WAYNEPARK.COM

Pastor, Writer, Contemplative

Archive for faith

How Do You Sabbath, Sabbatical, Rest, Play, Refuel, Re-energize?

Today’s talk on Sabbath & Burnout  was not new; it is a talk I give every year, and it is completely necessary. After the service I sat in circles and listened to stories of people burning / burned out by life, work, circumstance and so on. It was tragic. The overwhelming sense I had as I pronounced the closing benediction was God saying, STOP. TAKE A DAY OFF. – and that’s exactly what I said. There is a way to burn for God, or for work, what we do, our passions in life. And then there is also a thing called foolish burning. Many times I find that we are our own enemy; the unstoppable drive is like a tank, bulldozing over our own health, our relationships, our well-being.

So I’m re-posting these thoughts below about burnout and depression; mind you, depression is not always emotional; I believe there are also physical depressions (a depressed body or a depressed immune system), spiritual depressions. And I think these thoughts below, posted from my years in seminary, are very instructive and helpful…

February 19, 2009

Darrell Johnson gave a stirring talk on depression among the clergy today – and personally I think he should blog. So I transcribed some notes and reflections – from my own experience mingled with some of the theologies he presents concerning this “shame-based killer”. I’ve come to see depression among the clergy as a form of self-martyrdom – an unholy dying (in some cases, not all) – because it is often at our own hands, and before the idols of our own hero-worship (ourselves). More thoughts here:

Depression is symbiotic.It is never exclusively an inside-the-skull thing, Dr. Packer talks about the three-ness of human being; body, mind, & spirit (he doesn’t hold to the soul/spirit bifurcation). When depression hits, it is so often on all three fronts @ the same time, even though we can’t see it right away. For me the formula was like this:

Body – deteriorating health / not taking care of how I eat, sleep & exercise / unhealthy rhythms (or no rhythms at all)

Mind – continually denying myself and depriving myself of my inner-most needs and joys. This is a form of self-induced schizophrenia.

Spirit – not having a clue as to what I was made for, what I was called to, how I was designed. What a shame that this is so epidemic.

Depression is intense. I’ll never forget those plunges I first felt sitting on the 7 train on the way home working in NYC, exhausted. It sucked, quite literally.
Depression comes about by Great Expectations – Darrell’s insight here – we think we are more than we are – saints – in the hagiographical sense. The problem begins not in our striving to be great but rather in our idolizing; thus the original sin is placing human beings on pedestals and trying to attain these impossibly high notions of greatness.
Depression can come from “sedentary habits” – DJ cites Spurgeon here. I’m still guilty of this. Hoping between semesters to lose some pounds and get back in shape. Hold me to this.
Depression is better prevented, not cured. We’re better off pre-empting this killer than trying to deal with it at its height. No one likes having their hard drive crash only to be survived by that one, lone, blinking light of the will.
Depression is treated by “pacing” – this is me. Actually I get this from a quote from OM founder George Verwer who says that “burning for Christ” is a good thing – but we are to burn as coal – long and deep – and not like petrol – which flares up like a flash in the pan and fizzles out fairly quick.
A moving story of depression – as told by Gerry Sitzer, A Grace Disguised. DJ recommends this book by a prof @ Whitworth in Spokane who witnessed the deaths of his mother, wife and daughter in a split second. Moving story.

Anyways. My thoughts. Does this sound familiar to u?

#GODonFILM: HARRY POTTER / DH2 is unmistakably religious, spiritual, and dare I even say “Christian”

This Sunday we’ll be covering the last movie of our GODonFILM series – and boy what a way to go out. Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows 2 is a deeply satisfying conclusion to the decade-long affair, and it consummated a lot of the mystery and the waitings of the series. I, for one, walked out deeply impressed by the undeniable religious parallels in the conclusion, whether intentional or not. And truth be told, I saw it coming. That’s why I planned on preaching a sermon on this movie months back.

