Louis C.K. and Cellphones; Jesus and Wine

If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you borrow 4 minutes from your day to listen to this mini-sermon delivered by comedian Louis C.K. on Conan.

In it, he reflects on the parenting decision to NOT let his girls have cell phones. Which, in a (crude) nutshell he says that parents often struggle with the idea of, “well, all the other kids have a phone… so my kid has to, too.”

To which Louis says, how about you let YOUR kid be the better example to the other kids. “Just because the other stupid kids have phones, doesn’t mean my kid has to be stupid in order to not feel weird.”

A bit harsh, but that’s Louis.

The real gold comes, though, when he unpacks how he feels in general about cell phones. About how they are toxic, and how they shield us from dealing with that existential angst in our soul that threatens to remind us that we are alone.

We are so afraid of being alone, admitting that we have a “forever emptiness” in us (as Louis says), that we turn to the crutch of our phone to instantly “connect” with someone else.

Which is all well and good, and I think just THAT naming of reality makes this video worthwhile. Because yes, my cell phone is what I turn to when I don’t want to just sit with “me.”

Yesterday I walked my three oldest boys down to a block party. We arrived at the tail end of the party, so the bouncy house was largely vacant. My boys wasted no time in filling that empty space with screams, yells, Power Ranger kicks, and other such shenanigans. I meandered over to where I heard my name being called… whispered… summoned.

The free beer.

Filling up my cup with a nice Pale Ale from Thorn St Brewery I surveyed the party area and recognized no one. Content with this discovery (because I am, after all, socially awkward at times and definitely not good at small talk or meeting new people) I took my cold draft and walked back to the bouncy house.

Though I WANTED to go inside and join my boys, I decided they were having too much fun to risk being kicked out because of me. So, instead, I sat down on the sidewalk and just watched them bounce.

And you know what my hands INSTANTLY did, once I sat down?

Likely the same thing YOURS do: reach in my pocket for my phone.

Sadness then hit me when I unlocked my phone and discovered I only had 10% battery left. I thought, “dang… I don’t know how long I’ll be here, so I better conserve this 10%. Who knows how long it will have to last me. I’ll check email and FB now… wait a few minutes… then check football scores… wait a few more minutes, then maybe post an Instagram…”

I didn’t want to just sit. Alone. With just ‘me.’

Let alone (obviously) go out and mingle with people.
Yeesh.

So yeah, Louis, I’m tracking with you. Cell phones medicate us from having to just be with “us.”

But he doesn’t stop there.

He tells a story about driving down the road, alone, and suddenly becomes overwhelmed with a sense of sadness. When he felt it coming his FIRST instinct was to grab his phone and start texting people. To connect with someone. To not feel alone, or sad.

Instead, he rejected that instinct, and chose instead this:

“Just be sad. Just let the sadness… stand in the way of it, and let it hit you like a truck…. I pulled over and I just cried… I cried so much… and it was beautiful… sadness is poetic, you’re lucky to live sad moments. And then I had happy feelings because of it. When you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies. It has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness… and because we don’t want that first bit of “sad,” we push it away [with things like our cell phones]. (editor’s note: He mentions other things we do to distract ourselves, and it’s funny, but I don’t feel like typing it. HA!)

And I just find all that so absolutely, beautifully, and truthfully profound.

We don’t want to be sad.
We don’t want to feel alone.
And our phones are wonderful happy devices that connect us instantly.

But more than just phones, we live life like this. We try our damnedest to avoid feeling sad. And when we do, we certainly don’t elect to “just stand there and let it hit us like a truck.”

If you need confirmation about this human reality, just listen to the audience when Louis is talking.
You can hear the crowd laughing as Louis is telling his story. And yes, partly because he’s funny, but mostly you can sense it’s a nervous laughter.

It’s the type of laughter when you’ve just been exposed, and it’s uncomfortable.

But we do that, don’t we?
We avoid facing the full trauma of our sadness.
We numb ourselves.

I’m reminded of Jesus on the cross. In Mark’s gospel he tells the story of Jesus’ humiliating walk to Golgotha. And shortly after Simon of Cyrene is grabbed from the crowd to carry the cross for Jesus, Mark says, “The soldiers offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to dull his pain, but he refused it.” (Mark 15:23 The VOICE)

Jesus had the option to take the edge off.
To dull the pain a bit.
To medicate.
To grab the cell phone and avoid feeling sad.
Alone.

