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Showing posts from June, 2010

So it Begins

For more than a year, the entire focus of the NBA has been on the summer of 2010. More specifically, the focus has been on where LeBron James will hang his hat.
Since he was in high school, James has been a mega force in the world of professional basketball. When he was drafted straight after high school, James was viewed as the savior for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Of course, seven years later, James has brought the Cavs a certain level of success but a title has eluded them. Now he's at a crossroads.
James is the marquee free agent this summer. And in a year packed with high-profile players looking to bounce around the league like chess pieces for hire, the balance of the entire professional league could shift. And few in the media have forgotten that.
There was an added degree of tension to these NBA playoffs and when, predictably, James' team fell short of the NBA title, the speculation about his future leapt into overdrive. Many saw the Boston Celtics game six win over the Cav…

Faith in Film — Joshua

Great discussion last night as we looked at an interesting Christian film in "Joshua." Here is a summary of my notes and thoughts on this film.

Joshua (2002)
This is a film that leaves me torn because of the way it presents the Gospel. The film, based on a novel by retired Catholic priest Joseph F. Girzone, is centered on a mysterious stranger named Joshua (Tony Goldwyn) who comes to the sleepy little town of Auburn. The way he carries himself begins to have a positive effect on people, and soon it becomes clear Joshua is no ordinary man. By the end of the film he has delivered the heart of the Gospel message in a beautiful way and revealed to all that he is, in fact, Jesus returned in human form to present the Gospel to us again.
I understand intellectually why Girzone told the story this way. It is very clear that the church, and by that I mean the church worldwide, has trouble conveying the heart of the Gospel message in a way that moves and convicts people. Certain denomina…

Faith in Film, Week 4

Here is a look at tonight's worksheet as we look at the film "Joshua."
Title: “Joshua” (2002).
Starring: Tony Goldwyn, F. Murray Abraham, and Kurt Fuller
Synopsis: This is the only “Christian” film on the list. Released in 2002, the film is based on a novel written by Joseph F. Gizzone, a Catholic Priest. The film centers on a mysterious stranger, Joshua (Goldwyn), who comes to the small town of Auburn and begins changing lives through his positive example. This serves as inspiration for junior priest Father Pat (Fuller), and as an omen of bad tidings for the more cynical senior priest, Father Tardone (Abraham).
Joshua begins rallying the town folk to become a community, inspiring many to join him in rebuilding a church destroyed in a winter storm. He also starts performing miracles, and many in the town begin to suspect he is more than a man, including Father Pat. Father Tardone, however, believes Joshua is establishing himself as a false prophet and gathers other local cle…

Friends in the 21st Century

The theme of today's message was friendship. One of the big ideas in the message and something I have been thinking about this week getting ready for this topic is the idea of how we develop and maintain relationships in the 21st Century.
Today's world is driven by technology. It's never been easier to communicate, faster to communicate, and communication has never been less personal. You can't develop a real relationship through Twitter or via text message. People don't even use whole words when texting these days, let alone complete sentences.
Sure, it makes communication faster and easier. Sometimes that's great. When you need to send a quick, simple message fast, texting is a great tool. But too often, it feels like people are trying to build whole relationships through these mediums.
In the old days, people relied of face to face meetings, letters, and telephone calls. Each requires a certain amount of depth and genuine human contact — though you could debate…

Flag Football

For the first time this year I had a chance to attend all of the Highlands Flag Football camp. In previous years, work commitments prevented me from being a part of the camp. But having heard so much about it, I was looking forward to seeing this year's camp.
I wasn't disappointed. Burnt to a crisp, but not disappointed.
For three days, tons of kids and tons of volunteers gathered on the fields at Sherwood Park. There was plenty of drills and times to learn football skills, but just as important were the life lessons learned during the three days. One of the things I like best about sports is its power to teach you the skills you need to relate to others in our daily lives. This year's flag football camp offered the same.
Each day campers and coaches emphasized another aspect of sportsmanship — moving from kindness, to teamwork, to leadership. Those skills help you succeed on the field, but they're also critical for succeeding on the field of life. One of the reasons I fe…

Knight and Day difference

I thought today I would look at the differences between a successful movie and one that missed the mark. This month we've had two action-comedy releases that dealt with a secret agent's romance with a "normal" girl and how his double life caused mayhem for the both of them. One was the flatline Katherine Heigl-Ashton Kutcher trainwreck "Killers," the other the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz film "Knight and Day."
Both films have similar plots and aimed to accomplish similar things through the film, but only one really works. And there is a simple reason for that — story, character, and execution.
First to story: There were huge plot holes in "Killers" and, because other elements didn't work, it really showed. It was easy to figure out where the story was going, but impossible to figure out why. It was also tough to care about where it was going or why it was going there.
"Knight and Day" also boasts a somewhat predictable story. Howe…

