing is opening our hearts to hear the voice of God counteracting those false messages deep within our hearts.  Eldredge has explained this with beautiful poignancy. 
In a difficult time in my life, God has used this book to encourage me to bring my full strength to bear in all my relationships and tasks.  The best thing I can do in this world is to be fully myself through the fueling power of the Spirit.
I highly recommend this book.  The Josh rating: JJJJJ.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bigger than our Boxes - Luke 20:27-40

Josh Broward
November 7, 2010


Let’s start today with a little riddle.  I need some audience participation here.  (I raided McDonald’s trash in my sermon preparation this week.)  I’ve asked ______ to help us out.  Here’s the deal.  You have to get this balloon into this box.  Today, we are in a very practical sense the Body of Christ.   ______ will work as the hands, but you are all the collective brain.  You give him some ideas.  Tell him what to do. 
...

OK, let’s review the suggestions.
We could push and push to try to make it fit, but it will probably pop if we push too hard.
We could pop the balloon and put the little pieces inside, but then we no longer have a real balloon.
We could let some of the air out to make it smaller, but then, we’ve lost something of the balloon’s full potential.
There’s one more option.
We could reshape and expand the box.  If we take off some of the tape and tear it apart at one seem, the triangle unfolds.  Then, we can see that this box has much more potential than we thought.  There was hidden capacity here.  If we keep unfolding and reshaping, then it becomes a rectangle that is plenty big enough for the balloon.1
Thanks ______.

God is always bigger than our boxes.  Jesus is always bigger than we think he is.  The Truth is always bigger than our mental constructs.
I hate to break this to you, but you’re wrong. You’re all wrong. Don’t feel too bad about that. I’m wrong, too. We’re all wrong about something. ...


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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Scholars of Life Blog

My friend, Mike Bobo (a former KNUer), started a community blog called Scholars of Life.  It's a bunch of people who want to be students of life itself, learning together how to live life more fully and more faithfully.  Mike invited me to join the blog.  Check it out.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Good News for Poor Hearts - Luke 19:1-10




Josh Broward
October 31, 2010

Read Luke 19:1-10.

    At this point anyone who grew up in English speaking Sunday Schools is thinking about the song, so let’s go ahead and get that out of the way.  Feel free to sing along.




    How’s that for a cheesy intro?  Zacchaeus is the classic children’s story.  The story is told and sang and colored and dramatized in Sunday Schools around the world.  In fact, this story has been told so many times that it has become trite.  But maybe the short little man still has something to say. 
    If we read through the whole book of Luke with a careful eye, we see something surprising in the Zacchaeus story - everything!  This is a narrative summary of the whole gospel of Luke up to this point.  In one simple story, Luke has woven together all of the key themes of his entire story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. ...


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sullivan's Travels (#61 Greatest Movie of All Time) - Review

Sunday night Sarah and I watched another of AFI's 100 Greatest Movies: #61 Sullivan's Travels.   Sullivan is a famous director.  His specialty is making comedies, but he longs to make serious movies about the struggles of people in the working classes.  In an attempt to return him to making commercially (if a bit shallow) successful comedies, his producers tell him that he doesn't know anything about being poor and suffering.  This tactic backfires as Sullivan sets off to experience the world as a hobo.  
On the last night of his ventures into poverty (which have been superficial to this point), Sullivan is hit on the head and mugged.  He wakes up dizzy and disoriented on a train car in an unknown place.  When a railroad worker harasses him about trespassing and hits him with a stick, Sullivan beats the man with a rock.  Sullivan is tried while still disoriented and delusional, unable to remember his name.  He is convicted to six years of hard labor.  
This turn of events gives Sullivan a real taste of poverty and injustice.  The prison boss is stereotypically cruel.  Even though Sullivan remembers his real identity, he is unable to seek help.  
Next is one of the best church scenes I've ever seen in a movie.  The prisoners are invited to attend a movie showing in an all black church.  Before the prisoners arrive, the pastor asks the people to give the prisoners the front three rows.  Then he poignantly encourages the congregation "neither by word, nor by action, nor by look to make our guests feel unwelcome, nor to draw away from or act high-toned. For we's all equal in the sight of God."  This scene is doubly touching.  First, because it is an all black church, and showing African-Americans in a good light was extremely rare in 1941.  Second, simply depicting the church in a positive light is also pretty rare.  This small group of struggling Christians (Their church is fairly poor.) is living with the grace and hospitality toward which the gospel propels us all.
While at the church, Sullivan is amazed at the simple joy and exuberance the people take (and he himself takes) at the silly slap-stick of the cartoon movie.  This returns him to his true joy and calling - making comedies.  After he earns his freedom, he explains his change of heart.  "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh! Did you know that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan!"  
In my opinion, that last line (also the last line of the movie) is one of the best movie lines of all time.  Life really is a cockeyed caravan.  It's a beautiful caravan, but it's cockeyed nonetheless.  
I see two basic points to this story.  
(1) It really is hard for rich folks to understand what it's like to be poor.  We have to go way, way, way out of our normal way of life to even start to understand.  
(2) There is fundamental value in joy and hilarity.  Of course, there is also value in making our world better in very serious ways like reducing poverty, increasing education, and bettering health care.  However, joy (however ephemeral) is a value of its own.

