this & that

It’s been awhile.

There are simply too many things to read. I’m hoping (in light of yesterday’s post) that whatever knowledge we add to our heads today means adding obedience to our hearts. How can we use knowledge to result in obedient actions full of love?

In light of religious turbulence in the UK (see this recent radio interview with leading atheist Richard Dawkins that making more than airwaves), I strongly urge you to read this article, “No secularism please, we’re British.”

Oh, Martin Luther. Do you know that Luther died on February 18, 1546? Maybe you need a little refresher about what this man contributed to our religious heritage. Read, “The Forgotten Influence of Martin Luther” from the Gospel Coalition blog.

Josh Garrels is an artist who is not afraid to do things differently. His most recent album is completely free to whoever wants it, because he said he has been overwhelmed by the blessings of his musical journey. Wow. He’s not a musical mess-around, either. What he makes is beautiful. Anyway, now Garrels is partnering with Mason Jar Music to make (what appears to be) a really incredible film.

Lastly, I wanted to mention (again) the film Tree of Life. The first time I watched it, I chewed on it for days but I missed SO much because I was scribbling notes on journal pages. The second time I watched it, tucked into an attic room with several beautiful folks, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Put it on your list and sit through it, if nothing else then for the music and cinematography.

Challenge: Choose one thing on this list and then ask how learning can lead to obeying and  actions full of love. The whole idea of “this & that” is to keep informed, but cannot be just that. I realize there are blanks that need filling in, but this is the kind of thing we’re made for, right?

What does it mean that I now know England is wrestling with the religion of secularism, or that Martin Luther almost single-handedly changed the course of modern church history, or that Josh Garrels believes there is power when we invite others into our joy?

How can learning things in this life lead me to knowledge of God and produce acts of obedience full of love? I hope the answer is a treasure hidden in this day!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

spinning around inside a story

Not that long ago, I watched the film Tree of Life with some friends and promised myself that I would give it the mental attention it deserved. These are the notes I had to work with:

So… when I finally got around to writing about the film, it was too big to smoosh into a single blog post. I pushed it to the place cobwebs creep in my mind and agreed it was something to “come back to” when it didn’t feel like the philosophical dump truck unloaded on my brain’s front stoop.

Yesterday, the Tree of Life found it’s way through the cobwebs by way of another film – a bookumentary. Notes from a Tilt-A-Whirl has been on my “to do” list for an impressive long while. My motivation to see this “idea film” greatly increased when the time on my iTunes rental was running out. Last night, I finally found some kindred spirits who would commit 51 minutes to run after an author’s ramblings. With the storytelling fervor of Donald Miller and cinematography resembling Rob Bell, N. D. Wilson takes you through each chapter of his book, “Notes From a Tilt-A-Whirl” in a way that simultaneously appeals to your mind and your heart. With Creation as his backdrop, Wilson wrestles through topics like philosophy, academia, suffering, and why every person should view life as an art appreciator.

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl Movie Trailer from Gorilla Poet Productions on Vimeo.

In the hours after Wilson closed his last chapter, I realized why I appreciated the Tree of Life. It wasn’t for it’s overt declaration of Truth or it’s objective dealing with the meaning of life. The most valuable message was one of beauty.

The world is a beautiful place. Scarred, true, but oh-so-beautiful.

Once one makes this admission of beauty, there are more questions to answer.
Where does it come from? Does it always win? Why does it lose? Do we control it? Who decides what beauty is? How many beauties are there – just one kind?
(C.S. Lewis dealt with this subject masterfully in his book, “Abolition of Man” when he discusses the miseducation of children)

All these questions, bound together by the tension in the nature vs. grace conflict, demand resolution. Whether Tree of Life sufficiently answers these questions never concerned me, because I was too busy being impressed by the way beauty and tragedy were communicated so clearly.

But, last night, as we watched Notes From a Tilt-A-Whirl around my 13 inch Mac laptop screen, I marveled that there is more beauty. We were never meant to be satisfied merely admiring the beauty of the Ultimate Artist. We are meant to live the beauty – to interact and understand and breathe the beauty. We are meant to do what is impossible through the One who makes impossible things happen (see Ephesians).

We are meant to look at what has baffled philosophers and tormented academicians and take in all the beauty of Truth with the humble reverence of a child in the dreamiest of castles.

The castle is very much real – there is no use arguing otherwise. We waste much time and miss much beauty by arguing its existence.