Now Playing

Just when it looked like the summer movies were about to fade into oblivion, a pair of unlikely releases debuted to offer a glimmer of hope. Here's a look at new releases.
Jonah Hex Starring: Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, and John Malkovich Quick Take: This isn't one of the releases that offers a ray of hope. Based on a graphic novel of the same name, this is a film that presents an interesting combination of genres. Set in post Civil War times, the film feels like a hybrid of a western and a comic book film. Brolin stars as Jonah Hex, a confederate officer whose bout of conscience leads him to turn his unit into the Union Army when his commanding officer, General Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich) starts targeting civilians. Turnbull's son was killed in the process, and he blamed Hex, exacting revenge by killing Hex's wife and son and leaving him for Dead. Hex survives but brings a little bit of Hell back with him. His only real companion is a prostitute named Lilah (Fox) whose got …

Finding the purpose in our stories

Sometimes I have to see a movie more than once before I get some of the messages in the story. "Alice in Wonderland" is an example of that. I don't know whether it was the fact that, having seen it once, I was focused on the narrative more the second time or whether it was just because the idea of purpose was on my mind, but I was drawn to the scene where Alice finally realizes who she is, what her purpose is, and what she should be doing. It's inspiring to see someone find their purpose because that is what we all strive for.
Alice spent many years repressing that little voice inside that called for her to step out and do great things. She tried to live her life to please her mother and others, and that led to her giving into the fear that turns conflict into failure.
Donald Miller wrote a book about story. He said that story is "A Character Who Wants Something and Has to Overcome Conflict to Get It." We're all living a story, we all have wants, and we a…

Faith in Film — Jurassic Park

I want to thank everyone for their participation and attendance last night. I continue to be encouraged by the process of sharing ideas, and I really hope that you come to view this class as a collaborative experience by which we can all continue to grow in our faith. And now, a summation of my speaking notes.
Jurassic Park (1993)
I can still remember the first time I saw "Jurassic Park." I was in middle school and I was immediately drawn to the larger-than-life aspects of the story. I quickly snapped up the book and read it, beginning a long love affair with the popular fiction of Michael Crichton. What I love about Crichton, now more as an adult, is that his books touched on issues at the forefront of scientific and technological discovery. He was fascinated with that and wanted readers to think about it, but he took a more cautious view point. That is certainly the case with "Jurassic Park."
The beauty of the argument is that Crichton wanted to touch on the inheren…

Faith in Film, Week 3

Here is a look at the worksheet for tonight's class, which focuses on Jurassic Park! Enjoy!
Title: Jurassic Park (1993).
Starring: Sam Neil, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Ariana Richards, and Joseph Mazello
Synopsis: Director Steven Spielberg delivered a visually stunning classic with “Jurassic Park.” Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, the film centers on a group of scientists brought to a remote island off the coast of Costa Rica to offer expert opinion on a new theme park. That theme park — dubbed Jurassic Park by its eccentric creator John Hammond (Attenborough) — features something unique, dinosaurs.
The three scientists — Dr. Grant (Neil), Dr. Sattler (Dern), and Dr. Malcolm (Goldblum) — are skeptical. Soon they head out on a tour of the park with Hammond’s grandchildren, Tim (Mazello) and Lexie (Richards), and things go predictably array. What at first seemed to be a story of discovery soon turns into a harrowing tale of survival.
Questions for Considerati…

Fear of the Lord

Today we began a series looking at Proverbs. Proverbs is a meaty book, but it doles out words of wisdom in short, concise bites, which gives you a lot to think about in just a few short phrases.
When we were looking at this week's passage during the staff meeting on Tuesday, I was wrestling with the idea of the "fear of the Lord" and what that meant in the context which Solomon offered it. I think it is true we need to have a respect and reverence for God because his is so big and is so great.
Often, people will toss in small joke type things as prayers. It's not meant to be offensive and, it is true that the Bible said we can bring all our requests to God, no matter how small. But I still think that's an area where we can have respect. One of the ideas I think about there is when people pray for silly things, like that their team would win an important game.
I love sports, and I passionately throw myself into cheering on my favorite teams. But I would never pray to…

