Please take time to read this excellent article on why and how you should talk to your child about the movie 50 Shades of Grey. Just click on the picture below:
It’s hunting season. Can you feel it? Fall has set in. The sun scorches, the humidity hangs like a wet blanket, and you can still hear the grass growing. But enough about Orlando.
I’m ready to hunt. I secured the right license, drove to the right spot, and adorned the right gear – including a hat I purchased 30 years ago but never felt secure enough to wear:
I’m not hunting just any game, mind you. I want to bag the most elusive, stealth and rare beast on the planet. Not rare in the sense that their number is limited; they are anything but endangered. This beast is rare by the fact that few hunters, especially in this era, are able to bag one. I referring to the one and only, Moonwalking Bear.
Watch this video:
The technical term is “Inattentive Blindness” as identified and defined by author Christopher Chabris in his researched-based book, The Invisible Gorilla. Inattentive Blindness is a fascinating phenomenon that occurs when we miss the obvious. Why? Because we’re not looking for it, and… we don’t expect it.
Your moment-to-moment expectations, more than the visual distinctiveness of the object, determine what you see— and what you miss.
CHABRIS, CHRISTOPHER; SIMONS, DANIEL. The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us.
When I first watched this video, and missed the bear, I thought about another video, created by my good friend, and Moonwalking Bear Hunting Ninja, Kennan Burch. It’s called The Master Artist.
There are multiple breeds of Moonwalking Bears, including:
- The airline passenger who needs me to pray with him
- My friend who struggles with a secret addiction
- My co-worker who’s marriage is on the rocks
- The children abused and starving around the globe
And then there’s the most common bear. What do I miss every day, simply because I’m not aware, and don’t expect to “hear the music”? How often do I fixate on a small hand-held device that demands my attention and prevents me from “joining the applause” to my Creator?
I need to remember that Moonwalking Bears are always in season. I’m thankful I’m already equipped me to bag my quota. Now it’s up to me to snare the bear – every minute of every day.
But I still lack the mettle to wear that hat. Sorry Indy.
It (God’s will) is mysterious and terrifying, like the unfathomable depths of the ocean, full of wonders and dangers.
Jerry Sittser – The Will of God as a Way of Life
I love listening to fighter pilots tell stories, especially Navy pilots. Years ago a former pilot and friend described a phenomenon common to almost every naval aviator at least once in his career. He called it being “in the barrel.” It goes something like this – it’s a stormy night, fifteen foot seas, visibility zero, and the pilot is trying land his craft on a bobbing postage stamp on a black ocean in the black of night. Conditions worsen; fuel drops below the red line. The plane quickly descends and the pilot becomes convinced he will not make it. In his mind and heart he’s dead or soon will be. In that moment something terribly wonderful happens – the pilot faces his own death. A few seconds later several tons of steel drops on the carrier deck, the cable catches and the engines shut down. He’s safe…. safe….but never again the same man.
Joseph had a similar experience. He’s locked up in prison, away from friends, good food, and civilization. Two years have passed since the cup bearer promised to put in a good word with Pharaoh; now he’s alone (except for his fellow prisoners and the guard) and probably thinking “This is it. This is where God wants me to be the rest of my life. So be it.” One day he wakes up, gets a bath, new clothes and an audience with the Grand Puba. Later that day he’s promoted to second in command of the most powerful country on the planet.
Watch this clip from the movie “V for Vendetta”. Evey, played by Natalie Portman, has just experienced imprisonment by what she believes is the dictatorial regime who is looking for the masked freedom fighter “V”. Every day she is tortured, and then asked where V is located. She doesn’t’ reveal his hideout, even when threatened with certain death. Listen carefully to the dialogue.
Why are pain and agony such intimate bedfellows when it comes to facing our fears? Why does God allow such trials? In those times He seems as much a ferocious flirt as He is fascinating. Remember the verse from Habakkuk from my last post:
Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.
I didn’t mention that was neslted in God’s description of the tribulation Israel would soon experience for the next 400 years.
As Jerry Sittser states, He is both mysterious and terrifying. But above all, He is good. What happens to the pilots who survive their trip through the barrel? Many become innovative entrepreneurs with no fear of failure. What happened to Joseph? He led Egypt with full confidence (in God) through the greatest famine in history. In the movie clip V tells Evey that she has faced her own death, to commit to it, and remember it. He reminds her that when faced with fate she found something more important than her own life, a reason beyond her own existence.
Jesus said the same thing:
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)
When we’re in the barrel, we want to be anywhere else. Unfortunately, when God ferociously flirts with us – it’s where we need to be to learn what we need to learn. And after we end up on the deck, engines off, our hands clutching the stick, and teeth clenched – we too will have an opportunity to realize that we have no need to fear. From that moment on we become very dangerous to the Illusionist, and he knows it.
