God's Not Dead

Sometime soon a new movie will release. It's named after a song that originally held a different title and features a band that only licensed the song; they didn't write it.

The movie "God's Not Dead" is named after The Newsboys (but really, you can't have The Newsboys without Peter Furler, can you?) cover of a Daniel Bashta song which was actually made famous at Passion one year (I was in the room for its debut) by David Crowder. Crowder debuted it (if Daniel Bashta's twitter feed is to be believed, he was unaware of the song being used) as "Like a Lion." To the best of my knowledge, Bashta's recording of it wasn't even publicly released yet. He later came out with his own recording, but it was Crowder's use of the song that made it popular in worship circles. Our praise band did a tour of sorts in the summer of 2010 and we closed every night with the piece.

I say all that because The Newsboys changed the title of the song when they debuted it. Instead of "Like a Lion," they called the song "God's Not Dead" which, to be fair, is the prominent line in the piece.

But then they debuted a music video for the song which prominently featured newspapers with the headline "God is a Myth" changing to
"God's Not Dead" by the end of the video.  The song, once proclaiming a message of resurrection and revival within one's life of faith and using the helpful metaphor of Christ's resurrection from the dead to do so, has been repurposed by The Newsboys marketing team to stand for an argument for God's existence against those countering such existence. I like Michael Tait (and I was so glad they invited Kevin Max to provide vocals for the bridge...hearing Michael and Kevin's voices together is such a treat for a true dc Talk fan) a lot and his music has served as an inspiration to me for years, but this song has now been repurposed and this changes the implications.

Repurposing is ok, I suppose. After all, there are many within the world who do claim that the existence of God is folly and that faith in something that doesn't exist is a waste. There are voices among us that claim that Christianity is all made up. So, the necessity of fighting against those voices is easy to see for an Evangelical; the voices threaten my very reality.

But there's a trend here and I think the use of language is dangerous. Within the very-well-produced-for-a-Christian-movie's trailer, appearances are made by actors like Dean Cain and TV personalities like Willie from Duck Dynasty. The trailer portrays a student whose philosophy professor makes him write a paper presupposing the deadness of God. As a Christian, the student is forced to defend his faith within the classroom by putting God on trial because he, as a Christian, must prove God's existence. He, as a Christian, is being persecuted by the professor.

Persecution is the point here, isn't it? If you read through the film's Facebook page, you'll get that feeling. "Share to prove them wrong" or "Share if you're not ashamed" light up the main feed. Of course, like sheep, the film's many fans share and share and share and share. Because the liberal world is trying to tell us that God doesn't exist. Because we are being persecuted.

The problem with this is that this language is difficult to repurpose without consequence. Philosophers and theologians HAVE put God on trial before. Some posited that God died in Auschwitz. Blacks in America doubted the reality of a good God because the white plantation owners understood the slaves as being provided BY God. Many many bad things have happened in God's name since Christ's resurrection including persecution after persecution.

And so, if persecution is the point, what does it mean to portray that in a film with a bunch of white middle class Americans trying to fight the liberal academy by proving God's existence? Who do we think we are to even come close to knowing what TRUE Christian persecution is? We can't. We can't. We can't.

So the song "Like a Lion", intended (clued in by its naming by Crowder and Bashta) to serve as a recognition for an inner revival for the soul gets repurposed by the Evangelicals to prove God's existence and in the meantime shows the Evangelicals cards completely.

The song begins, "Let hope arise and make the darkness hide." This hope, as we understand it in Christ Jesus, is a hope that defeats death and sin. The darkness to be hidden is the sinfulness of our own actions.

But in this film, in the Newsboys interpretation of the song, and in the Evangelical mindset, the darkness is the Liberal Left.

The cards are completely exposed.


Just Because We Can Doesn't Mean That We Always Should

Mayor Bloomberg wants to outlaw large containers for soda and sugary drinks.

The Libertarians come crying out, "The government shouldn't be able to tell us what we can and can't have! This is America!" When I tell people that I think this is a good idea, they cry to me about how crazy I am. "You're going to let the government tell me what I can and can't do? Because of your lack of self control?"

Yes. Because drinking large quantities of soda is bad for you and I learned the bad habit because it was available to me, anywhere and everywhere, and I took advantage of it. And I've fought my body ever since.

Just because we can (either in our minds or legally) drink 40 oz. sodas, doesn't mean that it's a good idea. Nothing good comes from that.

James Holmes was arraigned today on multiple counts of murder.

He shot 70 people with a high powered assault rifle that costs a little over $1,000 and can be bought, legally, in a store and picked up with a short background check within the hour. He bought 6,000 rounds of ammo on Amazon. It was legal for him to own the gun and to buyt that ammo. He could do that.

We, as Americans, can own weapons that allow us to defend against ourselves. We can do this, legally. But, does that mean that we should?

Today, the NCAA handed down unprecedented sanctions upon the Penn State football program.

Sandusky was accused, JoePa was fired and then died, Sandusky was convicted, anyone else powerful at Penn State University who had any connection was also fired, the Freeh report came out and made the situation appear even worse than we all feared, they removed the JoePa statue, and the program's reputation that had once been legendary was ruined, not simply tarnished. Joe made a huge mistake that cost him everything. Jerry made several huge mistakes that cost him everything. Spanier made a huge mistake that cost him everything. And together, with a few others, they cost the university's football program everything.

Today it got worse. The NCAA had the power, because of their system, setup, power, influence, and total control over anything college sports related to do what they did. They had the complete ability to flex their muscles. They had the ability to make an example out of a once untouchable football program. And they did.

But just because you can, should you?

