Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hunger Pains

Peace and blessings,

As a child, I remember watching "the Lost Boys" and the "Fright Night" movies, which there about vampires. Initially, I put vampires into the same category as I put masked serial killers who can never seem to die (e.g., Michael Meyers and Jason), terrible creatures that come from beneath the ground to eat people (Tremors), and dolls and puppets that can talk (Chucky, Puppet Master). As a child, I viewed each of these "creepy" things as nothing more than the product of movie producers thinking of new ways to scare people, and to create horror movies. However, as the creatures, dolls, and "you can't kill me" serial killers tended to lose popularity over time, or at the minimum had to rely on multiple movies with the same killer (e.g., the Halloween, Jason, and Chuck sequels), vampires seemed to get more popular over time.

Not only that, but the way vampires were depicted continued to change over time. From the Blade and Evolution movies to the most recent Twilight Series and TV show True Blood, there seems to be an increasing interest in humanizing vampires, and showing different sides of them other than giving in to the hunger. For instance, Blade was part vampire, but chose to protect humans from vampires, and had to constantly take a serum that suppressed his hunger, so that he would himself would not turn into the very thing he had dedicated his life towards fighting against. Moreover, the first Twilight movie focused on a family of vampires who, through willpower and discipline, were able to curb their hunger for human blood, and survive on animal blood. Lastly, some of the vampires in True Blood are mistreated by humans from what seems to be a religious organization (I've only watched one episode, so my understanding of the show's premise and some of the details is not fully clear).

When I saw Underworld: Evolution for the first time (I saw it before I saw the first evolution movie), I found myself really interested in the storyline, and the history of the vampires. I started thinking about what it was about vampires that made them so popular? Not only are there movies about vampires, but there's vampire attire, and people even host vampire parties. So it seems like there's a real life vampire culture. I believe that reason why vampires are so popular, is because of what they potentially reveal about the human condition. From my perspective, this human condition refers specifically to the life that is enslaved to sin, and thus controlled by "the hunger."

For one, vampires (as depicted in films) have no real purpose in life, other to feed for survival. Even when they choose to order their lives around another goal or purpose, much of who they are is a function of how they handle their hunger. Vampires hunger for human blood, and therefore the most efficient and satisfying way to get it is by biting into live human flesh. Similarly, the bible clearly demonstrates the consequences of living a life enslaved by sin. One's thoughts, actions, and heart is held captive by a hunger, not for human blood, but for things of the flesh and of the world. Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, we all have "acquired" the hunger for things of the flesh, and for things that while seem good at the time, ultimately lead to our destruction. What matters is how we handle that hunger, whether we give it over to the One who died to save us from our hunger, or we hold onto it and choose to live by it.

In addition to the hunger, or blood lust, vampires have to reside in the dark, because exposure to light will kill them. I find this characteristic of vampires to be the most interesting, as it gives more meaning to the first characteristic. In other words, as long as one is enslaved to sin and thus lives for the hunger, he or she cannot tolerate, let alone embrace the light. To live in darkness is to be ruled and defined by the hunger, so it makes sense that Vampires would avoid the light at all costs, given that light casts out darkness. Throughout the bible followers of Christ are described as being a light, doing the work of Christ so that Christ's heart and mind shines in and through us. I think the vampire mythos does a good job of depicting the relationship between light and darkness, and the extent to which our humanity hangs in the balance.