Read the story of Joseph with your son and discuss the barrel. The more he understands that his Father in heaven also flirts ferociously, the more prepared he will be for the storm. For as Evey says, “God is in the rain.”
My favorite imagery ties into the Totem, an personal item that each dream warrior identified in the real world in order to ground themselves to reality in the dream world. In Cobb’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) case, it was a spinning top. If ever he became confused as to whether he was in reality or fantasy, he would spin the top and wait for it to stop spinning. If it didn’t stop, he knew he was in a dream.
Each traveler’s Totem was personal and confidential. As stated by several characters:
Arthur: So, a totem. It’s a small object, potentially heavy, something you can have on you all the time…
Ariadne: What, like a coin?
Arthur: No, it has to be more unique than that, like – this is a loaded die.
[Ariadne reaches out to take the die]
Arthur: . Nah, I can’t let you touch it, that would defeat the purpose. See only I know the balance and weight of this particular loaded die. That way when you look at your totem, you know beyond a doubt you’re not in someone else’s dream.
Ariadne state’s later, after she’s created her item that the Totem is an elegant means to ground oneself in reality.
I remember hearing a story about famed basketball coach John Wooden concerning his Christian faith. When asked why he didn’t discuss the topic more in public he responded that he wanted to live it more than speak it – which of course he did. Then he added that he carried an item in his pocket to remind him at all times of the example he provided others regarding his relationship with Christ. The item was a small metal cross with sharp edges. When, as coach, he was tempted to erupt in response to a bad call in a game he would reach into his pocket and grasp the cross as hard as possible. As the sharp edges of the cross pressed against his fingers the great coach would remember Who he represented on the court; then he would take a deep breath to control his emotions. He rarely if ever lost his temper on or off the court.
I have decided to carry my own Totem, but for a slightly different reason than Coach Wooden. When I’m confused by a particular circumstance or when pressure mounts quickly, and I’m tempted to let my emotions rule – I need a reminder. I need to remind myself of three grounding principles:
- Truth – what’s the truth here? The truth is God is in control.
- Illusion – What’s the illusion here? Is the enemy using something (probably simple) to distract my attention – even by only a few degrees?
- Fear – What and where is my fear in this situation. Fear is for the most part illogical, not based on reality – what’s the worst that can happen here?
Truth, Illusion and Fear (TIF). If I can grasp my Totem and ground myself with these three benchmarks – shouldn’t I be more successful in grasping the “reality” vs. the enemy’s “dream”?
But don’t ask me to show you my Totem… I want to make sure I’m not in your dream (illusion) or any one else’s 🙂
Years ago I heard Dave Simmons, former NFL linebacker turned pastor, make a profound statement: “In life, like football, every play is a game – recover, recover, recover.” Simmons described that whether a quarterback throws an interception right before the half, a back fumbles on the one yard line or a kicker misses in the last ten seconds he must think of that play as a game in itself, an event now past, and he must recover in order to fully engage in the next play.
That message REALLY applied last night to one player in particular. FSU kicker, Dustin Hopkins, booted a 55 yard field goal in the last 4 seconds to defeat Clemson University:
Hopkins’s “powder keg” of a leg to pumped enough steam behind the ball to clear 65 yards if he needed it. Although the highlight didn’t make ESPN’s top 10 this morning, and even though the papers barely referenced FSU in the college football summary – I’m confident Hopkins could not have cared less.
It was just a week ago when the young kicker found himself in a similar competitive crisis against the University of North Carolina. FSU was 2 points behind with 10 seconds left. Coach Jimbo Fisher sent Hopkins in to kick a 40 yard field goal and win the game. The kick went wide right and the game was over.
I attended that game and watched Hopkins walk off the field. He was controlled but obviously dejected. His fellow players immediately surrounded him with hugs and affirmation that the game should not have come down to a field goal in the final seconds. They told the young kicker that all of them contributed to the loss. But Hopkins knew he had a job to do and he didn’t do it.
I also watched FSU fans empty the stadium disgusted. But the next morning those same frustrated fans read an article in the sports section that softened their anger and their hearts:
After he and teammates listened to coach Jimbo Fisher’s postgame speech, Hopkins cracked open a Bible and turned quickly to the Book of Psalms.Psalm 34:18 to be exact. It reads, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Crushed in spirit, indeed.
But as he sat at his locker and read, disrupted only by the gracious pats on his shoulders and the words of comfort from teammates and coaches, Hopkins noticed a familiar face at the other end of the room. A member of FSU’s sports information staff was rounding up players to participate in post-game interviews.
Hopkins promptly stood up and walked over.