(I'll forego the argument for the sake of this post that the NCAA completely stepped out of the way of due process, allowing the almighty Emmert to personally intervene, unlike anything he has done with programs that violated specific NCAA regulations...**grunt grunt** UNC **grunt grunt**. I'll also forego the argument that this is a criminal act and therefore is left for the legal system, not the silly constantly over reaching NCAA)

Did the NCAA need to come down this harsh, effectively killing this program for an entire generation? Was this necessary?

Many say, "Yes! Child molestation and the covering of it up is atrocius and unacceptable!" Those people are right. Child rape and molestation is unacceptable. Those who cover it up for the sake of a program are in some ways just as guilty as those who committed the atrocities, too. This is unacceptable.

But, should the NCAA destroy the future of the program, making it effectively impossible to recruit for, simply because it can? No. Should it make an example out of a group that has already through the court system and the media been made an example out of? Again, I don't think so.

When we drink 40 oz sodas, we must ask ourselves, what good does it do?

When we buy assault rifles, we must ask ourselves, what good does it do?

When we enforce unbelieveable penalites on people who had nothing to do with an atrocity, we must ask ourselves, what good does it do?

What's hoped to be accomplished? Show the world child rape is wrong? We're already there, guys. We get that. Show the world how powerful you are? The good in that is questionable. Make a change so that this doesn't happen again? Maybe, but in order to make that believable you're going to need to articulate your process for how in a very convincing way.

If the NCAA hadn't done anything, they'd been looked at as weaklings. But they needed to flex their muscles...to show the world that they're actually paying attention and that they are the almighty voice to which programs must listen or else all the benefits from having an athletic program might be lost.

What's the good in that? Little. What do I think they should have done? They should have invested in figuring out ways from preventing this from happening again (the $60M fine is the one sanction I can understand). They should have done investigations into all programs. They should have helped Penn State football recover from such a devastation. They should have sent the message in another, healthier, better way. In a way that brings good, rather than stabbing in the dark hoping that good would be found somewhere.

They could flex their muscles. But should they? Not unless they can clearly articulate the good that will come from this.

I shouldn't drink 40 oz. sodas, even though I can. I shouldn't buy an assault rifle, even though I can. I shouldn't flex my muscles even though I can either.

Because, in all things, I must ask myself, "Can I clearly articulate the good that will come from this? Can I point directly to the good that the world will see from this?"

Otherwise, it's useless punishment and an example. And that's not good enough.


Ann Curry Leaves TODAY, With Nothing But Grace

Im not sure if I can explain it, or should, but I love the Today Show. Ever since I went to New York for the first time in 1998(1997?...can't remember exactly) and stood outside Rockefeller center, The Today Show has been my go-to morning show. In fact, I can't even stand the other morning shows.

Part of my fandom with TODAY is that I think Matt Lauer is easily one of the best reporters in the business. He can be hard on top celebrities, he can be funny, and he seems to have the best personality for a person in that seat. He's an anchor with a soul who talks to you and reports like there are no cameras. He's smooth, he's clear, he's jovial, and he's practiced. That's a perfect anchor.

Another part of my fandom with the show has to do with the second time (out of 2) that I was in the Today Show audience. It was June 26th, 2009. How do I remember? Because as we stood outside Studio 1A, the producers told us that there would be a very different broadcast that day. Michael Jackson had died. I only saw Matt that day, and that was through panes of glass. Al did his segments inside (as did Ann) and Meredith was live in Los Angeles.

I'll also never forget being in 2nd period band in 9th grade, and an administrator coming into the classroom to tell us that the country was in a state of emergency and that 2 planes had hit the Twin Towers in New York. We put our instruments away and turned on the classroom TV...to TODAY. I remember Matt and Katie's voices on that day and I've even been known to replay that broadcast via YouTube from time to time. How does a news anchor cover a story like that? The way they did.

When I was in the crowd at the Today Show in the late 90s, my aunt and uncle made up signs to hold, like many do. One of the signs said something along the lines of, "I eat breakfast with Katie, Matt, Al, and Ann." Ann was so thrilled that her name had made the sign that she kissed it and signed it. It was amazing. I remember her being so, so very kind.

I guess I didn't follow it enough to know the drama that occured when Ann was passed up for the anchor position after Katie left. But it was clear when Meredith left that this was something Ann had always wanted to do.

Ann is phenomenal human. She goes overseas as a reporter when others won't. She cries on camera and is even unafraid to make ghastly, embarassing mistakes. She asks pointed questions at times when it's needed. She flubs over and over again.

She's very real.

And I think that makes her a phenomenal reporter. She somehow manages to break all the rules of journalism while still drawing you in with her deep smile and heart for the individual. She worked brilliantly as the news reporter in studio for so many years and every assignment went on left the world in tears.

About 8 months or so ago (a few months after she got the job), I started to notice her flubs more often. And these were little. Before, whe was known to walk into a camera shot not paying attention. She was known to share too much to the viewing audience. But I started to notice that she was having problems reading the teleprompter. She had never been real great at it, but the way she covered before had worked at the news desk, and it didn't seem to feel right at the anchor desk.

Something just didn't fit. She didn't have the smoothness of Lauer. It started to bug me. I liked Meredith, but I like Katie better. I liked Ann a lot, but not at the anchor desk. Sigh.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one. Today, on TODAY, Ann Curry left her position as co-anchor. It was an odd departure but had been rumored for some time as Good Morning America had rivaled the Today Show's ratings. Ratings, in TV, seem to be the end all be all and one can only imagine that Ann's tenure at the anchor desk wasn't helping TODAY garner any more interest. When people are defecting to a competitor, you have to do all that's in your power to regain control. Over the past week, that's what NBC News has done.

The good news is that Ann has a new job. Sort of. It seems unclear exactly what that job will entail and look like on a day to day basis, but I hope we see more of the reporting that we were used to from Ann Curry. I appreciate her humanitarian work, reporting on those who have no voices, calling all viewers to see the worlds of other people and to offer their hearts to them much like Ann has given her heart to them.

