Silence

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Just before Christmas I purchased two copies of Shusaku Endo’s book Silence.  One for me and one for my sister, as a part of her Christmas gifts.  I wanted to read mine right away, but I had a stack of other books in the way, as well as finishing up the Fall semester of grad school.  So, after a few papers, a couple books, and the turn of the year, I was able to begin.  I had heard all the buzz for over a year now about Martin Scorsese adapting the book for the screen and how passionate he was about this project.  I’ll admit, I think Martin Scorsese is an amazing film maker.  (He actually wanted to become a priest while in high school) Yes, no doubt, many of his works are hard to stomach, and filled with violence and vile language.  This I do not condone.  But his talent for captivating an audience, weaving a story, and beautifully directing is unmatched.

But like I said, I bought the book.  Once I finally could, when my evenings were free of extra work, my family was off to bed, and there was nothing else that had to get done first, I started reading.  My typical reading time is from 10pm until 1am.  And it didn’t take long before I was glued to the pages.  And before I even realized it, I was finished.  With the book complete, now I could go see the movie.

I don’t want to get to wrapped up in singing Scorsese’s praises, explaining the plot of the book, or posting a review of the movie.  As a minister, I am very careful about recommending books or movies.  I don’t want to put precedent on certain things for others, just because I personally enjoy them.  But I will say a few things.

Silence is a book about persecution.  Although it is historical fiction, the book speaks of a era in 1600’s Japan when Christians were killed for their faith.  The book explains the travels of a Jesuit priest’s mission to Japan to assist the local churches, as well as seek the status of another Jesuit priest who preceded them.  During his time in Japan the priest encounters the Church forced to hide their faith and forced to worship underground.  Samurai and government officials roam from village to village seeking out Christians to apostatize publically or be killed.

Obviously the content is difficult.  The themes are uneasy.  Silence.  God’s silence during pain and suffering.  God’s silence during the persecution of His people.  In the book God is portrayed as the one who remains silent.  But God’s silence is the author’s connection to God’s message.  It is the silence of accompaniment for the hurting, the forsaken, and the suffering.  God choosing not to taken away the pain, but suffer it with them.

The book and the movie are both extremely well made.  I can honestly say that I have never seen a movie follow so closely to the original book.  But as always, I recommend reading the book first.  So, if you’re going to read it, or if you’re going to go see it, do so with the right frame of mind.  This is not your typical “Christian movie”.  In a world where we flock to go see “God’s Not Dead 2” in the movie theater and think we’re watching persecution, let’s gain the proper perspective.

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My Unexpected “Tour”

Yesterday was MLK Day.  Yesterday was also my youngest son’s first birthday.  Since I have a pretty full work week ahead, I decided to take yesterday as my off day.  When I am away from work, I try my best to give my family my full attention and stay away from work related email and such.  I also try to do something other than sit at home all day.  So we decided to go out to eat for lunch, then hit the used book store afterward.

We loaded up the van, and headed to Chuy’s for some Tex-Mex.  When we arrived the place was moderately busy, which was a surprise to me, as I thought it would be packed.  We were seated immediately, I waited no longer than two minutes for our chips and salsa.  Our waiter seemed like he was in a hurry, so we just ordered our drinks as asked for some time to look over the menu.  I mentioned to my wife, that the salsa was good, but I was craving their creamy jalapeno dip.  When our server came back with our drinks, I mentioned that it had been awhile since we had been there, and were interested in ordering some dip apart from our salsa.  “I’d really like to order the…”  And he flew off toward the back of the restaurant saying something along the lines of taking our family on a “dip tour”.

Our server returned a couple minutes later loaded arm to arm with saucers.  He had 10 different types of dip in his hand.  Fumbling through each one, he began flinging them onto the table, announcing the name of each sauce as it whirled to a stop.  Queso!  Ranchero!  Tomatillo!  Deluxe Tomatillo!  Tex-Mex!  Boom-boom!  Green Chile!  Hatch Green Chile!  Then the enthusiasm began to diminish.  He seemed to forget the remaining sauces.  “Uh, I believe this is the, no, it looks like the, uh…”  Followed by a series of guesses and confusing sauce names.  There was no way we would remember any of this.

