2.27.2010

Day 70, Avatar, Did I 'see' it? (I did but it was called...)

"So, what did you think?" is the reverberating mantra as we all stand out our cushy popcorn laiden seats and grab our mysterious trash. I didn't want to answer because I had such mixed feelings. So, after 48 hours of work, a 3.3 mile run, and a several cups of coffee, ...I think I can write something that is not completely nonsensical. Here's my try.

It took awhile for me to get passed the Ferngully, Dances with Wolves, Never-Ending Story, Star Wars, Zelda and Smurf overtures. Ferngully/Zelda because it seemed I was watching a documentary on the rain forest and how the 'great tree' held everything together in green peace. Dances with Wolves, as the new 'Kevin' be-friends a tribe and eventually goes 'en-gine' (Indian) on the United States Calvary taming the ta-tonka (Buffalo). Never-Ending Story, because who in the world can hang on to any animal and fly. Star Wars because, if you remember in Star Wars I, the Naboo people with Jar-Jar...I truly thought an Ewok/Wookie would be running around in the luminescent backdrop. Finally, the smurfs on roids. Where has our imaginations taken us but to bizarre 'smurf/humans' that have more than idealized bodies.

That's just the ongoing internal references.

From a religious, not so critical perspective, the observation looks like: A clear 'mother-earth' theme, laced with female leadership at all levels, Cycle of life, and the bizarre worship ceremony at the Tree of Souls which looked very similar to Eastern/ Temple of Doom. The ominous LAN (Local Area Network) between the creation and humanity, that is at odds because we have not 'tamed' it. 

Bottomline: As I watched toward the end of the movie, I began to think if this would be something that honors God. Not from a language/partial-nudity aspect, which I found disturbing, but more from a continual blurring of 'green-thought' and what God reveals through Scripture. The problem with the Creation is not bound up in a depletion of resources or over-population. The creation was seen and pronounced by God as good in Genesis. After the Fall, humanity and creation are longing for a state-of-redemption in which the created order is restored, not recycled. We long for resurrected bodies, not absorption (my argument for burial and not cremation). Christians are not Platonist, and should fight the temptation to be drawn in to seeing the body as evil and the soul good. Christ, when he came out of the tomb had his body that was glorified/still had scars.


Would I see it again? I doubt it. As the songs we sing reflects what we believe, I believe Avatar reflects an ever-growing tension of the movie industry trying to direct our thinking through art.  

2.24.2010

Day 69, Blog Wars of 2010, Craven vs. Craven.

I have had a great number of entries to the blogger thus far and feel that I am getting a little more adventurous in my writing. I have just about set a precedence of daily, leisurely, and thoughtful blogs. A good bit of daily hits... Yet, as most of you know, Jessica has just entered the same arena. I showed her around and then just like Wesley stealing the show from Whitfield, Jessica has decided to strategically steal the lime light.

Here's what I have seen in her demise to destroy my empire: I noticed her pulling out blogger maps of recent bloggers. She is constantly trying to foil my writing by bringing me desserts just as I started writing. I also notice her constantly trying to 'be nice' to me when I settled down with a pen and paper to plot my course. The other day I knew something was odd, when she said 'Do you want to play your video games tonight?'...that's just not normal.  After helping her out with the backdrop and HMTL, I figured we had an alliance. BUT....Kind'a like RISK, she instantly took over Australia and started gaining momentum.

The Blog WAR has begun!

Now, Jessica if you are reading this....get ready...I am taking off the gloves. I am going to make sure I bring all the hot chocolate to you when you are writing. I am also going to get you some new 'recipes' to distract you from your blogging. NO MORE MR.NICEGUY! I might send you shopping...just to keep your little fingers off the keyboard...maybe a long back massage...just to lure you to go to bed without blogging. Oh the temptations will be overwhelming...your little novice scribbles that make me chuckle and smile and relish the fact that you are my wife,...will not distract me from my mission to 'SINK YOUR BATTLESHIP'.

Bottomline: A Tension has risen here in the Craven Household. Readers beware! A He Said -She Said is about to hit the blogsphere. Who know's what topic will be drawn...a battle over "Wits and Wagers". And we both know who has the most of those two!!! Buahahahahahahahah.

2.23.2010

Day 68, A Landmark Day.

About 365 days ago, I was sitting at FOB Falcon in Baghdad, Iraq working of filling out one of the first forms in our adoption. I remember walking to the Chow hall talking to some guys trying to explain that Jessica and I had finally made the first real decision and now it was going to be a long haul before we see some major results.

Not to get your hopes up, we did not get a child just yet, but we are definitely at a point in the adoption that needs some celebration. At 0800 this morning, our profile is officially posted at our Adoption Agency Web site, which is where mothers can view our family profile.

This sets into motion a major thing for us. For right now, this very hour, we could be receiving a phone call that would revolutionize our family. Within a short period of time today to about 4 months (estimate) we should be matched and possibly flying back to the states to hold the new Craven. How cool is that?

Celebrate with us.

Also join us in beginning to pray for Jessica and I as we begin to pray for the spiritual aspects of parenting and fostering a child in the way of the Lord, in hopes that God would grant our child faith unto salvation. Adoption parallels so closely the doctrine of election, it just forces me to my knees already for my children. By His Grace, we pray that we can see not only 'birth', but 're-birth' in our children.

Search families for us at :www.americanadoptions.com. For us, you might get a snicker at our goofy photos, and you might get a burden to adopt....be careful. ahhahaha.