I give this movie: JJJ.  Although it is a good movie overall, it loses one J because of the ridiculous slapstick and attempts at humor.  (Though they were very common in the 40s, they sat poorly with both Sarah and me.)  It also loses a J because of a few plot weaknesses.  However, it's a good movie that deals with a few serious topics in a fun way.  It's worth the rental fee.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why Art Should Matter to Christians

I rarely repost articles.  However, this one touches on a theme that has been hitting me repeatedly in the past year or two.  I highly recommend: "Why Art Should Matter to Christians" by Melissa Kircher.  Something about art opens us to the creativity of God in a way that we desperately need.  We need more art personally (no matter how creative we feel) and secondarily (from those who are especially skilled in the arts).  We need more creativity because we need more creation!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Good, Hard Year - 2009-10 Annual Report (Luke 18:1-8)

Josh Broward
October 17, 2010

   This has been a good, hard year.  Even the good times have been difficult, and even the difficult times have been good. 
    Many of us have had personal struggles.  We have had struggles with our jobs, struggles with finding a job, struggles with figuring out what to do next, struggles with our faith, struggles with our health, struggles with our identity and self-worth.
    Many of us have also had family struggles.  We have lost fathers and grandfathers.  We have had family in the hospital.  We have had new babies, with all of those joys and stresses.  We have had family conflicts and unspoken pains and griefs.
    We have also experienced some hard times as a church.  The cycle of coming and going has been unbalanced on the going side lately.  We bless them as they follow God’s leading, but we grieve for the hole they leave behind.  Others in our church are struggling to stay connected even though they’re staying in Korea.
    In the midst of all of these changes and struggles, we can feel overwhelmed, depressed, powerless or hopeless.  We might feel a lot like a widow in the first century.  In that era, a widow was the iconic symbol of a helpless sufferer - especially if she was poor, especially if she had no close male relatives, especially if someone wronged her.
    That is the case for the woman in our Gospel lesson.  She is a widow.  She is poor.  She can’t even afford the court fees or bribes to get the judge to hear her case.  She is alone.  Courtrooms were places for men, but she can’t find a male relative to go into the courtroom to plead her case.  And she has been wronged.  Probably someone has taken advantage of her vulnerability and taken some of the little bit that she has left.  She is desperate for justice.

Read Luke 18:1-8. 

    The word “justice” is repeated four times.  “Give me justice.”  “I’m going to see that she gets justice.”  Even the unjust judge “gave her justice in the end.”  “God will surely give justice to his chosen people.”   What is this “justice” about?  The word means to vindicate, to confirm, to justify, to uphold, to find innocent. 
    In this world, as we follow the way of Christ, we can often wonder if we’re doing the right thing.  Is it really the right thing to give rather than to keep?

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Healed or Saved? (Luke 17:11-19)

Josh Broward
October 10, 2010


Read Luke 17:11-19.

    This text is more complicated than it sounds.  On the surface, it seems like a simple story about remembering to say thank you.  However, four different themes weave through this text.  To really get the full picture, we need to see and understand each color of thread.
   
