Failtastic Tales: The Film Premier Outfit

In life, we often find ourselves making choices that we later regret and that come back to haunt us in the strangest ways. In some respects, forgiving ourselves is difficult… And that may be because we’re prideful, rather than humble. Perhaps we self-deprecate because our pride wants to drill into our heads the mistakes we’ve made in order to protect us from doing it again.

That said, every once in a while, I’m going to tell a story on myself. These stories are meant to be humorous and self-deprecating, but in a way that will allow me to finally let them go. Either that, or help me get my stand-up routine organized. Regardless, hopefully everyone has a good time.

This tale begins back in the days of Freshman year of college. Turns out, we’re nearing the ten year anniversary of that achievement. (And yes, I know, some of you are saying, “Whoop-de-doo, young man.”) Anyway, near the halfway mark, I was invited as a guest to a film-festival and screening for the projects made that year.

To be fair, please remember that I was a freshman. Anyway, I was unsure of what all this entailed. In my mind the whole affair seemed like a lighthearted event to showcase a few individuals’ talents in film making. So, with that in mind, the idea crept into my head that this event needed the weirdly-dressed guy. You know, like Johnny Depp, who rarely wears a tuxedo at premiers or awards shows. But I also wanted to show school spirit, because freshman life, am I right?

So I gathered up an outfit that involved khaki pants, brown shoes, a white button up, a khaki jacket that was a little big on me, and an orange trilby hat. (Orange and black are my Alma Mater’s colors, and yes, it looked like Halloween year-round.) I owned everything but the hat. I had to borrow that from someone else. Let that last sentence sink in for just a moment. I felt exceptionally bizarre and ready for anything.

At least I was ready for anything until I saw the person who had invited me (and encouraged my goofy idea.) My future wife and her friend, who had both worked on one of the short films as make-up artists, were dressed in full-length dresses and both looked lovely. Suddenly, the situation began to dawn on my half-developed freshman brain that I may have accepted an invitation and suggestion without knowing all of the rules. I suddenly felt like I was playing a game where the rules had been explained before I arrived and I was left to play and figure things out as I went. As I didn’t have time to change, I arrived at the dinner looking remarkably under-dressed.

Dinner was fine, and I received my fair share of strange looks during dinner, even though I composed myself with all of the grace a scared rabbit would have in the face of a den of foxes. The conversation was fun and the food was good, if I recall correctly.

After dinner we all went to one of the larger auditoriums on campus and viewed the short films. Honestly, they were well made. And on a positive note, I realized at that moment that film makers are a very rare, special breed with their own particular taste in what constitutes an enjoyable film… It was not my cup of tea. Why is that a positive note you ask? It certainly exterminated whatever tiny shred of curiosity I had about exploring film making. Throughout the films I sat awkwardly in my seat confused and wondering what each project meant or referenced. Many in attendance laughed or nodded agreement… The only experience I have had like this since then was watching Hail Caesar with two film buffs. I laughed, but in all the wrong parts.

So, we come to the moral of the story being… uhm… it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed? Maybe, don’t wear the orange hat to a formal event? Oh, perhaps, check with the person who invited you about what’s ok to wear? Or even, if yo don’t understand the art form, second-guess accepting that invitation – no, that’s not it…

Well, take your own moral or lesson from this. I personally learned to overdress for everything. So, if you ever see me in a full suit at a kickball tournament, you’ll know the reason why.


Gleefully Watching the World Burn

Ok, just a quick post.

The past week a particular blog post has been circulating around concerning a particular Chattanooga area church. There are some troubling statements in it. It concerns me and I will be praying for that church. (No I’m not linking to the article, nor am I discussing what was said.)

But why would we, as Christian brothers and sisters so gleefully chuckle and clap our hands as this church begins to self-examine? Is there something inherently amusing about watching someone go through a trial? Do we want to watch an entire church crumble?

I would say it would be better for us all to pray. Pray that hearts are softened and change takes place. Pray that people flocking to that particular church are willing to stop, check Scripture, and make wise decisions about how to discuss what they believe.

Paul never had it in his mind to joyfully rip a church to shreds over its beliefs. Read Colossians, in which the church was beginning to face the tendrils of proto-gnosticism, and how lovingly, yet firmly, Paul reminds them of what he taught. Even the harshest of Paul’s letters, Galatians, still has the feel of a stern, but loyal coach who wants to see his players succeed in more than just the game.

So when you read the blog post, don’t cheer or laugh. Don’t secretly hope that all of those people will suddenly flock to your church. Pray. Pray hard.