God in Everything

I had a chance to see the new "Karate Kid" movie last weekend. It was an interesting modern update of the franchise, and I thought it was a pretty decent film. There was one idea that I found particularly interesting.
In the middle of his training, young Dre (Jaden Smith) complains about the exercises his teacher is having him do. He doesn't understand how any of it will help him gain the skills he needs to be a great kung fu warrior. Finally his teacher, Mr. Hahn (Jackie Chan), stops him and says, kung fu is in everything. It's in every movement and in all our interactions with others and the world around us.
I found that fascinating because I think it applies to what our perspective of God should be, or rather how we should reflect Jesus light through our actions. In a way, Mr. Hahn was trying to get Dre to treat the world and other people with the respect they deserve, looking at it through the context of kung fu. Obviously we look at the world and our interactions …

Now Playing

Here's a look at the movies that opened Friday. It was a 1980s throwback week....

The A Team Starring: Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel, Sharlto Copley, and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson Quick Take: "The A-Team" is a remake of the 1980s TV show, and it's not bad for a summer action film. However, it takes the story in a different direction. "The A-Team" of the 1980s was more of an action-comedy. It wasn't, in my opinion, to be taken that seriously. The film, while throwing in one-liners and winks and nods to the camera, seems like a more serious take on the material. The story if fairly similar — a special ops team that is falsely accused and convicted of crimes they didn't commit and sent to prison. The group breaks out and works to clear their names, and when they can't they offer their services as mercenaries for hire, except with a conscience. There are some decent action sequences and the actors all fill the role…

Loving Others

With Graham in Tennessee this week, I had the honor of leading the Bible Study today and WnW study tonight. The Book of Romans is dense theological material that really drives at the heart of what's important in our Christian walk. Which doesn't always make it easy to look at.
This is the third time I've gotten to share during the noon Bible Study and the third time I've gotten a chapter in Romans. The first chapter I looked at was all about circumcision, the second chapter was about sin and the depravity of man and the chapter I got today was about submitting to government leaders and why, as Christians, we should pay our taxes. Obviously I only get the best stuff...
But as I reflected on the passage I was really convicted about some of the ideas. Romans 13 is one of the shorter chapters, it's only 14 verses, and it's neatly broken into two sections. The first section focuses on our duty to submit to and respect authorities. The second section deals with our com…

Faith in Film — Superman Returns

I want to thank everyone who attended last night. I thought it was a really great discussion and I appreciated hearing all your ideas. I hope that everyone got something out of the discussion and was encouraged in their faith. I am a strong believer that, as the Bible says, "Iron sharpens iron," and participating in group discussions like last night helps us all grow and think deeply about our faith.
Here is a summary of some of my speaking notes on "Superman Returns."
The film is not a reboot but actually a sequel. It's meant to be placed after "Superman II" in the cannon of Superman films. The film, directed by Bryan Singer, has some great cinematic value, but it takes an interesting position on what Superman stands for. In the documentary "Look Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman," Singer says he believes Superman is a Judeo-Christian allegory. I believe that's key to our understanding of what he does in the film.
Also key to un…

Faith in Film, Week 2

Here's the text of tonight's worksheet. Hope to see you all there.
Title: “Superman Returns” (2006)
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth
Synopsis: Though this film came years after the “Superman” films featuring Christopher Reeve, this is not a re-birth of the franchise. In fact, director Bryan Singer worked hard to make “Superman Returns” a sequel set square in the middle of that world. The idea is that the film is a follow-up to “Superman II” that ignores “Superman III” and “Superman IV” and reboots the franchise. That’s why the storyline picks up somewhat in an established world and has tangible ties to the original “Superman,” crafted by director Richard Donner in 1978. The new film was also made with Donner’s blessing and using archival voice recordings he made of Marlon Brando as Superman’s father, Jor-El. The film picks up approximately five years after the events of “Superman II” with Clark Kent (Routh) returning from an ill-fated trip to Krypton. Back …

Small Groups Experience

I have never been a "small groups" guy. I am kind of introverted and it takes me a while to get comfortable in group situations. Sometimes I'm sure that makes me seem shy or aloof, but it's just part of my personality.
I think that's why the idea of small groups has always been kind of a struggle for me. But I think Israel really touched on some of the benefits of small groups in the message today. Some of those same issues were brought up in a book I'm reading by Donald Miller called "Blue Like Jazz." I guess it comes down to this, we are all united in the body of Christ and iron sharpens iron. When we meet with and work with other believers, we strengthen our walk. It's about sharing in the larger Christian community, acting as a support for others, building others up, and helping each other grow.
It's the same kind of idea that you see at work in a functional team. Really great teams are able to forgo their own needs, at times, to help buil…

