Posts

Showing posts from February, 2010

A new Miracle on Ice?

Thirty years ago in Lake Placid, the United States Men's hockey team came out of nowhere to win the Olympic gold before home fans at Lake Placid. Today, it almost happened again. No matter who you were rooting for, you'd have to agree today's gold medal match was an instant classic.
Coming into these winter games, Canada made the bold statement they planned to "own the podium." In other words, they were gunning for the overall medal lead on home soil. But, if they couldn't do that, they at least needed to win the Men's Hockey gold, their national sport. Last Sunday, it didn't look like either would happen.
After a week of watching the Americans dominate, often at the expense of the Canadian competitors, Team Canada and Team USA faced off in a preliminary battle on the ice. Team USA won, 5-3, and a nation was in shock. According to reports, downtown Vancouver, which had been jubilant for more than a week, was like a ghost town. It seemed disaster was wha…

Who is God?

"My mind tells me I will never understand God...[my heart] tells me I wasn't meant to. Faith is a gift I have not yet received." — Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), "Angels & Demons"
That is one of my favorite quotes from recent film because it is a great example of a seeker. Dan Brown's books, and the film's based upon them, are by no means Christian works. But the openness to faith displayed at times in "Angels & Demons" was fascinating. When I first saw the scene where the quote above was given I was moved.
Langdon is not a believer, but he seems to understand what it means to have faith. As it says in Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Langdon refers to faith as a gift, one which he has not yet received. I might put it that it's a gift he's not yet ready to receive the gift of faith.
I couldn't help but think of that quote Wednesday night as the Click group ta…

Now Playing

Here's a look at this week's new reviews. Next week I'll be making my annual Academy Award predictions in anticipation of the big show, set for Sunday, March 7. It's the Super Bowl of entertainment and Must See TV for film nuts like myself.
An Education Starring: Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina and Olivia Williams. Quick Take: This is one of the 10 Best Picture nominees. A British import, the film is set in the 1960s and is the story of a young girl (Mulligan) coming of age and caught up in an affair with an older man (Sarsgaard). The film is crisply shot and well-acted. It's a nice example of the seductive power of sin and the importance of making good choices and following your conscience. The story probably has too happy an ending for some, and isn't as good as some of the best films in the Best Picture race, but it's solid. In addition to Best Picture, the film earned a nomination for Mulligan in the Best Actress race and for Best Adapted Sc…

Sportsmanship

Those watching the Olympics have seen a lot of variety in the sportsmanship displayed. Winners have experienced the "thrill of victory" and others have experienced the "agony of defeat." Then there have been responses you wouldn't have expected.
By now most have heard about the American snowboarder who had to leave the games early after a few compromising photos popped up. Then there was the controversy surrounding American skater Evan Lysacek. Lysacek had the skate of his life last Thursday, capturing a gold medal in the Men's Figure Skating competition. It was a moving, strong and graceful performance.
I'm not a figure skating expert — or even really a fan — but I watched Lysacek and the other contenders skate Thursday and was pretty confident his skate was the best. So were the judges. Russian skater Evgeni Plushenko felt differently. Plushenko, the reigning gold medalist, took silver Thursday but felt his signature move — something only he performs — …

Catching team spirit

"Do you believe in miracles?!" That phrase was all sportscaster Al Michaels could shout 30 years ago when the United States ice hockey team upset Russia during the winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Somehow it seems fitting that, during a weekend where Michaels and some of the members of that gold-medal-winning team reflected on the experience, the United States ice hockey team pulled another upset, this time upending Canada 5-3 in an early round game Sunday.
Of course the win over Canada, though unexpected, wasn't as shocking as the win 30 years ago. It also isn't the big win, in fact it didn't even eliminate Canada from gold-medal contention. But it did deflate a nation. The Canadian team — filled with National Hockey League All-Stars like captain Sydney Crosby — is a heavy favorite to win the gold. The U.S. team, on the other hand, is known for its youth and inexperience.
But the U.S. group played as a team and earned the victory. That's the way it goes in spor…

Avoiding isolation

"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." — Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), "The Usual Suspects."
Yesterday, sitting through the message, that quote came to mind as Graham talked about loneliness, isolation and how that prevents us from getting the gold. The line, uttered by Kevin Spacey as part of his Academy-Award-winning performance, was a classic part of "The Usual Suspects." Verbal Kint weaves a tale about a group of criminals that were undone by a powerful villain. There is even some speculation one of the men was the villain. In reality, they were undone because their own fear, paranoia and self-reliance made them vulnerable.
That's what isolation does. Sometimes we have to endure times of isolation and loneliness before we can truly appreciate the warmth and fellowship community can bring.
A show I like to watch is "Burn Notice" on USA. It's about a spy, Michael Westen, wh…

Reaching out to the lost

One of our jobs as Christians is to spread the gospel. When I was younger I thought it was enough to lay out logical arguments and to really confront people with the truth of the gospel. But recently it's occurred to me there might be a better way.
Knowing the scientific miracles that show the existence of the creator and knowing what happens to those that don't turn toward Jesus are important, but that's not always the most effective way to reach people. It's also not the most important reason why people should have faith.
Some people just can't see the truth, and that's always made me feel profoundly sad. Last spring the film "Watchmen," based on the graphic novel, really struck a chord with me. It depicted a world full of lost, hopeless people that had lost all sense of faith. Really, it was the film's writer that had lost faith. His worldview is best expressed by Dr. Manhattan, a powerful man who came to see no greater purpose in life. At one po…