In the end, Ann wasn't the right choice for the anchor position. It was her dream job and for that she was able to hold it for just over a year. Sometimes, though, we aren't fit to do what we do and we must nuance our dreams to work in the best way possible. Hopefully Ann will see this new position as a way to live out her dream.

Personally, I wish Ann the best of luck. I can't wait to see her on camera again. She's been a bit frustrating over the past year, but now that she's gone, I'm truly going to miss her.

When Conan left NBC, he drug their name, reputation, and money through the mud. He was so angry over the way that he was treated that he used his last month at the show to show NBC just how much power he had. When Ann left the Today Show, it what seemed to be a very similar situation, she was as kind as he has ever been. Her grace, in the midst of what must be a gut wrenching time, is remarkable.

She is a role model among role models and I hope we continue to have more of her influence in our lives. As Matt said this morning, "She has the best heart in the business."

So very, very true.


My iPad 3 Event Predictions

Last night sucked.

But, the good news is that Wednesday brings a new day and, perhaps more importantly, a new iPad for the whole world to see and bask in the glory of.

It seems a popular pastime to read rumor blogs and sites on days leading up to the big Apple announcements. I do quite a bit, and I suspect that even Joe I-know-nothing Schmo is even remotely aware of some of the features of the new iPad.

My intention is not to guess feature-by-feature, though I will. To me, the new features seem fairly obvious. While Apple has a history and passion for surprising the tech industry with new innovations (who saw the Smart Cover coming?), I suspect that most of what we will see on Wednesday will not be as shocking as other Apple events. I'd like to take some guesses at how the event will roll out. Then, maybe I'll come back here and judge how I did.

  1. The stage is sure to be set with a giant Apple logo on the screen, as it always has been. They'll be playing a mix of Adele and perhaps some other new, hipster artist over the PA. The room will be dark and there'll be some chairs, just as Steve sat in for the original iPad introduction. There'll be some iPad 3s (or whatever they're going to call them) on a table near the side of the stage for demo purposes. They'll, of course, be covered in black sheets.
  2. The lights will dim and Tim Cook, the new CEO, will come out and greet the crowd. Apple typically begins with news about the company and it has been far enough from their quarterly earnings report that they'll have some updated numbers about the business. Tim will run over how well the iPhone and iPad are doing, emphasizing the recently passed 25 billion app downloads. Apple has sold over 50 million iPads, and I suspect that that'll be a large part of the numbers presentation.
  3. Tim will even speak to how well the Apple TV is doing. I should make this clear, I doubt that we will see an actual Apple television set at this keynote. If there is an update to the product line at all, it will likely be an A5 chips that powers it, 1080p output, and perhaps a few more services integrated in. I suspect that they'll announce a new model Apple TV box (one that connects to your TV via HDMI) but it will be a minimal upgrade. This event is about the iPad, not the Apple TV.
  4. Tim will introduce Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwise Marketing. Tim Cook is a nice guy and definitely a wiz at organizing a company, but Phil is the presenter. Phil is, in my opinion, the only executive that can hold a candle ate Steve's presentation style. Phil will be the one to introduce the new iPad.
  5. Phil will talk a bit about the success of the iPad and present some very high sales numbers that perhaps Tim had eluded to earlier. Don't bet against them talking about how the tablet competition can't keep up. He will absolutely also talk about the popularity of the new iPad Textbooks and present some spun numbers that will actually be very low but will seem high. Phil can spin numbers like few others.
  6. Then, he will begin to talk about the new iPad. He will talk about how great a product the iPad is and how it is changing the way that people interact with content. He will likely show a video about how the iPad is changing lives. Expect the video to be touching to your senses.
  7. "Then, we thought to ourselves, how can we make this magical device even better? We have come up with a ton of new ways, and we will focus on many of them this morning," he might say. What will it be called? My guess is either the iPad 3 or, more likely, the iPad 2S. He will show it and it will look a whole lot like and iPad 2.
  8. "The first revolutionary change...our unbelievable Retina Display. The Retina Display on the iPhone 4, 4S, and iPod touch is just gorgeous. It's something you have to see to really believe. It's the only display that truly lets you read from your phone as if you were reading from a printed page. It is phenomenal. Now, we are bringing that display to the iPad. It doubles every pixel to present things you might never have imagined. It make reading on the iPad the most enjoyable reading experience you've ever had." Apple keynotes are known for their superb use of hyperbole.
  9. Demo of the Retina display a la the iPhone 4 announcement. Hopefully without the "Turn off your wifi" moment.
  10. Next, the dual-core A5X processor. Phil will talk about how fast it is, dual core, with updated graphics. I'd imagine the new graphics will be about 7-9x the graphics performance of the iPad 2. "This thing just screams. And, mixing this with the retina display creates an amazing gaming experience." Also, I expect an update to the iMovie for iPad software.
  11. Demo of the A5X processor, done by game makers like the makers of infinity blade or Electonic Arts. If new iMovie software, a demo would go here as well.
  12. Next, Cameras. The iPad 2 cameras are horrible for everything but FaceTime, so a camera update is entirely needed. I'd expect a camera upgrade to the level of the iPhone 4, but not the 4S. They'll show some gorgeous pictures of what can be done with the iPad cameras.
  13. Along with that, a new app. iPhoto. Scott Forstall will likey come out for this. The photos app for iPad is simply unable to do anything like iPhoto for the Mac can do. Because Apple insists on photos being tied down to apps, the third-party offerings are insufficient. I don't expect this to be a separate purchasable app, this will be an updated version of the 'Photos' app that already resides on your iPad.
  14. Next, Siri. Siri, at least for dictation, makes too much sense to leave it out. Scott will either stay out or Phil will welcome him back out to talk about how much better Siri has gotten and how pleased customers are with it. They'll do a thorough demo of Siri and if I were you, I'd expect several new functions for Siri that will ship on the iPad 2S. Perhaps coming later via a software update to iPhone 4Ss. Sorry iPhone 4 users, I doubt Siri is ever coming to your phone. iPads are used differently that iPhones so this will be an interesting place for innovation on Apple's part.
  15. Next, LTE. Phil will be back. He will talk about the popularity of the 3G iPads and how quickly companies like Verizon are building out their LTE networks. I suspect that the 3G in these models will be like the iPhone 4S and be compatible with both GSM and CDMA. Not sure what to guess about whether or not you will still have to choose Verizon, AT&T or Sprint, like you do on the phone. No contracts though, that's for sure.
  16. Battery life. The iPad 2S will have the same 10 hour battery life. Which, if you think about it, is quite a feat.
  17. Then Phil will talk about price. Price is easy. $499 16GB. $599 32GB. $699 64 GB. Add $129 to each to get the Wifi+3G+LTE versions. Same pricing as before. The iPad 2 will continue to remain available for $399 at 16GB only.
  18. And that'll be it. There could be some sort of surprise attachment or accessory, but for the most part, the event will be pretty standard. Phil will invite everyone to the hands on demo center and a few lucky journalists will go home with loaner models with which to reveal.
  19. Release date? I'm guessing March 16th. If they do a pre-order (unlikely), it will start on the 9th.

