My New Website: The Reviews

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My love of film and books has finally gotten the best of me. I’m launching a new site simply called “The Reviews.” I’ll link my review here on this site but it will only be an excerpt and the comments won’t be open.

Plus, I roped in two friends to add their reviews to the mix – Nathan Mees and J.B. Waggoner.

Many of you already know Nathan Mees. An incredible communicator and teacher at Washburn Rural High. He teaches AP Lit, World Lit, and Film as Lit classes. He’s also done a roundtable with me during the movie series at church. Nathan’s perspective on film is going to be awesome to read.

J.B. Waggoner I met this year – back in January. He was the editor on the Ragamuffin film and was here when we showed that film in Topeka. He’s a 16 year vet of film editing on short films and features. You can see his work on his site.

I’m really excited about not only having a site dedicated to film and book reviews but having these two guys do it with me.

Hidden Gem of Hutchinson, Kansas

Our two state convention had their annual meeting in Hutchinson, Kansas this year. Amy got to go with me and we found some incredible places to eat in Hutch.

El Potrillo
I have no idea what the word the means but the food was outstanding. Our service was fast and friendly. It was perfect for dinner. I had the fajitas and the chorizo was perfect.

Roy’s BBQ
This place makes my top 5 BBQ places of all-time. Starts with the ambience and location. It’s a house on the side of some railroad tracks on the outskirts of Hutch. When you walk in the house, you’ll more than likely be greeted by ‘Momma’ who has worked there for 37 years.

The ribs are incredible. Fall off the bone tender, smoked to perfection. The hot links aren’t too hot. They are perfect. These two are the highlights of Roy’s. The pulled pork was good, the turkey was juicy and flavorful. You will not go wrong with this place.

Get here early. It is only open until the food runs out.

Jillian’s Italian Grill
Great place for a romantic dinner. In Hutch! Awesome location – right downtown and perfect ambience inside. We had incredible service and the wood fire pizzas were PERFECT. Jillian’s features an impressive wine selection and homemade bread. If the weather is nice, there is also outdoor seating.

Strataca
This was a fantastic experience. The website is clumsy and doesn’t remotely begin to communicate how awesome this museum is. We did both the train ride and the ‘dark tram ride.’ Both were worth the cost. Kids are going to love this experience.

The elevator ride down is dark and claustrophobic. Then you exit into another world – 1.5 miles wide, 2.5 miles long. HUGE! It’s beautiful. We got to see some of the underground vault items as well – including the Mr. Freeze costume that Arnold wore.

Take this trip if you get a chance.

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I’m Superior To Jesus

© Geotrac | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Geotrac | Dreamstime Stock Photos

When it comes to confronting Jesus Christ on the basis of His qualities and abilities, our attitudes reflect religious superiority. – Oswald Chambers

Normally I can follow Oswald Chambers. He’s challenging and Scottish (I wish I had a Scottish accent, I think my messages would be 4 times better just in sound quality) but this statement has tripped me up for about a week.

My first response: Ozzy – you have lost your mind. There is no universe in which I or any other semi-intelligent Christ-follower thinks they are superior to Jesus. Even the most arrogant person I know doesn’t think they are superior to Jesus.

But then I noticed the nuance of what Chambers was saying. “Our ATTITUDES reflect religious superiority.” We can hide attitudes. We can mask them up with words and false humility. Our true attitudes are shown in the heat of a moment.

Think about this…

Jesus says Love your enemies.
Our first reaction when confronted with one of our enemies: Jesus doesn’t know what she did to me.

Jesus says If you look at another woman with lust in your heart, you’ve already committed adultery.
Our mentality is Nobody is going to know I’m looking and looking never hurt anybody.

Jesus says Pick up your cross daily and follow me.
We think I will follow Jesus as long as it doesn’t interfere with my calendar, my entertainment, and my wallet.

Jesus says Go sell all you have and follow me.
We think He didn’t literally mean it all and besides it’s my money, why does God need it?

Jesus says Forgive them 70 times 7.
We think I could never forgive him for what he did.

Read a hard saying of Jesus. Read any saying of Jesus and then listen to your initial reaction to the words. What is it? We find the first excuse, the first exception, don’t we? We consistently say to Jesus – “But you couldn’t possibly mean this, could you?”

I think this is what Chambers is referring to. Our inner attitude betrays what we REALLY think – we really think that Jesus doesn’t know what he’s talking about. There is no way Jesus could possibly mean for us to forgive, turn the other cheek, love, and live sacrificially in today’s world. No way, right?

He really did. Then he provided his Spirit to empower us to live that way. The starting point is turning over this attitude to him and allowing him to change that first, to get rid of our superiority complex we have with Jesus.

Next time you read those words of Jesus and you feel your attitude coming – stop in that moment and confess to Jesus that heart. Then see what happens next.

Which State Is Better At Football: Alabama or Mississippi?

