Platitudes, Wisdom, & God: Part 1

Whereas overly religious vocabulary can become so heavy as to saturate and bleed through its own potency, secular proverbs are remiss of the reason why such carefully chosen words of transcendence touch us on an intrinsic level. Let me explain.

The words “Love your neighbor as yourself” for example, can become so overused that the power of the command is depleted. The implementation of a command such as this becomes more essential than the words themselves. In another example, the words “Love the Lord with all of your heart, all of your strength, all of your spirit, and all of your mind” are denuded of their power when we do not humble ourselves enough to desire the relationship needed to embrace such a command. Humanity without humility is lost, pridefully convinced it can play the role of God while denying one exists, mistakenly redefining godhood by believing the supplanting of self-aggrandizement for faith has the strength to embody the characteristics of omnipotence. When we refuse to give God the praise and glory He is due and instead claim to be in control ourselves, we blind ourselves by pretending to take the title and power from an incorrigible God and fool ourselves by thinking our resistance to a Higher Power somehow gives us merit to praise our own intelligence, rather than use it to understand and seek the perfect transcendence of a selfless God. Ultimately, without a purpose given to us by Something outside of our will or knowledge—and without that Something calling us into that purpose out of love for us—what we define ourselves with instead proves transparent, incomplete, unsatisfying, unpromising, weightless, impermanent, pointless, and ultimately guided by pure, blind narcissism.

What am I talking about? The dilemma of secular wisdom with regards to the way humanity speaks to itself through platitudes and aphorisms is that all of wisdom without God’s truth is an incomplete conglomeration of pithy, anti-climatic, empty words; an aggregation of memorized ideas running without traction or destination; an egregiously misguided catalogue of self-made promises recognized virtually but not implemented palpably. What does this look like? Let’s take a look at one secular proverb (one for now) and understand this point for ourselves. 

In one example, the platitude “live with kindness in mind,” while not Bible-based may seem scrupulously admirable, begging more questions than promising answers. The questions which follow may or may not be obvious: What is the speaker’s definition of kindness? Is their definition spiritual or secular? Is it socially acceptable or subjectively defined within cultural perimeters and empiricism? Does kindness denote obligation or an invitation into something transcendently joyful? What picture represents the speaker’s idea of kindness most accurately? These questions reset the idea for what we expect kindness to mean when taken without context or foundation. These words are without objective moral principality, and yet so many times we consider these types of platitudes admirable merely because we associate the word “kindness” with something positive.

What is my point? Basically, if we only look at the words we speak as letters on a page, then we undermine the purpose of the value of using the words at all. Why speak about kindness from a universal standpoint if we only understand it subjectively? We mean no harm, we simply want to live with kindness; however, the word’s context as used by the speaker is presumably simplified to be associated with all people—and in that situation it is ignorant of the way listeners interpret how such a word operates compared to the way the speaker presents their belief. Put simply, kindness, when implied ambiguously, no longer holds a positive connotation because the people receiving the word do not know the context in which the speaker is using the word. The delineation of kindness may look one way to one person while being entirely empty and meaningless to another, and when this is the case, kindness is without any substance.

For example, kindness to one person may mean that they are affable and polite; but this is an altogether different kindness than the example of spending time with geriatric men or women who have lost their loved ones and live alone—sharing the love of Jesus with them by spending time cooking, listening, and praying for them. The difference between these two examples of kindness is that one is enigmatically barren of moral intent, whereas the other is altruistic at its core. Using this as our example, the person who says “Live with kindness in mind” may be referencing politeness; but to many, politeness and kindness are not equivocal; one requires a particular sincerity which derives of a selfless motive (to love in response to the inspiration of a transcendent, loving Source), the other is simply an etiquette with requires nothing but phlegmatic participation.

Backing up a bit, the speaker feels confused because their only original intent was for the word to be perceived positively. If their intention was to use the word to translate as something positive, can we safely expect they are using the word scrupulously—that they meant to speak of kindness as an antonym to something negative? If so, is it not safe to say they are speaking of moral particulars?

When the speaker dips into moral particulars, we translate this by understanding our reason to be kind by explicating the reason under the spotlight of morality. What follows is the argument of moral obligation and subjective morality. Moral obligation claims we all follow the same rules and that there is and always was a Creator for these rules in order for there to have ever been any. Subjective morality claims each culture defines morality for itself; killing may mean survival to one culture where it means mortal sin to another. Infanticide (the crime of killing a child within one year of birth) may be acceptable to one but an abomination to another. Who defines what is clearly right or wrong? Humans, or a moral Creator who speaks, acts, and exists as the mediator between what humans believe and the reasons why? If we claim to know these rules on our own, then we must claim to be the creator of morality. But how can we make this claim if each culture holds an astutely separate set of beliefs?

How does this roll into kindness? If we try to clarify kindness by claiming it as morally correct (compared to the opposite of kindness; arrogance, pride, etc.), we are claiming our view of morality bespeaks a presumptuously pre-determined set of rules which must be true for all people. But if kindness to one person means one thing and to another person it means something different, kindness no longer carries a universal definition. When people understand this schism between moral obligation and subjective morality, they get caught in the web of explaining right from wrong, sometimes for the first time; understanding their perspective is prematurely astute, based on personal opinion rather than the belief in a higher, moral Being; namely God through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, if kindness is denatured by the confusion of how it should be perceived, how can we assign moral scrupulosity to such a secular proverb? In short, we can’t. There is no befitting explanation, no viable argument, not even an inspiration denoted in the words “Live with kindness in mind” if kindness is so ambiguously fallible.

