Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Remix Culture

I was reading today about the how a new form of art today is basically stealing from the cultural milieu (that may be the first time I've ever written milieu)  and making it your own in some way.  This has different forms, from sampling and mixing to mashups.  Perhaps the most notorious purveyor  is Gregg Gillis aka Girl Talk who is produced by illegal art.  And there in lies the problem or at least the question.  How much of today's music and art and film is legitimate and how much is blatant stealing and re purposing of others ideas?  How do we protect artists and give them motivation to create and provide the right rewards when their work is what brings the dollars rolling in?

The other reality is that art has always been a call and response.  One person taking influence and concepts from other artists and speaking new value into them, challenging these innovations or using them as a jumping point.  If you go to any art show there will always be an interplay between artists.  This brief article about Matisse and Picasso really brings that to light.  I think this reality blurs the line all the more...sure artists of the past had to reproduce elements of art on their own, and that made it more difficult to "steal" or incorporate someone else's work.  That said, there are new mediums, new artistic forms and opportunities and those influences can be more easily co-opted.  Is that necessarily wrong?

This same question is asked of pastors as many preach books that others have written, they simply take titles and themes from other pastors and authors and present them as they try to make them there own.  Is this legit?  Where is the line?  For me, I want my inspiration to always be God's Word.  So it is my building block, his word is my starting point. I try to preach exegetically, and to address our church and cultural situation.  I will read commentaries, occasionally listen to another sermon on a topic and even take an illustration that fits a theme from another source, but I also try to give the credit to the original source or at least from the source I borrowed from.  In some ways, that is where mashups and sampling always pays homage to the original and gives the credit back since its real source is not meant to be hidden but presented in the light.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Sanctity of Marriage

The Pew Research Center Recently released new findings and changing attitudes toward what marriage and family mean these days.  Read more in this Time Article.  It is a very interesting and telling study, basically it says that we still want to get married (95% of respondents under 30) but think marriage is a fading cultural institution (44% of that same age group think marriage will become extinct).  It shows that people who embrace marriage now more than ever are healthier and wealthier.  They live longer and make on average 41% more than singles.  Children of married parents achieve higher grades, and have better behavior than children of divorces.  Marriage is a gift and its benefits seen in society.  

And yet...

We devalue it, Americans see it as a fine choice, one they would like for themselves but not for everyone.  And not for better or worse.  

Divorce is actually declining, but cohabitation is way way up.  Cohabiting couples break up at much higher rates than marrieds even when kids are involved.

According to the study half of kids who are born to unmarried mothers were to people who were living together, over 50% of those mothers thought they would end up marrying the father, 5 years later only 16% were married.  

We are destroying the institution and destroying our nation, to give in to our personal whims and wishes  as we fail to keep our vows and commitments before each other, our friends and our God.  

Pray for your married friends and your marriages.  I'll pray for yours and mine.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

veterans day

Typically Veterans day is one of those holidays I don't really think about.  It's a day off for the kids and maybe something I should mention at church.  I was thinking about it yesterday as I explained to Simone why she didn't have school.  (She was not happy about a day off) Anyway, I told her how it is a time when we think about he people who have served in the army. And a day we commit to remembering them and thanking them for our service.  

The reality is I don't know many people in the military, and for me it's just one more area that is removed from my life.  An area I don't think about because it doesn't connect with my day to day living.  Like food.  I don't live on a farm, butcher animals or anything like that so I don't think about the process, the care and the effort it takes to give me chicken for dinner.  Since I don't think about it, I don't care.  

I don't care about veterans.  I don't really care about all the neighbors around me, because I don't know them. They don't impact me.  God wants me to love my neighbors. He wants me to care.  So this year, at the prompting of my 3 year old daughter. I'm being thankful for their sacrifice. I'm thinking about what people give up so that I can live the life I have.  I'm thankful that people would be willing to give everything, for me. And I'm reminded once again of the ONE who intentionally gave it all, for me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

All We Need is Love, and someone to tell us No.

I've been thinking about a "Theology of No" lately.  I think this really started as I was praying about different things and often getting a no from God.  My life changed back in 1999 when there was a ministry job at the (Syracuse Rescue mission) that I was sure I should get and sure I would get.  When I was told No by God my life was redirected.  5 months later, God had me in a different ministry (Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg) a very similar job, but in the same community as my future wife.  
When God said no, I was heartbroken and confused.  I wanted answers and I didn't get them for a long time. But now I see when God says no, he knows what he's doing.

Now that I'm a father, a loving father. I say no a lot.  My kids ask for a lot of stuff, but they are getting used to hearing no.  Sometimes it is very easy for me to say no, often its very hard.  Usually my kids requests are well within my power to accomplish.  Can I have ice cream, candy, McDonalds etc.  Often I think, I could give it too them, its in my power it will make them happy and what harm is there in saying yes.  The problem is if I always said yes there could be problems.  My kids could eventually get obese.  Happens a lot in America, am I right?  My kids could get spoiled. Again pretty common. 

Sometimes my kids ask me to intervene when kids at the playground have hit them.  They know they can't hit back. They come to me tell me the problem and ask me to step in and alter their situation.  Spare them the trouble, the fear the pain the hard stuff.  I always tell them to tell the other person that it's not OK.  Tell them to stop and that it's not nice.  It's hard, usually they just try to avoid the problem.  Once in a while they will address the person head on.  Once in a while they will stand up and confront the hardship and things will get better.  If they do that, and things still aren't changing, then I'll step in.

When people today think about God and his love they think like a child.  God has the power to step in and change things, he has the power to fix my situation, to make it easier.  If He loved me he'd do it.  We often parent like that, to the detriment of our kids.  I think we learn from our heavenly father, see that saying No is a part of his plan.  Its often how he teaches us.  He teaches us that getting everything we want is not healthy for us.  That always serving our impulses and desires and selfishness is destructive to ourselves and those around us.  As a parent the hard part is knowing when, why, and how to say no.  As a child of God, we need to accept the no, and consider what God is trying to teach us by saying no, (or even wait).  Do I need to face the trial, do I need to confront the person I'm having trouble with (most likely)  do I need to stop running and avoiding the things in my life that stress me out?  Do I need to grow up?  

Lord God, Father in heaven help us all to accept your no, to learn from the situation and to pursue the good things you have before us even if it gets a little muddy and murky and difficult on the way.  Amen