But he refused it.

And I think that point is important because Jesus’ knew on some profound level that he had to fully be present and fully face the upcoming sadness. He needed to face the full force of the trauma that was happening.

To truly absorb the weight of humanity’s collective wickedness, to fully expose the myth of violence, to ensure a defeat of the powers of sin and death, and to thoroughly demonstrate the weak power of love, mercy and sacrifice, Jesus had to just be sad.

This full engagement with the trauma allowed then for a complete and total break through on the other side.

Resurrection.

And resurrection can ONLY come after we have endured the tragic.
Resurrection comes after death.

In the words of Louis, “happiness comes rushing in to meet the sadness.”

But the happiness won’t come if we refuse to engage the sadness.

Resurrection life becomes merely a half-dead, barely-living, zombie type of existence if it isn’t first accompanied by a full embracing of the tragic.

I wrote this post a while back about the experience of losing something. And I concluded with these words, and I still like them, and it sort of applies to this post:

If we lose something in life that was dear to us, and we are sincerely led to believe that God was involved in the process of initiating or directing this loss, then let us choose to first engage with that loss. Experience it. Know it. Let it stare at us in the depths of our soul and let us not move on to quickly. But when we do, when we begin to move from crucifixion to a time of resurrection, then let us begin to believe that no matter what comes next, whether or not what we initially lost will ever be replaced, that we will be better because we engaged with Christ and participated in his crucifixion and are now living in his resurrection. And that, ultimately, is life.

Thank you, Louis, for making accessible such a beautiful spiritual truth.

Be sad, my friends, when sadness comes. Don’t reach too quickly for the cell phone, don’t numb the pain with wine and myrrh. Like Louis said, “you’re lucky to live sad moments.”

Because the eternal life (abundant life, life of the ages, or, as Louis names it, happiness) that is waiting for you on the other side is infinitely better than numbness, avoidance, or pretending all-is-fine.

An Apology and a Recant

Well, it happens to the best of us.

I was wrong.

And I owe a couple of apologies.

Last week I gave my review of the Grammy performances. In it, I said the following:

Bruce Springsteen can still rock it, of that there is no doubt. He looks good and sounds good (although when you sing a song with only a four note range, it’s kind of hard NOT to). My issue was with the song, “We Take Care of Our Own.” Call it my aversion-to-USA-thinking-they’re-better-than-anyone-else syndrome, fine. But I just don’t resonate with the message “wherever our flag is flown / we take care of our own.”

And also:

For the first time ever, I enjoyed  a live performance of Taylor Swift! The song is great, but she finally put together a live performance worth remembering. I loved the set and costumes, and how cool that Taylor rocked out on a banjo?! All around a great little number.

As it turns out, I was wrong on both accounts. Springsteen’s song is NOT a “we-are-better-than-everyone-else” anthem, and Swift was  NOT playing a banjo.

So, I offer my apologies to Bruce and Taylor.

Bruce, I didn’t give you ENOUGH credit.

Taylor, I gave you TOO MUCH.

Sorry.

Thanks to my buddy Matt Morris for setting me straight on the purpose of “We Take Care of our Own.” Turns out it functions as the exact opposite of what I thought. He is actually critiquing the lack of taking care of people. I would still say, however, that he kinda brought this criticism on himself in a way. When your verses are so gravelly and hard to understand, but your chorus (the HOOK) comes through loud and clear, it’s kind of hard NOT to think what I originally thought. Nonetheless, I will be the first to argue the importance of context. And when you rip a chorus out of context from the surrounding verses you can end up with entirely different meanings.

And thanks to my brother, Logan Martin, for pointing out the fact that the “banjo” Taylor was playing had, in fact, all six strings. Whereas a real banjo has only four. She tricked me. She tricked us all.

See. I’m not above admitting when I’m wrong!

2012 Grammy Wrap-up

Last year I gave my HIGHS, LOWS, and DISAPPOINTMENTS from the 2011 Grammy’s. Not one to walk away from an obvious tradition, I again offer you my assessment of last night’s Biggest Night in Music.

I’d like to reiterate my appreciation for how the Grammy’s have evolved: more performances and more action, with only the “biggest and awesomest” awards being handed out live (I’m talking to YOU, Short-Film Animated, Short-Film Live, Documentary Short, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. #oscars).

Breaking the night up in to 3 Acts, with a Postlude, here’s my awards for the 2012 Grammy Performances.

Act I

“Worst Song to be Performed Well by an Old Timer”
Bruce Springsteen can still rock it, of that there is no doubt. He looks good and sounds good (although when you sing a song with only a four note range, it’s kind of hard NOT to). My issue was with the song, “We Take Care of Our Own.” Call it my aversion-to-USA-thinking-they’re-better-than-anyone-else syndrome, fine. But I just don’t resonate with the message “wherever our flag is flown / we take care of our own.”

“Best Collaboration Between Newbie and Old Timer”
Last night gave us quite a few of these mashups, but I thought that Alica Keyes and Bonnie Raitt’s, who was the first collaboration of the evening, was also the best. I loved the simple guitar/keys combo, and their tribute to Etta James was simply beautiful. They blended perfectly.

“Best Tribute to Classic 80’s Toys”
Did anyone else think Chris Brown’s bland and uninteresting performance of “Turn up the Music/Beautiful People” looked like he was a failed Cirque du Soleil auditioner who was prancing around on a giant Rubik’s Cube in an eerily similar way to that classic NES game, Bubble Bobble? Well, if not, then you probably do now.

“Still Doesn’t Work, Award”
Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson tried this duet last year on American Idol, and it just doesn’t work for them. Their chemistry is awkward and their blending is bad. The best part? When Jason’s mic went out and it was just Kelly.

“Most Underwhelming”
Sorry, I just could not get in to the Foo Fighter’s “Walk.” It sounded like the B-side track to almost any given garage band in the Pacific Northwest. I’m just not tracking with they hype on that one.

“Best Performance by a Mile”
Without question, Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby” was hands down the best performance of the first hour. And would eventually prove to be (in my opinion) the clear winner for Best Performance of the Night. Last year, if you recall, his performance was uber-cool, but his vocals (which are normally pitch perfect) were a bit harsh. But last night he absolutely killed it! It was fun, it was engaging, it was interesting… but more importantly, it was GOOD. And where did he find such talented Doo-Wop horn players who could also dance? I’m a big Bruno fan, and so I was thrilled that although he didn’t walk away with any hardware, he DID walk away knowing that he easily had the best performance at the 2012 Grammy’s. Harder to put on a mantle, but more fun to show your friends at your next Cranium party.

Act II

“Biggest Surprise”
For the first time ever, I enjoyed  a live performance of Taylor Swift! The song is great, but she finally put together a live performance worth remembering. I loved the set and costumes, and how cool that Taylor rocked out on a banjo?! All around a great little number.

“Best Reminder that Not all Great Singers Can Sing (or OUGHT Sing) Other Styles”
Adam Levine has an incredible voice. I love it. But there was nothing incredible about his cover of the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl.” It was kind of embarrassing. Foster the People did a slightly better cover when it was their turn. Ultimately, the moment was saved when the real, live (barely) Beach Boys took the stage! They might not be able to move anymore, but they can still harmonize nicely.

“Lamest Song of the Night”
Really? Please, don’t argue. There’s no grounds to say that Sir Paul McCartney’s song, “My Valentine,” was anything other than lame. Okay, it was also boring.

“Most Disappointing”
The idea of Rihanna and Coldplay sharing the stage sounds really good on paper. And it SHOULD have rocked. But, it didn’t. Neither one seemed to know what the other was supposed to be singing. They were unison at times when they probably were supposed to be harmonizing, but neither seemed confident to go off melody. It looked as awkward as it sounded, too. Their individual performances were unimpressive, too. As my wife said, “I’ve never NOT enjoyed hearing Coldplay live before. Weird.”

“The Mumford and Sons Moment of 2012″
Remember last year when Mumford and Sons, relative unknowns for most of the populace, took the stage and blew everyone away? Well, Civil Wars came awfully close to accomplishing the same feat last night. They showed a couple things: 1) In light of all the terrible vocal blending happening all night long, Civil Wars showed you how it OUGHT to sound. And it was amazing. 2) In light of all the over-the-top performances, Civil Wars showed you how the “music” is still the most important aspect. 3) They showed that people who follow Jesus DON’T HAVE TO MAKE JESUS-Y TYPE SONGS ALL THE TIME! For heaven’s sake, sometimes just focus on making GOOD music, and don’t get bogged down with whether or not it’s GOD music. Civil Wars possibly stole the show last night.

“Best Use of Blue”
Katy Perry, bravely offering a new song, looked good. That counts for something. Can’t say I dug the song (anyone else thinking, “ouch, sucks to be Russell!”). And the bait-and-switch trickery at the beginning was unfulfilling.  I like Katy, but last night didn’t impress.

ACT III

“Best Old Timer of the Night”
Of all the oldie’s that took the stage, I think the overall best performance was Glen Campbell, featuring The Band Perry and Blake Shelton. Glen still has range (unlike Bruce), can still move around (unlike Beach Boys) and sang a good song (unlike Sir Paul). And The Band Perry and Shelton didn’t screw it up (unlike Maroon 5). All around enjoyable moment, especially when at the end Glen closed with “and rhinestone cow-GIRLS.” #adaptingtothetimes

The “That Was Nice” Moment
Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood? That was nice.

“Biggest Sigh of Relief”
Phew… everybody can breath again. Adele still has pipes! The artists who single-handedly elevated and carried the music industry in 2011, and then went and got everyone FREAKED out with vocal chord surgery, came back last night and threw down her mega-hit, “Rolling in the Deep.” Now, it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t the Live-Adele that we’re accustomed to. She missed some notes and pushed others. But I expected that, seeing as how this was her first moment back and all. Nonetheless, she proved once again why she was oh-so-deserving of completely sweeping the statues last night. Well done, Adele!

“Best Tribute (and also), Best Cover”
Jennifer Hudson, thank you for doing justice to Whitney Houston’s “I WIll Always Love You.” Although you probably would have been loved and hailed no matter how you sang it, simply because of the moment of it all, you actually earned the standing ovation (yes, I’m sure they stood for Whitney… but jHud made the moment that much better). The music industry lost a Great over the weekend, and from LL’s opening prayer to Jennifer’s moving ballad, it was a great night of celebrating Whitney Houston that didn’t also lose the fact that it is, still, the Grammys.

“Worst Re-Appearance”
I wish the producers would have allowed people to text in, throughout the show, to vote on who got to come back and perform again. Because certainly it would not have been Chris Brown or the Foo Fighters. But, alas, we had to sit through them again. This time they were accompanied by DJ’s David Guetta and Deadmau5. And during the whole “wait, is this really what’s so exciting?” performance by Deadmau5, I couldn’t help but wonder: “how do we know that he’s not just doing the DJ equivalent of lip-synching? What if he just pushed PLAY on his iPod up there on that giant cube, and is now just dancing, flailing his right arm, and lighting up his high-as-a-kite techno Mickey head?” I’m not convinced otherwise…

“Best Excuse to Own a DVR”
Nicki Minaj. Don’t get it. Don’t want to get it. The word that kept coming to mind during her “performance” (I use that term lightly) was: unfortunate. It’s unfortunate we had to watch that. It’s unfortunate we had to listen to that. It’s unfortunate that the Grammys semi-ended with that. It’s unfortunate that some people call that “music.” Like my buddy Zach Lind from Jimmy Eat World tweeted, “Congrats to this Nikki Minaj person. She’s reached a point where no one will tell her “no.” That’s not easy.” #unfortunate

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So there you have it.

The best moments of the night:
Act I – Bruno Mars
Act II – Civil Wars
Act III – Adele

Do you think I got something wrong?

Did you love something that I dismissed?

Did you loath something that I praised?

What were your favorite moments (or most cringe-worthy) from last night?

I welcome your comments.

TV Shows I Miss

Have you found yourself, as I have, hesitant to embrace new shows?

When a show you loved gets hacked after one season (or worse, mid-season!) you grumble and curse the network under your breath. “How can you cut _____________, but keep trash like ______________ on the air!?!?!”

And then, when it happens again… and again… and again… you start to guard your media-heart a little more.

Anyways, the other day I was reading about a new series being created by one of my favorite writers: Aaron Sorkin.
Sorkin created shows like The West Wing and Sports Night, and wrote the amazing screenplay for The Social Network. He is currently working on a new show that will be similar to Sports Night but in the context of a News Channel. Sounds awesome!

Another show he created that I loved, but got dropped after only one season, was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. And I found myself ticked off all over again that a brilliant, smart, funny and good show like that was not picked up by for more seasons. Which got me to thinking: what other shows do I wish didn’t die so early?

Which then got me thinking: what shows had a great run, but I still miss because they were just so darn good?

So, here’s a list of some of my favorite television shows that I miss. Some because they were killed too early, and others that had a great run but I still miss them anyways.

SHOWS THAT DIED TOO YOUNG

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – As stated, a smart, funny and well written “behind the scenes” dramedy that took place on a variety-show. Came out at the same time as 30 Rock, and with similar premises but drastically different approaches, 30 Rock (which is great, BTW) came out the clear winner. But if you have Netflix, do yourself a solid and go watch the 22 episodes of this great show that only lasted one season. Perhaps if they would have dropped “on the Sunset Strip,” more would have watched? I wish.

Pushing Daisies – Originality is hard to come by. It’s easy to make another CSI or Law and Order or Real Housewives. But Pushing Daisies stood out for its quirky characters, its original concept, its unique look, and its pure fun-ness. Even with 17 Emmy nods and 7 wins, it still only lasted 2 seasons. I wish Ned could touch this show and bring it back from the dead (although unfortunately it would only last 60 seconds, after which another nearby show would have to die… Wait… that could be perfect! #desperatehousewives)

Better Off Ted – Witty and chalk full of satirical humor, this comedy was a blast! Ted, the protagonist, would narrate each episode by breaking the fourth wall, and trust me, it sounds corny but they made it work. All while also mocking big business and mega conglomerations. Also, brilliant acting by the wonderful Portia de Rossi. This is also on Netflix, so please… go enjoy!

SHOWS THAT HAD A GREAT RUN BUT I STILL MISS

Lost – Really? Was there any doubt this would be on my list? This show may have done more to change TV since CSI. Crazy original, brilliant cast, interesting and engaging story lines, mind-bending plot twists, all covered in a sweet sauce of love. TV, for me, was never better than when LOST was on. 6 seasons of awesomeness, and I still miss it.

The West Wing – After Lost, this probably ranks as my favorite show of all time. I’m a sucker for Sorkin, what can I say. I fell in love with the characters in this show like no other. A fascinating look in to the world of politics, for 7 seasons The West Wing was America’s other (and usually more interesting) White House Staff.

Gilmore Girls – After you stop snickering at me, listen to me say that this was a great show. Created by Amy Sherman Paladino, and written in the style of Sorkin (with the “always moving, always talking characters) Gilmore Girls was an honest look at the life and relationship between a (single) mom and her daughter. Lauren Graham is incredible, and if you like her at all on Parenthood then trust me, she was WAY better on Gilmore Girls. A massive thanks to my wife for getting me hooked on this show. We both mourned when it went off the air after 7 seasons.

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What about you?

Have you had a “favorite show” that died too early?

And what are some of your all-time favorites from the past that you can’t help but miss?

 

Nine Days Away…

Nine more days until my journey to Africa begins. I am overwhelmed with details and packing lists, and assuming that we will arrive for our first concert and realize, “ah snap! We forgot __________ and now the whole show is ruined!!”

Okay, so THAT probably won’t happen… but it doesn’t mean I don’t think about it.

As our band (In Between) has been preparing for this trip, we thought it was important to articulate exactly why WE were going. We could understand big picture, why the whole team of 90+ people were travelling to Africa from our church, but on a micro-scale why is a band of musicians from church travelling halfway across the world to play music?

So after some prayer and processing, here is what we came up with… I’d love to share it with you.

