Why the LOST Finale Was NOT Awful

As you well know, my wife and I are (and have been… and will continue to be…) die-hard fans of LOST on ABC. And, as you well know, last night was the epic conclusion to a beautiful story told over the course of 6 mind-bending seasons.

The backlash to the wrap-up of the story that is LOST has been pretty straight down the middle: people either loved it, or they hated it… and it seems so far to be about a 50/50 split.

Let me offer you 3 reasons why I believe the finale was brilliant, beautiful and fitting.

1.) The “Characters” Have Always Been More Important Than the “Mysteries”

LOST has thrived on it’s ability to create a cast of characters that the viewers instantly fell in love with. Over the past 6 years, we have invested ourselves emotionally in the lives (backstory, forwardstory, sidestory) of Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and others. The writers primary purpose has always seemed to me to create compelling “characters” first, give them a compelling “story” second, and place them in a compelling “context” third. Last night was beautiful because it focused on giving us what was important: the characters. We got to witness the redemption and reunions of our favorite people (How could you NOT enjoy watching Jin and Sun get to see their baby? How could you remain unmoved when Charlie got to touch Claire and hold Aaron? Were you mad at your T.V. when Sawyer and Juliet planned their dutch coffee-date?). Any finale that focused more on the story and the context (the mysteries of the island) instead of the characters would have been infinitely more dissatisfying… I promise you.

2.) It is Better to Have Loved and LOST, then Never to Have Loved at All: The Sideways Reality

Say what you will about the Sideways-reality ending up being some sort of after-life experience (and yes, of course, this is important), but pause and reflect on what we SAW during that reality, and how that story line evolved. You have heard it said, “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” and I think that the Sideways-reality is potentially the best depiction of this maxim. It seems that the Sideways-reality was a picture of what the characters life “would” have been had they not ever gone to the Island (or at least what they “thought” it would have been). And for each character, there seemed a strange tension of this non-island reality being both better and worse than the island-reality. But in the end, as each character had their moment of realization, their epiphanal-moment, it was as though they realized that although the island represented years of struggle, hardship, chaos, and loss, it ALSO represented years of love, beauty, relationships, trust and redemption. Talk to people who have gone through agonizing experiences and often times you’ll find that in the end they wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. The highest of highs in our life are often accompanied by, or a direct result of, the lowest of lows. And for our LOST characters, the Sideways-reality gave them a gift of seeing that ultimately the time on the Island was and is a better reality than one without it. They thought they would be better off having never been to the Island, but it turns out the exact opposite is true. Also, can I just say that I don’t think it was a cop-out or a lame excuse for an ending to have the Sideways-reality be some sort of “after-life” experience? Like I’ve said before, the whole story was heading in the direction of some sort of sci-fi/fantasy/suspension-of-belief ending. There was going to be no logical or rationale conclusion. In fact, that is sort of one of the main points of the show: science vs faith, reason vs belief. ANY ending that was to merge the Sideways-reality with the Island-reality was going to force you to suspend belief, to just go-with-it.

3.) Answers are Overrated

For those frustrated that their questions weren’t answered, let me ask you: how many of your questions would have had to been answered for you to feel satisfied? 3? 5? 17? Seriously, at what point would you have been happy? If you entered the finale thinking “they better answer all my questions,” weren’t you already setting yourself up to be disappointed? Besides, I think answers are often less fulfilling anyways than mystery, intrigue, and imagination. Chances are, if “answers” were what you had your hopes set on, I’m willing to wager that whatever “answer” was given wouldn’t have been good enough. (Also, is it possible that you DID actually get an answer to your question, but you just aren’t willing to accept it? Ex. Q) What was that pool of light that supposedly harnessed some strange energy and beauty? A) It was a pool of light, harnessing energy and beauty.) I think we are so used to getting everything figured out for us (i.e. shows like CSI, NCIS, Mentalist, House, etc, give you all the answers you need at the end of 60 minutes) that we forget what it’s like to be left still wondering… to be left in that place of curiosity, intrigue, confusion. This is what the Socratic-method is all about: asking questions. That’s when we learn best. The writers want US to wrestle with these mysteries. They don’t want to just spoon feed us. Sure, we can feel robbed when it feels like major plot points are left untouched, or inconsistencies seem un-resolved. I get it. But it boils down to a our own willingness to be okay with not-knowing. Jesus himself taught in stories that often left his hearers more confused than before. They were forced to wrestle with his coded-sayings, his cryptic stories. He would have been less effective, less compelling, and probably less interesting had he just explained everything in easy to understand ways.