What do you think? What do you like and/or dislike about the vampire mythos. Why? Stay blessed, take care and speekonit...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Heavy Rotation: Nichole Nordeman and Bebo Norman

"I want to leave a legacy/How will they remember me?/Did I choose to love?/Did I point to you enough to make a mark on things/I want to leave an offering/Child of mercy and grace/Who blessed your name/Unapologetically/And leave that kind of legacy"

- Nichole Nordeman
"Legacy" from "Recollection: The Best of Nichole Nordeman"

"I will lift my eyes/To the Maker/Of the mountains I can't climb/I will lift my eyes/To the Calmer/Of the oceans raging wild/I will lift my eyes/To the Healer/Of the hurt I hold inside/I will lift my eyes/Lift my eyes/To you"

-Bebo Norman
"I will lift my eyes" from "Between the Dreaming and the Coming True"

Peace and blessings,

Since I've taken somewhat of a hiatus from hip-hop and have been listening to contemporary music lately (however, I'll be back on the hip-hop tip real soon because I miss it!), I've been exposed to many different musicians from a variety of backgrounds, including country, alternative, worship, and so forth. What's been interesting is that the more I listen to the music, the more I've noticed that although the music is Christian, each artist's music tend to focus on a unique aspect of the Christian faith. In other words, the more I open myself up to Christian artists, whether contemporary or hip-hop, the more I'm convinced and reminded that God speaks to each of us differently, and as a result, each of us relate to and worship Him differently. One artist may have an album focused primarily on relaying the love of Christ to others, while another artist may have an able focused on embracing redemption after falling from Grace.

The two quotes above are from the choruses of songs that I have in heavy rotation. Furthermore, each of these songs speaks to a particular aspect of my relationship with God that I have been thinking about lately. One aspect pertains to the type of legacy I want to leave behind when I got to be with Christ. I've been blessed with a wife, family, friends, gifts, and opportunities, but what matters is what I do with them. The second aspect pertains to me constantly having to remind myself that God has everything covered. Where my humanity is limit-prone His divinity is limitless.

What about you? What song do you like to listen to that speaks to an aspect of your relationship with God? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

A Few Thoughtz: The Color Spectrum of the Lantern Corps

Peace and blessings,

Although I'm primarily a Marvel person, I'm starting to branch out and read comics from different publishers and independent artists. For a while, I told myself (why I was so stubborn, I'm not quite sure) that I was a Marvel person, not a DC person. However, the pointlessness of that stance has been made obvious to me, as I've realized that I'm not a Marvel person, but a good story person. If there's a comic book story out there that does a great job of portraying the highs and lows of humanity, and our need to strive towards that which is good, then I want to read it.

Recently, I started reading comic books on the Green Lantern. He's someone I've been interested in learning more about for a while, but in preparation for the "Blackest Night" story arc (more on that coming soon), I figured now is the best time to familiarize myself with the Green Lantern. I recenty just got finished reading the "Revenge of the Green Lanterns" and the "Rage of the Red Lanterns." I have to say that the Rage of the Red Lanterns is arguably the best comic book story arc I've read all summer. Disclaimer to Green Lantern fans: I'm new to the Lantern Corps mythology so if I get something wrong, my apologies.

The purpose of this post is not to summarize the stories in these comic books, or to add my two cents on why I think the Green Lantern's (Hal Jordan)'s shacking up with various women is problematic, lol. I want to talk about the breadth of the Lantern corps. Up until recently, I thought the Green Lantern corps was the only corps responsible for the welfare of the universe. As the "universe police," various members of the corps are assigned to different sectors of the universe, making sure people are not breaking the law, and that the lives of living creatures on various planets is valued and protected. Their strength (which is represented in their ring), is will-power, allowing them to create things weapons and perform certain feats at will. They are the good guys, upholding justice throughout the universe.

If the corps was to stop with the Green Lanterns, I would still read the stories, as the history and dynamics of their powers and commitment to justice provide interesting conflicts and stories in themselves. However it does not stop there. There are
  • other Lantern Corps
  • throughout the universe, and each relate to each other in a particular. Below is a list of the additional corps, with their "power" in parentheses:

    (1) Yellow (fear)

    (2) Red (rage)

    (3) Black (death)

    (4) Blue (hope)

    (5) Star Sapphires (love)

    (6) Indigo Tribe (unknown)

    (7) Orange (avarice)

    What's interesting is that each corps believes that their particular emotional power plays the most important role in human behavior. For instance, The Yellow Corps generally believe that it's fear that makes the world go round, whereas the Blue Lantern Corps believe that the key to humanity is hope. The Blue Corps also claim that hope is the most powerful of the emotional powers, which makes for another interesting topic of discussion. The Blue also drains the power of the Yellow rings, but accelerates the power of the Green rings. Interesting isn't it?