More to come… meanwhile, watch the film so I have more people with who I can process its merits!

thoughts on the Tree of Life

I’m here and there today, working on the marvelous pile of “Christmas gift could-be’s” I found in my parents’ storage room. Turns out, after living in Honduras for three years and Austin for one and four years of college in Michigan before that, I let quite a few things pile up there. Old corkboards, frames, half-finished canvas paintings, sketches, journals (that’s a two hour sidetrack right there!), and other knick knacks. Nothing like some good handsaw therapy – throw in a screwdriver and a pair of pliers and you’ve got a world of “what could this be?” waiting for you!

I’m taking a break to return to a topic I promised to write about awhile ago.

The film Tree of Life by Terrence Malick stands out from the cinematic crowd for loads of reasons. The first is filmmaker Terrence Malick. All Movie Guide at the New York Times says, “Terrence Malick is one of the great enigmas of contemporary filmmaking, a shadowy figure whose towering reputation rests largely on a very small body of work,” which is why you’ve probably never heard of him. My intrigue started because I follow Brett McCracken at his blog The Search. I am always impressed with McCracken’s assessment of culture and film, so I thought I would trust his strong support of Malick’s work.

Fast forward to last week when I watched Tree of Life with my good friends in their living room, cradling a hot cup of spice tea. Sometimes (all the time), I get nervous watching films I’ve suggested. I have a complex because in high school I was notorious for picking out lame movies. So, I was almost sweating I was so nervous and hopeful my friends would like/and understand the film. We had heard it was very slow and very deep, so the living room was the perfect set-up. I had my journal handy to write down common symbols, metaphor, and anything that came to mind.

Now, I’m looking at those journal pages going, “Whoa. Linear thinking isn’t anywhere in my vocabulary, that’s for sure!”

I know I’ll be processing this film and it’s meaning for a while (which is something I love about what Malick did). Today, I just want to tackle the (maybe) obvious overarching theme in the film of nature vs. grace. Malick pulled us in and then stretched us apart with his shots of nature’s beauty and man’s limitations. At the very beginning of the film, the narration sets up the message of the entire film.

It’s hard to get past this stunning contrast.

Before I start giving my scattered opinion, what do you think?

Watch this. (I’m sorry I canNOT find the nature vs. grace narrative anywhere on youtube)

and then this featurette where people talk through the story of the Tree of Life. (spoiler alert here!)

Here’s a write up over at White Horse Inn, if you need to hear someone’s opinion. I kind of promise I’ll chime in soon! I know, I know… I less than tackled this, but it’s SOOOO big!

Happy Friday!

stuffing peppers and bellies

I grew up in the country. When October 31 came around, we would get dressed up and take a tour of the countryside, stopping at neighbors’ and relatives houses who were all ready for the “Nichols kids.” I never knew that other kids went to houses where they didn’t personally know the people inside. Sometimes, we even sang a song or sat on the sofa for a while Because we were getting candy and popcorn balls, but we were also giving … a little time for them to treasure.

Well, I didn’t go out to trick, treat, or sing at houses last night… but I did stuff something other than a candy bag – PEPPERS! I used this recipe, but made some serious changes. I didn’t measure anything, for starters. I used fresh tomatoes and brown rice. I threw in some extra spices and (probably the biggest change) I used some peppers we got from my neighbor and I couldn’t tell you exactly which kind they were.
Something funny happened in the middle of making these little guys… I realized it was 3 pm and I hadn’t eaten lunch! Good thing I had a BUNCH of rice mixture left over! I threw some on a corn tortilla, added cheddar and salsa… and 5 minutes later there was lunch!
And then the peppers came out 🙂

I decided to get my community on and head over to my friends’ place to share these peppers and finally watch Tree of Life (terrence malick’s new flim). We ended up putting the rice mixture on top of this baked goodness and then throwing it in for a second baking to melt some cheese on top and dinner happened accompanied by some delightful conversation!

Then we watched Tree of Life.
(more on the Nature vs. Grace discussion in the film to come!)

So, what did you stuff last night? A candy bag? Your belly?

Did anyone stuff their brain on the Reformation in honor of the anniversary? I spent a bit of time reading this article at the Gospel Coalition, “Abandon the Reformation, Abandon the Gospel” and thinking about how history remind us of God’s faithfulness and our responsibility.

What thoughts have you, dear friends?

Tomorrow, I will write about the Tree of Life. Oh my, is there ever much to say!