“If anybody needs me to talk, let me know,” Hopkins said. “I’m OK.”
My wife hates football, although she loves the fanfare. She can’t bare to watch sons of other mothers get hammered. But these days she’s all in and all ears when a sport reporter mentions one of these two names: Tim Tebow and Dustin Hopkins. Jimbo Fisher fought back tears in the post game interview as he praised Hopkins for his character, perseverance and talent.
To me Dustin’s story is what sports should be about in the first place. Sports help us develop character under pressure so that we learn to offer our best when our best is required (I’m paraphrasing THE coach, John Wooden). But it’s equally important that we follow Dustin Hopkins example and remember that when we “go wide right” we remember that every play is a game and that we must recover, recover, recover.
Anybody can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple. Charles Mingus
I’ll one up Mr. Mingus. It takes genius to make the complicated simple. C.S.Lewis is my favorite “mortal” creative genius; his Chronicles of Narnia are the Occam’s Razor of biblical metaphor. Two of Lewis’s quotes – one from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the other from Prince Caspian have become my mental mantras to remind me that God is THE creative genius:
“It will probably happen when you’re not looking for it.” Absolutely! It (whatever we want to happen) never happens when we’re looking for it. God always shows up in an unexpected way, and at an unexpected time with his unexpected solution.
Which leads to my second favorite quote, this time from Prince Caspian:
“Nothing happens the same way twice.” If it’s true that IT will happen when we’re not looking for it, and IT will be different than anything we have ever experienced or imagined, then we can assume and rejoice in the fact that The Almighty loves the element of surprise. The only catch is, we’ve got to trust Him that he is in control and knows what He’s doing.
If we believe He’s “all that”, which of course He is, then we can follow the Professor’s advice with my third favorite quote (surprise, there’s three) when he suggests to Lucy that it’s “best to keep your eyes open.”
My son asked an interesting question on our ride to Belmont University last week. It was the kind of question you ask on an 850 mile road trip.
If you could be any character in any movie, who would it be?
I didn’t hesitate. I’ve dreamed of assuming Jake Sully’s role ever since Avatar hit the screens last year. From behind those goofy 3D glasses I pictured for the first time what heaven might look like. I wrote about my first experience with Pandora a few months ago – Anticipating My Avatar.
One of my emotional “pings” was watching Jake connect with his dragon (called a Banshee) via a neural bond the Na’vi called Tsahaylu. Avatar portrayed the bond as far more than a master/pet relationship, it was a mutual understanding between rider and dragon. Both parties sensed his companion’s emotions and anticipated his actions. I resonated with that relationship.
We always remember our favorite pet; mine was an amazing Black Labrador Retriever named Dude:
Dude was born with personality and talent. At the ripe age of five months, and without any training, he plunged into a lake to retrieve an item over 60 yards from his entry point. Three years later, this time with training, he won a national Field Trial (simulated hunting) event.
I was 8 years old when Mom walked in the kitchen wrestling a black bundle of fur and paws. I was an early teen when Dude met me at the door everyday after school with a tennis ball in his mouth. I’d wave him to the far side of our yard and then hurl the yellow ball with everything I had. Dude had an uncanny canine ability to catch almost any pitch, including those far outside the strike zone. He never lost interest and he always outlasted my arm.
When the topic surfaces in our house about acquiring a new pet, I always respond with the same question, “But can it bring me the morning paper?” Regardless of rain, sleet or hurricane warning (we lived in Florida) Dude would trot to the curb and sniff the air like he owned the neighborhood. Then he returned to me with the Tallahassee Democrat between his teeth, sans teeth marks.
Dude was more than a performer. He was, like all great animal companions, a friend who was alert to his owner’s emotions. Few teens are fortunate enough to experience a Dude, but I wish they could. When family conflicts reached their zenith, and waves of hormones fueled my confused adolescent neurons, Dude would put his head on my lap and invite me to scratch behind his ears. He’d look up at me and I felt the connection. He knew I needed a distraction from reality with someone who cared. Those moments, in my opinion, were as close to Tsahaylu as it gets in this lifetime.
I’m surprised at the number of theologians who embrace the possibility of animals in heaven, but I appreciate those who do. I probably won’t greet all of my former pets in the hereafter, in fact I’d be surprised if a few didn’t find residence in the other eternal alternative. But I do hope to see Dude.
The Avatar Banshees bond with only one rider in their lifetime. When I arrive in Paradise, and when I assume my new body I’ll look for the dragon with the tennis ball in his mouth. He’ll be the one who, once upon a time, shared Tsahaylu with a frazzled Tallahassee teenager. I’ll grab that ball and hurl it down the canyon. Then my friend… and then… it will be time to fly.