Tiptoeing Back into the House of the Lord

Purple lights at worship service.

Our view of a perfectly wasted opportunity for someone to improv a Christian pop song called “Purple Reign”.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: pandemic pandemic bo-bandemic, banana-rama-fo-fandemic, fee fi mo mandemic: pandemic! It’s sucked beyond all calculable orders of magnitude, has put people we know in the hospital or the grave, and currently rated a negative-ten-million percent on the Tomatometer.

Then amid Worst Year Ever, a ray of hope: the vaccines arrived. Then amid our ray of hope, penetrating lasers of inky darkness: a media and populace that simultaneously embrace vaccines and distrust them at the same time. And I’m not talking about the deniers shrieking at us from their log-cabin schoolhouses with tinfoil roofs, boasting how they’re more interested in preserving their reckless impunity than achieving herd immunity. No, I’m talking about the ostensible “good guys”:

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Retreating from Pop Culture with Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers Brunch, Panera BreadAs much as I post about the entertainment options around me, I can’t immerse myself in them 24/7. Sometimes they disappoint or frustrate me. Sometimes they demand more of my time and attention than I care to give. Sometimes the idols among them remind me how their previous versions guided me through childhood. While I grew up and improved in a way or two, too many of those idols lost their luster, descended into mediocrity, or had their Reset buttons punched to turn them into different creatures with the same names. Ultimately they’re undependable as worldview building materials.

Hence my weekly one-man retreat. Every Sunday morning after church I isolate myself from my loved ones and collections, hole up in a local chain eatery that has plenty of loitering space (it’s not too hard to identify if you know the place), clear my mind, and spend an hour-plus with caffeine, snack, Bible, spiral-bound notebook, and a copy of the late Oswald Chambers’ devotional collection My Utmost for His Highest.

For those newer readers who’ve been wondering to themselves for months: I assure you the “faith” mentioned in the site subtitle isn’t a typo.

More about my weekly habit…

A Few of My Favorite Bible Excerpts

Midlife Crisis Crossover pulpit

This 2008 file photo taken at Historic Jamestowne, Virginia, captures a very rare moment of the author in a pulpit.

Easter week continues on MCC! Let it not be said (today) that the mention of “faith” in the blog subtitle is total false advertising.

Confession time: when I launched MCC eleven months ago, I didn’t expect that aspect of my life to receive such short shrift here compared to the other parts of my life. Truth is, writing about my faith is challenging because the majority of examples set before me from other writers, family, and friends (in writing or in simple conversation) are either memorized Bible verses, Christian song lyrics, or common quotes that sound so much like real verses that everyone assumes they are and keeps passing them around. For the purpose of self-expression, I have a hard time settling for that.

Years before my life took a conscious turn toward a new spiritual direction, I was once an English major who had one critical writing lesson drummed repeatedly into my head : “Put it in your own words.” While the Bible contains a wealth of advice more useful to me than Bartlett’s Quotations or Twitter, I’m not sure what I’m accomplishing — either for the Kingdom or for myself — if all my writing and speaking consists of recycling the exact phrases and paragraphs of everyone who came before me. Becoming a living, walking re-blogger holds no appeal to me. I’m hardly the most original guy in the world, but I’d at least like to try to form my own sentences into useful structures. Problem is, all the best wisdom and aphorisms are taken, leaving me to cobble together what I can from my own odd experiences and pale talents in hopes that it doesn’t reek of copy/paste plagiarism. More often than not, my frustrated approach is if I can’t say something different, I don’t say anything at all.

I don’t recommend that mindset to anyone else. I’ll concede that’s me being stubborn. Arguably, I’ve set the bar too high for myself. We’ll see how my thoughts on the subject progress as I age and hopefully keep growing. Until then, here I am, doing the best I can with what I have. That usually means I end up focusing on my other specializations here, those that predate my faith, originated in my childhood, and are sometimes at odds with it. Thus is the conflict that fuels some of the fight scenes in the Midlife Crisis Crossover.

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Brief Response to Another Day of Repetitive Social Media Chatter

Of all the possible ways to spend the week leading up to the three-day commemoration of the death and resurrection of Christ Our Savior, I’m pretty sure that one of the most counterproductive, least evangelistic options at our disposal is engaging in messy, protracted fight scenes (whether amongst ourselves or with others) for the purpose of defending the position that believers who follow the Lord’s tenets to the letter should be rewarded with government-approved perks for this accomplishment, and that those who don’t, shouldn’t.

I could be wrong. Maybe there are worse ways to count down to Easter. I’d prefer to eschew those, too.

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“Life of Pi”: A Bittersweet Symphony of Survival, Syncretism, and Surrender

Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi

Pi the spiritual drifter.

When your main character is a self-described “Catholic Muslim Hindu” who teaches about Kabbalah at the local university in his adult years, you know a discussion group will be unavoidable after the movie.

Ang Lee’s most recent adaptation of a novel I haven’t read, Life of Pi, pops with visuals that dazzle and astonish even without the 3-D upcharge, but many viewers who’ve already chosen their walk in life may be less enthusiastic about the film’s broad presentation of its spiritual themes. Since childhood, our young hero Pi has never adopted a religion he didn’t like. He doesn’t favor any one particular faith over another, instead enjoying the wide latitude of the “Everyone’s right, everyone wins!” pluralistic approach to religion that assumes anyone short of Hitler will be in Heaven if everyone’s excellent to each other, and God is merely an elderly greeter at the gates, waving politely and passing out “Participant” ribbons. As long as a belief system mentions God and endorses unlimited happiness for one and all, it’s on the “nice” list.

Unfortunately for Pi, other characters struggle to accept his lifestyle choice, particularly his pro-science dad, who lectures Pi on behalf of Hollywood’s God-hating half about the merits of siding with Reason as if it’s an option mutually exclusive from religion altogether. In the film’s framing scenes, an older Pi (Irrfan Khan, last seen Stateside as a lackey in Amazing Spider-Man) tells his incredible tale to an earnest skeptic with writer’s block (Rafe Spall, last seen dying stupidly in Prometheus). Beyond these token nods to nonpartisan balance, Pi is otherwise a passionate, stubborn, welcome argument for choosing theism over atheism. In limiting the debate and the viewing experience to that simple baseline context, I was on board and enthralled to that extent.

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