After our server walked away, we tried our best to remember what was what.  Regardless, we were still without the creamy jalapeno.  The other sauces were great in their own right, don’t get me wrong, but they weren’t fulfilling my craving for that creamy cool jalapeno goodness.

As I sat there in my world of dips and sauces, I thought about the overload of choices and distractions all throughout our culture.  Variety is the “spice of life”, but sometimes it’s too much.  Especially when what you’re truly seeking after is lost in the fog of superabundance.  I believe we live in the age of distraction.  We constantly feed ourselves with something, whatever it may be.  Limitless choices and availability.  If I don’t like what I’m watching on TV, I can change it to virtually anything.  I can stream movies for hours.  “Binge watch” entire series at a time.  Occupy my time on YouTube.  Message and text with friends.  Social media.  And I could go on and on.  Have you ever found yourself grab your phone out of your pocket because you were bored, for just one second?  Or just out of habit?  I don’t want to sound like the grumpy old man shaking his finger at technology, but we’re watering down our ability to connect.  Losing our capacity to hold deep sustained focus.  Eliminating patience and contentment.

I see this same issue moving it’s way into the church.  In a few short years, church services will change too.  We already incorporate videos and screens into what we present now, but even that will change.  Sermons and lectures will have to adapt to the upcoming generations in a way we’ve never seen before.  We can no longer think of church as an hour-long presentation.  A time set aside to sit and watch.  That mindset must change.  Think about it.  My Sunday sermon may be well thought out, drive a relevant message, and connect with the audience, but I’m “competing” for attention.  The best sermons in the world are available online, at your fingertips.  You can stream one at any given moment you prefer.  If church is simply listening to some music and a message, then I can do that on my own.  But I don’t want Christ or His church to become a “dip tour”, where countless programs and events and meetings and services cloud the God-given crave for Him within us.

I truly believe God calls us into community.  To be His church.  A family.  Something that cannot be satisfied by false or surface-level relationships.  Something that cannot be maintained by email or messenger.  Something that cannot even be fulfilled in a church service or sermon.  Real relationships.  Face to face.  Hand to hand.  Blood, sweat, and tears.  Yes, we must embrace the distraction.  We must embrace the technology.  We must embrace the culture.  Find ways to work within it.  Find ways to use it effectively.  But the church must also be counter-cultural.  A place where lasting relationships, true fellowship, and Christ Himself can be found.

Well, to our surprise, our server returned to our table holding a full saucer of creamy jalapeno sauce.  We didn’t request it.  He just brought it.  “Hey guys, thought you should try our creamy jalapeno dip too!”  And we did.  And it was great.  Although my wife and I didn’t get much of it, because our middle son devoured it.

Take some time this week, to pay closer attention to what matters.  Listen more.  Turn off the distractions.  Meet up with your friends and family.  Laugh face to face.  Hold a hand.  Kiss a cheek.  Be available.  And most of all spend time with Jesus.  Fascinate yourself with Him.  Awaken to the awe of His presence.0116171242

First Is The Worst

Hey guys!  Or probably: Hey no one!

Today I decided to start a blog.  Why?  No clue.  Hopefully it lasts longer than my YouTube vlog.  But hey, in my defense, I became super busy, and creating interesting video content is tough to do on a regular basis.

What will this blog contain?  Thanks for asking!  Well, whatever comes to mind.  Typically one can expect thoughts on ministry, theology, leadership, books, or whatever else I may decide in the moment.  Nevertheless, exciting!  Maybe.  Don’t hold your breath.

For those who don’t already know me, I am an introvert.  How does that affect my life, my ministry, and this blog?  I guess we’ll just have to see…