   The most obvious theme is thankfulness.  Jesus’ action in our lives calls for our joyful gratitude.  Ten people are healed.  One comes back.  Nine go on their way, maybe not noticing their healing yet, maybe in a hurry to experience the benefits of healing (seeing their family, reintegrating into society, entering the town).  Only one shows thanks.  Martin Luther said the essence of worship is the one leper who returned to give thanks.
    We live in an era where most people in developed nations have an attitude of entitlement.  We believe that everything is supposed to go our way.  We believe we are supposed to get everything we want.  And if we don’t, if life isn’t going our way, then something’s wrong with the world.  “Why is it raining on my birthday?  It’s not fair.”  A good income is a right not a blessing.  Health and happiness are standard expectations, and if we don’t have them, we pout.  In general, we have a glaring lack of gratitude for the many, many blessings we experience. 
    On the other hand, this leper who was healed is extreme in his expression of thanks.  Did you notice that?  He shouts for joy at the top of his voice.  He falls on his face at Jesus’ feet.  He praises God openly. 
    When was the last time you shouted for joy?



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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Life UneXpected (Season 1) Review

Our friend Shannon loaned us the DVDs for a new show called Life UneXpected.  We enjoyed watching it at first, but it seemed to get more and more strained and more and more melodramatic. 
The basic story kept me interested.  Lux is a 16 year-old foster kid.  She is trying to be emancipated so she can leave foster care (where she has had a host of negative experiences) and be independent.  Toward this end she locates her birth parents: Baze and Kate.  Kate got pregnant after a high school dance.  She led Baze to believe that she had had an abortion, while actually she gave the baby up for adoption.  Lux's re-entry into their lives turns their world upside down.  They discover a second chance at parenting and become more of the people they always wanted to be.
However, in my opinion, the show is sunk because of the reaching, stretching attempts at stirring up drama and then milking it for all it's worth.   There is a weird love triangle going throughout the show between Kate, Baze, and Ryan (Kate's fiance).  Then, Lux has a parallel triangle with Bug (her boyfriend, who rides a motorcycle and has a large tattoo on his neck) and Jones (the high school quarterback and classic preppy). 
On one hand, I love the redemption story of a second chance at life and the beautiful family moments.  On the other hand, I hate the casual sex and over-done drama. 
So the Josh rating for this one is mixed: JJJ.
Life UneXpected: The Complete First Season

Monday, October 4, 2010

Modern Family (Season 1) Review

A few weeks ago, Sarah and I finished watching the first season of Modern Family.  It is hilarious and touching.  I don't remember when we have laughed so much at a TV show.  We recommended it to Michael and Elizabeth, and they were instantly addicted.
Here's the basic story line.  Jay (formerly played Al Bundy) is a traditional, white, slightly bigoted 50-something man.  He is remarried to a hot, much younger Columbian woman with a 10 year old son.  Jay has two adult kids who have families of their own: Claire and Mitchel.  Claire is married to a cheesy but funny guy, and they have 3 kids.  Mitchel and his partner Cameron have adopted a baby girl from Vietnam.   The story is simply their mixed-up life together as one big extended family.
The show is in a mock-umentary format.  In other words, there is a mixture of standard sitcom-type footage and some private interview time.  It's similar to The Office in format.  Often the interview bits are the most hilarious.  Sarah and I were often rolling around laughing during these.  We found ourselves quoting and remembering and laughing again in the days after we watched an especially good episode.  This is always a sign of excellence in a TV show.
However, the humor - as great as it is - may not be the best part of the show.  Modern Family does two other things very well.
1) They show people learning to love each other for who they are - with all of their ups and downs, strengths and weaknesses, lovability and annoyingness.  The show in poignant in its understanding and expression of the difficulties and joys of family life.  Part of the humor comes from our identification with the very sticky and awkward situations that families often encounter.  But through it all, they stick it out and genuinely show love and concern for each other - even if that requires change and sacrifice.
2) The show constantly sets up stereotypes and then explodes them.  The gay, uber emotional partner also played as an offensive lineman in college football.  The hot Columbian younger wife is also very smart and emotively aware.  The ADD kid who is always breaking things completes an outstanding school project on Van Gogh - without the help of his ADD father, who was supposed to be supervising him.  The stereotypical old white guy somehow comes around again and again to appreciate the beautiful diversity in his family.

We loved this show, and so the Josh rating is without a doubt 5 J's: JJJJJ!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Luke 17:1-10 - Do We Need More Faith?