Historically, the answer is Alabama by a landslide. Not even close – IF you want to talk college football.

High school football? I think the nod is going to have to go to Mississippi. I don’t have solid stats about this but I think I heard Mississippi is like #3 among the states who produce the most college football players. That’s insane if you think about how small and how little population Mississippi has. Mississippi is a monster pipeline of high school talent.

What makes this question interesting this year is the rise of Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Both undefeated, both having very big wins on their resume, both tied for #3 in AP poll, both have swarming, stifling defenses.

Let’s look at the list..

Ole Miss aka University of Mississippi
QB will either beat you or beat his own team.
Fast, hard-hitting defense
Offense is opportunistic with big WRs
Huge win: Alabama.

Questions: Does anybody trust “Good/Bad” Bo for an entire season? Can Ole Miss “win out” and send the entire state into some kind of psychotic break with reality? Is there really a nicer place for tailgating than The Grove? (No.)

Mississippi State
Hail State! More Cowbell!
Dak Prescott, QB, aka The Stud (He can run, throw, tackle, save children from burning buildings and still make it to class on time.)
Offense can run or throw, grind it out or go over the top
Defense is opportunistic, not deep
Huge wins: LSU, Texas A&M

Questions: How many colleges have a Bulldog as a mascot? Can they finish games? How will their thin defense hold up all season?

Auburn
Run, run, run, and then run
Defense is suspect
Fastest offense in country
Luckiest team on the planet
Huge win: Ummm….well…Kansas State?

Questions: Will their luck ever run out? How will defense respond to a good offense? When will Nick Marshall’s misreads on the offense finally catch up to him? If ever? See – luckiest team on planet.

Alabama
Defensive front 7 is dominant
Secondary is swiss cheese
Offense is schizophrenic
Commits lots of penalties and turnovers
Huge win:….[crickets chirping]…

Questions: Which offense will finally emerge – the free-wheelin’, explosive juggernaut (Kiffin) or the monolithic, plundering turnover machine (Saban)? How will team respond to punch in the mouth from Ole Miss? Is there ANYONE IN THE STATE OF ALABAMA THAT CAN KICK A FIELD GOAL?????

My Not-So-Random Synopsis

If I was forced to rank them –

1. Mississippi State
2. Everybody else

I do think Mississippi State COULD run the table. Then again, they could get blown out by Auburn today as well. That’s why we play the games. Hail State! has not just looked solid in the last two weeks…they have looked other-worldly. The beat-down they gave Texas A&M should have been called at halftime. I get that the hype machine may just have built up LSU and A&M a little too much, but hanging almost half a hundred on these two teams back-to-back weeks…

I’m drinking the MSU kool-aid.

Alabama could very well prove that it indeed is in a rebuild mode, not just reload. Let’s face it – ‘Bama’s secondary looks absent. And while it’s next to impossible to run on ‘Bama, the fact of the matter is you don’t need to run when your TEs and WRs run free and wild in the secondary. If Florida had anybody who could catch, they would have won. And the Ole Miss game just proved that Saban hasn’t completely turned over the offense to Kiffin yet. That had to be the most boring, plain offensive plan I’ve ever seen.

I don’t trust Ole Miss…particularly Bo Wallace to play like he did against Alabama the whole season. The contest today against A&M will prove that one way or the other.

Today we will see how Auburn matches up with Hail State! Memo to Auburn – if you sleep walk in first half against Mississippi State like you did against K-State, you’ll find yourself behind 37 points.

So this could be the year that Mississippi trumps Alabama in college football.

After The Message: Mental Illness

Waiting and Lonely

Thank you. You have no idea how long I’ve waited to hear those words in church.

I’ve struggled with depression for years. It sucks. But today I’m leaving with hope.

I’ve been coming to church all my life and today is the first time I’ve ever heard anything remotely helpful in my family’s struggle with mental illness.

I feel like you gave me a foothold to hold on. God is not helpless in my ruins.

What a huge help today has been.

My email has been full. My phone has buzzed with text messages. I’ve gotten numerous calls as well as quit a few hugs with looks that have communicated much more than words. Typically by Tuesday I am well into my next message, the past Sunday’s teaching fading far back in the background.

That didn’t happen this week. And for good reason. It’s apparent that mental illness has effected us all at some level.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. A recent survey by LifeWay showed that 75% of pastors have never taught on the topic of mental illness. It’s not a topic I’ve taught on either since being in student ministry.

But the statistics are too staggering for us to remain silent about it. The number 1 prescribed medication in America are anti-depressants, 1 in 5 people either are or will be diagnosed with some sort of mental illness.

Many people have asked me – what now? Are we going to start a ministry to the mental ill, the families of the mentally ill? Will this be a new mission focus for us?