I think people are going to feel Steve's absence. The last product announcement was a day before Steve's death and I just suspect that it'll be felt worse here than before.

I think some will come away feeling disappointed with the event, because it won't be as flashy as we expect. The Retina Display is going to be amazing and the device is going to truly scream. The graphics will be astounding and there's surely some exciting new software possibilites coming. All in all though, I wouldn't expect to be blown out of the water.

If all this comes true, would this be a device worth getting? Definitely. Worth updating form our iPad 2? Maybe. One thing is for sure, they're going to sell a lot of them. Millions. And they'll sell them fast.

Would you get one of these iPads?




Apple's Ruthless Ad Campaigns

Steve Jobs used to explain Apple something like this

Our goal is really simple, we like to make GREAT products for people. Then, we tell people about them. If they like them, we get to come to work tomorrow. It's really simple.

Apple has had quite a few iconic ad campaigns since its inception. With the exception of the 1984 commercial, they buy A LOT of air time.

Here's the newest addition (expect to see much more from where this came from):


In the biography by Walter Isaacson, Steve is quoted as saying this before he passed:

“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

If you want to watch a good fight, this is going to be a good one.

Apple is ready to battle and they have the resources and infrastructure to do it.

It began with those Samsung lawsuits. Now it is time for the ads. Again, I'd expect to see a ton of these ads in the near future.


If The South Would Have Won

In light of the Hitler and ESPN controversy, I'm reminded of this song.


The question is, of course, would we have had it made? And who is "we"?

Make no mistake, Florida does need to get back "on the right track" but it is not because of "Miami" and the need to "take it back".

Rather, it is because of this guy:

I say we take back Tallahassee.

I'm tired of this being a Republican vs. Democrat argument. I'm tired of this being a liberal vs. conservative argument. I'm tired of it being a Fox News vs MSNBC argument. It's not ok to compare people or leaders to Hitler unless they are oppressing and killing their constituents. And this is isn't a North vs. South argument or a Hate vs. Heritage argument either. This is about being responsible citizens of America.

Sometimes, for us all to get along, we all have to let go of something. I'd day this kind of country music would be a good place to start.


These Girls Are Good

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg959d7a2JE&w=853&h=505]I'm disappointed that I haven't been watching this show. Because of that, I've been wasting most of the morning catching up.

So perfect in nearly every way.

The emotions and crescendos are placed exactly right, and the harmonies are tight when they need to be and wide when they don't.

Truly great work.


(They had a third performance that was a lot less creative than these two and not as good...so they're not infallible.)


Rob Bell announced yesterday that he and Carleton Cuse (of LOST fame) will be writing a TV show that has been picked up by ABC. He and his family are moving to Los Angeles from Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is only now appropriate for his Mars Hill family to wish him "Farewell, Rob Bell". I wish him serious luck. Hollywood is a mean, ripyouupeatyoursoulandthrowyououtwiththedogs kind of business and if the show doesn't play well, you'll be able to buy all ten episodes of "The Complete Series" at Target for $39.99 in a year or so.

Most Christians I know have become very cynical of this news. Wait, the word "cynical" is too generous.

I've been thinking, though, what my reaction might be if I was all the various types of Christians out there. These are generalized statements and intended to be humorous, so don't get too angry if you fit into these categories:

Reformed Piper Followers - "This guy has been going off the deep end for a long time. When will he learn that Love is not for everyone and that God picks and chooses who He saves? Farewell, Rob Bell. Welcome to your life of fame."

Roman Catholics - "These evangelicals will never understand that the Church, even above God, AND DEFINITELY NOT TV is at the center of all things good in the world."

Nondenominational hip Churches - "Dang, wish we could have thought of that. I guess our Twitter account won't cut it anymore."

United Methodists - "Hey, will someone tell us what to think of this? We can't seem to make up our minds about anything important."

Mormons - "He thinks a TV show is an effective way to change the world? Why doesn't he just run for President?"

Southern Baptists - "At least it's not a woman."

Passion 20somethings - "When can we get Chris and Louie on a TV show?"

Divinity Students - "Bell is too centered on himself and his megachurch obviously isn't big enough for him anymore. Down with the megachurch! Down with the megachurch!"

It seems absurd to me that so many of us might be so quick to judge because of a few website headlines we read. Bell is a phenomenal, charismatic, well-read communicator who happens to have followed a call into ministry off of a chance preaching opportunity years ago. He's been picked as one of the most influential pastors in America and has made it his mission to welcome back those hurt by the church by incorporating relevant and trendy cultural points into his sermons and speaking engagements.

