Tag Archives: life

Transition

Earlier today, Gretchen and I stood up in front of the church and announced that I would be stepping down from my position as Worship Leader at Christ Community Church.

A Little History

About 9 years ago, I was the worship leader for a small church plant in the Inland Empire. It was not a good experience. The leadership was not supportive, our relationship with the pastor was demeaning, and when we left we shook the dust off our feet. I had no place to go, no obvious means of income, but we had to get gone.

We bounced around for a few months, moved to Burbank, and then out of nowhere I got an email from Doug Scholten, the pastor at CCC. Their worship leader had left with two weeks notice, and Doug was scrambling to find an interim who could hold down the gig for a month or so while they looked for someone to take the position. We met, it went well, and I agreed to cover the gap. Mother’s Day of 2003 was my first Sunday at the church.

As they looked at candidates for the position, they asked me if I was interested. I kept saying no – I wasn’t interested in a church gig, I didn’t want to get back into that mess.

After 6 months, Gretchen and I realized that we did, actually, really want to be there. The people were warm and welcoming, the position was well-defined and well-suited to my abilities. More than that, Doug was the kind of pastor that all church musicians hope for. He respected music and the arts, was willing to try new things, and was able to step back and allow me to do my job. I submitted my resume, and they hired me as the Worship Leader.

Some Highlights

In my first year at CCC, Doug asked me to preach. It was the first time I had been asked to preach anywhere. It was an overwhelming and awe-filling experience, and one that I came to both dread and relish.

We have a seasonal choir at CCC, but most of the choir lit wasn’t appropriate for our group. I started writing and arranging music for our choir, and as I’m sitting here looking at my scores folder, over 8 years I’ve written or arranged 30 pieces of choral music for this choir. There’s nothing quite like the relentless necessity of Christmas and Easter to force you to build a catalog of work!

Good Friday has become a tradition of experiential risk-taking for us. One year we created an immersive environment with 30 laptops projecting photos and videos, and live-blogging stations for people to record their reactions. Last year we booked a string quartet to play a meditative concert of challenging contemporary music. The path from “What if we …” to “Let’s try it!” was well-worn.

A few years ago, we added a Classic service at 8am on Sunday mornings. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea initially, but it has become the perfect way to start the out the Sunday haul. Instead of jumping right in to running charts, setting tech, rehearsing the band, I get to start the day by sitting quietly and playing through two hymns with a small congregation. It’s a brief meditation for me, and has become one of my favorite things.

In the time I’ve been at CCC, we’ve had about 12 students from APU come through and play with the team, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes for much longer. It’s been a place where some of the things we talk about in class can be worked out very practically, like a “lab” extension to the lectures.

Both of our children were born and then dedicated at CCC. I love that we gather around and lay hands on new parents, commissioning them to the ministry of parenthood.

The Transition

In the last few years, Gretchen and I have been feeling a strong pull to find a local church. We love many things about CCC, but the drive is 45 minutes on Sunday morning, and an hour and a half during rush hour. The time and distance mean that we can’t be part of the community of Christ Community Church. Our kids can’t be in the children’s choir, Gretchen and I can’t be in small groups or make it out to social functions.

We believe in the mission of the church. We believe that it has the power to change lives and communities. That power, though, is worked out through the relationships within the church, and between the church and those in the community around it. If you’re only present for Sunday morning, if you are forced by time and distance to stand one step removed from the other people in the congregation, then you might be “going” to church, but it is impossible to participate in the transforming power of church. You can’t serve the mission. You can’t be served by the mission.

So, we starting praying and looking for a chance to make the transition to a local church.

The Road Ahead

February 27th will be our last Sunday, after which I will step down from my position as worship leader. March 6th I’ll begin leading a small early morning chapel service at a large church in the Irvine area. It’s a traditional music service, with piano and organ, along with the occasional string quartet and guest soloists. It’s early in the morning, and so I’ll be home in time for us to find a 10:30 service at a local church, where we can attend together as a family.

There are many things we will miss from the last 8 years, but there are also some things we’re looking forward to.

We’re looking forward to sitting together during a worship service.

We’re looking forward to attending a small group or bible study together.