Is my point that we shouldn’t live with kindness? Of course not. But my reason for believing kindness is important is that I believe in a loving God who came in the flesh through Jesus Christ, who died and resurrected for me and anyone who would believe, and that in so doing, He gave us an eternality of hope which invigorates far richer inspirations than simply living with kindness. Jesus intends for me and you to live with passion, excitement, and adventure; trusting in Him, transformed (spiritually reborn) after being rescued by the jealous, unfathomably unconditional love of God through Christ. When we live off of mere platitudes—although many of these stay with us sentimentally—we fall fundamentally short of the freedom of the invitation which comes with receiving Jesus as Lord and embracing a life-altering relationship with Him. When we refuse this, and when we supersede His invitation with something like wise quotes and platitudes, we blindly march forward with a fragile confidence, without a firm foundation or viable explanation for anything beyond subjective arguments.

How do we expect to face a world of hatred, corruption, murder, rape, slavery, terrorism, and poverty by countering these with subjective arguments? How can we look into the face of the reality of a world like this and claim what scrupulosity stutters with the tongue of ambiguity; that the only promises we use to back up why we behave the way we do derives from personal opinion? How boldly will that stand in the face of horrible Earthly pains; such as suicide, depression, anxiety, abuse, or addiction?

What I would like for you to take away from this article is a choice: Do we define, objectively, why we say we live the way we do—or do we live with subjective definitions, pointing aimlessly when we’re asked why we believe what we believe? Can we expect to inspire others by the way we live when the reason for our choices is “just because”? Do we expect others to accept our decision to deviate from subjective moral actions when we act in an amoral way “just because”? Should we accept others when they do the same? If we expect kindness not to fall within the scrupulous focus of moral obligation, then we must expect others to accept our decisions to act either way. Is this the way we expect to be an example to the world? What does it mean then, to be an example? If we can’t answer these, what is the point of such secular proverbs regarding kindness, or others regarding peace, hope, or love? These thoughts will be the topics of Part 2.

If you would feel comfortable sharing your responses to the considerations of this article in the comments below, please feel free to do so. My desire is that this blog would be a place where people can have a healthy, productive, open-minded discussions. This is admittedly thick material, but I feel passionate about addressing subjects like these because I feel they deserve more careful attention than they receive. Perhaps some of you feel similar. I would love to hear from anyone on either side of the spectrum.

If you would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017.. May God bless you all as you consider these thoughts, and may you experience the love of Christ in your heart today! In Jesus name!

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Recognizing the God Of Love

Truly, what is the purpose of belief in God if the God whose existence that belief acknowledges knows nothing of love, or, more intrinsically, is not itself love incarnate? 

OUR NATURAL STATE OF NEED FOR LOVE

One of the deepest longings we share as humanity is to feel loved unconditionally without criticism or limitation. Many people get caught up in the belief that the source of love derives from within us, as if unconditional love is innate to human beings. But how can this be so if our first desire upon entrance into this life is to have our own needs satisfied? As babies, we are 100% dependent upon parental guidance, provision, and what else—love. Without love and affection, babies don’t survive. Perhaps stated more accurately is how our most innate need is to be loved, but not that love is so innate to us that we naturally breathe it out like God did into Adam’s nostrils, giving the first human being his first breath of sentient existence. What does this matter, why point this out? One of the major arguments of God’s existence today is that He is not a God of love, and if that is so, He must not exist. Where did this distortion come from?

As a sentient race, we are birthed with the malleability to be influenced and shaped by peers, family, culture, and time. When we’re old enough to recognize it within ourselves, we eventually start a search on a road that no one else can pave for us but God. Little do we know, however, that God is the one who paves it, and less likely are we aware when first starting that ultimately it is our need for God to be real which draws our attention to our need for this search.

THE IMAGE OF GOD IN A CORRUPTED WORLD

When considering the atrocities in this world—ranging from poverty to human trafficking and terrorism—evil looks towering and imperious compared to love, forgiveness, peace, or hope. How can the image of an unconditionally loving God fit into the mold of a corrupted world without seemingly denuding the strength of His power like a moth to the flame of the terrors of the world? Or, put differently, how can we claim to see a loving God in full control despite the chaotic state of the world? Very simply, God will not control a human being, but He can soften a heart to listen, and let a person’s heart decide whether they want to join in relationship or resist and stubbornly oppose the invitation into a changed course of action. Basically, a terrorist has the same choice as anyone to deny evil its privileges and to accept God’s command to love and serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. Terrorists, of course, are threatened for their very lives in the face of such a name. The choice then becomes whether or not faith in a man who claimed to be God is worth death in the face of terror, hatred, power, corruption, and the promise of redemption through martyrdom.

GOD’S OMNIPOTENCE

Now, understanding this may help draw empathy for men and women in the face of terrorism perhaps, but it does not justify the results of those who ultimately choose terrorism over faith in a life of love and service in Jesus’s name. How then can we accept the claim of God’s control over the world? Who is control is defined by who is able to dispel evil by delivering justice; not by doing evil, but by acting righteously. The book of Revelations, though intimidating only when it is read without context, is a book filled with pictures of God’s coming wrath, which many wise people understand is the reaction of the love of God—that just as parents would do anything to protect their young ones from harm out of love for them, His promises are to for once and for all eradicate sin and evil from existence. This truth speaks not only of the love of God, but of his omnipotence.

WISDOM AND HONESTY FROM ABOVE

We are desperate to know how such a powerful God feels about evil and wrongdoing:

(Roman 1:18 MSG) But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over the truth.

What is the truth that is “shrouded”? The truth of God’s goodness through Christ, the Good News of redemption through Christ’s resurrection, and the hope of the coming age when Heaven will be the new Earth. A heeding word of advice to the world from God through Paul:

(Ephesians 5:6 MSG) Don’t let yourself get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with Him. Don’t even hang around people like that.