    What also strikes me about these different corps is that membership is an absolute thing, such that depending on the choices one makes and the extent to which one is able/unable to manage and coordinate his or her emotions, one can "lose" a ring and "acquire" another ring of a different color. For example, Sinestro, the leader of the Yellow Corps, used to be one of the best Green Lanterns to serve the corps, and is responsible for training Hal Jordan, who currently holds that title for the Green Lantern Corps. Another example comes the "Rage of the Red Lanterns" story. A member of the Green Lantern corps, due to violating the principles of her corps, had her ring taken from her. However, the path she had started on (which led to her actions that resulted in her losing her Green ring) "led" her to a Red ring, before being presented with the opportunity to "re-acquire" a Green ring. LOL, it's a long story, and you should read it to get the unabridged version.

    I'll probably continue posting on this topic in the near future, as I will not be able to cover everything I wanted to cover in one post. I just wanted to get some initial thoughts I had about the Lantern Corps out there, as I think the mythology behind the Lantern Corps and the colors reveal some interesting "truths" about the human condition, and how emotions are related and coordinated. I don't agree with everything, but there are some general ideas from the Lantern Corps that I think are useful in helping us better understand one another.

    What do you think? Do you read and Green Lantern? If so, why? Which emotion do you think you (a) utilize the most? (b) have the best handle on? (c) struggle with the most?

    An unexpected Visitor

    Peace and blessings,

    Last week, I was at a cafe getting some work done. In particular, I was typing up notes from articles that I plan on using to prepare for my oral exams this fall. I was pretty productive for the first two hours, so I decided to take a mini break and read some comics at a neighboring comic book store. I planned it to where I would have a good two hours after the break to get some more work done. After returning to the cafe from my break, however, things did not go as planned. I basically spent the next 1.5 hours struggling to understand an article that I was reading, only to decide that I was not going to include it in my notes. And for those who know me, they know that a huge "tick" for me is setting aside a set amount of time to get stuff done, and that stuff not getting done in that allotted time.

    Once home, I told my wife (verbally, and also by the downed look on my face), about how disappointed I was that I was unable to be productive those last two hours. She assured me that I was still productive even though I was not pleased with the outcome, but that assurance went through one ear and out the other. Today was also the day that my wife was going to play Taboo with the neighbors two doors down from us. I told her as she left that after I eat, I'll stop by. As I'm making my salad, still kicking myself for blowing it at the cafe earlier, my wife comes back in the apartment to get something, and says "I brought a guest with me." Given my pity party, the only thing I wanted to do was eat and chill. Obviously, God had other plans...

    A little 9-year-old boy came in, who I've never met before, and immediately started talking to me. Once my wife told him I was her husband, it was if he had the green light to ask me a ton of questions, lol. Initially, I'm thinking to myself that (1) it's late, (2) I'm hungry and (3) I'm still upset about earlier, so the last thing I want is for some kid that I don't know, to be in my kitchen telling about his favorite video games. As established in the previous paragraph however, God had other plans...

    Once I realized that this little dude's hear to stay, I took more of an interest in what he was talking about. After talking about video games, he asked if he could play my Nintendo Wii, because he loved that system. After talking a little more, he said something to me that, while on the surface may seem like an ordinary complement, but I took it as slightly something else. He said that "you're cool" at first and then a few minutes later, said "you adults are cool" (referring to my wife and I). It struck me because I think at that point, it became clear that him coming over was exaclty what I needed to get out of the mini funk I was in, and to redirect my focus back to God. I love how children are so open and honest with people, and speak their minds. Although I'm glad he thought that I was cool, I don't think that my approach to him prior to that comment warranted that statement. I initially wanted him to leave me to my salad and moping, and thus after receiving the compliment I felt a little guilty.