I’m looking forward to being that guy every worship leader dreams of, who walks up after the service and says “Hey, I’d love to sub on the worship team sometime if you need someone to cover keyboards,” and then can actually play!

I’m looking forward to a smaller scope of responsibility, to a simpler service. I’m looking forward to Easter and Christmas being seasons of joy, instead of dread.

The seed that was planted with the hymn service at our church has blossomed. I’m looking forward to playing music from the deep and rich tradition of the church.

I’m looking forward to volunteering for things … or, saying “no” to things!

Leaving Well

There are so few times in Church when we are able to leave well. It seems like most transitions happen because the church is unhappy, or there is conflict with the leadership, or character issues, or because someone leaves for a better gig, or more money, or … anyway, we as a church have a bad history of ending ministries well.

This is a good transition. Hard, but good. We are leaving a healthy ministry behind, we are leaving with the blessing and goodwill of the congregation, and we are leaving for the best of reasons.

This is a good thing.

Ba-ba-ba-Baaaaass Flute

I wandered around the School of Music this evening with my children, and Sophia was fascinated by all of the different instruments. She would see somebody playing something, and stop them to ask, “What’s that?”, quickly followed by, “What does it do?” The students were all very gracious, and stopped to explain their instruments to her, including several personal demonstrations.

The bass flute was by far her favorite:

Angel with a Bass Flute

We also got to stick around for a few minutes to hear the head of our string department rehearsing the Bach Double Violin Concerto for tonight’s concert. Sophia was rapt through the whole thing, even swaying from side to side as the two halves of the ensemble traded phrases against each other.

I’m going to check the benefits package on my contract, to see if “enriching and unique childhood experiences” is there, next to dental and 401k.

The Hand of Blessing

Josiah Michael Lee
On Sunday, we brought our son Josiah forward to be blessed by our church family. It was a joyful event, as those sort of things always are, I think. In our church, we come forward and lay hands on people, and the whole church prays together for that person. It’s a beautiful moment. It was made all the more beautiful by our precocious 2 1/2 year-old Sophia reaching her hand over and placing it on Josiah’s back to pray for him.

It’s been causing me to think, over the last few days, about what that blessing means. I have a bit of a mystical and contemplative nature, and am prone to think about everyday events as small reenactments of grand themes. In this case, though, the act of placing on hands and blessing a child doesn’t feel like some great supernatural transaction, some new angel hovering near, or fortune being enticed into a child’s life by some new supernatural gravitational field. The blessing of the church felt human, earthbound, and it was that humanness that brought me to tears in the service. Yes, I cry a lot these days. It’s how I leak out all this excess testosterone.

The church didn’t pray down a blessing that didn’t already exist. They stood up, laid their hands on my son, and confirmed their commitment to the blessing he already shares.

He will live and grow in a community of faith, and will learn to see the hand of God in the mundane transactions of life.

He will learn in the company of loving teachers, in silly songs and motions, in shared toys and snack time, he will learn how to be gracious and patient. As he grows, he will learn to love The Book, and learn how to let it implicate his life. He will learn to take up models and heroes, and to let them inform his choices. He will learn to serve, to give, to set his hand to the task of building the Kingdom of God in acts of justice, compassion, and grace.

He will learn to be a man in the company of godly men. In their strengths, and in their failings, he will learn about honor, and self-discipline, and humility, commitment, the special obligation of the strong to the weak, about virtue and integrity. He will learn about sexuality and identity, about the particular weaknesses of men, and he will learn about them in the company of those who love Yahweh.

He will be the recipient of grace, of instruction, of companionship, of diligent correction, of hospitality, of all the good things that come from life lived together.

When our church comes together to bless someone, it is a very human thing we do – we pledge to be blessing to that person. To see a hundred people stand, and lay their hands on his head, and on his back, and on us in support, and to hear them say, “He is ours, to care for, to love, to encourage, to teach, he is ours, and we are his. We are the cloud of witnesses, the strong right arm, the body, the co-laborers, the gathered followers of The Way, the forgiven-thus-forgiving Family of God in this place. We are his brothers. We are his sisters. We obligate ourselves to him. This is our particular blessing to him.”

Nothing could make me love this church more than the beauty of that moment.

Our Daily Bread

Two blessings that pass by without being noted, but for which I am deeply grateful.