Recovering from a fall

Unless you've been away from the TV for the last two days, you've probably heard Tiger Woods' press conference. It is his first big public statement and apology since the scandal involving his personal conduct broke in late November. Reaction has been mixed regarding Woods' statement, tone of delivery and sincerity.
I for one don't think it's possible to judge someone else's heart. It was important to him to read his statement and to do it his way, but I don't necessarily think he owed the public an explanation. Still, I couldn't help but be fascinated when Woods addressed his need to rediscover a balance between work and faith. Of course, the faith he was referring to was Buddhism.
Woods said, "Buddhism teaches that a creation of things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught." Of course, as Chri…

Finding purpose

I couldn't help but be moved by Lindsey Vonn's interview following her Gold-medal winning run Wednesday night. Just a week earlier, Vonn wasn't sure she'd even be able to compete due to a painful shin injury. But Wednesday, on a course full of crashes, skiing on one leg part of the time, Vonn posted the best time and claimed gold.
When the Olympic correspondent caught up with her, Vonn couldn't keep the emotions in. She wept as she talked about how much the gold meant to her, saying she'd "given up everything" to put her focus on being the best skier in the world. Achieving that dream unleashed the emotional floodgate.
That is a common response when we feel like we've found our place in this world. Earlier on Wednesday, the idea of purpose in our Christian life was the topic of discussion at the Click meeting. As I listened to the students and leaders discussing the idea of purpose, and why they thought faith was important I thought about the role o…

Now Playing

As most probably know, for the past few years I've served as the film reviewer for the local newspaper, The Paso Robles Press. Though I'm no longer at the paper full-time, I still contribute, including weekly film reviews. Each week I'll offer readers here a sneak peak at my reviews of films in theaters. This week's entry, the first such "Now Playing" feature, will be a little longer as I make note off all the films playing locally that I've seen or reviewed.
"Avatar" Starring: Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi and Zoe Saldana Quick Take: This film, directed by James Cameron, is the highest grossing film of all time. It's also earned multiple Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture. While the special effects and technological advancements pioneered in the film are impressive, the story — a modern day take on Pocahontas — is weak. There are also some new age undertones that didn't sit well with me. Rating: P…

The countdown begins

Tonight I experienced my first Ash Wednesday service. Before tonight, the only things I really knew about Ash Wednesday were that it was typically a Catholic tradition, it followed Fat Tuesday, and it was the title of a sub-par movie starring Edward Burns. Not a ringing endorsement.
But tonight was different. Ash Wednesday is really about an outward expression of the inward power of Christ in our lives. It's a way to honor his sacrifice and to really begin to think about that and put our focus on where it should be during the Easter season — Jesus' death and resurrection.
I don't know what the greatest gift you've ever received is. For some it might be a car, for some it might be something larger or smaller. But no matter how great that gift was, it pales in comparison to Christ's love for us.
In Romans 5:8, the Apostle Paul says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." That's what I was thinki…

The art of self control

In this Internet age, it seems people are able to share their feelings, opinions and stories more easily than ever. I, too, have to admit that I've gotten a little caught up in the Facebook revolution. It's fun, sometimes, to offer quick one-liners about issues or events that strike you during the week.
But how do you know if that's the right thing to do? One of my favorite quotes from the movie Jurassic Park is when Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) says, "You were so busy wondering whether or not you could, you never stopped to think if you should." Of course, as anyone who's seen the film can attest, he was talking about an issue much bigger than over sharing in a public forum. But the lesson still applies.
I had the chance to see comedian Craig Ferguson when he stopped in San Luis Obispo this weekend. During his show he talked about being blasted by people online. As a humorous part of his act, he said when thinking about responding he always asks three quest…

The power of forgetting

One of the big themes of the message this week was the fact that forgetting is an important part of faith. I was mulling on that as I took a break Sunday afternoon and headed to my home away from home — the movie theater. Funny enough, I was given an even greater chance to mull that thought over thanks to the content of the film.
I went to see "Wolfman," not a particularly theological film — or even a good one for that matter. But in one scene Sir John (Anthony Hopkins) tells his son Lawrence (Benicio Del Toro) not to focus on the past, to let it go. He says, "The past is a carnival of horrors." I couldn't help but think the Apostle Paul would be able to identify with that.
Before he became the great evangelist that wrote a large portion of the New Testament, Paul, who went by the name Saul, was famous for his cruelty to Christians. He underwent a great change in his life and dedicated himself to preaching the gospel. That is the power of Jesus Christ.
One of my f…

Putting in the work

I wasn't that excited about the winter olympics. I generally enjoy the summer games more but, it took less than 24-hours (two of which were spent watching ski jumping on Saturday afternoon) for me to catch Olympic fever again.
There is something remarkable about watching the athletes compete. Most spend countless hours each day perfecting their craft and improving their skills to prepare for their seminal Olympic opportunity, which is usually over in a matter of minutes. All the time they spend training and preparing is time they have to sacrifice other opportunities. The opportunity cost of being an Olympic athlete is huge; their moment to shine comes only every four years and so few achieve Olympic glory.
When I was at the gym the other day a gentleman was talking to me about his routine. He said he forced himself to go to the gym seven days a week because, at age 32, he began to worry that his eating habits and lack of exercise were going to kill him. He talked about all the time…

Welcome

I think it's fair to say that I love writing. It's not just a hobby, it's a passion. At any given time I have multiple projects in the works. That's part of why I pursued a career in print journalism out of college. I love being able to express ideas, share stories and explore the mysteries of life and faith through writing. I hope that's what this blog will be, and I'm honored to be able to share with this Highlands community that has meant so much to me.
This will be a place where I will share thoughts, stories and reflections, and I hope these provide food for thought. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me, as well. I will post at least once a week and am always open for questions and reflections. E-mail me anytime at matt@highlandsadventure.org!