    I eventually realized that him showing up was God's way of reminding me not to get bogged down by the little things in life, and not to let minor things have a major impact on how I interact with and show Christ's love to others. As one of the pastor's I listen to on podcast says, God reveals things about Himself through people, which is why reflecting Christ in our relationships with others (those we know and those we don't know) is so important. I'm just glad I realized the "bigger picture" before the boy. If I didn't, then feeling bad for not being productive at the cafe would have paled in comparison to how bad I would have felt for having the opportunity to reciprocate a 9-year-old's generosity and "coolness" but instead chose not to.

    What do you think? Have you ever had an experience similar to this, or to the one I posted about
  • on the same topic
  • nearly two years ago? Take care, stay blessed, and speekonit...

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Things to Pray For: Women's Rights in Patriarchal Societies

    Peace and blessings,

    Before I begin, I want to say that I am well aware of how women in many countries throughout the world are denied a voice and basic rights. Furthermore, it is an issue that I have yet to pray about on a consistent basis, but that changes now. Recently hearing about how
  • Shiite Husbands in Afghanistan can legally starve their wives
  • has reminded me of how there are many things I take for granted living in the United States. With that said, women are still oppressed in this country, and we still have much work to do. But knowing that a man has the legally-mandated power to deprive a woman of food is beyond disheartening.

    I do not mean to disrespect another's culture, or to pass judgment prematurely, but starving one's wife because she does not want to have sex with you is wrong, point blank. I pray for the women who are affected by this law (and all women who are oppressed), that God will protect and liberate them. I also pray that God will change the hearts of the men in the society who support and enforce this and other oppressive laws. Through the way He ministered to women, Jesus showed us that to love someone is to cherish and honor the whole person, and with that understanding that no one "holds power" over the other. I pray that the message of Jesus spreads in Afghanistan such that husbands treat their wives, and in essence men treat women, the way God designed for them to be treated.

    What do you think? Stay blessed, take care, and speekonit...

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    Some Inspirational News

    Peace and blessings,

    Here are a few news links, courtesy of
  • K-Love:

  • (1)
  • A church plays a huge role in reducing the local crime rate

  • (2)
  • Christians in Iraq launch a radio station

  • (3)
  • Liberal Christians helping Obama with health care issue

  • Any news you can find that highlights the positive and encouraging aspects of our nature, please send it this way! Until next time, stay blessed, encouraged, and speekonit...

    The Christian Mafia?

    Peace and blessings,

    A secret group of powerful and wealthy individuals seek to rule the country. No, this is not the opening lines for a new movie, but it's apparently the description of a super-secretive group called the "Family." Jeff Sharlett, a reporter who was able to gain access to the group, wrote a book called "The Family," where he lays out their origins and principles. Click here to hear him talking about
  • Jeff Sharlet talking about"The Family."

  • Aside from the fact that
  • another name for the group is the "Christian Mafia,"
  • I am without a doubt "scared" that such a group as this. The first thing that bothers me about this group is that they seem to be distorting the bible, arguing that Jesus' gospel is not about loving, supporting, and advocating for the poor and voiceless, but about accumulating power and wealth as a means to spreading "the gospel." Anyone who reads the bible (Christian or not) with at the minimum an open heart, would know that not to be true.

    The second thing that bothers me about this group is that they provide further support for the idea that historically ("The Family" apparently began in the 1930s during the great depression) and in many present instances, Christianity has done more to harm humanity than to help it. Further, they claimed to be doing this harm in Jesus' name. By working to improve my relationship with Christ, I have been able to strengthen my relationship with Christ by realizing that there is a difference between accurately understanding Christ's teachings, and interpreting the bible in a way that suits one's fancy. It seems clear that this "Family" is doing the latter.