Now I am expecting some flak. Certain Christian communities have vehemently opposed the movie for promoting witchcraft in children; I’m not so convinced. While I agree it has taken a darker twist of late, I still find that this series speaks powerfully about good and evil, childhood and innocence, tremendous yet unbridled potential, and the portent (or tremendous hope) of this thing called destiny. These are religiously-infused ideas. Below are those who are of the same opine as me… and of course, read at your caution, for there are spoilers ahead…

*****************************************************

Is Harry Potter the Son of God?

When asked if she is a Christian, Rowling answers:

“Yes, I am, which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”

Perhaps what she won’t tell is her denomination, but as it is known that she is a member of the Church of Scotland congregation… that information hardly seems illuminating to the Potter story. What else might she be refusing to divulge? When a person states that they are a Christian, they may mean one of several things – “I believe in God,” “I’m not an atheist or Jewish or Muslim or Hindu,” “I go to church sometimes,” “I go to church every week,” or “I believe that Jesus Christ was the incarnate God who died to redeem the world of their sins, and I have a personal relationship with him as my Lord and Savior.”

Do any of these statements have the potential to reveal the ultimate plot of the series? One of them must, as Rowling has said it is so. The only one of the above statements that approaches that potential is the last, which I will henceforth refer to as “Christ follower.” If Rowling is a Christ follower, what might that mean for Harry Potter? I believe that it means Harry is the Christ – of the wizarding world, that is – of J.K. Rowling’s created universe.

Can this be? Can a writer so censured by elements of the religious right, the writer of a book that portrays “good” witches and wizards; the writer of scenes so horrific as the senseless murder of a young boy; a villain who drinks unicorn blood and uses the bones of his father – whom he murdered – and the blood of his enemy to regain a physical body; a writer who uses symbolism from the tarot; a writer blamed for encouraging interest in witchcraft among teens; can this writer be a Christ follower, and actually be writing about Christ? I say yes.

*****************************************************

Harry Potter is a ‘Christ-like’ figure

(Theologian Stephen) Holmes said: “What happens gives the strong impression that Harry dies, discovers an afterlife in a place called King’s Cross, a striking reference from a Christian perspective, and comes back to life. The effect of his death has been to render impotent the power of evil. That is a Christian narrative which is almost impossible not to recognize.

*****************************************************
So would you agree?
Does this movie undeniably contain religious / Christian themes?
Did it speak to you?
And what about?

#GODonFILM: MIDNIGHT in PARIS Speaks of Nostalgia, Romanticism, and Presence

Inspector Javert takes a dip here, I believe

This Sunday I’ll be talking on Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris for our “GOD on FILM” series – and I just couldn’t wait to post on it even before my sermon, because for the many thematic elements to talk about here, there is the singularly rich and valuable point: the grass aint always greener on the other side. Which is why I was simultaneously charmed by this film but also really really disappointed (spoiler alert***)

Owen Wilson: naivete incarnate

The realization that presence takes precedence over nostalgia and romanticism – this is an important idea – a summons to snap back to reality and appreciate the good thing right in front of us, whether it is the place we live in, or the spouse we married, or the church we attend, or the career path we chose. Living constantly in a fantasy world of anywhere-but-here misanthropy is a miserable state to be in, no less, in my book – a state of perpetual childishness.

Which irks me to no end about the conclusion of this movie: in the end – Gil capitulates to his infatuation wholesale. Sure he’s not stuck in the 1920’s anymore but he never really grows up, in a sense. Paris may be the place to be today, but tomorrow it will be London, or NYC, or Milan, or anywhere but here. And there will always be a new belle who likes rain in her hair, or listens to Cole Porter, or likes pita bread. See what I mean?

Soon-Yi Previn and Woody Allen at the 2009 Tri...

not cool, Woodster, not cool.

So I don’t know if I’m alone in pointing this out – not many have aired these sentiments – but I just feel it was a bit too biographical of Woody Allen for my liking – slipping deeper into neurosis and never fully climbing out (albeit tongue in cheek).