  • I am strong and healthy while my children are young. I can lift them and carry them, still sleeping, from the car to the bed.
  • Almost every day, someone will ask me a question that has no simple answer, and so I am invited to spend time just, simply, thinking.

Our excitement for the day

Guess what my husband just did, like ten minutes ago?  He auditioned for the LA Philharmonic.

Jason in the Green Room, waiting to hear.  He’s assuming he didn’t advance, because they excused him after hearing three excerpts (instead of maybe five).  It was a screened audition on the stage of the Disney Concert Hall, where neither of us have been.

He was the FIRST to audition, out of everybody!

I don’t have any bloggy, thinky thoughts about this.  We are just exchanging phone calls, excited.  I’m home with two kids and a play date, so all of you get to be my friend right now.  :)    (If you don’t care, just pretend, it’ll be good enough for me.)

One thing he did say is “There is no substitute for what I just did.”

Lastly, I’ll be glad to have my husband back (from practicing).

In my cart so far…

So, it snowed last night…just enough to be pretty (which now, a few hours later, means it’s one giant, sloppy, unpretty mess). The snow reminded me that winter has in fact, just begun. Given that I’m a poster-child for SAD, I’m planning ahead and doing some book shopping so that if (hahahahahah!) or rather, WHEN the dysfunction rears it’s ugly head on day #4 of rain (who am I kidding…I mean day #2!) I will at least have some good reads lying about. Better to bury one’s head in a book than just, ya know, bury it. So here’s what’s in my cart so far:
Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith
I’ve read zero Rob so far…I’m curious…and anything with “repainting” in the title is bound to resonate with me…I repaint often. (Which is another way of saying I paint badly quite often.)

Sadly, that’s the only mommy book I’ve added so far. (Thus, this post.) The only other things in my cart are three children’s books about Thanksgiving. (Thanks Aly…I finally checked out the Squanto book you recommended.) Like I said, I’m planning ahead.

I thought briefly about adding Foucault’s Pendulum as per a recommendation on a friend’s facebook page, but this sentence from the review sent me back to the children’s section: “This complex psychological thriller chronicles the development of a literary joke that plunges its perpetrators into deadly peril.” That is soooo utterly unappealing to me. And I don’t even feel compelled to apologize for my lack of intellectualism. (Mark it down.)

So, who has some reading recommendations for me? I’m aiming for somewhere a bit beyond Squanto for children but below the psychologically thrilling Foucault…it’s a big target…surely some of you can help! Lest my brain moss over in this perpetual winter drizzle, do comment soon! Thanks. (I thought about this and this, but I dunno….I guess I kinda want something more….fun.)

Clash of the Choirs

Ok, so I know it’s reality TV approaching a level of absurdity hard to imagine, but check out Clash of the Choirs on NBC tonight and/or tomorrow night. The director of the vocal jazz group I played keys and piano for in college is the “behind the scenes” director/arranger of Nick Lachey’s Cincinnati choir. At some point, I bet they do the arrangement of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that was the big closer/encore that we did every show when I was in the group.

Grow Your Own Nerd

In 1987, my brother and I were in 7th grade, my dad was a High School math teacher making about $25,000 a year, and my mom was a part-time nurse working the night shift. We didn’t eat at restaurants, we didn’t sleep in hotels on vacation; they saved every spare penny and invested it for retirement and college. In 1987, we didn’t own a TV, didn’t have a radio or a tape player, and we were still 13 years away from getting a cordless phone. And yet, somehow, someone convinced them that they needed a computer in their home, that it would be important for us kids to grown up with one in the house. So, for Christmas that year, my parents bought us an Apple IIgs. By the time they finished buying the computer, the monitor, the upgrades, the printer and software, they had laid out almost $5,000, 20% of my dad’s annual salary, on something they would never use or understand.

When I look back on it now, I don’t think they’ve every done anything in their lives that was more out of character.

We spent Christmas that year with my dad’s parents in Phoenix, so they didn’t bring the computer with them. Instead, they wrapped up a programming book on how to write code in BASIC, and gave that to us. My brother and I were so excited to get the book that we didn’t realize a computer was coming with it. We spent the rest of that week with a pad of scratch paper, writing out programs longhand that we would enter into the new computer once we got home.