Words of wisdom:

(Romans 1:9-11 MSG) If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Jew won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. God pays no attention to what other say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.

This speaks to terrorists just as it does any citizen of anywhere. And how does God command us to treat our enemies until the day He returns?

(Romans 12:17-21 MSG) Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” 
Our scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

OUR CALL TO LOVE

We are not to carry out vengeance on anyone, instead, we are called to love in the name of Jesus. The command is very simple, though the words land with difficulty when faced in times of temptation or struggle, and excruciatingly trying if we have not found it in ourselves to forgive our wrongdoers the way Christ forgives us. From this we can take away that God is a God who promises vengeance on troublemakers and our enemies, and that we need not encroach upon His promise to do so. The reason why is that we are already to be judged for our own crimes; only God is the righteous judge. In a world full of terror and corruption, poverty, and evil, can we let God have the vengeance while following His command to love others the way He calls us to?

PUNISHMENT FOR SIN

If we cannot believe in a God who loves us enough to die for us Himself in Jesus Christ, then hopefully it will help some of us to remember God promises vengeance on every enemy. Terrorism will not go unavenged. Sex-slavery will not go unavenged. God sees everything and everyone and He hears the calls of those in need. He has not gone remiss, He still loves us with an everlasting love. He loves us enough to let us suffer when He knows He can help us grow as individuals through of the pain, and He loves us enough to be silent at times, allowing us to be aware of our need for Him so we will remember He is a good God when we come running into His open arms.

THE TRUE NATURE OF FAITH

For those of us solely seeking empirical evidence of God in order to prove His existence, we forget faith does not require sight, and we contradictorily demand God prove Himself while we justify our own actions with a morality undefined by anyone but ourselves and a culture as subjective as all the rest. If we do not choose to see the world and look at people through the eyes of God, as we are intended to through faith in Christ—then we will continue to define our lives and ourselves from a limited plane of justification; telling ourselves our justification is legitimate without admitting we are no different from the rest of society telling itself it knows best because “it just does.” Without properly contending the source of morality, who can truly define good or bad? And if we cannot distinguish between good or bad, how can we argue over the existence of a loving God based on whether or not He is good in relation to His ability to love? Truly, if we cannot cross this line without stuttering and stammering, can we really point our fingers at the idea of God and reject Him when we can’t even understand our own argument?

THOUGHTS?

From this article, I would like you to consider the questions posed and carefully examine your current position. The end result could help you understand why your stance on faith in Jesus does or does not make sense, and why. My hope is that with some introspection, prayer, and open-mindedness, you will allow yourself to see these perspectives from a new light, and in so doing, become aware of why you believe what you believe with a stronger sense of peace and confidence. If you have any questions or thoughts you’d feel comfortable sharing, please write in the comments below and I will respond as promptly as I can. I would love to hear from you!

If you would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017.. May God bless you all!

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Epic Mommy Adventures

The Birth Of A Changed Heart

ROLE MODELS AND ACTION CHOICES

What does it mean to change the world? Many a matured mind understands the importance of being a positive influence for others as a role model, acting with what many would describe as compassion and altruism. One of the biggest differences between people who try to be this kind of positive influence and those who don’t is that not all of them believe in God, and therefore not all people give the credit of their inspiring action choices to faith in something greater than themselves. Why does this matter? you might ask. That is what I will be writing about in this article.

POSITIVE VIBES & KARMA

One of the most commonplace phrases I hear nowadays is “Send positive vibes out and good things will happen.” This reminds me of a couple things. First, a boomerang. Another is karma. Now, if you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you already know I don’t believe in karma because I believe in a God who loves us all so much as to not only know what we need and when we need it, but to also know where our heart is and where it will go (belief or disbelief). If this is true, then God is in control, which means karma—a belief derived of Hinduism and Buddhism in which the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence are viewed as deciding their fate in future existences—is not in control. This is point number one.

Secondly, what is a vibe? A vibe is “a person’s emotional state, or the atmosphere of a place as communicated to and felt by others.” This is not a doctrine or a belief system, nor is this about faith, religion, or even philosophy. Therefore, the general effect these words have is tantamount to someone saying “Good luck!” on our way out the door. When people say it, they may mean well and they may even say it genuinely. They may be sincerely hoping for the best possible occurrence to happen to us. But that type of hope is derived from their belief that what happens to us is based on what we do and say and feel and think. That is a lot of control in our hands. In fact, that is so much control it is overwhelming. Let me draw you a picture of what I mean by overwhelming.

EMOTIONAL TURMOIL

During my most vulnerable years following my parents’ divorce at 11 years old, I grew up very anxiously around a mother unable to fully embrace her feelings, expressing herself in unhealthy ways when she was upset. One of the most rueful truths about my relationship with my mom is how I came to know feelings of anxiousness, worry, and depression much more than that of feeling carefree, cheerful, or hopeful. Honestly, I would cry to myself sometimes when my mom appeared happy because for me, it meant I didn’t need to stay in my room quietly vacillating between what I expected I may or may not have done wrong. Nor did it mean I would have to figure out how to respond to her mood when she finally decided to talk to me. When she was in a good mood, I felt I needed to try to help keep her there, even if that meant holding back my tears of anxiety at the thought of her mood changing again if I triggered something.

THE BOUNDS OF ANXIETY

By the time I was 15-16 years old, I was much more sensitive to people based on the exposure to my mom’s frequently erratic emotive states during a time when I felt I had nothing firm, safe, or comforting to fall back on. Many years would pass by before I would learn that my assumption of others’ distressful emotional reactions was miscalculated—before I was able to relax my mind and enjoy the differences and nuances of people’s personalities—rather than being anxious at the thought of potentially overwhelming mood swings.

