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The colossal fail that is “Twilight”

I don’t fall asleep during movies. If I’m mentally and emotionally engaged at all, I have to stay awake. The only exception is when the movie is so bad that I actually decide to fall asleep because the thought of enduring the rest of it is less appealing than being unconscious.

I slept through the second half of both of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants disasters films. As of the other night, I can now add Twilight to the short list of movies so asinine that they aren’t even worth staying awake for.

Twilight is what some might call “a skidmark on the underpants of society.” The underpants of Hollywood, specifically. It is to movies what Britney Spears is to music, what Applebee’s is to restaurants, what Tyra Banks is to reality TV.

Twilight achieved such profound levels of idiocy that I feel as though my IQ is dropping just by sitting here writing about it. So, I’ll point you to Andrew Osenga, one of my favorite musicians who wrote a review of the book Twilight that is so hilarious that I’m compelled to share it with you here.

Like I said, I fell asleep before the end, but I don’t regret this. Probably the same way Osenga doesn’t regret not reading the last ten pages of the book:

I knew there was a sequel, which meant that at least most of the characters did not die in an atomic bomb during those last ten pages and therefore there was no ending that would have satisfied me.

Word, Mr. Osenga. Word.

Filed under: Movies,

I usually choose terrible movies…

You can ask Drea, Tom, or Renata. I’ve been banned from selecting movies for a while after a few less-than-spectacular indie flicks that I inadvertently inflicted on the group. First there was The Visitor, which I thought was fantastic, but evidently was the only one. Then there was Quinceañera, which looked promising but ended up being a flop in all of our minds, for many reasons – not least of which some…uncomfortable scenes. (No further comment.)

So yeah, my film recommendations don’t carry much weight anymore. I’m like the little boy who cried “good movie.” But I think I actually found a gem the other night. Drea and her mom went shopping, presenting the perfect opportunity for me to watch our latest Netflix arrival, another indie movie I’ve been encouraging begging Drea to watch with me for weeks.

the_bands_visitThe Band’s Visit follows an Egyptian police band traveling to Israel to perform. After some travel mishaps, they end up stranded in a remote desert town, far from their intended destination. The town has no hotels, but the locals have offered to take them in for the night. Since nobody has room to house them all, they split up. As each small group of band members interacts with their respective hosts, all kinds of awkwardness, humor, and unlikely friendships ensue.

In watching the special DVD features and reading some reviews afterward, a lot of the symbolism in this movie started to make sense: how the characters transcended typical Arab-Israeli animosity, the recognition of common ground despite cultural differences, etc.

There’s no fast-moving plot or edge-of-your-seat action, but it’s a funny and poignant story. Here’s the trailer…

Filed under: Movies,

We spent the weekend with 300 middle-schoolers!

We had a great weekend at NorthBay for the Light Company spring retreat. Drea and I sing and play, respectively, in the worship band every year with some friends from Salisbury and/or Grace Community, and it’s always a good time! NorthBay is the bomb, situated at the top of the Chesapeake Bay and home to some of the best camp food I’ve ever tasted. They also have reserved parking spaces for hybrid/alternative fuel vehicles, which we were happy to park our beloved Prius in. Boo-ya!

Our band is also the bomb. Since the retreat is for middle-schoolers, we keep the music pretty high-energy, with lots of jumping around by kids and band members alike. (For me on the keys, it turns out that jumping while playing is possible, if a little awkward and having a devastating effect on note accuracy.)

I also feel a need to mention that our repertoire this year included “Burnin’ Up” by the Jonas Brothers. (Used for “coming in music”, not for worship!) I mean, how could we not be awesome?

This was (I think) my fourth year going on the LC retreat, and I enjoy it more and more each time. A bunch of Salisbury Cru people usually come up for the weekend to do work crew, and I realized that this would be the last year there would be people at Salisbury that I knew. Freakin’ crap, I’m getting old!

In any case, we’re a little tired, but we’re always down for an excuse to jump around like idiots all weekend.

Filed under: Travel

Rethinking foreign missions

The other night I was reading through my old journal from a few years ago, specifically the entries from a missions trip my sister and I went on. In the summer of ’05, we joined a group of college kids on a trip to Southeast Asia to share Christ and teach English to middle schoolers.