For my 7th grade science fair project that year, I wrote a program that plotted the results from the Apple IIgs’ random number generator, to test how truly random the numbers were. In 8th grade, I wrote my first software game on that computer. It was called “Ski Crash”, and it featured a stick figure who stayed in the middle of the screen while trees moved up the screen past him; you had to use the keys to move the figure across the screen and avoid the trees. It was over 1000 lines of code, and included an original soundtrack. I wrote a program that turned the QWERTY keyboard into a note-input keyboard, so that you could play melodies on it.

I became comfortable with computers, learned what they could do, started to understand the logic behind the moving symbols and cryptic number sequences. When I hit college, I entered Phil Shackleton’s course in Music Technology. It was like stumbling into a village in the middle of the Arctic, and discovering that everyone speaks the secret language you and your brother made up as children. I understood what was going on. I spoke the language of that class. I understood how to use the computer as a tool, and to make it do what you wanted it to do. I thrived.

I have a recurring experience in my life; I keep arriving at places and finding myself unexpectedly prepared. I’ll admit, this has left me with a nasty habit of procrastination, but it has also helped me make peace with my penchant for obsession over things that have no immediate value. When I started to make my way in the music industry, at every turn, it was my familiarity with technology that helped me succeed. Not my familiarity with any specific piece of technology (I was constantly running into new pieces of software and hardware, and the bizarre quirks that inhabited them), but familiarity with technology. With the language, and the logic, and the way it rewards a peculiar kind of curiosity.

I don’t know why my parents decided to do something so uncharacteristic as buying that computer for my brother and I. We talked about it over Thanksgiving this year, and they still seem a little surprised at themselves for having done something so impulsive. It was an absurd amount of money for them to spend, and it couldn’t have been easy for them to make that sacrifice. That moment, when they stood in the store listening to a salesman spin his pitch, when they looked at each other and said, “Let’s do it,” shifted the tracks of my life, and led me to where I am today.

So, in lieu of a more mundane answer, I think I’ll attribute it to two things. First, the prompting of a providential and forward-thinking God, the chess-master, setting pieces in motion before we’re even aware that a game is afoot. And second, parents who didn’t allow the limits of their understanding to bind the wings of their children, and for whom the suggestion that something might be important for their children’s future was enough.

Funkabee

So,

Addison Road has long been absent of straight ahead punditry, and believe me when I tell you that I have little interest in changing that fact. However, I am on a political quest this year, so from time to time I may start conversations about candidates. Let’s not forget that Addison Road is a virtual summer BBQ, so if politics come up, just make sure that you can have a beer around the fire pit when it’s over.

I am a truly undecided voter. There is a strong possibility that I will vote for a Democrat next year for the first time in my adult life. I won’t be Hillary, but only for the reason that she seems like Nixon, willing to do or say anything to get elected. I really like Bill Richardson, and I am intrigued by Obama. Ron Paul’s grassroots movement is appealing, but I’m not convinced about the man himself. I respect Rudy, and believe that he did an amazing turnaround on NYC, but I do not believe Islamic Terrorism in and of itself is the single greatest threat facing our nation. I cannot stand Mitt Romney, because of his stupid face, and because the fact that he’s a bionic used car salesman. John McCain is pretty cool, but his teeth are unelectable. Fred Thompson (Air Traffic Control Dude from Die Hard 2 for President!) looks like a really tall, bored muppet.

Last week, during the CNN /YouTube debacle, –err– debate last week, there was Huckabee, who came off as poised, funny, competent, and endearing. Compare the three responses to this question. Guliani sounds like a Mafia henchman going to his annual confession. Romney sounds like he is still trying to sell you that ’78 Pinto, and then there’s Huckabee. He takes a totally loaded, hot potato question, and in my opinion hits the nail square on the head.

I don’t know much else about this man, so I started poking around the tubes and I found this. I don’t care about the man’s politics anymore. Any distance-running, bass-playing presidential candidate gets my vote.

Funkabee in ’08

I want the Huckabee camp to know that, upon his election, we the people expect August 10th, Leo Fender’s birthday, to be declared a national holiday.

Run Zane, run!

Sir Ken Robinson’s talk entitled “Do schools kill creativity?” may be old news to many, but I just discovered it today via this place. I think I love this man. Or, at least his message.