Here’s the point: Because of those consistent traumatic familial experiences, I learned how much control I felt I needed to have in order to feel emotionally safe with my mom. But it wasn’t until I found Jesus and declared Him as Lord that I realized my mom’s emotional responses were not healthy nor common. Put differently, faith in Christ promised that God loved me enough to let Him take care of everything fearlessly—even my anxiety towards others’ reactions. It was then where I realized needing so much control had required the me to trust myself more than my mom, and at the time, I didn’t trust myself with hardly any emotional control. How could I without a solid foundation for my feelings as good or bad? This dichotomy also revealed how powerless positive vibes really were: When I had walked into my mom’s house smiling and trying to be positive, it had never changed anything—in fact, the opposite would happen—my mom’s negative emotions would impact me.

THE POWERLESSNESS OF ‘VIBES’

All along, in retrospect, the most underlying message of these stressful experiences was that no matter how much positivity I tried to bring my mom, that wasn’t what she needed. Following closely behind was the message how no matter what others told me about being positive (and being positive around me), it wasn’t enough for me, either. My family was falling apart from the divorce and clearly, positivity wasn’t the cure. So, ultimately, what do positive vibes do for other people like my mom with good intentions and a hurting heart? They’re in need of more than a merely positive emotional atmosphere. When I hear others speak about positive vibes now, I shake my head to myself and sigh. Thinking of my mom as a poignant example among so many, this reaction is not meant to be disrespectful—it is simply my response to understanding the difference between vibes and a changed heart.

A MORAL TEACHER, GOLIATH, & PRAYER

See, my mom believes Jesus was a moral teacher just like many others do, that He isn’t Lord or God Incarnate. My mom, God bless her (I love her dearly), only means well. She is highly respected, admired, and loved by several hundreds of people because she works in education and has changed people’s lives as a result of her intentions. But her faith system is and never has been inspiring to me. While an atheist in my teens, she would encourage me to believe in something higher than myself, all the while reacting the way she did to life, herself—counting on her own fallible strength and the faithlessness in a loving, personal God. When I took the time, several years ago now, to reminisce on those memories, I understood that I had been a witness and a constituent (as one of her four children) to a painful part of her journey. Understanding that gave me empathy for her, and a piece of myself I had never discovered before. 

If there was a message to be taken from my experience of her emotions alone, it would be that positive vibes are powerless in the face of a heart that doesn’t believe in a personal God, particularly one who wants to be our best friend in place of the world. Why do I say that? Jesus doesn’t want us to pray to Him as if He’s hiding in the clouds. When we do pray like that, we forfeit the intimacy of a life-altering faith-based relationship that He wants to share with us. My mom didn’t understand that, and Jesus has remained a man in a book whose message and purpose she doesn’t agree with entirely, even to this day. I pray for her daily, and I will continue to do so because I believe in a God who can soften hearts, and I believe in His ability to help people see His love as transforming, renewing, and empowering. He loved me so deeply and ultimately captured my heart away from disbelief, and I believe He can and will do the same for someone like my mom. 

ULTIMATUMS AND PURPOSE

From one place in my life to another, my atheistic heart was changed when suicide became more purposeful than the prospect of living in a world without Jesus. Faithlessness taught me that without something higher and personal to believe in, life not only appears meaningless, but it doesn’t ask for anything of us (“survive and indulge“, it seems to say). What follows is the meaninglessness of life transmutes into purposelessness (what do we do when we believe there’s nothing to be done?), where we are exposed to the fallacy of purpose without faith; that is, we are finally made aware that life cannot be complete without a purpose, but we are unaware of how to define purpose and allocate it without a loving God to reveal such a personal calling to us. Transcendence (or enlightenment, as a tool, if you will) takes the bird’s-eye view, witnessing life as worthless without a personal God to inspire us beyond ourselves (narcissism) and into selflessness (altruism), in the name of a man who was crucified in our place as a sacrifice so we would not have to suffer for indulging ourselves with our closed-minded selfishness, rather than worshipping the One who already takes care of us (and who shields us from what He knows we don’t need).

CHRIST-LIKE EXPOSURE

When we are Christ-like with people, those people we interact with do not simply receive positive vibes from us, they experience a hope and joy unlike anything else, and our reason isn’t described as “just because”; we direct their curiosity and desire for our hope and joy back to Jesus, who loves them in such a way that they need to know and feel deeply and personally for themselves. “Just because” takes all the credit and places it on our head like a plastic crown from Burger King. Giving the credit back to Christ shines a light in a place others will be galvanized from—their heart—because only God can reach them in that spot in the way He does.

Rather than encouraging positive vibes, we could do ourselves a higher justice by simply encouraging others to smile because a smile makes anyone beautiful. There is no need to say “send out positive vibes” because what matters is not our emotional state; what matters is the state of our soul. We lead others from where our soul is, and whether or not we have good intentions doesn’t change whether we have Jesus.

SUBJECTIVITY OF GOODNESS

What I want you to take from this article is that being good to people is a subjective argument when the reason why we do what we do does not point to something more significant than ourselves. Sending positive vibes in “the name of love,” for example, does not carry any meaning since love without a source is unfounded and therefore powerless. If God isn’t the source of love, what is? Without a response with a firm foundation, acting in the name of anything other than God only provokes the question: “What power does that have?” With God, we point straight to the Bible and the power of our testimony (which is as much empirical evidence as anyone can search for in recent years when 2,000 seems too far away), and we no longer need the power of anything other than faith in a God capable of living up to His own word.