[Note: Our series on Jesus and World Religions has been canceled.  Upon much prayer and refection, I don't think this is what our church most needs to hear at this time.]

  Today, we continue our journey through Luke with Luke chapter 17.  Has anyone else felt like this has been a tough trip as we’ve been preaching through Luke?  Luke is rough.  Especially in August and September, we’ve been dealing with some of Jesus’ most challenging teachings.  And, let me just tell you up front, today it doesn’t get any easier.  Next week will be better, but not today.

    Our Gospel lesson today is Luke 17:1-10, and it’s pretty challenging.  Instead of reading it as a whole, I want to walk through it and talk about it piece by piece.  I think this will help us really get what Jesus is trying to say.    Jesus starts out with a warning.
 1 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! 2 It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. 3 So watch yourselves!”
    Apparently, Jesus takes integrity and mentoring and parenting pretty seriously.  A millstone is a huge rock slab used to mill or to grind grain into flour.  Jesus sounds a bit like the mafia here: “You mess with my kids, and you’re going to be sleeping with the fishes.  Capisce?!”

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review of Gandhi by E. Stanley Jones

My dad highly recommended this book years back, and I finally got around to reading it.  I loved it.  I actually read it as part of my devotions.
E. Stanley Jones (one of the world's most famous missionaries, who spent 50+ years serving India) knew Gandhi as a personal friend.  Here's a quick summary of the book: Gandhi (a Hindu) intentionally modeled his life after Jesus and actually lived more like Jesus than any other human being since Jesus.  Gandhi's life, death, and enduring influence are a call for Christians to return to the Christ of the cross.
Gandhi showed the world that the way of nonviolence is not only possible but successful.  I personally felt challenged to follow Christ more closely throughout my reading.
One of the most powerful statements (one I might actually use in my sermon this week) was this.  After a night of soul searching, Gandhi broke through to the truth of simple living.  Then, Jones says, "Many of us would have talked and debated and consulted interminably.  Gandhi decided at dawn to reduce the principles to practice.  That is the essential difference in Gandhi; he acted on what he saw to be truth.  He didn't see all truth, but he acted on what he saw, and that made the difference" (79).
May God help us all (especially me) to be faithful to the truth that we see.
The Josh rating: a strong 5Js - JJJJJ.  Read this book!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review of Ford County - by John Grisham

Sarah and I often read a book together before bedtime.  We take turns choosing.  This was my pick. 
I love reading John Grisham, but I usually try to stay away from him when I'm not on vacation.  I have a bad habit of staying up late into the night to finish one of his suspenseful books.
This book is a different format, though.  Instead of his standard novel, this is a collection of short stories.  Also, none of them are terribly suspenseful, so that made it a nice fit for reading before bed.  We could stop whenever we wanted.
 The stories all have a loose connection with law: death row inmates, wills, bankruptcy, lawsuits, divorce, etc.  However, law and lawyers play a much smaller role in most of the stories.  In fact, only 3 of the 7 have a lawyer as a main character.
This was a good read, but not one of my favorite Grisham books.  It reminded me a lot of Ernest Hemmingway's short stories.  There is this deep sense of disappointment with life - especially in small town Mississippi.  (All of the stories are placed in Grisham's home area: Ford County, Mississippi).  Every story has a deep note of sadness and even despair.  Yet, even so, reading them is enjoyable - in a cathartic, companion for misery, kind of way.
I would recommend this book for someone who is just looking for some casual reading or for someone who wants a look (albeit a bit depressing) into small town American life.  The Josh rating: JJJ.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Three Cups of Tea - Review