Many gifts

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Ephesians 4:16. The verse says, "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
Now, when you first read that verse you might think it is talking about how our bodies work. It's not. It's talking about how the church works. The verse is an allegory that compares the proper working of the Church, which is composed of all believers, with how the body works.
Paul touches on this issue in Romans 12:4-8 too. There he says, "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging…

Graduation Day

Today, yet another generation of graduates wrap up their time at Paso Robles High School. Yesterday similar ceremonies took place in Atascadero and Templeton, and similar events are being held and have been held throughout California and the rest of the country. Now graduates are preparing to head out into the world.
I was thinking about that a bit last Sunday when I had the opportunity to attend the Paso Robles High School Baccalaureate ceremony. I couldn't help but think about my own graduation from high school. It's hard for me to admit, but it was 11 years ago. As I was listening to the student speakers on Sunday night, I thought about all the plans and dreams I had when I graduated from high school.
I figured by this point I'd be a well-known media personality, possibly broadcasting national professional games. At least I hoped. I also thought I might be able to sell a screenplay or a novel. But that's not where I ended up.
I was certain that I would spend my career …

Now Playing

Here's a look at a trio of comedies that hit the Box Office last weekend.

Get Him to the Greek Starring: Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Rose Byrne, and Sean Combs Quick Take: In 2008, comedian Jason Segel starred in the film "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which he wrote. In the film, directed by Nicholas Stoller, there was a supporting character — wild British rocker Aldous Snow (Brand), that proved to be one of the more memorable elements of the film. Two years later, Stoller is back with "Get Him to the Greek," a film he wrote and directed that features the Snow character from his earlier collaboration. Also in the mix is a record label representative played by Hill and his boss, an outlandish, profit-driven executive played by Combs. Combs and Byrne, who plays Snow's on-again, off-again girlfriend, are the strongest performers. Their scenes generate the most amusement. With Snow, a little goes a long way — the same could probably be said for Brand. Hill does his …

Wake Up Call

Lately I have spent a lot of time thinking about the world. I don't know why, exactly, but it's been on my heart and I have been mulling it over a lot as I've been doing my personal reading and reflection. That led me to a startling thought a few weeks ago. That thought was this: America is a beautiful idea that no longer exists.
I know that might sound weird or harsh, but it's an idea I can't let go. The more I've reflected on it, the more I feel convicted that is true. That isn't to say, like some do, that I hate this country. I don't. And, on the whole, I think that America offers more opportunities and freedom than most. And in a world of imperfect systems of government, ours stacks up about as well as any.
But our system is broken, and it certainly isn't like the system imagined by our forefathers. Special interests, the sale of votes, in fighting, pork barrel spending, and the erosion of civil liberties offered by our current leaders are reminis…

Faith in Film — Scrubs Discussion

A big thank you to everyone who attended and contributed last night. I enjoyed diving into this study, and I hope it will be an informative, thought provoking time for those that attend. Each Tuesday I'll post a little summary of key points. Please feel free to post your thoughts, comments and reflections, or you can e-mail me directly at matt@highlandsadventure.org.
Week 1 — Scrubs "My Personal Jesus"
I think a study like the "Faith in Film" series is important in that it offers Christians a chance to interact with the world, reflect on the messages in secular media, and learn how to counter those with the truth found in the Bible. Jesus' commission to us was to go out in the world and reach people with the Gospel of Christ. I believe that recently the church — and by that I mean believers throughout the world who follow Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior — have become too inwardly focused. Theological positions and discussions have their place, but we are …

Faith in Film, Week 1

Here is the information on the worksheet for week one of the Faith in Film course. Check in every Monday for the week's worksheet. The group meets from 6:30 to 7:30 Mondays at Highlands Church (215 Oak Hill Road in Paso Robles).
Title: “Scrubs” Season 1, Episode 11 “My Own Personal Jesus,” Dec. 11, 2001Starring: Zach Braff, Donald Faison, John C. McGinley, Sarah Chalke and Judy ReyesSynopsis: “Scrubs” is a sitcom that began in the fall of 2001 and ran for seven seasons on NBC and two seasons on ABC, wrapping up earlier this year. The show focuses on doctors at the fictitious Sacred Heart Hospital. The central characters are J.D. (Braff), his best friend Turk (Faison), his colleague Elliot (Chalke), his mentor Dr. Cox (McGinley), and Turk’s girlfriend, Carla (Reyes).In this Christmas-themed episode from the first season, Turk tries to share his faith with J.D. and Carla, who don’t really understand it. Meanwhile, J.D. assists Dr. Cox with the birth of a friend’s baby and Elliot has …