When we don’t point back to God, and we point to ourselves instead, how promising are the actions we take for others? How sure can we be that our motivations are good if they are rooted in something we cannot explain (i.e. “I did it just because”)? I would like to let these questions sit with you as you process the message of this article, which is that rather than vibes, what we can offer the world is how faith in Christ is personal, emotional, relational, and eternal—that nothing else in this life promises so much, and nothing else has quite such a bold history to back it up.

LET’S CONNECT

If you would like to read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please share this with anyone and feel free to write in the comments below, I would love to hear from you! God bless!!

Overwhelming

Movie Review: Manchester By the Sea

This is only the third film I’ve personally seen Casey Affleck in outside of the Oceans Eleven trilogy (although I do not remember his role in those films), and I can easily say this Casey had me a little concerned he was actually experiencing some kind of depression during this film—but I say this as a compliment to his portrayal of Lee in “Manchester By the Sea,” a film about loss, family, and the brittle reality of watching life trickle down the spectacles of self-deprecation. 

Make no mistake, this movie runs at the rhythm of watching paint dry. But we’re talking about complementary high-grade paint. What I appreciated about the snail-race pace is that it helped embody the sensation of everything slowing down, just as the reality might actually play out for characters such as these in such a sensitive situation.

When Lee learns of the death in his family, his already nonchalant character sheds one more layer of its purpose away in the desultory extremes of subtle grief and inner agony. His backstory (which is implied was only back some years) eventually reveals where his self-deflation began, and why he walks around with such glumness in his eyes. This sets up a layer of empathy for the viewer, and also creates the appropriate palette for the dry humor to come later. The remaining portions of the film are used with sensitive consideration to explaining “what happens next” with both Lee and his younger brother, Aaron (played by Patrick Hedges), as well as the remainder of a family left like delicate debris in the wake of a tornado. 

About half-way through into 2/3 of the film, the humor really picked up for me and I found myself laughing at some of the darkest but most empathetic humor related to such a broken-heart stricken family. Most of the humor is admittedly derived from the cringe-worthy social ineptitudes of Lee. There are also many scenes where the dryness of reality is expressed so unapologetically as to be risible. One such moment happens when Lee is giving Aaron a chance to decide whether or not he wants to get out of the car, to which Aaron replies “Let’s just go.” The ambiguity of this moment propels Lee to begin driving away while Aaron opens the door, and the amalgam of Lee’s panic with Aaron’s surprise opens the space for humor which can only be appreciated when understanding each character’s motivation and perspective. Truly, this brief authentic moment was implemented so naturally that it became the first laugh out loud moment of the film for me.

The heart of this story is not-so-ironically found in Lee’s depressive state of mind, drawn out but seasoned with carefully chosen dryness and good intentions. The message of this film, which is not as obvious as it is subjective to the viewer watching, claims itself during the in-betweens of the story, finding itself not encouraging or motivating, but simply speaking and waiting. “Manchester” speaks, it listens, and waits—and if you laugh, it smiles. When you wait pensively for the next moment to take over, it blinks and keeps going. The heart of “Manchester” is simply that it has heart, defined by its authenticity and commitment to telling itself without asking whether or not you mind.

What I enjoyed about this film were the nuanced relationships. There are so many familial relationships that, whether throwing curveballs or drawing a tears—so much can be appreciated about the rawness of emotion drawn from each conversation; the sentiment of desire for healing and restoration when the floodgates of pain and self-deprecation push back with the brute force of self-denial. Lee’s portrayal character in particular is breathtakingly painful to watch, and in this nerve-pinching portrayal is a beauty not demanding emotion but nevertheless forcing it from you simultaneously. 

Parental Advisory:

“Manchester” contains a pervasive amount of F-words throughout—so much so that most of the R-rating simply applies to the vulgarity. There are two brief bar fights that, while in some ways provoke laughter, are violent due to the thematic understanding of their context; insofar that the story behind each scene develops in-between, which would need explanation to a young child. The theme of sexuality is also played with in multiple scenes involving teenagers and is heavily insinuated. Two such scenes reveal teenagers bared down to their underwear; therefore, this is ample reason to warn parents from making the mistake of renting “Manchester” on Redbox, Netflix, Raku, or otherwise—and running into these scenes having to explain to young ones why you may or may not believe this is appropriate for them to watch. While “Manchester” is simplified by its plot and relationships, its themes are mature, and for this reason I strongly urge parents to watch before deciding to allow younger kids to view, depending on how important you feel it is to shield your kids from exposure to promiscuous sexual behavior and vulgar language. 

I would rate “Manchester By the Sea” 4/5 stars, given there isn’t really a strong message, but in place of a message there are a number of strong performances and an extremely relatable, poignant story. 

If you enjoyed reading this and you would like to read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please share this with anyone and feel free to write in the comments below if you have something you’d like to add or share. I would be glad to read from you! Have a blessed day!

Rhythmic

The Dichotomy Of Enlightenment & Faith

ECKHART TOLLE

During my late teens and early twenties, I read many self-help books written to help people find their identity by becoming more in touch with themselves and appreciating the intrinsic qualities making them who they are. Two books that stand out to me are Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and The Power of Now. The reason why these books stand out is because they helped me learn how to step outside my microcosm of worry, anxiety, and incessant thought in order to see my problems from a bird’s eye view, comprehending how such complex problems don’t have control over me or my thoughts. Even more effective was Tolle’s ability to explain how to stay present and to avoid getting lost in rumination, or the disillusionment that the world was so much smaller than I was making it out to be. Truly, reading these books at the time were, for me, enlightening. This was while I was first discovering Christ in a whole new light, still coming to grips with what Christianity meant. My faith in Jesus was not very strong yet as I had not yet learned what it meant to fully receive His love.