I've seen some of my friends reading this book for years.  Many of them have highly recommended it to me.  Somehow it has escaped my reading list until this month.  Michael and Elizabeth gave me a copy for my birthday, and I'm so glad they did.  This is one of the best books I've read in a very long time.
The first half of the story is simple.  Greg Mortenson was part of a team trying to climb K2 (the world's most dangerous mountain) in Northern Pakistan.  Through a series of injuries and mishaps, he became disoriented and separated from his group.  After getting lost once and spending a night alone on the ice, he missed a turn and lost his guide again.  He wandered into the small mountain village of Korphe, and this forever changed his life.
The people of Korphe, despite their poverty, showed him great hospitality and love as they nursed him back to health.  Without a plan, without prior community development experience, without funding, he promised to return to Korphe to build a school for the children who were stuck in a generational cycle of poverty.
The next third of the book is his amazing and frustrating journey to build that first school.  Through many ups and downs and confusions about Pakistani mountain culture(s), he persevered.  Several key people came to his aid through funding, cultural support, physical protection, and emotional support.  After several years of struggle, Mortenson founded the Central Asia Institute and completed a bridge to Korphe and Korphe's first school in its 600 year existence.
After that first school, CAI's activity mushroomed.  A retired Swiss-American scientist endowed them with a million dollars, and slowly publicity and funding began to flow in jerks and stops.    As of 2009, CAI had built 81 schools in northern Pakistan and Afganistan.
Two parts of this story deserve special mention.
1) One of the beautiful side-effects of Mortenson's mission to build schools is combating terrorism at its roots.  Mortenson argues repeatedly and beautifully that the root of terrorism is ignorance not Islam.  In fact, Muslims - including the highest leaders of Islam - have been some of Mortenson's biggest supporters.  Radical Islamicism, which breeds terrorism, grows through radical madrassas, which are built in the poorest areas of Pakistan and Afganistan - often as the only available option for education.  Many join the Taliban forces because these are the only available jobs for low-skilled workers.  Furthermore, while the militaries of the West may destroy many terrorists, the collateral damage from our bombs plants the seeds for countless more radical enemies.  Building schools (and wells and hospitals) is infinitely more effective than dropping bombs - in terms of building friends and reducing enemies. 
2) As Tom Brokaw says on the cover, this book is "thrilling ... proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, really can change the world."  I hope that all my friends will read this book and develop a similar passion, audacity, and hope that our little efforts really can be multiplied to cause momentous changes.  We have to think big and start small.
I highly recommend this book.  The Josh rating: JJJJJ!

Like a Butterfly

Truth lingers like a butterfly
on the edge of a flower
And we chase it
like children at play
At play but in serious pursuit
We long to catch this truth
this floating, fleeting, flying
display of obvious beauty
We long to grasp it
not only with our hands
not even especially with our hands
but with our eyes
in our minds
in our hearts
We long to hold this beauty
fluttering, ephemeral, eternal truth
For in this flapping of the wings
and moving of antennae
we see and sense
the Real
And the Real in us
calls to the Real before us
seen and touched and met by us
Like a butterfly on our fingertips
Real meets Real
And we chase and follow
drawn by the eternal magnetism
of Beauty and Truth

Sunday, September 26, 2010

We Need Each Other

As I prepare for our upcoming series on Jesus and World Religions, I find this video to be encouraging. We need all our stories. We need Lutherans and Anglicans and Calvinists and Baptists and Pentecostals (and Nazarenes) because we all have stories to tell and practices to share that help us to understand our amazing God.



But this raises a few questions for me. Do we also need Buddhists and Muslims and Hindus and Secular Humanists and Ancestor Worshipers? They also have stories to tell. They also have practices to share. They also have meaningful questions to ask.
My tentative answer is: Yes. Yes, we do need people of other religions. But we need them in a different way. The difference between denominations within Christianity is very different from (but somehow also similar to) the difference between Christianity and other religions. Yet perhaps as we discuss, dialog with, and engage other religions, our practice of Christianity is enhanced. Perhaps, this discussion will open us to parts of our own tradition and faith which have been buried or ignored for too long. Perhaps, through discussion and dialog, we will all grow closer to God together.
Don't get me wrong. I am in favor of evangelism. I believe it is good for people of other religions to become Christians. However, I also believe that (ironically) people of other religions also have something to teach us about Christ and Christianity and engaging God.
I know that's a radical statement, but that's where we're going with our sermon series for the next 7 weeks. I would appreciate your feedback along the way.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rocky (Greatest American Movie #57)