Beyond that, Bell is controversial and not afraid to be so. He borders on being more "spiritual" and less "Jesusy" with the hopes that if he can attract people to a new way of life and understanding of Scripture, he can make better disciples. This, because it seems to be less traditional, is controversial. But Bell is not afraid to be so. People respect that, and because he is quite charismatic, and they follow him. The strongest argument against him is that he lost Jesus, but if you study him carefully...you'll find that it's simply not true. Jesus is a significant part of Bell's theology, rightly so.

Bell isn't as anti-traditional as some have made him out to be. I've seen nearly all of his videos and listened to countless sermons of his and I've rarely come across some sort of exegetical insight that I strongly disagreed with (at last not any more than you might find in any mainline church in any town in America).

It's time we stop thinking of religious innovators (and while that term probably does mean progress, it DOES NOT mean a loss of tradition) as inherently "bad". We must judge the preacher on the content and gifts and less on how we view people who have the same church-style.

And beyond all that, it's time we start approaching ministry and those attempting it from a positive stance, and only after that criticizing his/her work from an understanding of their theology, and not from our own personal bias.

If we fight inside these walls and don't go out there, they'll always find another one. Something is wrong...something is terribly wrong.


How the Netflix Disaster Really Went Down

Netflix is facing a lot of heat, even AFTER Reed Hasting's (their CEO) email yesterday apologizing to the entire Netflix community about how he handled this. The wonderful world of JoyOfTech provides insider information on how this all went down. Original post here.


Sure seems to be what they were thinking. I tend to think Reed knows what he is doing, and he is fighting an uphill battle against the content companies, who keep demanding more and more and more money.

It'll be interesting to see how it shakes out.


Fitting Into Societal Norms

Throughout my life, I've struggled with a lack of discipline in many areas of my life. I was never one who thoroughly enjoyed exercise or the simple discipline of it and I LOVED eating. As time has progressed and my metabolism has been unable to keep up with my poor habits, my body has taken the brunt force of those "bad" habits and it has become a factor of embarrassment for me as I try to relearn what it means to take care of my body, from the way that certainly seemed more "natural".

So, recently, I've been watching what seems to be the new trend in television: shows on losing weight. After all, when A&E does a series, you know it is the trend. I suppose it most likely started with "The Biggest Loser", but "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" and A&E's own "Heavy" have been most popular in recent months. I've watched significant portions of each show, trying to wrestle with how these people came to be in the position they are, what lifestyle decisions they've made, and why it is that they can't seem to change themselves, by themselves.

All of the participants in these shows are significantly overweight. More than I ever hope to be. Yet, I still find it intriguing because I recognize their lack of desire to work and equate it with my struggle as well. No, I'm not 500 pounds, I'm not even that close to half of that, but I figure that if I can learn about what it is they need to change about themselves, perhaps it will assist me in changing myself as well.

The question always seems to be begged: why is the change necessary?

These people break down into two distinct groups (as I can see it). About half of them have been overweight since birth. The other half had some sort of traumatic experience in their lives that has driven them to compulsive eating. Most of the second group deal with some sort of depression.

The first group, though, is the most interesting to me. They've always been overweight. They've always eaten a lot. They've rarely exercised. Surely some of that is due to their upbringing, the sudden growth of fast food, etc. However, it makes me wonder, why is it that they never exercised? Why is it that they ate more than a normal human should? And I wonder these things because I wonder them about myself as well. Why is it that I chose to go play the piano or guitar before going for a run? Did I not find running interesting? Did I find running painful? Why is it that some people are encouraged when the pain sets in? Why is it that some people can easily fight through the pain when others of us cower in fear? If it is "natural" to exercise, why is it that most of us don't? Why is it that we come up with easier ways to get around so that we can avoid exercise at all cost?

Surely when our societies were hunters and gatherers, we were in great shape because we had to hunt down the food we were going to eat that night. And we weren't eating fried potatoes.

But that wasn't sustainable for the long haul. It seemed easier, and profitable, to do the hunting FOR other people. Then we'd sell them the food. That'd make it easier. Then we'd be able to feed more people more efficiently. And we are humans...we love efficiency. We build tools to help us be more efficient.

It's obvious what has occurred: we've built tools to help make our lives easier. That's why we are all addicted to our smart phones and iPads. We spend more time inside than any generation before us. We walk and run less than any other generation because there are enough distractions other than exercise. And it has come to the point that when we are walking around the mall our mood goes down when we see stairs, because we'd rather ride the escalator.

But I return to my original thought: discipline. Have we become undisciplined and lazy?

Or, has laziness simply become a byproduct of progress? Or "naturally", are we more inclined to create tools to help us? Or is the hunting and gathering mindset what is really "natural"?

Which leads me to my ultimate thought: does what is "natural" always fit into a societal norm? And, is what is "natural" always the high road and good?

Some people are born with a chemical imbalance that leads them to abuse alcohol. We all know the phrase, even after you're clean, "Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic." On ABC Family's "Switched at Birth", one of the characters is an alcoholic. She's hard on her biological daughter who chose to drink prior to being an adult. The daughter didn't understand why she was being so hard on her. But the mother explained that she simply doesn't have luxury of being able to have one drink. It's not possible because of who she is. But just because her bodily inclinations and behavior lead her to act in certain ways, doesn't mean that society thinks it is okay to be an alcoholic. We look down on drunks.

The same is true of drug users.

The same has been said of gay people.

And so, I suppose the question ought to be asked of societal norms: are societal norms (and accepted practices) based on what we might consider "destructive" behavior? In other words, do we judge others' actions because what they do puts them (and often others) at risk of dying sooner than they might?