Solo Inspiration

Today's message focused on "Flying Solo." But it wasn't just about lifestyle, the focus was on the quiet, solitary moments where God speaks to us. That is something I've found to be true in my own life.
I am not the kind of person that's good with quick, initial reactions, especially to complex topics. I like to think about things, marinate in ideas and come up with opinions. The way I'm best able to work things out is through quiet, personal reflection. Sometimes that comes from quietly reading and studying, sometimes it comes through solo activities.
One of my favorite ways to think and work things out is while swimming laps at the gym. It doesn't require a lot of brain power to go back and forth in the pool — or at least it shouldn't. But when I'm there, with the water washing over me looking at the hillside, the sky or, sometimes, even Highlands Church, it's a great time for reflection. I've had some of my best ideas for stories, blo…

Twister Season

I like a wide variety of films, and there are certain films that I come back to time and again. "Twister" is one of those films. I still remember when I saw it in theaters. We didn't go to the theater as much as I do now, so when I went it was memorable, as was the film itself.
You see, sometimes it's fun to escape into the world of disaster movies. Most people are familiar with the formula. You take some characters, throw them into a harrowing situation and kick back to see how they survive it. The best films in the genre, however, take it to another level by creating memorable characters and injecting a little humor. That's what I like about "Twister." Sure, the special effects are fun and the action sequences are cool, but it's the story and the characters that help make it memorable. For that, we can thank Michael Crichton.
My mom is also a fan of disaster movies, and of the weather channel, making "Twister" the perfect Saturday afternoo…

An Imperfect Moment

I love sports. I always have, and I probably get a little too over invested. But there are times where it's hard to justify that love.
I'm not talking about moments on the field. In some ways, we're living in a magically competitive era. I'm talking about the athletes. I've long since abandoned the notion they were perfect or even good role models in most cases, but it's still hard to see the lives of excess and the contempt for social decorum athletes seem to exude these days. But every once in a while someone comes along that restores my faith in those that make a career of their play.
On Wednesday night, Armando Galarraga had a historic night — well almost. It wasn't historic in the record book sense, but I think it was a historic display of class. In the ninth inning, one out away from a perfect game, Galarraga fell victim to human error as umpire Jim Joyce, a veteran with a good reputation, blew a routine call and ended Galarraga's bid for a perfect …

Now Playing

Here's a look at this week's new releases, one a pleasant surprise and the other another summer dog...

Prince of Persia Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina, and Ben Kingsley Quick Take: Bet you thought this would be the dog — surprise, this one's actually pretty good. Based on a video game, the film is a mix of quirky comedy, decent character development, and just enough action to make for a strong summer popcorn movie. Gyllenhaal does a nice job in the lead role and the supporting cast works well. Mega producer Jerry Bruckheimer has a knack with these kind of films. After all, he's the man that built a major film franchise around the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland. Director Mike Newell ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") does a good job pacing the film and it's a fairly enjoyable ride. In a summer that has so far been underwhelming, this film delivers on its promise. Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of act…

All Hail the Purple and Gold

Despite the fact I was born and raised in California, there is only one team in the state that I actually like — The Los Angeles Lakers. I have a love-hate relationship with basketball. It's never been my favorite sport, and there have been times where I've gotten tired of watching, but no matter what the Lakers always pull me back in.
I was still a young kid when Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers reigned supreme. I was in elementary, middle, and the first years of high school when Michael Jordan was in the midst of his six titles. So my memories of those eras, of those teams, and of those players is colored by youth.
But it was around the end of the Jordan era that I really started to follow the Lakers seriously. Some of my favorite players from those teams were Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, and Vlade Divac. Of course we suffered through the Glen Rice "experiment" and a variety of other moves that were supposed to make the Lakers competitive.
Really, the competitive …

Getting from Good to Great

There are several characteristics that define a "good" show. A good show develops a connection with the audience, pulls them in, and keeps them coming back for more week after week. A good show keeps the audience hooked for that hour and offers them fulfillment, entertainment, and connection during that hour each week.
But a great show is one that reaches beyond that once-a-week connection. A great show keeps you thinking about it throughout the week, gets you talking about it with others during the course of the week, gets you singing its praises to others to inspire them to join the fray, and even inspires tributes, writings, and other interaction during the six days it isn't on.
Church should be the same way. Some churches are good churches. They keep people coming back for an hour or so each week, and during that time they fulfill, entertain and inspire. Highlands, since it began, has been a good church. It's been a destination spot that has kept people coming back…