In the end, I feel like the biggest questions, the ones most important to the characters themselves, were answered sufficiently and beautifully. The Finale gave us powerful and meaningful moments with the characters. The Finale gave us memorable quotes (Hurley to Ben: Dude, you were a great #2. Ben to Hurley: And you were a great #1). The Finale gave us proper reunions. The Finale gave us wonderful pictures of sacrifice (Jack resetting the pool of light) and powerful moments of redemption.

I, for one, am proud to have been a part of LOST, and I’m proud of the way Lindelof and Cuse wrapped things up.

What about you?

Were you satisfied? Frustrated? Happy, sad?

Did you love it or loathe it?

Take the Poll and leave your comments below.

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LOST: Which “Jack” Will You Be?

Well, the time has come. As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.”

The epic, groundbreaking, culture changing, TV programming altering show that is LOST will conclude this Sunday with millions of Americans tuning in for probably a variety of reasons. Chief among those reasons? The Hope for Answers.

If you’ve been watching LOST over the past 6 years, you are well aware of the tangle of mysteries and the web of questions the writers have been weaving. How, for every question they answer, another 3 more get asked. If you’ve been following Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and the others (and the Others) then you know well what this Sunday means for them. And as much as we want our favorite characters to find answers, to find redemption, WE ourselves have also become characters in this story who are also looking for redemption, looking for answers.

After the episode a week ago (“Across the Sea“) I couldn’t help but wrestle with the following question regarding the closing of this story that is LOST, and I wonder if you’ve wrestled with it as well…

When all is said and done, when the final credits role, when mysteries have been revealed and questions answered, which “Jack” will I be? Will I be the Jack of Season 1, insistent that the only explanation for things are logical, rational, scientific. Or will I be the Jack of Season 6, open to possibilities that stretch beyond reason, embracing mystery itself as both the means and the end?

Here’s why I think this question is important. I think that in some way the satisfaction of the viewer (maybe not for the entire six-season show, but certainly the finale) hinges on whether or not we demand answers that would satisfy Season-1-Jack, or accept answers that would satisfy Season-6-Jack.

You see, all along, especially since Season 3, the story that is LOST has been pointing at (at times hinting, and at times shouting) a very sci-fi type of reality. This was none more evident than in last weeks episode where mysteries of what the Island is and who it’s keepers are was revealed.

A small creek, going down a shaft of really bright light, in the middle of the Island? THAT is what all this fuss is about? A place where light, energy, and beauty is all stored? And Jacob (and his mom) are just there to protect people from finding it? Huh…

But for me, who has extensive background in the realms of science fiction and fantasy, this was not just sufficient, it was perfect. I’ve been expecting moments like this. I’m okay with things like light and energy, powerful water and elements (magic wands, powerful rings, crystals, potions, wizards, aliens, etc). A pool of light and energy? Yup. Ageless guardians to protect it? Yup. Channeling water and light to create giant wheels to time travel and move the island? Of course.

But for someone who doesn’t have that background, or who doesn’t get excited about those sorts of things, they could still be asking the question, “well, yeah, but what does that MEAN? What “is” that pool of light? How did it get there? Who put it there? Where did it’s keepers come from? What the $@#% does it MEAN!!”

And you can see how Jack of Season 1 would have the latter reaction, whereas the Jack of Season 6 (especially as shown last night, in “What They Died For“) would have the former.

One of the primary themes throughout the 6 seasons, if not THE primary theme, has been the tension between Science and Faith (Jack vs Locke). And if we, the viewers, don’t prepare ourselves to be open to mystery going in to Sundays Finale, I fear we will find ourselves frustrated and disappointed. So I say, which “Jack” will you be? How important are reasonable are logical explanations of the island and it’s mysteries? Does it have to make “sense?”