    I don't see how if we truly loved God with all our heart and loved our neighbors as ourselves (the 2 commandments that sum up the 10 commandments, and the 2 commandments that Jesus stressed the most), we could believe that wealth and power is the way to spreading Christ's message. I pray that for those of us who know that loving God and loving others is the only way to reach others and draw them to Christ, our lives will disprove any and all distortions of the bible that may pop up.

    What do you think? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

    Sunday, August 02, 2009

    Scripture of the Day

    Peace and blessings,

    The scripture that's currently on the brain is from 1 Chronicles 21:18-24 (NIV). It has to do with the importance of authentic praise and worship, and how we should not offer up anything to God (e.g., gifts, money, time) if it does not cost us anything. I took it to mean that anything we do for God has to mean something to us, in order for it to mean anything to God. Until next time, stay encouraged and speekonit...

    "Then the angel of the LORD ordered Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 19 So David went up in obedience to the word that Gad had spoken in the name of the LORD.

    While Araunah was threshing wheat, he turned and saw the angel; his four sons who were with him hid themselves. 21 Then David approached, and when Araunah looked and saw him, he left the threshing floor and bowed down before David with his face to the ground.

    David said to him, "Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price."

    Araunah said to David, "Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this."

    But King David replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing."

    DWYL: Rapper Edition

    Peace and blessings,

    For the past two summers, I have been blessed with the opportunity to see some of my favorite Christian hip-hop artists, who make up the group the 116 click, perform in concert. This year, their theme was "Don't Waste Your Life." To this end, they put out a series of video commercials for their tour, a couple of which are below. Also below is a video sermon by John Piper, which summarizes what it means to not waste one's life, and that served as the "intro" for the concert. More information on the tour, their music, and their ministry can be found at
  • Reach Records.

  • Check out the videos and share your thoughts. Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

    The Sin of Silence

    “Pride before the fall.”

    - Someone who knew what they were talking about

    “I am going to try living my life with the understanding that when I disobey God, I choose the lesser version of myself.”

    -me, about 10 days ago

    Peace and blessings,

    As part of the application aspect of a bible study I attended about 10 days ago, I wrote down the above words. Since then, I have been trying to remind myself of those words, as well as what they mean for my life and for my relationship with God. Of course, He has an “interesting” way of holding me accountable for those words…

    Lately, God has been working on my conception of sin, and helping me to see that for every sin we are consciously aware of committing, there may be a sin that we do not realize we are committing, “flying under the radar” so to speak. Much of my conception of sin has to do with sins pertaining to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that we are aware of, and that we “choose” to commit. Of these, I tend to focus more on the sins that are reflected in concrete actions and words. In other words, a significant part of my understanding of sin has to do things I say and do.

    However, lately I feel like God has been showing me that sometimes, not saying or doing something can be just as sinful as saying or doing something. In both cases, I am being disobedient to God. There are times when I feel like I should apologize to someone for something, or to speak up about something. During these times, I tend to go back and forth weighing the pros and cons in my head, trying to analyze the situation. Although there are times when it is best to remain quiet, there are times when I go against my better judgment and remain quiet, ultimately making a situation worse. God has recently been showing me the “ugliness” of this form of disobedience, and the importance for saying something, especially when my pride is trying to “convince me” to remain quite.

    When it comes to apologizing for something I have done to someone that I know was wrong, there’s no real justification for not saying anything. No matter what my pride is telling me, I have to realize that owning up and asking for forgiveness is always better than the alternative. A similar case can be made for situations when we know we should speak up on something, but we refuse not to. Interestingly enough, the reasons for me remaining silent when it is best that I should are qualitatively different from the reasons for me remaining silent when I know I should speak up. What this tells me is that when God tells me to say something or not to say something, His direction is often very clear. It is just up to me to be obedient.

    What do you think? Have you recently been silent about something or a situation that you know you should say something about? Have you recently decided to say something, despite your pride (or fear, or anything else) telling you not to? What was the outcome? How did it make you feel? Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit…