Lent Alone

Today is Ash Wednesday for many Christians around the world.  It is a time to remember our mortality and to repent of sin.  It begins the season of Lent, which is a time of preparation for the celebration of Easter.  For the first time in a few years, I’m mindful of not attending a service.  I’m mindful of not really giving something up for the time.  I confess to being sad about that, but I think it’s okay.  I will be doing the readings each day and doing my best to look forward to Easter in the fullness it allows.

I am also back to listening to Andrew Peterson’s Resurrection Letters: Prologue.  It was the soundtrack of my morning today.  Here’s the first song on the EP, which is an arrangement of the last words of Jesus on the cross.

The last few days have been crazy.  Lots of things rolling together.  Today was our big freshman year service project day.  I was able to visit six of the seven sites in our community where students were working.  It’s the last “big” coordination thing for me this year.  Granted, the next two days will be packed with grading and meetings, but that’s a different story.

I hope to get back to The Relational Pastor tomorrow.   From there, I’d like to spend some time with Ephraim Radner’s recent book on the Holy Spirit.

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On Making Stupid Mistakes

Sometimes you really enjoy Jason’s ingenuity, but then you realize that it comes at some cost to Paige.  This week’s FoxTrot by Bill Amend was a great conversation with an extra layer of meaning.

Stupid Mistakes(image from gocomics.com)

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“One Small Step for Lamb”

Today was packed.  Thankfully, it ended with some good conversations, some time out in the evening air, and the news that Netflix had gotten ahold of the 2019 Shaun the Sheep movie: Farmageddon.  Definitely something to look forward to this weekend when the schedule opens up some.  Here’s the original UK trailer, which is much better (and classically British) when compared to the Netflix ad.

These days I’ll take any good slice of British life that I can get.  Heh.

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Sunday’s Best: The Shortest Distance

Today’s four-color Frazz by Jef Mallett is a great mix of visual and verbal sparseness.  It doesn’t always work in comics, as it can sometimes feel like a waste of space.  This one gets something about winter “just right.”

Frazz WinterSpeaking of the tropics, things are warming up slightly as February comes to a close.  We are barely hanging onto the high 60s in the evenings and slowly getting situated during daytime in the low 80s.  It’s a really nice time of year for those of us who like a little chill in the air (chill being relative, of course).

(image from gocomics.com)

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The Dangers of the Mega-Narrative

There’s been something strange creeping into my approach to serial storytelling over the last few years that has finally (and fully?) nested in my viewing habits of Doctor Who.

UXM 273Anyone growing up reading comics in the 1970s and 1980s knows the joy of having long-running, mostly coherent storytelling at your fingertips.  The work of Chris Claremont on Uncanny X-Men (which he wrote for 17 years) is the perfect example of this.  Even when Claremont kept a plot thread dangling for years (which was often), you knew that it was part of a larger tapestry.  Near the end of Claremont’s run (well, maybe a little earlier than that), the idea of the mega-crossover took hold of the industry.  Instead of having a story of lasting consequence run almost entirely in a single series (or a second, as would occasionally happen), suddenly multiple series from various “families” of a publishers slate would be involved.  Which is all well and good.  What happens over time, and what has definitely happened over the last few years in the comics medium is the unspoken acknowledgment that only mega-narrative stories matter.  Because it’s the mega-narrative that sells the most.  (It’s more popularly called event story-telling, I suppose, but there’s more to it than that.)

For most of the 21st century continuation of the Doctor Who story, I was regularly invested in each episode.  Sure, some more than others.  But over time, we went from things like “Bad Wolf”  to through-lines that crossed over multiple characters and multiple seasons that made some episodes significantly “more important” than others.  When that trend solidifies, fans who feel on the outs with a show tend to check in when something big happens (or when the promise of something big is made).  And so with this (shortened) season of Doctor Who, I’ve mostly only tuned in to the episodes that involved known villains and that pointed towards the season finale.  And so of the ten episodes of the series, I’ve only really paid attention to six with no real desire to go back and watch what I’ve missed.  It’s an unfortunate trend, especially if you love serial storytelling.

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Now that we’re up to the two-episode  season finale, I am, of course, deeply interested in the series again.  Much has been hinted at concerning  “the timeless child” and what is going on with the return of the Master at the season’s beginning and the revelation that Gallifrey had been destroyed (and had deserved it).  And while I’m expecting an awful lot of forced social commentary in whatever happens next, I’m still hopeful that that we get a rollicking space-fueled finale to the season.  Here’s the trailer for tomorrow’s episode:

And here’s an extended scene from the same:

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Narrow Theaters

This past Sunday saw another classic Peanuts strip by Charles Schulz that found Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown under the tree thinking.  Those are always a treat.

Narrow TheatersIt’s funny: these days you are as likely to find narrow theaters  . . . smaller ones . . . as not.  Part of that is because you’ve got multiplexes with multiple screens.  And part of that is possibly tied to larger seats.  I much prefer the old fashioned fold-outs to the in vogue recliners, but I’m cinematic old-school like that.

(image from gocomics.com)

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“The Soil for Unexpected Good”

Tolkien's LettersAbout fifty letters into The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter we get a series of letters to Tolkien’s third son, Christopher.  The letters move back and forth wonderfully and soberingly between the events of World War Two and the writing of The Two Towers, being the second part of The Lord of the Rings.  And while I will get to some of the best parts on the writing of The Two Towers, I think it best to start with one of the many great articulations of life in war-time (which is part of what it means to be human, some might say).  From the letter to Christopher on April 30, 1944:

I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days– quite apart from torture, pain, death, bereavement, injustice.  If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapour, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens!  And the products of it all will be mainly evil– historically considered.  But the historical version is, of course, not the only one.  All things and deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their ’causes’ and ‘effects.’  No man can estimate what is really happening at the present sub specie aeternitatis [under the aspect of eternity].  All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labours with vast power and perpetual success– in vain: preparing always only the soil for unexpected good to sprout in.  So it is in general, and so it is in our own lives . . . . . But there is still some hope that things may be better for us, even on the temporal plane, in the mercy of God.  And though we need all our natural human courage and guts (the vast sum of human courage and endurance is stupendous, isn’t it?) and all our religious faith to fave the evil that may befall us (as it befalls others, if God wills) still we may hope and pray.  I do.  And you were so special to a gift to me, in a time of sorrow and mental suffering, and your love, opening at once almost as soon as you were born, foretold to me, as it were in spoken words, that I am consoled every by the certainty that there is no end to this.

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