Pity the Fool

So I have been reading again…

The book in question is titled The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. And before your pull out your tinfoil hats, it’s not that kind of conspiracy. In fact, the book is more about the Sermon on the Mount than anything. Now before you replace your hat with a neck pillow, Jesus’ talks are often much more interesting than what passes for a sermon in your mind.

Willard also talks about prayer -especially the Lord’s Prayer. And one particular phrase has jumped out at me the past week. The phrase, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Willard makes the case that a more modern translation might say something along the lines of, “Have pity on me, as I have pity on others.”

At first, much like your reaction now, my thought was, “Pity? What need have I of pity?” (And yes, read that in your best English accent.) We certainly like the idea of mercy better. the word mercy, as Willard continues, often has a connotation in modern times of, “I just need a break. I’m no so bad.” However, in ye olden days, mercy was a plea of someone in the direst of straights, nearly at death, begging and sobbing for just a few more moments to bargain. So, nowadays, pity seems to be a better word.

But doesn’t it just grate against your mind? It did mine. It bothered me for a week… that is, until I put some thought into it and realized, “Oh, I am being a rather stubborn, prideful, pitiable creature right now, aren’t I?” And that’s when it hit me. It’s hard to forgive others when we don’t really feel like we need all that much forgiveness. When we’re of the mindset of, “Oh, God, just cut me a break here, I’m not all that bad,” everyone else’s failures and impositions on us suddenly look like egregious mortal sins of the highest caliber… even if they just happened to forget their blinker on I-75.

But things change when I put myself in a mindset of being pitiable. When I am receiving pity and forgiveness from God, I understand the magnitude of my own failures and mistakes. I realize the things I’m not forgiving myself for are because of my pride wanting to erase my own mistake without admitting it to anyone.

The story of the unmerciful servant springs to mind. (Matthew 18:23-35) For some reason, the first servant, despite his massive debt, felt himself entitled to that forgiveness, and was unable to show that same forgiveness because he may not have realized the sheer magnitude of pity shown on him. We look at that man and say, “How undignified and cruel!” Meanwhile, we often fail to notice that same behavior in our own lives.

Living in a state of pity allows us to stand in the love of God, aware of our state, but also acutely aware of the great, mighty, unquenchable fire of a love that God sustains us with. With that knowledge in hand, we can then begin to forgive others. We can admit our mistakes to others, to our kids, knowing that we are pitiable, but loved.

I have had to admit mistakes this week in regards to how I handled some situations. In doing so, I had to remember that God loves me regardless, and that he extends pity that extinguishes pride. I had to let go, admit my mistake, and begin working with others in order to create a better environment. Before, I wanted to blame others and get angry, but I realized that if things were going to heal, I would have to let go of all of that and accept things as they were and work to set them right.

Have you ever had to admit a mistake to a child, or even your own child? How did that feel? How did it affect your relationship? How could your family begin to create an environment where mistakes are shared, forgiven, and healed?

When will I finally know everything?

So, as I approach the age of thirty, I have been asking myself a simple question: is that when everything’s going to finally make sense? So far, as I’ve interviewed people who have reached thirty and lived to tell the tale, the answer was “no.” So I reached farther and asked people at forty and fifty… and they didn’t feel like they had finally “made it” either.

That leaves me standing here with a ton of unanswered questions feeling inadequate because I can’t answer every question nor can I state with confidence that I “have it all together.” I show up on Sunday as the ordained, degreed minister and look into the eyes of children and wonder, “How do I possibly teach these impressionable young humans and help them experience God’s amazing love?” (Answer: humbly, by modeling love and grace in how I act)

Interestingly, Job helps me out on this one. Near the end of the book named after a long-suffering man, God begins grilling him, asking questions like, “Where you there when I created all of this stuff? Did you make creatures that can move? Can you understand the deep mysteries of life?” And, like Job, I sit silently shaking my head in awe.

I hear about survey after survey about parents who are unsure about how to talk about faith topics at home. I get it, it can be nerve-wracking. And, yet, it doesn’t have to be. As a parent, you don’t have to know everything when you dive into the Bible with your children. You can uncover and explore right along with your children! Is there a question you can’t answer? Look into it together. Go ask someone, or read up on the many resources available online or at your local church.

When dealing with children, we’re not expected to have all of the answers. Instead, let’s focus on being present and humble enough to pray, discover, and worship together.

Have you ever felt ill-equipped to talk about faith at home? What did you do? What are some ways you and your family can explore the Bible and faith together?