I’m almost always angsty in regard to my children’s schooling. I think, wonder, question, ponder, imagine and pray (sometimes in that order and sometimes in the reverse order) about it nine days out of 10. I’d guess that this intense preoccupation is deeply rooted in my own schooling experiences, but maybe not. Whatever the case, I think about it a lot. I desperately want my children to have a positive schooling experience. That sounds so generic and vague but it (“positive”) truly is what I mean—in the biggest, best sense of the word. Of course I want them to learn stuff, but I’m passionate (again with the overused and thusly generic sounding word) about them learning about themselves as created, creative beings and learning how to think and learning to love learning and acquiring and nurturing internal resources that will both allow and spur them on to be the best versions of themselves possible. Oh my, I feel a preachy, esoteric fight song coming on.

Presently, our six-year-old son attends first grade at a local private Christian school. It’s been fine. A bit costly and fine. It’s not perfect and I don’t expect to find a perfect school. Duh. We’re trying to “take it one year at a time” as many parents say and we are glad that in this day and age (and state) there are so many great schooling options.

This darling, beloved, love-him-so-much-I-can-hardly-stand-it son of mine talks almost all the time. If he’s thinking it, he’s saying it. I think it would drive even Jesus himself bats. We’re trying to help him with this way in which he relates to life and processes information as we don’t want the poor child to drive everyone around him bats. It occurred to me this evening, as I listened to Sir Ken’s speech, that perhaps I should be helping dear son learn how to be an amazing orator, speaking with authority since he so loves to do it. He also loves to run. He can run quite fast and for a suprisingly long time. We recently made a path around the back half of our property (1.4 acres) for him to run. He enjoys it, but still likes to go to a park or track where he can just run sraight and fast and flat out for, like I said, a fairly shocking length of time. It’s like he just comes alive when he gets to runrunrunrunrun. So what is second grade at the Christian School he attends known for? Sittin’ down and shuttin’ up. Hmmm.

So, what say you about elementary education?

for sale

Hey, remember how Ash and I moved about 7 months ago? Well, we just can’t get enough of packing up our crap and hauling it around, so we’re moving again. Because our new place is quite a bit smaller than the old, we’re off-loading some of said crap. Anyone interested in any of the following?:

  1. SLS Q-1000 Home Theater Surround Sound System ($450)
  2. Riverside Antique Black entertainment cabinet ($350)
  3. Specialized Rockhopper Pro mountain bike ($375)
  4. Specialized Crossroads Elite hybrid bike ($275)

As an added bonus, we’ll contribute 5% of the sale price to Operation Christmas Goat, so you won’t be taking any goats out of anyone’s mouths by shopping Ashkins instead of Amazon. (This is how I’m justifying using Addison Road as my personal classifieds page, in case Mike is annoyed.)

the good, the bad and The 405

The Good
Brian and I have spent the last week away from home and it’s been good. Home is good too, but I’m first in line for any chance to have a break from the norm. There has been mostly good on this trip, with very little bad and most of that badness has had to do with The 405. Some of the goodest of the good was the goodness of this beautiful, highly taxed state we call home. I’m certain my husband’s salt and pepper hair would still be a youthful all-over brown if we lived in a state where a house mortgage was a three digit number and property taxes didn’t make grown men cry, but then we’d have really, really high medical bills what with all the anti-depressants and therapy I would need to get through every winter. So, financially, it’s probably a wash. But back to the California goodness…. As we sat in a charming Morro bay restaurant this last week, munching incredibly fresh and tasty fish tacos while gazing out at the sea, being uninterruppted by the dearly loved and pesky small folk we call our own and watching sailboats drift by, I said to Brian: “Could you ever live in the midwest again?” (Ok, I said it more like “Could you EEEEEEEEEVER live in….”) He nearly cut me off with his impassioned “NO!” and then made that little scoffing sound in his throat. Brian is not a man prone to being impassioned about much. Technology (yes, all of it), a really great egg-salad sandwich, and cars that look pretty and go much faster than any husband and father of two ever need propel himself anywhere are usually the limit of B’s impassionedness. So, being that I’m not a fan of my own SAD, this response of his brought me great comfort. As we glanced up at the bar tv between bites of fishy taco, we marveled at how very happy the snow-covered football fans in some large midwestern stadium seemed to be. Sitting where we were, it struck us as a bit ludicrous that being covered in snow, whilst hooting it up about one’s favorite football player sludging around hundreds of feet below at a stadium packed with other chilly, pale, casserole-lovin’ midwesterners could elicit the kind of happiness that the people on the screen were showing. But apparently, it can. I’m sure that whole snowy football, bleak landscape and no spring until May or June thing just totally rocks. Rock on midwesterners! Whoo-hoo! So yeah, California, even with it’s high prices and even higher taxes is to me, very very good. The mountains, sunshine, beaches, forests, lakes, sunshine, sunshine and sunshine outweigh the cost in my book. California good.