The extremely obese people will die because their body and heart simply can't keep up. Alcohol abusers will drive themselves out of house, home, and family, because they use alcohol to cope. Drug abusers run the very real risk of overdosing or taking something that they thought was something else.

And they all become addicts. They become so engorged in what they are doing that they don't care about anything. They lose their families, they lose their jobs, they lose their lives.

Because these things...the unnatural foods, the copious amounts of alcohol, the drugs, all seem...unnatural.

The laziness is unnatural. Because that's not how we once lived.

And we draw this line to connect the dots between "unnatural" and "destructive". And we assume, in almost every instance, that these two are inherently connected.

And if we think under that paradigm, we can perhaps see why homosexuality has been treated, in our society, the way it has. Biblically, it seems unnatural. Many of the conservative voices have argued time and time again that it is "destructive" to our society because it breaks down how we view humanity and the design of a family. Many view it as an addiction, one that can be "treated" (see Michele Bachmann's husband).

Because we've connected those dots. We operate under that mindset. We equate "unnatural" with "bad". We think everything that is "unnatural" is "destructive".

There's no doubt in my mind that many of the Biblical writers (for the most part) consider being gay (or participating in homosexual acts) "unnatural". AND, because of the societal norms of their culture, and the cultures working against them, they equated "unnatural" with "bad" or "sinful".

So the question becomes: can we read "unnatural" in the Scriptures and equate it with our definition of unnatural now...post French Fry? Can we read into God's creation of Adam and Eve and assume that that is what is "natural"?

Because that is what we are doing. We are reading texts out of context. We are placing our own 21st century definitions on words used thousands of years ago. And we assume, that because what seems unnatural now has proven itself to be destructive, that that's what "unnatural" has always and will always mean. And we assume that what society currently considers "normal" behavior is the correct way to be. And when we do that, we lose sight of humanity and of God's creation of it.

It's a tough thought process, one with unclear implications and most likely more divisiveness than unity. It's troubling.

I was not born with an inherent desire to exercise. I have always been a fan of progress. This is the "unnatural" reality I live in. At the end of the day, I really like my iPad...but I still need to exercise.


Yes, I know this doesn't make a clear and decisive argument, as you might be used to getting. That's because I'm not sure this can all be answered.

Apple TV, iCloud, and The Future

When Steve Jobs introduced iCloud at WWDC, he announced a new thing called iTunes in the Cloud.  In essence, iTunes now makes all of the music that you purchased from iTunes in the past available to download onto any iOS device or Mac you own. One problem though: how much music have you bought from iTunes? In recent years, probably a decent amount.  But in the past, perhaps not as much. Problem solved: he then announced iTunes Match, a $25 a year service that takes your iTunes library and matches the music you own (legally acquired or not) and matches it with the high quality iTunes files.

This makes one thing possible: if your hard drive goes down, your iTunes will be backed up in their cloud services. Thanks Apple, nice touch.

Today, quietly, Apple updated the software in the second generation Apple TVs and allowed for any iTunes TV Shows purchases you ever made to be streamed to the Apple TV over the internet.  Kind of like Netflix, but with content you've already purchased.

Presumably, after more deals are made, iTunes Movies will be next.

Before we press on, allow me to explain to you what I do on a regular basis now. Throughout my life, before things like Netflix and Hulu, I purchased a lot of content on optical discs (DVDs). I got a little addicted to the 4-for-$20 deals at Blockbuster. We bought (or usually, received as gifts) TV seasons of shows that we enjoy.  And pretty soon, we had a nice little library of DVDs that had to find a place to sit in our tiny apartment.

One thing has struck me as strange throughout the past couple of years though: why do we do this? You know where my collection of CDs is? I have no idea. I really don't know.  Every piece of audio I own has been ripped into my iTunes library. Prior to Amazon Cloud Player, Google Music, and iTunes in the Cloud if my hard drive crashed, I'd consider my library of music gone. Not because I don't have the physical CDs (for a lot of them, I do), but because the amount of effort to find and rip would be too much to go through.  From the time when I first learned of digital music players (and particularly, the one that could hold ALL of my library in my pocket...iPod), I knew that optical media was going away. And it was going away quickly.

So, recently, I've been doing the same to my video collection. Slowly, but surely, I ripped all 9 seasons of the King of Queens onto my computer. It took time, yes, but it was well worth it. Because here is the process I used to have to go through to watch an episode:

  1. Decide I want to watch a random episode of the King of Queens.
  2. Go get a season from the bookshelf.
  3. Open the box.
  4. Find a disc (usually three or four per box)
  5. Put it in the DVD player.
  6. Wait for the opening menus (that don't allow you to fast forward) to end.
  7. Pick an episode.
  8. Press play.
But here's how I usually watched an episode: TiVo. If there wasn't a recent episode to watch on TiVo, I just didn't bother.
Last year, Apple introduced iTunes Home Sharing, allowing the new Apple TVs (and an iOS device on the same Wireless network) to access your iTunes library. Thanks to my handy ripping, here is my new process:
  1. Decide I want to watch a random episode of the King of Queens.
  2. Change the input of the TV to Apple TV.
  3. Choose an episode.
  4. Press Play
Because of this, I literally haven't used TiVo in months.

When it comes to personal digital content, I am convinced that this is the only way going forward.

And as always, there's a catch: Apple TV must connect to an iTunes library. Which means that your computer must be on, awake, and iTunes open in order for Apple TV to see it.

So this update today: big news or small news? BIG news. Why? Because now, you can watch anything you purchased through iTunes anywhere.  At the airport and forgot to sync that TV show you've been meaning to watch? No problem, download it from iTunes.  You bought it, right? You have the right to watch it. FINALLY.

But there's a catch: how many TV Shows have you purchased from iTunes?  Not many, I'd bet. Why? Lots of reasons: too expensive, crazy copy protection, only digital forms (can't lend them to people, etc), and more. Instead, you'd do what I did.  Buy it at Target on sale, rip it all and THEN access it. Or if you didn't know how to do that, you'd still be using those silly old things called DVD players.