I fear that if you haven’t made a similar progression or evolution that Jack has made over the past 6 years, then you might be the ones Monday morning posting “LOST… what a waste of six years” on your Facebook.

Here’s to mystery embraced, and the beauty of faith.

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New EP Released: One Season

New EP: "One Season" by Colby Martin

I’m excited to announce that my first solo project, an EP titled “One Season,” is finally available for purchase and download!

After years of ignoring any desire to get in the studio and record some original songs, my hand was finally “forced” as I faced a need to raise money for a missions trip I was going on to Liberia, Africa. (You can read more about that here).

The EP was recorded at El Rancho studios in Chandler, AZ, by Mike Eldred of Fender Guitars. It features the accompaniment of Vanessa Bisaha, Brian Morgan, John Vice, Mike Eldred, and Janice Bailey (read more here).

I would be honored if you picked up a copy today. Right now I’m asking for donations only, with 100% going towards my Africa trip (suggested donation $5).

You can go here to donate and download the album.

Check out the lyrics of the songs here, and the stories behind the songs here.

Glad to share this with you. Thank you for your support of me and my ministry!

Using iMag in Corporate Worship

A couple weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend Catalyst West, a conference designed to encourage, inspire, and challenge the leaders of tomorrow, those in our church who will live in and live out the Kingdom of God.

It was a brilliantly assembled (and beautifully diverse… in some ways) gathering of men (and women… although not enough, if you ask me) that I really think accomplished what it set out to.

I may post further observations and thoughts in later posts, but for right now I want to talk about what is commonly referred to as “iMag”, or Image Magnification.

iMag is essentially the process of using cameras to project on to large screens what is happening on the main stage. Such as the below pic of Chris Tomlin leading worship.

Chris Tomlin leading at CatWest

You can see, above and behind Chris, a large screen projecting shots of the band.

Many churches use this technique, iMag, during their services, and if I may I’d like to give my thoughts on it. What’s that? You didn’t really ask me for my thoughts? Oh that’s okay… I tend to give unsolicited opinions often…

5 Reasons I Like iMag

1) It Connects You to What is Happening on the Stage. If you are in a large auditorium, and you get stuck in the way back (or way top), then you can feel disconnected from what’s going on. You also miss facial expressions and other non-verbals. Making a 10-foot face is a simple solution. Imagine sitting in the below auditorium, in the nosebleeds. Without iMag, you just might get frustrated enough to show up earlier next week for a better seat.

Rob Bell speaking at Catalyst '09

2) It Looks Cool: C’mon, admit it. When you’ve got cameras sweeping across the room on giant booms, and camera guys running around the stage, you think: wow, this is something really special! Haven’t you always wondered how that lead guitar part goes? Bam! Solo shot on the stud guitarist, extreme close up of his hands flying across the fretboard. Feel sad that the drummer is always in the back, blocked by cymbals and stands? Bam! Solo shot on the drummer’s face as he sweats and bobs to the music. Wonder how you too can have awesome emo/metro hair like the worship leader? Bam! Solo shot on the leader!

3) It Provides Service Opportunities for Techies in Your Congregation. I run in to a lot of people who are frustrated because they love to zoom in on stuff, but their church doesn’t have a place for them. Now, just keep adding camera shots, and more and more people can serve!

4) It Gives You Something to Watch if You Don’t Like Singing: Not everyone likes to sing, or always feels like singing, but with iMag you at least provide them with something to watch if they want. If you just have graphic backgrounds behind your lyrics, that gets boring fast. And if you can’t ‘see the preacher, you’ll easily tune out. But if you can watch the constant panning and zooming, the cutting and fading of the worship band, that’s like being at home watching t.v.! I can just tap my feet to the music and watch the show without feeling like I have to sing along!

5) It Forces Hygiene: Gone are the days when the bassist can just roll out of bed, slumber on to the stage, and do his thing. Now, he’s got to be ready should he get a close up. Ladies can’t skip the make-up in the morning, cause their face could be the balance on whether people engage in worship that morning, or grimace and disengage. Speakers must be well shaved and clothes well pressed. You can’t hide anything in 20 feet of high definition.