From Morro Bay we went on to Santa Barbara (State street: bad. Rural Santa Barbara and the wineries and the ocean: good.) From Santa Barbara we went on to L.A.

The Bad
Here’s the thing: we liked L.A. when we lived there. We liked it a lot in fact. Previously, we had lived in indiana, Virginia and Tennessee and between the two of us, we also have spent time living in Washington, New York, Michigan and Minnesota. When we lived in L.A., we always said that out of all the places we’d lived, we liked L.A. the best. We meant it. Having now lived in northern CA for three years, we experience the predictable culture shock whenever we come back. Perhaps L.A. isn’t “bad,” per se, (though parts of it are…um, why exactly were we so ok with living in the valley?!?!?) but seriously, why is everyone so sad and angry here? When did the L.A. politeness level become something akin to that in NYC? I discovered the key to a happier L.A. consumer/retail experience last night though: just go to a really extra nice restaurant with your girlfriends and whenever the server comes near, order yet another item off the menu. Just keep ordering. For hours. Then leave a really big tip. Everyone gets really nice when you do this. Then go home for another year because it will take you that long to financially recoup. (Somebody get an oxygen tank for Brian…he just grabbed his wallet and then passed out when he read this. Oh, and look at that, his hair just went ALL gray! He looks so cute like that! Kinda distinguished and everything.)

The 405
What’s worse than “bad?” Are you thinking of those words right now? Yeah, it’s that.

Gymboree Revelations

Skills at which I did not excel during my youth, which I naively assumed would not be called upon again during my adult years:

Glueing crap to paper plates.

Items of my personal attire which I had never considered might serve as a basis for judgment about my ability as a parent:

Socks.

Essential elements, in my daughter’s opinion, without which the entire 60 minute, carefully planned, wonderfully enriching, and not inexpensive directed art experience would be an utter waste:

Goldfish snacks, rubber hand stamp.

Clarifications I felt I needed to make, by casually introducing them into the flow of the conversation, but could not find a natural point at which to do so:

“I am a fully-employed college professor, not a homeless man who has wandered in here with Gretchen’s daughter.”

Correlations I had previously assumed to be true, which I now have direct observational evidence in support of:

obnoxious parent / entitled child.

Things which we insist our daughter do, even in circumstances that are unfair to her, wherein she clearly had it first, and it was grabbed out of her hand, which other parents seem to neither notice nor value:

Sharing the noodle cups.

Tips shared between parents in attendance that are likely unique to the Burbank location:

Best place to get toddler headshots.

Informed Moviegoing

It’s been months since I submitted anything regarding Films or moviegoing for general consumption and discussion here at Addy, but Hollywood and Christendom are again locked in an epic battle of ideas and I cannot resist.

But before I go there, I think I need to talk about Informed Moviegoing.

See… I know a lot about going to the movies. I’ve never written a screenplay, never acted on camera, never sat in an editing bay, never composed a score. I am not in “The Biz.” I am, however, a regularly overzealous hobbyist when it comes to actually going to movies, pondering them, discussing them, and coming to something like an opinion about them both before and after actually seeing them.

Last night, Erica and I caught a late show of American Gangster. I knew I wanted to see it. Aside from Denzel, I am a big fat Russell Crowe fanboy. Aside from the often visually beautiful direction of Ridley Scott, is the fact that the screenplay was written by the great Steven Zaillian, whose work ranges from engrossingly entertaining, (Gangs of New York and The Interpreter) to downright brilliant. (Schlinder’s List, Awakenings, and, made a film in 1993 that may the greatest film you’ve never seen: Searching For Bobby Fischer)

A few weeks ago we caught Michael Clayton, which is a terrific film. The primary reason I wanted to see it was because it was written and directed by Tony Gilroy, whose screenplays for all three Bourne movies have been master clinics on how to write suspense in the 21st century.