Obviously a great place to start is what I talked about on Sunday. Be a safe place for people to be broken, embrace the messy, remove the judgement and stigma by saying things like ‘I don’t know, I don’t understand, but I love you anyway.’ Be Hope Brokers, not therapists.

These are all simple but important steps that each of us can make to create a culture where those with mental illness can reconnect with the church.

But what about beyond that? What does an intentional ministry for those wrestling with mental illness look like?

I don’t know.

It is clear there is a huge need in our community – beyond our church walls – for a place to redemptively deal with mental illness. The families that live with mental illness every day have a deep need to worship and serve, to connect with the larger Body of Christ. The problem beyond the stigma and judgement is the reality that so few people have the training to deal with such illnesses. Being ‘well-meaning’ has done plenty of damage and hurt when it comes to mental illness.

Join me in praying about this. Luke 10 tells us that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. I feel exactly this way. There are so many people that God is already working in. They have a need they can’t fulfill, they have a hunger they can’t satisfy. They have wound that won’t heal. Jesus is calling for workers to engage the harvest.

But there are few.

Jesus tells us in Luke 10 – pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers.

So let’s start there.

Book Review: Insurgent

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Insurgent is book 2 of the Veronica Roth authored Divergent series. It starts with our heroine Tris and boyfriend Four going to the faction Amity outside the gates of the city for refuge as well as to attempt to enlist their help in their fight against the control-hungry Erudite faction.

There is a significant pace difference with the 2nd book than the 1st. With the background established, each faction adequately defined, Roth focuses the story on the heart of the issue – is free will really worth it? Is it worth the body count? The emotional drama? The deceptive relationships? The forgiveness? The pain? The moral dilemmas?

Insurgent pushes this issue into deeper waters, exploring the tangled road of the ethic ‘the ends justify the means’ and which value is most valued – loyalty, integrity, or bravery? These issues are not just explored in the overarching story but also in the microcosm of the relationship between Tris and Four. They find themselves wanting the same end goal but achieving it in very different ways. They each at different times hold one value more importantly than another, almost always putting them at odds with each other at every turn. Roth does an excellent job of letting these scenes play out, not solving the tension, not painting either completely as a villain or a hero. It’s skillful writing that puts the reader in the middle of the tension without resolving it for them.

We knew after Divergent that there were a couple of plot lines that had to be resolved. Four’s relationship with his dad. Tris’s guilt over killing Will. Do the other factions have Divergents? What role – if any – will the other factions play?

On top those plot lines, Roth drops some major surprises and plot turns throughout the entire book. MAJOR. There were four instances in the first act of the book that you won’t see coming at all and the crazy thing about them all is that they work. . All of them work to advance the story. That’s quite a feat.

The only annoying aspect of the book – and this was true of the first book as well – is the romance side of Tris and Four. It’s during these moments that I remember that this was written for a young adult/young teen audience. It shows. I understand some of this is necessary as this relationship acts a literary device to explore and debate the issues in a way that creates tension and makes the reader realize that not every is so black an white. Most of these scenes are awkward which probably accurately reflects the reality of most romantic relationships of people that age. It’s not a major distraction at all.

So far, I’ve been very impressed with the story and look forward to the final book.

Saturday Morning Football Ramblings

Big games today in college football –

Tennessee v. Florida – I think Tennessee has this one. Florida’s QB can’t seem to keep from cratering and his WR’s like to drop passes. Tennessee is due a big win.

Texas A&M v. Mississippi State – I think MSU wins this. Mainly because A&M can’t tackle. Of course, neither could Arkansas last week. So who knows. Going to be a great game.

Alabama v. Ole Miss – here’s hoping Bad Bo shows up. Plus Ole Miss can’t really grind out the clock so as long as Alabama doesn’t turn the ball over, should be a Alabama win.

LSU v. Auburn – My dad and stepmom are at this game. I can’t stand LSU. Auburn plays a lot like Mississippi State so they have the goods to win. Of course, Auburn’s defense is pretty suspect. And K-State exposed some weaknesses, be interesting to see if LSU can capitalize on them. Pickin’ Auburn.

Pro Football:
Denver released their kicker Matt Prater today. It’s a slightly risky move – Prater is a proven commodity on the field. He can make pressure kicks. McManus – who is replacing him – also has a monster leg but who knows how well he will play in pressure situations.

I think the real issue here was money. Prater was a $3.5 million dollar train wreck waiting to happen. He now will be tested practically every week for drug use and one more positive drug test and he will be out of the league for a year. With both Thomases up for free agency plus other defensive players – like Rahim Moore – I’m guessing Elway was thinking he’d rather spend the money on those players than a kicker he really can’t trust off the field.

Thursday night games are pretty much a waste of time.

Kansas City Royals:
So glad we have an off day. I’ve stayed up late every night to watch these games. They remind me so much of the Rockies back in 2007-2008. Small ball, stealing, fun. They make baseball fun to watch.