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I N   B E T W E E N

The Love Liberia Project: 2thousand10

Our band, called “In Between,” is comprised of six musicians from The Grove’s worship ministry. We will be travelling to Liberia, Africa in June (along with 90 other people from our church) on a 2 week missions trip to bring pieces of Heaven to places of Hell on earth.

The following is the Mission Statement and the Goals of what In Between hopes to accomplish while there.

O u r  M i s s i o n:

Through the art of music, we go to broken places on earth and invite people to the place “in between,” where heaven and earth meet.

O u r  G o a l:

To take part in 4 city-wide events, where we will play a concert and serve in tandem with the spoken Word. Through these events, we hope to expose the Liberian people to the person and works of Jesus Christ.

W h y W e  W i l l  G o :

We, the band members of “In Between,” will go to Liberia: for the glory of God, to simply show up and love the people, and to become better followers of Jesus.

W E    G O    F O R    G O D

“God needs people to do his work,” or so says Rob Bell in Jesus Wants to Save Christians. His point, I believe, is this: While God may posses the power or ability to affect change in the world supernaturally, he chooses not to exercise that power. Instead, he is looking for faithful men and women, people with physical bodies, to be his hands and his feet.

The Way of Jesus is the best way. It is the way of love and forgiveness, not hate and bitterness. It is the way of peace and reconciliation, not war and revenge. The way of the Kingdom is what Jesus came to establish. “May your Kingdom come and your will be done on EARTH just as it is in HEAVEN.” These words that Jesus taught us to pray are not just some ideal distant hope. No, they are a reality now that we seek to bring to this world.

We go to Africa because God’s Glory will be shown through us.

We go to Africa because God needs us to go… more so, he WANTS us to go.

We go to Africa because the Name and Way of Jesus is best and only way.

W E    G O    F O R    T H E M

Liberia is in the stage of rebuilding their entire country after years of civil war. Not even a generation has passed since the war ended. War is devastating to society. It destroys people, relationships, infrastructures, systems, government. Maybe worse, though, it destroys hope.

The people in the cities we will travel to need someone to come along side them and tell them that though they felt abandoned and alone during the war, or though they may feel discouraged now as the country rebuilds, that God has always and will always love them and want them. Our smiles, our songs, inject hope and encouragement.

Music is the universal language of the soul. It has a way to cut right through the fears and worries and pierce the heart. The right song can bring healing and hope like no ordinary words can. Music stays with people, and the concerts we go to perform will stay in the minds and hearts of the Liberian people long after we leave.

We go to Africa to plant seeds of hope, love and peace.

We go to Africa because music is important and can change a person.

We go to Africa because if WE won’t, then WHO will??

W E    G O    F O R    U S

“When we go, when we give our lives away in the name and work of Jesus, then we ourselves are changed.” (Palmer Chinchen in True Religion). Something mysterious happens when the people of God leave the comfort of their homes to go to the uncomfortable and broken places. The world becomes both larger and smaller in our eyes.

Larger because we begin to see that the small corner of our world that we live in is not indicative of the world at large. There is so much more on this planet. More culture, more people, more nature and life. Also more hurt, more pain, more poverty, more war and disease. When we go, our perspective is enlarged.

Also, the world becomes smaller. In a way, we are more connected to other people than we realize. We see that they are just like us. They have the same hopes and dreams, the same fears and anxieties. They like what we like, they hate what we hate. In all, they are really not that different from ourselves.

We go to Africa because we need to deepen our perspective.

We go to Africa because it will CHANGE us, and honestly, we need CHANGED

We go to Africa so that we can become “better” followers of Christ.

So Why the name “IN BETWEEN”?

The Celtic Christians talked about “thin places,” places where the divide between Earth and heaven was thinner, places where it was easier to meet with God. (Punk Monk by Andy Freeman).

As I was thinking about a name for our band, I kept coming back to this concept of “thin places.” I think that when the people of God are living out the Kingdom of God, that in that moment, that place becomes a “thin place.” When we do things representative of God’s Kingdom, when we live out the Way of  the Christ, we engage in and interact with “thin places”, where the realities of Heaven and the realities of Earth overlap.

“In Between” is about creating those sorts of moments. It’s about ushering people into the thin places. It’s about the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We play music to invite people to the “in between” place of God’s home and ours.

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?

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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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