Last night, Sarah and I watched the classic Rocky. Surprisingly, this may have been the first time either of us have watched it in its entirety. I have seen parts of it, and I may have watched it all the way through as a kid, but I don't remember.
In many ways, it is simply a classic Cinderella story. Poor guy gets his break and makes it big. In some ways, it was Forest Gump before Gump.
However, in addition to the raw triumph over adversity, this story holds powerful moral for us. We become better people through love. As Rocky and Adrian begin to love each other, they both blossom into better people. Adrian comes out of her pet-store shell. Rocky becomes better and stronger. He has someone to lean on in the most difficult and discouraging times. Even Adrian's deeply flawed brother seems to be bettered by their love - almost against his will.
Love makes us better. When we love each other, our wounds are healed, and we open the way for our truest and best selves to emerge.
This was a genuine - but not overpowering - classic. The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Revenge and Redemption (Luke 15:11-32 and Luke 20:9-19)


Josh Broward
September 19, 2010

Luke 15:11-32 and Luke 20:9-19

With 5 seconds left on the clock, the quarterback dodged a tackle, rolled out to his right and threw a desperate pass toward Jaime Alejandro. Jaime launched over two defenders to make a one-handed catch in the end zone.
The stadium erupted! People rushed to the field celebrating the amazing catch which earned the Fighting Falcons their first State Football Championship in history. Everyone was caught up in a wave of euphoria - jumping, shouting, crying, hugging.
Everyone - except Jorge. Jorge Hernandez was the other wide receiver. Jorge was sitting in the other corner of the end zone, seething in jealousy. “That pass should have been to me. I was wide open!” As Jaime was carried of the field by cheering teammates and fans, Jorge brewed alone about his long-standing rivalry with Jaime Alejandro. Somehow, although he was just as talented, just as smart, and - in his opinion - better looking, Jorge was constantly coming up short of Jaime.
As the two fastest high school athletes in their city, both Jorge and Jaime qualified for the Regional Tournament in the 400 meter dash. Before the race, Jorge cut Jaime’s shoelace on one shoe. Jaime never noticed until the shoe started coming off around the the second turn. Amazingly, Jaime just kicked it off and finished the race with one shoe. Jaime still finished first and earned a photo in the front page of the city newspaper for the escapade.

After high school, Jorge studied law, and Jaime studied for the ministry. Both were smart and successful, but they took very different paths. ...

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Governance and Ministry Book Review

I just finished reading Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership by Dan Hotchkiss. This is a very good book about how to have good church boards. I believe the church board has the potential to be a center of strength, change, and spiritual discernment for our churches. However, much of the time our boards are mired in reports and rubber stamping the decisions of our staff members.
Over the past 6 years, I have been on a steady mission to improve the functioning of our church board. This has included a wide variety of approaches. I've concentrated mostly on improving our meetings in terms of quality of discussion, flow of information, use of time, and pursuing larger topics (delegating the smaller topics to our various teams).
Along the way, I have been greatly helped along this path with articles from the Alban Institute. This book collects together much of that sage advice in a framework guiding a church leadership team on how to restructure a church board for greater effectiveness.
At first I thought, we might go through the whole restructuring process they recommend (including a 1 year research and planning phase). Because of some other issues, I don't think that level of change would be best for us at this stage. Also, because we have been changing incrementally, we may not need a total overhaul. However, I still found many useful tips, thoughts, and techniques.
Reading a board book can be a bit boring at times, but I would still recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a better church board. The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Church on Mute


I just read: "Our message has been muted as we try to communicate from generation to generation." The author (Carol Howard) was talking about how the changes in culture affect the church, systemically and technologically. The article is an excerpt from her book: Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation. However, this one phrase jumped out at me: "Our message has been muted."
This seems to be very true of today's church. We see the preacher talking, but it's like there's no sound coming out of his mouth. Maybe because we don't understand the words. Maybe because he's talking about stuff we just don't care about. Maybe - and this is what seems to be the deepest problem - because we don't see any actions that match the words.
Imagine people in a room doing various activities with a large TV on mute. People may occasionally glance at the screen to see the sports scores or the music video gyrations. But nobody really cares very much about the sound that they're missing. Every now and then, something changes. Every once in a while, someone will see something particularly moving, compelling, or interesting on the screen. Then, that guy shouts, "Hey, turn the volume up! What's going on? What is this?"
The Church is on mute. People are tuning us out. We definitely need to update our language and methods. We definitely need to talk in relevant ways about relevant things. However, the single most important thing we can do is to give people compelling pictures of the gospel through our actions. If we live in dramatically beautiful ways, then people will be spontaneously interested in what we are saying. "What's going on? What is this? Turn the volume up!"