Which leads me to my proposal: iTunes Match for TV and Movies. PLEASE, Apple.

Here's how iTunes Match works (from what we know).  Apple went to the Music companies and asked for it.  They most likely said no. Then Apple said, "We'll pay you large sums of money.  You're not getting a dime from people stealing music now, how about we do this and give you large sums of money?" To which the music companies thought, "Good point." This is the same reason Netflix has a bunch of content you may never watch.  Netflix approached the studios and said, "Listen, you've got content collecting dust on shelves not making ANY money.  How about we write you a check and you let us stream it?" To which the studios thought, "Good point."

This needs to happen with iTunes TV Shows and Movies. I own a bunch of video content in optical form. And I definitely don't want to have to buy it again. BUT, if I could pay a yearly fee (probably more that $25) and could give it the bar codes to everything I own and then have that content on any iOS device I want, whenever I want, however I want, it'd be worth every dime.

The studios would get more money than I've already paid them, and for those who stole episodes of this and that...the studios would be getting something from someone they weren't getting anything from. Everyone wins.

Every time you go to Target, more and more optical content is priced cheaper and cheaper. Why? Because Netflix and Hulu are popular. And because it makes less and less sense as time goes on.  Netflix doesn't have the King of Queens or the Big Bang Theory. And if I stop paying my subscription, Netflix goes away. I need a way to access my content that I own, in as convenient a way as I have through Netflix and Hulu.

Please, Apple, hear my cry.


"I'm a Comedian First"

[vodpod id=Video.11387818&w=425&h=350&fv=] Jon Stewart on Fox News Sunday.

I'm surprised he did this. Because he did though, we have many great quotes.

"I'm not denying that there is liberal bias in the media, but you're suggesting that there is an equivalence between Fox News and ABC and I thinks that's absolutely...silly."


Still In Love With Judas

Gaga released her Judas Video (or at least the first one). It won't embed, but you can watch it here.

I've now watched it four times. Admittedly, I still don't really get it. Some of the online sources claim that she is playing Mary Magdalene. If she is, I'm not quite sure which Gospel she is reading.

I now think that her purpose in the video/song is to have an honest approach to being involved/in love with sin and evil while trying to follow the proper way. I get that, although I don't really.

Most interesting, the end of the video. I'm interpreting it as a statement about what society does to someone who is in love with evil. Strange representation of it, but I do think it is a strong statement.

I think, maybe, that if I saw Judas as the root of all evil, I'd understand the whole world and their stance on this song and the history of Jesus in a different way. But, I don't. I see Judas as a human being who made a mistake (but a mistake they may not have been in his control, because of it's foretelling in the prophets).

I think the world has equated Judas with evil, and GaGa is continuing this effort. In fact, she begins from this premise.

The problem for me is that the history of Christianity's relationship to Judaism (and especially events like the Holocaust) is sometimes attributed to Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. That outlook does nothing but tear down our world and the relations that people of other faiths have with each other.

For that reason, I choose not view Judas as the source of evil within the Passion narrative...and I think that adds to my inability to fully understand GaGa's "message." Stay tuned, this could get interesting.


The Best American Idol

I got an email advertising this clip from YouTube tonight. Let's clear up a few things first: she sings the heck out of this. While she may be criticized for where she chooses to take breaths, it is beautifully and masterfully sung.

Watch the clip (it really is very good):


However, along with this clip, within the email...was this proposition:

"PLEASE watch and listen to the attachment of Carrie Underwood singing her heart out on "How Great Thou Art", I first saw it on T.V. last Friday night and she brought tears to my eye's and the audience to there feet, and I'll bettcha God heard her in Heaven cause if you watch her closely as she sings, she was singing to Him........."

The thing is, the song is great. Carrie is great. It is well done by both her and Vince.

But I wonder if this song, in this context, is being performed as a hymn or simply as a spiritual song. Is there a difference?

I don't doubt that she was singing to "Him" but I wonder if the applause from that crowd was for God, or Carrie, or both.

An honest question, I'm not sure how I feel about it.

No matter who the applause and praise was for..."I bettcha God heard her in Heaven." I'm pretty sure God hears everything. Especially words sung in praise to God.


Can The Church Be Innovative?

One of the best shows on TV, in my opinion, is Modern Family. But that's not the one I want to talk about. That is, also on ABC, Shark Tank.

For those who aren't familiar with the show, it goes a little something like this: An inventor or someone with a "good" idea or product needs financial help. They may need financial help to be bailed out of the debt they've incurred upon themselves, they may need it to grow the business. Whatever the case, they need financial help for their business and so they seek an investor to invest in them and their product in exchange for a percentage of equity in the company or product.

Think of it like this: Joe Schmo makes really cool socks. And his sock business has been booming. It's been selling so well that he cannot meet the orders that he is getting, and so he is forced to make customers wait for the product (weeks, maybe months...sound familiar Apple?). So, in order to meet demand and not turn customers away, he comes and asks the group of investors (referred to as "Sharks" on the show) for, let's say, $50,000 in exchange for 20% of his business. The idea is that the idea and product are so good that with the Sharks' help, the business will grow and both people will make lots of money.

In fact, that's the goal...make money. One shark in particular, Kevin O'Leary, makes that point very clear. He isn't interested in stories of heartache and suffering. If he can't make money, he isn't interested at all, no matter whose feelings he hurts.

I've struggled with why I like this show so much.

I think it is exciting. I think it is a neat idea, and to be honest...when a really good idea comes along, the show is breathtaking.

Then, last night I was reminded of one of Jesus' message while putting away laundry watching Godspell. You know the one, about not serving two masters...God and money in Matthew 6. The Greek word used is "μαμωνα" which I think is borrowed from Aramaic and is most often translated "money" or "wealth."

If we agree to work off of that translation (and not the one of the personified Mammona), we can see the rationale for people in ministry attempting to live a life of non-wealth (I personally think that describing American pastors as living a life of "poverty" is unfair and untrue). We can understand why many pastors and Christians get upset at pastors like Joel Osteen. We can also see why many pastors feel comforted when they hear of Rick Warren serving his church for free (although let's be real, Warren is making plenty with his book...it's just that by most accounts he tries to tithe most of it back to the church).

Keeping that in mind, back to Shark Tank. As someone who admittedly has issues with the wealth of the world and collecting products (I should really count how many Apple products I own sometime), my first reaction to this realization that these two worlds might possibly be incompatible was to come down on myself as being a gluttonous pig. While I'm not saying that isn't true, it still didn't feel like the right answer to me.

So I thought, what is it that I like about Shark Tank? Why am I so intrigued by Apple and the tech industry?

I realized: innovation.

I like the idea of progress. I like the idea of humans using their minds to be creative. I like the idea of humans truly pursuing their callings by inventing things. And I'm not saying all innovation is good, but I do think it has helped all of our lives (even those who think that things were always more authentic and better way back when). Some forget that the very Scriptures we read were written down on a paper like material...and copied over and over, all a form of technological progress.

And that's why I like Shark Tank. The people that come and bring in companies and products are innovating, for the most part.

But it occurred to me, the world and life-centering ideology of money and the inspiration for innovation go hand in hand. In our capitalistic American society, people innovate because they want to find a way to sell their invention and make money...lots of it (and save me the arguments about people like Jonas Salk, who are obviously the exception to the rule).

And if we function off of the rationale that these two function together, my question becomes: where is the Church? Are people inspired to innovate for the Church?

There was a time when the Church influenced the culture. Sometimes, that was paired with the Church ruling over others' lives without their sayso or freedom. Today, the Church doesn't seem to have much influence on the culture.

It seems to me, in these days, that the Church has also lost its interest in innovation. We study tradition (for good reason) and then sometimes we sit by the tradition and have it speak for itself. But we have forgotten that the Gospel is what needs to speak for itself. While the tradition of the Church has brought quite a bit of positive influence of the Church, it has also destroyed many many many people's faith in God. Our tradition is good, but it is also bad.

The churches that ARE innovating these days are drawing large crowds. And they get looked down on for that. Unfortunately, because often these churches have innovated in new forms of worship with the intention of drawing more people in, to collect more money. They sell their products outside the services. (I can't remember so well, but I seem to remember Jesus not liking that idea.) So these churches aren't truly innovating for the church, they're innovating like Americans innovate...for money and money alone (and probably to "save souls").

Maybe, then, the question is less about the Church innovating...and more about letting the Gospel innovate through the Church. At least, I sure hope that's what it is.


It's Your World, I Just Live In It...

"You're asking me to undo 75 years of instinct in a moment!  That is not easy!" [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdkqULZ2onA&]

Yeah, this is more fun than writing a paper.


The New Music Business


Mashable posted the above graph earlier today outlining what would have happened if peer-to-peer file sharing services such as Napster, Morpheus, LimeWire, Vuze, etc had never existed. Given the above chart, the support seems to be in the music industry's favor.

They claim a loss of $55 billion since the inception of Napster. They are suing LimeWire right now for a loss of income (and thus a decline of the business model) and if guilty, LimeWire is going to owe Sony and Warner in the billions of dollars. Billions, with a "B" as Kevin O'Leary says.

This story reminds me of when Bon Jovi blamed Steve Jobs as having single-handedly killed the music industry. If anything (given the chart above), Steve Jobs helped give the industry a fighting chance.

To me, this brings up several questions regarding the role of technological innovation in the production of content.

Are the file sharing companies responsible for the dying business model? Or is the music industry's refusal to move forward, with thoughts and progression technologically, to blame?

I'm not quite sure of the answer here. There is no doubt in my mind that the file sharing services have hurt the industry, but digital music was becoming more relevant with the iPod and all of a sudden carrying your entire CD collection around with you (having to switch cds in and out) seemed impractical. The music companies were against this entire process because it placed music files into places where they could not only be shared (no one has ever borrowed someone else's cd right?) but edited, morphed, and uploaded to sites like YouTube.

It made the music...interactive.

Napster (and those like it) created a sense in America that you didn't have to pay for content. iTunes has successfully changed that. But, they neglected the idea of an album to do it.

So, in a sense, Steve Jobs did ruin the music business (because the entire industry was based upon selling $15 cds that people bought to hear 2 or three songs).

Or, if you are me, you see it as progress of technology blowing open a lucrative business model that was based off selling things to people that they didn't want, and then jacking up the price.

It would be as if the grocery store told you you could only buy the good bananas if you bought a group of them (of which only two were really enticing) and they charged you $15 for the group. If people could find a way to get the bananas one at a time, they would (even if it meant stealing). Either that or the banana business would go downhill.

And, that, is why bananas are sold by what you choose, by the weight. You only pay for what you like.

If the music industry would wake up to this reality, their business model would change and again be able to afford to stay in business and grow. I love the music industry, so I hope they do.

Sometimes things change. You must change with it or it will redefine you. And then you die.


Why I Like Apple

A lot of people ask me why I like Apple so much. They ask constantly. I often have trouble thinking of everything.

I like their commitment to product excellency. I like their commitment to product simplicity. I like the fact that they focus on different things than other tech companies. I like their story. I like their unique and innovative approach. I like their leadership, especially Steve Jobs. I like their understanding for people, in real situations and places. I like their commitment to the environment. I like their simplicity in general. I like their products. I like them.

This new ad for the iPad 2, titled "We Believe," kind of sums all of this up, I think.