Again. This was a great movie. But for it’s merits, the message never hits home in the end, but balks. For that reason I give it 3 out of 4.

#GODonFILM: Making Sense of KUNG FU PANDA

I was really embarrassed to announce that as part of our GODonFilM series we were covering Kung Fu Panda 2. But there are some merits:

  1. The theme of technology vs. spirit (i.e., Kung Fu being outmoded by the cannon – the precursor to the gun). So the question is, can something as spiritual / mystical as kung fu stop a speeding bullet? Is technology a contaminant to the purity of spirit? Should we all stop blogging and abandon twitter? Alas, I don’t go here in my talk.
  2. It IS the first movie directed by an Asian-American woman. The perspectival change is already evident between KFP 1 and KFP 2.
  3. Themes of predestination and fate: Evil Lord Shen is told a panda would one day lead to his demise. So the question for you thinkers is; would befriending or eradicating all pandas alter his destiny at all? Is it in any way avoidable / redeemable?
  4. Biblical genocide in true Herodian fashion. ***SPOILER*** of course, Shen, being consummate evil (because he is played by Gary Oldman) goes the genocidal rout. Destroy all Pandas… but of course one survives. How original.
  5. Po wrestles with “daddy issues” (or lack of)

So how did I whip up a sermon out of this?

I chose to look at another family drama played out between two brothers, Joseph and Judah over the course of 14 chapters in Genesis 37 to 50. I wouldn’t say the parallels are precise, but the unfolding family dramas in KFP2 hearken to some of the dysfunctionalities in Israel’s line. I know that’s overreaching but – well worth exploring.

What resulted was a sermon inspired by Robert Alter‘s (Berkeley) narrative critical approach to the Judah / Tamar story wedged in between the larger Joseph framework (what some technical folks call framing, or inclusio, or sandwiching). Here’s a link to the talk.

What delights me is that this sets us up for next week’s talk on the Tree of Life perfectly. So get ready for Joseph / Judah part II this upcoming Sunday.

#GODonFILM: Exegeting X-MEN

I really enjoyed our talk on X-Men: First Class for the new GOD on FILM series at Harvest Houston Church; preached my heart out and felt a connection with the audience, especially as we have a spike in attendance over the summer due to incoming high school graduates and returning college students.

As an unrepentant nerd, I’ve followed the X-Men comics long before the movie hoopla and even the cartoon television series; I was nurtured on the classic storyline of the “freaks” ostracized by society; deported to apartheid-like islands (Genosha), running from mob-like discrimination (the Sentinels) and struggling with identity and seemingly unlimited and uncontrollable power (the Phoenix). A powerful concoction every pubescent 13 yr old can relate with, yes.

So naturally I find deep themes to draw out here.

And I narrowed in on the deep themes of rejection, foreignness, freakishness, being the Other, the outcast, the reject, the carny, the misfit, the person with the huge scarlet letter emblazoned on their chest. In short – I think X-Men touches a nerve with so many because YOU (and me too) are ALL FREAKS. And we need some solace. Some meaning, something that speaks to our inadequacy to fit into society; in many ways, the X-Men story is the modern-day Kafka narrative of angst and existentialism.

So in the end, what did I think of the movie? I don’t know; I haven’t watched it yet.

Art and Incarnation: Mako Fujimura

We had a discussion among our staff about the art of Makoto Fujimura this morning. He’s a New Yorker. He’s a Greenwich Village artist (my old haunting grounds back in the day @ Parsons School of Design). He’s asian (yay!) And he’s a Christian. So it intrigued me to watch an emerging figure who represents two worlds I inhabit, as an Asian-American as well as a Christian within the arts. So I did some homework only to find this little endorsement here to the left that he receives from CT mag, and to find out that he’s received some accolade from some great sources. See his blog here and professional page here. So I’m thrilled for this guy who is making a statement in numerous ways – as an urbanite, a religious person, an ethnic person – just thrilled. But the one question that seemed to echo in our group was: Read the rest of this entry »