All that to say… typically I know more about upcoming movies than the average joe. I grew up reading the Los Angeles Times Calendar section. Every morning. I read, and re-read Roger Ebert’s books. In High School, my Former Young Republican father took me to a weekly UCLA extension course where a film would be screened, usually ahead of it’s release, and then a moderated discussion with one of the filmmakers would follow. It was on one of these evenings, when I was 15 years old, that I challenged screenwriter Callie Khouri as to what would motivate Thelma to engage in a one night stand with Brad Pitt’s drifter boy toy, a scant 24 hours after her attempted rape and the subsequent murder of her would-be rapist. Aaaah the innocence of youth.

It was walking out of American Gangster that we saw a poster for the upcoming film The Golden Compass. “That looks… interesting.” Erica says. She’s leery of the fantasy genre, as a rule. “I got some email about that movie… what’s the deal?”

The deal, my friends, hearkening back to the first paragraph, is that The Golden Compass is slated to be the center of another controversy between Hollywood and Christian folks, just in time for the holidays!

I have never read the books, so I am but a simple messenger relaying information here. The Golden Compass is the first in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman is a former Oxford professor and children’s author and is also, brace yourselves: a noted atheist.

His Dark Materials has been described in the media as the anti-Narnia. It’s a children’s story filled with adventure, mystery, magic, moral dilemmas, good and evil and allegory and all the trimmings, but the allegory points to a world where the church is evil, God imprisons ghosts, and Polar Bears sound like Ian McKellan.

So the culture war is on! The Catholic League is protesting. Focus on the Family is going to put the evangelicals on alert. Even Snopes, the Urban Myth Debunking website, confirms that the story is anti-Christian, and to top it all off, your Aunt from Kentucky will send you an email about it that she got from this other lady at her church.

Hey everybody! Remember The DaVinci Code? Anybody? Came out like… oh 18 months ago? No? Well, You mean to say you vaguely remember it… you mean, yeah, you caught it that one time on the airplane or on TBS or something. Remember how it was like, the greatest threat to Christendom, like, ummm, ever?

You don’t? Know why?

Because it sucked. It was so boring and awful that a scant year and a half later, the only person who gives two shits about it is Tom Hanks’ CPA, and he only cares because he’s paid to.

May I again make a case for not getting our panties in a collective twist over this?

Get all informed about going to movies, I’m all about that. Make a choice based on what you read, and how it strikes you. Go on IMDB and check out the director, the writer, the source material. Have you enjoyed their work in the past? Do you want to spend another 2 hours with them?

Don’t be a lamb. Don’t go see it because it has cool looking effects. Don’t not go see it because your pastor told you not to. Please don’t believe that if you support or boycott this movie that it has a damn thing to do with God’s Kingdom or Jesus getting glorified or not. It’s. A. Movie.

Most movies that you see are created by people who believe that the Christian world view and belief systems are arcane and oppressive. Learn from them, or tune them out. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that by skipping this one, that you’ve somehow remained ideologically unstained.

Go see the movie and deconstruct it with your atheist friends. Do I even have an atheist friend? Do they care about this movie one bit? Do they care what I think of this movie? Are they watching me to see what I think or say about it? Am I being evangelized by this movie? How does that feel?

Avoid the movie all together and go hear some good live music. Or drink wine with friends at the Getty. Or grab your kids and start The Hobbit and thank God for Christ-follower JRR Tolkien and his ability to weave allegory with such a deft hand that it speaks into the minds of people of all creeds.

Just don’t get your panties in a twist. Please.

Phreaky Phriday: Phirst Grade Worldview

Zane, our first-grade son to me: “Mom, we sure do love Natey!” (our three-year-old)
Me: “Yes sweetie, we do!”
Zane: “Yeah, but if we didn’t, we could let him go.”
Me: “Uh…you mean like a wild animal?!”
Zane: “YEAH!….But we won’t, ‘cuz we love him.”