Reading those pages brought back a flood of memories of the weird juxtapositions that defined that trip for me. Being so far from home had me alternating between barely-contained excitement and acute homesickness. The landscape was simultaneously beautiful and ugly; from a single vantage point you could see a lush green mountainside and a stream of sewage running down the street. Being surrounded by a language I didn’t understand was exhilarating at times and unbelievably frustrating at others. Most significant though, was the juxtaposition I saw in the local followers of Christ: unshakable joy in hard circumstances.

Seeing Christianity lived out in such a different (read: difficult and dangerous) context had an effect on me. How humbling it was to realize how easy I had it, that I didn’t have to worry about the government breaking into my house and arresting me, or doing worse, for being a Christian. That I didn’t have to live in constant fear for my family’s safety, that I had everything I needed (and then some) to live a comfortable life. And yet, despite their hardships, those Asian believers probably had the most sincere faith and love for Jesus that I’ve ever seen. I took stock of their simple joy and contentment in knowing Jesus, realizing then I had more to learn from them than I had to teach. Truth be told, I think that trip benefited me more than the people we came to serve.

But isn’t the point of going on a missions trip to help those in need, not learn something for yourself?

About a year after the trip, I read a book by K.P. Yohannan, the founder of a wonderful organization called Gospel for Asia, in which he discusses how the foreign mission field has changed over the past half-century. His book is essentially a defense of the native missionary movement, stating that since the Gospel has now been planted by Westerners in many of the world’s most remote cultures, the time has come to mobilize native missionaries to spread the Gospel to their own people. He recounts the effectiveness that natives in his home country of India have in reaching their people, compared with short term Western missionaries who aren’t familiar with the language or culture.

Upon reading this, a lot of things about my trip became clear. I kept remembering a particular day when we read a condensed “Creation to the Cross” story to our class of 7th graders with the help of a native Christian woman. As she translated the story into the local language, I noticed that she had a connection with the kids that I didn’t have. She spoke their dialect, ate their food, knew what music they liked, shared their life experiences. After reading K.P.’s book, it all began to make sense.

It seems that there’s an emerging shift in the way Western Christians are thinking about short term missions, which is really exciting to me. I came across a thought-provoking article the other day (by way of another great article) that resonated with what I had experienced in Asia: that short term missions trips usually benefit those who go more than the people already there, and that we North American Christians have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in the third world.

Rather than regurgitate the ideas presented in those two articles, I’ll wrap things up with an excerpt from one, in hopes that if you’re a Christian with a heart for foreign missions, you’ll read them both. It’ll be worth it, I promise!

I believe North American Christians need to start taking seriously our responsibility to the  people of the third world – and visiting another country can be an appropriate place to begin. But we need to ask each other: What is the purpose of the trip? Are we going through the motions of helping the poor so we can congratulate ourselves afterwards? Or are we seeking to understand the lives of third world people – to recognize and support their strengths and to try to understand the problems they face and our role in them? Are we ethnocentrically treating the people of the third world as tragic objects to be rescued – or as equals to walk with and learn from?

– Jo Ann Van Engen, “Short Term Missions: Are They Worth the Cost?”

Filed under: Books, Current issues, Faith, Travel,

Ill-advised April Fools’ jokes

Over-the-top April Fools’ Day jokes that might get you in trouble and/or arrested:

  • Randomly stand up during the sermon at church, scream a profanity, and calmly sit back down.
  • Pretend to quit your job after cussing out your boss.
  • Pretend to rob a store at gunpoint. “Haha, just kidding guys.”
  • Fake a heart attack.
  • If you’re dating, pretend to propose to your girlfriend. Like, get a ring box and everything. “Honey, we’ve known each other for a long time, and I’ve finally decided I’d like to ask you to…oh, sike ya mind!
  • If you’re getting married, pretend to call off the wedding.
  • Surprise your kids by sending them off to school with a small garden snake in each of their lunches.
  • Change your work email signature to “Git-r-done.”
  • Intentionally rear-end somebody with your car.
  • Quietly break into your neighbors’ house in the middle of the night while they’re sleeping and go stand in their bedroom until they wake up. “Oh, hey Bob. April Fools’, buddy! How’re the kids?”
  • If you’re a pastor, draw sermon illustrations from Family Guy.
  • Insult a police officer.
  • Fake pregnancy annoucements are always a good idea.

Filed under: Slice of life,