ENLIGHTENMENT AND SPIRITUALITY

In reading these books, I finally understood how unhealthily I had been living for so many years since my parents divorced, and how my shell of a life crumbling to the ground had been the tool acting as the ostracism of my own identity from me. Upon realizing this, and further stepping back—I experienced the liberation I could finally take advantage of regarding all the pain in my life up to that point. Put differently, I could finally “see” the space between me and my past pain. For me at the time, this seemed a powerful first step towards “enlightenment,” or “spirituality” beyond church. Never before had I been able to step outside any bubble, much less recognize the space between me and any of the substance of thoughts running inside my head. Now I was able to do just that, and, at first, the experience felt so intrinsic that it was as if the liberation and space itself had become my new identity. It felt great! A good couple of months of this set me free from all those years of worry, anxiety, some of the depression (not all), and a lot of the repercussive shame (for example, there were memories of my past I felt shame over because I had assumed I upset one person or another for something so minuscule as to be meaningless—like that of not smiling at someone when I could have, or speaking words with a negative inflection. I finally accepted that my memories proved I had done nothing worth hanging onto for years and years, and more importantly, that the only person who was likely hanging onto the type of worry I was was me—for all those years. Needless to say, letting that shame go was deeply liberating).

PANTHEISM

Further, what I recall receiving from Tolle’s books about 6 years ago now is how his perspectives, teachings, and focuses were in some ways related to one of the several facets of Pantheism; the doctrine which identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God. From this angle of Pantheism, the universe and humanity are one, so the belief that God is the universe then reduces God to a much smaller degree of His actual size and power, ably placing humanity on His level. For some, this would be so extreme as to be blasphemy. When I recognized this flaw (again, I was still learning about Jesus, the Bible, God’s love, and humanity’s historical relationship with Him ranging from long before to far after Christ’s death and resurrection), what I realized was how Tolle was describing God in all of us—not as in the Holy Spirit as described by Jesus before His ascension to Heaven, but rather, what Tolle had described was experiencing presence (the act of mentally being in the here and now) as if the act of presence itself was the gateway to God’s presence and that presence was also our connection to His wavelength. Again, this idea of a “wavelength” reduced God, bringing Him down to a level that made Him appear impersonal, limited, and distorted. Here lied the biggest eye-opener for me.

AN IMPERSONAL, HUMANIZED GOD

Claiming humanity is on the same wavelength as God not only lowers God down to humanity (which Jesus had already done through the Incarnation, whereas Tolle’s teachings had nothing to do with anything Jesus had done—if anything, Tolle merely quoted some of the godly wisdom Jesus spoke in the Bible as a reference back to the his point on enlightenment), it tells us God is not personal. The ideology of Tolle’s books offer nothing about personal relationship with God. In fact, if anything, his words only imply that we are with God in the sense that we are all on the same wavelength like that of a radio station frequency. To me, this is as ludicrous as is playing with a heavy subject in the shallow end of the pool. Moving further still, a vitally important missing piece of his teaching is how Tolle says nothing to connect dots from his message on enlightenment to the universal concept of sin to restoration, from understanding evil to emanating love, or from receiving pain by adversity to actively practicing forgiveness. Ultimately, Tolle’s words are limited to the thoughts in our minds as the main source of our problems. The problem (and limitation) with this is that for those living in their mind like I had been for so many years, we may back out of our thoughts, but then we are immediately left alone to figure them out, judge them, change them, and to discern the good from the bad and the ugly. But on whose terms?

THE LOSS OF SALVATION AND PURPOSE

These books, as enlightening as they were for me, also offered no promise of salvation or relationship with God; only the implication that slowing down enough to step outside my thoughts would bring me to God’s wavelength. Let me tell you, as someone who used to be a suicidal atheist desperate to find a purpose or literally kill myself—I have never been so much as curious about wavelengths, air waves, or “channels”. Ridding myself of my worries was incredible, but I soon after understood that there had to be more than mere enlightenment. What about living for a purpose, and discovering ours in order to live it out? What about loving people who hurt us to be a witness of Jesus’s love for them? What about the soul of morality in a world so contradictorily convinced morality is subjective? Mere enlightenment doesn’t touch on any of these imperative questions. Of all the positive lessons of enlightenment, its most transparent flaw is rooted in the narcissism that we are inner-connected, yet still interpersonally remiss, without reason to be selfless. In other words, enlightenment does not teach about nor touch upon unconditional love, forgiveness, or salvation from our desire for indulgence; enlightenment merely celebrates our ability to think outside the box without getting tossed back in again later.

When I finally came to grips with how relationship with Jesus is meant to be and to feel personal, enlightenment seemed like a small prerequisite to learning to be present enough to understand the importance of opening the Bible and appreciating its promise of redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ. My eyes were then opened by God—not Eckhart Tolle—to the truth that enlightenment may attempt to act precociously, but it gets caught with its shoes untied and missing a belt. 