5 Reasons I Do Not Like iMag

1) It Can Be A Distraction: This really applies to the music section of a service. If my only opportunity to follow along with the lyrics is to look at a large screen showing me everything the band is doing, for me that is a negative.  If I know the song, I’ll close my eyes and sing along. If I don’t, I’m forced to read them from a screen, which is fine and good. But I don’t want to have to watch a music-video while I’m doing it.

2) It Can Confuse the Focus: Worship, I think we can all agree, is about the King and for the King. Obviously churches and people who utilize iMag for worship know and believe this as well, I’m not saying they don’t. But doesn’t it send mixed messages? To quote Shane Hipps: the media IS the message. If we show lead guitar guy shredding the lick, or zoom in on singer-lady’s face as she belts that high-C, aren’t we, in a sense, saying that these people and what they are doing is the focus? Not intentionally, maybe, but unintentionally absolutely. “Just ignore me… pretend it’s just you and God right now… let me and my voice just fade to the background,” says the worship leader WITH THE GIANT HEAD. It’s hard enough to empower our congregations to focus on Jesus as they worship, but aren’t we compounding the issue by asking them to ignore the show we’re broadcasting on the screen? It’s like telling our kids they have to eat dinner before they get dessert, WHILE WE OURSELVES are chomping on a chocolate chip cookie with our broccoli untouched.

3) It Puts Weird Pressure on the People on Stage: Some of the camera guys I was watching at Catalyst were getting so close to the guitar players, I felt nervous FOR them. How in the world do we expect the musicians to be worshiping themselves when they are constantly thinking “uh-oh, am I on the screen for this one? I better not screw up… and I better make sure my face looks really worshipful…” Certainly people can get used to this, to where they don’t really think about it anymore, but is that really a good thing in the end? It’s already enough of an issue to fight against the complex of feeling like a rock-star while on stage, performing for thousands of people, but you put my face on a giant screen, and now I feel even more important!

Aaron Keyes leading worship at CatWest

4) It Feeds the Entertain-me Machine: One of the major criticisms of the modern, western, evangelical church is that it has become too consumeristic. Rather than asking church-goers “how can YOU serve people,” we ask “how can WE serve you?” We create a environment where people come to be entertained. We put on a show for them, hoping they’ll come back next week with a friend. We don’t require anything from them, just that they sit back and enjoy the show. I feel like using iMag in worship does nothing to combat this notion, and more likely does much to convey it.

5) It Doesn’t Feel Right: Okay, so this is pretty vague, and sort of a lame 5th reason. But there’s just something about iMag that I can’t quite put my finger on (other than the previous 4 reasons, of course) that just makes me cringe a bit. While the motives of those using iMag are undoubtedly noble, the final product looks, well, like that: a product. I don’t feel invited in to engage in worship, I feel invited to join a concert, to watch a performance, to see how good looking and talented other people are. I end up feeling bad for the people on stage, wishing they didn’t have to have themselves projected on large screens. I find myself desperate to look elsewhere, even if it means I cannot sing-a-long because I don’t know the words. And in the end, I realize that all I’m really thinking about is the use of iMag itself, and not Jesus and His worship.

Conclusion: I don’t totally hate iMag. My first “reason to like” iMag remains true, however I would apply that only to the Preacher/Speaker. I just think the game changes too much when it comes to the music and worship. Yes, use iMag to blow up the head of the preacher so we can follow along and be engaged. But leave it off when the band plays. So what if I can’t see the singers face, I’m not here to watch him. I don’t want to condemn or judge those of my friends and comrades who utilize iMag (or are at a church that forces them to use iMag), for I know that much of this is preference and personal conviction. But I do think there is enough inherent to the medium itself that should cause us to question “why” we use it, and what messages are we conveying when we do.

What about you?

Does your church use iMag? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, how would you feel if they started this week?

Or have you been to events where they used iMag? How did you feel about it?

As always, I welcome your comments…