THE REALITY OF ENLIGHTENMENT

Readers, even if and when we can find ourselves able to back out of our worry, anxiety, shame, or depression—we still have those to deal with and to allocate spiritually. What does that mean? It means we still need to learn who to surrender our fears, worries, anxieties, shame, and depression to. Dealing with the spiritual allocation of these problems means handing them off to God and dropping them out of our hearts and minds like heavy suitcases. Enlightenment can help teach us how to do this—to let go of the heavy and unnecessary worry stopping us from truly living and slowing us from truly seeking our purpose from God. What enlightenment can’t do, and what it in and of itself doesn’t have—is the power to answer our deepest, most personal and intricate questions or desires about the meaning of life, or our purpose in it. Enlightenment may clear the road of tree branches and the debris of life, but the road itself was already there, paved by God Himself

OUR NEED FOR JESUS

What I’d like for you to take away from this is the importance of understanding our need for relationship with God through Jesus Christ does not come from any form of enlightenment. Living with worry and anxiety isn’t worth the struggle, and the world does not help us let go of such things because the world is the source of the problem aside from our choosing to let our problems get to us. Admitting this allows us to see the helpful tool of enlightenment, which can help us to see our path with less luggage to carry along the way. But enlightenment is not the journey, relationship with God is, but I didn’t realize this until after I had searched for a bit of enlightenment myself to understand the difference. It was there that I found enlightenment didn’t have the answers I was looking for either, only Jesus has those answers. If we would seek Him and His kingdom first and foremost, He will give us the desires of our hearts (Matthew 6:33). 

LET’S CONNECT

If you would like to read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please share this with anyone and feel free to write in the comments below, because I would love to hear from you! May you find Jesus today!

Aware

The Blessing Of Failure With the Power of Jesus

There’s an Islamic quote that I appreciate as a Christian, it reads: “When the world pushes you to your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray.”

Often times when we feel down, defeated, upset, disappointed, or cornered, we do not always turn to God and pray first in response. Whether figurative or hypothetical is irrelevant—if and when the world has incapacitated us, the best thing we could do is pray. Prayer is not only submission to Jesus, it is an act of surrendering our feeble attempts to handle what was never ours to handle in the first place. What do I mean by this? Let me explain.

THE TRUTHS ABOUT FAILURE

If our boss fires us, we could thank God for closing the wrong door and opening the right door of opportunity elsewhere. If our girlfriend or boyfriend breaks up with us, we could thank God (after mourning the loss/change in life, if needed of course) for giving us the wisdom that that person wasn’t the right partner for us; or we may even feel God calling us to continue pursuing that person with patience, passion, and love. God has the answer for every question we ask before we’ve even processed the thought which leads to our question. He already knows. Failures are a way out of continuing to make the choices that take us away from the plan God has for us.

Mistakes we make are blessings in disguise because they allow God to speak through the cracks of what we may believe is our own genius. We can be absent-minded, and so we can find ourselves mistakenly taking for granted how God works behind the scenes of life; the Devil himself needs permission to challenge or test any of us, and that permission comes from God. God has a plan for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11), and when we fail, God allows us to see the exit sign so that we may choose to leave and move towards the correct entrance he has planned for us elsewhere. Concordantly, when we see the exit as some kind of banishing, we miss the point: Failure does not signify defeat—failure divulges the road to the next success. To learn, one must make mistakes. Sometimes to master a skill one must fail multiple times, and if our failures take us to our knees, then we pray. But we don’t just pray some mechanical prayer lacking the faith of a mustard seed—we pray with meaning, precision, and intention. Most of all, we pray with power and confidence in a God capable of all things, knowing He has our best intentions at heart. 

WHAT WE CAN PRAY FOR

How will we know what to pray? Well, we just covered that there’s something we failed at doing, or failed to do well, right? So we pray for the knowledge needed to know how we went wrong, the humility to admit our error to ourselves and to do better when we try again (because we will be trying again). Pray for the tenacity to keep going and the strength to move forward (confidence) without looking back (shame). Pray we would be more receptive to the way God motivates us with His love and that He would help us not to search for worldly validation or strength and instead to remind us how His power conquers all, and to remember His power is aimed for our good. We then give a shout of praise that God is a good God who wants us to succeed, to heal, and who loves us so much as to see us through to victory, moving forward with bold confidence. And we always close by declaring the prayer request in Jesus’s name! The name above all names—Amen! 

Now get off your knees, close the door to the flood of thoughts God is lovingly telling you you don’t need, and move on. Try again, and keep trying whether or not you are back on your knees, and if you’re back on your knees you pray again; if you’re not, you give a shout of praise to thank Him that you’re not! God is always good! He always has our back! He always wants what is best for us. God allows pain when He knows it will mold us into a stronger version of ourselves, even if we can’t see how that could be yet. It isn’t our job to understand what He’s planning or to judge the way He executes justice based on our own discernment—our job is obedience, that we would glorify His name with thanks, praise, and the pursuit of a deeper, stronger relationship with Him through Jesus. The rest falls into place when we seek the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:33).

FINDING COMFORT IN JESUS

Jesus is all we need, and when we can recognize the world for what it is when we’re on our knees—that is, when we can see how the world is corrupted and that it is understandable how we get knocked down when we face such a strong worldly (and spiritual!) opposition—prayer will become more natural. The words of our prayer will start flowing because our hearts will be in the right place and we will believe 100% that God is able. He IS able and there’s nothing and no one that can stop God from loving us and giving us His goodness through His love for us (Roman 8:38-39). Believe this, embrace it, praise Him for it and move forward. Keep your eyes on the Lord and thank Him for being the Father God that He is. He loves you more than you could imagine! Live off of the strength of this truth and be uplifted today, readers, in Jesus’s name!!

LET’S CONNECT

If you would like to read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please share this with anyone and feel free to write in the comments below, I would love to hear from you! God bless you!!

Expectation

Movie Review: John Wick Chapter 2

John Wick Chapter 2 is a stellar film on many levels, all of which I will dive into throughout this review. I will mention the paucity of issues I had with this film towards the end, as well as my Parental Advisory section. As a means of respect to my readers, there are no spoilers in this review

Chapter 2 follows on the heels of its predecessor with an entertaining helicopter view of a city car chase. Let me say first and foremost that the action in this film is exquisitely done from start to finish, and as someone with a major in film studies, I was incredibly impressed with every action scene in this film. 

The film briefly recaptures the remnants of the original John Wick story: John’s dog—his last gift from his dead wife–was murdered, and John is on the verge of completing his spree of vindication on all of his enemies. Upon completion, a former colleague of John’s past arrives and brings him a request he can’t refuse–but he still does. This costs him,  and a new story is born. Chapter 2’s story begins here. Honestly, a 10-year-old child would understand the story of this movie because of its simplicity, but the content of this movie is far too mature for any 10-year-old

Again, the action is exquisite. Not only the gun fights, but also the choreographed fight sequences between Wick and his many enemies. Just when you think you’ve seen the “highlight fist fight,” another one shows up and is just as entertaining, if not more. When I say entertaining, I’m not referring to the glorification of violence (as I am a Christ-follower and I do not believe violence is the solution the world’s plethora of problems), rather, I am referring to the value of the work that went into making these fights appear realistic and painful by the cast and crew of the film’s production. I was particularly impressed with one of the fight scenes which ended soon after a fall down some stairs. Now, I’m quite confident stunt doubles were used since this looked incredibly painful for the main actors to be falling down stairs, but I couldn’t tell because only the close-up shots revealed the actors faces clearly. Again, state of the art choreography in this film brings the brutal reality of the world of assassins to fruition on-screen. 

One of the many facets of this film that I appreciated was its use of on-location production value; there are hardly any scenes in this movie that I would be able to guess were shot on studio sets with dressing and props. Most of the film’s production appears on-location, giving the world of John Wick a broader scope of reality. This is not a film careening on a narrow budget limited within apartment complexes and side alleys—it’s out in heavily populated areas mid-day with everything operating as if we were right there with them. The value of this alone is worth capturing the attention of viewers uninterested in some cheap film about the same ol’ story. Chapter 2 certainly delivers even on its production value, and that is commendable. 

Another aspect of this film that I appreciated quietly was its humor. Chapter 2 doesn’t take itself too seriously; there are moments of humor sprinkled in that are so fitting that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud in the theater. While John is beating men to a pulp outside, their leader nervously awaits what will happen next while listening the sounds of grunting men outside his office door. His reactions are timed so perfectly that I couldn’t help but find humor in the horror of his expressions. These uses of humor were appropriately used likely to balance out the brutality of the fights and the consistent action throughout the film. For a two-hour action movie, a grand 3/4 or more is spent on action alone; that is both incredible and incredulous without going overboard, and Chapter 2 does this flawlessly. 

My one only issue with John Wick Chapter 2 was some of the dialogue. In particular, the dialogue for Keanu Reeves as John Wick himself. I have never considered Keanu Reeves to be a complex actor of multiple nuances, and I do not think his roles appear to be very challenging psychologically, but more physically demanding due to the fights (The Matrix trilogy is a great reference for this comment). The acting here is just about the same; there is little challenge for an actor to put on an assassin’s countenance and pretend to have lost his dog and wife with some pained expressions intermittently between action scenes, a reminder of his humanity beyond his career. The writing for Keanu is just predictable and cheesy, although it is fitting for such a film. For example, “You tell them if they come for me, I will kill them. Every last one of them. I’ll kill them all.” It’s extremely cliché and taken from an old mold of action films, but nevertheless it’s befitting given the circumstances. I’m not putting Keanu on the bench, I’m simply stating that the writing could have at least slightly benefitted from some attempt to be more original.

To reiterate, I am a Christ follower and I do not write this review to encourage people to go watch the movie because of all the violence. I write this review to explain the strengths of the production value, and to inform audiences that the entertainment value of the choreography, principal photography, and story alone are worth the appreciation. That said, I will close with my precautions. 

Parental Advisory

Chapter 2 is brutal and bloody; bones break and every punch or kick in every fight is shown without any jarring camera movements. This filmmaking decision leaves room for the viewer to fully experience every punch, kick, bullet, and grunt of the actors. Heads are shot at point-blank with graphic results. It’s extremely violent. Not Hacksaw Ridge war-carnage violent, but still graphic. Not only would I strongly urge caution against any young children viewing this, I would also heavily urge parents to take strong caution against taking their teenage kids to see this simply due to the nature of the violence in this film. A lot of influence derives from watching stylized gun fights and carefully planned choreography implemented by talented actors and hours of practice. When teenagers watch this, not all of them consider the ramifications of mirroring this type of violence in the real world, and they take the fictitious character of someone like John Wick to heart, thinking it justified to go on a killing spree. As someone who believes in Christ as my hope in life, an educational experience, and a tool belt of common sense to know how film is entirely separate from real life, I am able to watch a film like this and be unaffected by the violence because I know how everything in film works. Many a teenager who does not have this perspective might view a film like this and try to re-enact what they see. For this reason, I strongly, heavily urge parents to consider extreme caution with their kids watching this.

For the rest of us who know the world of film apart from the world outside the movie theater, I highly recommend taking yourself to see John Wick Chapter 2, especially if you enjoyed watching the first movie. Without watching the first, this film will make much less sense, though it may be enjoyable simply for the reasons explained in this review; not to mention there’s an actor which was nice to see acting alongside Keanu again since The Matrix films. Go ahead and watch to find out for yourself. 

Overall, I would rate John Wick Chapter 2 5/5 stars.

If you enjoyed reading this and you would like to read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please share this with anyone and feel free to write in the comments below if you have something you’d like to add or share. I would be glad to read from you! God bless you all!