2.22.2010

Day 67, Conversations that Change Us: Predestination

Sunday night a good friend of mine who is a West Point Graduate, and Battery Commander (Pretty Sharp dude) said, "Hey, I have got a question for you...What do you think about predestination?" Now, in many circles this would be resolved with two likely responses.
1. "Well, I think we should just leave those doctrines that divide the churches alone and focus on what really matters."
2. "Well, I have never really nailed down what I believe and thus will continue talking to eventually change the subject."

I chose neither.

I could tell that he had really been thinking about this. This was not one of those 'stump the chump' questions. I smiled and decided I would let him fill out the question and talk his way through it. As he did so, I would smile and put a guard rail or would give him what various views were. His eyes widened as he just began to have a huge dialogue with himself. I could tell his conversation was shaking and solidifying some ideas. I said very little.

I smiled at the end of his self discovery. This conversation had shaped his thinking. I just was able to watch it happen in front of me.

Bottomline: Sometimes we can just be the quiet one and sometimes we need to be teacher. I am always humbled though when God begins to reveal Scripture to people and they have that "AH-HA!" moment right in front of me.

***Now what are my feelings about 'Predestination' you may ask yourself. My answer is simple. It took about 6 years to come to my convictions about it. It all started with a conversation with a guy named Paul, in Romans 9. I was 23 years old. I had a huge conversation with myself and God for 6 years.

2.21.2010

Day 66, 11:41 PM Saturday Night, Starting a New Sabbath Habit.

I have been thinking the ole Sabbath theory through for quite sometime. Do I think that it was a law that was fulfilled in Christ? (St. Augustine's View) Do I feel that I can do 'Holy Work' on the Sabbath? Is Saturday or Sunday the Sabbath? What constitutes 'rest' from work? Can I go outside and pick up sticks without sinning? You may not think about these things, but I challenge you to look at your view of 'keeping the Sabbath'?

What does the Christian do in the 21st Century? Do you go out to eat after church? Do you drop by Wal-mart? Do you turn on the stove and cook? If you are a minister, do you think Monday constitutes a resting day? What if Monday turns into just sit around and do things that I didn't get accomplished on Saturday?

I feel that we are to do something on the Sabbath. We are to rest and recognize that the work of Jesus Christ was sufficient on the Cross and that there is no 'extra' work to be done. Therefore, we should make every effort to rest from work. Now, what does that look like?

I don't know. What I do know is that Sunday or your Sabbath, if you keep it, should look very different from the rest of the week. We should make a conscious effort to focus on the work of Christ. How will the Craven family do that?

Well, I think I am going to do 'rest' from Blogging, Computer, Xbox and other things that I know eat up a majority of my day and my thinking. I think reading the Scriptures and prayer should be more of my focus. How will I hold up this? Who knows?

Bottomline: How do you keep the Sabbath at your house? What makes your  "S-Day" any different? How do you keep it Holy? Or do you have other thoughts on the Law here? I am game to hear it.

2.18.2010

Day 65, I Know Why My Dad Smoked a Pipe.

About 8 years ago, I picked up my dad's old pipe and packed it full of some Half and Half pipe tobacco, got a an ole Bic lighter and fired up my first bowl. I was sitting on top of my porch roof in Seminary. It was a cold night, but I didn't care. I had had just about enough stress for the week, and just thought a little nostalgia would ease the moment.

Oddly enough. It did.

Since then, I am the most infrequent smoker known to man. I literally by pipe tobacco and forget where I put when I get home. So, if you think I am an addict or I have a smoking problem, I would gladly dismiss your accusations.

But, I will admit this. I know exactly why my dad would pack a bowl, retreat to the back porch, pet a partially retarded golden retriever, and pensively look off to a lightly traveled dirt road. I never saw him smoke out of nervousness, even though I am sure he did, ...the pipe seemed to be a 7-12 minute pause in life...a time of reflection, gathering of thoughts,...making decisions,...or just enjoying a eurphoric aroma of maybe his good memories of his own dad....who knows.

For me in 2010, I say its probably not a daily habit for me or even a monthly one, but I a pause and reflection sounds pretty stink'n good right now.

Bottomline: There's no real spiritual formulation of smoking, and I probably should make sure people see that I am not encouraging it. I guess by in large, I am encouraging a good moment in the course of chaos to stop, take a deep breath, clear your head. Then in about 7-12 minutes, see how much better you feel.

**

2.16.2010

Day 64, The Animal was Stopped Today.


I am sure as the Titanic sank into the Atlantic, someone was regretting the word, "unsinkable." Well today, my ego sank quickly as the Ford Explorer sat crippled for the first time in over a 1 foot 1/2 of snow. A tear trickled down my face, as I realized my baby was officially stuck.

The Background: For about 3 months it has been snowing in the Land of Germany. About every weekend we get our 4 to 6 inches without fail. The temperatures edge above 30 on a hot day, but most of the time hover around 23 all day long. So, the snow has piled up in just about every place imaginable. Up till this morning, I saw all these mounds of snow as potential conquest for my Explorer. With a magical push of a button, she would transform into a vicious beast that could tear through anything. I would almost stand outside my little apartment and taunt the gods if they couldn't dish out more snow for PT tomorrow. NOTHING COULD STOP THE 4x4!

I even admit that I would have dreams of my adventures where I would be rescuing people from their primitive front wheel drive cars, as I stood in triumph pulling them out. I would beat on my bare chest and YAWP! (Dead Poets Society, quote) YES...it was that bad.

But at 0621 Berlin Standard Time, this romanticized view of life ended in a series of spins and a frustrated turning off the engine in utter defeat. She is liberated now, but that 1/2 hour sitting was as shocking as watching Apollo Creed fall to the gigantic Russian. I was undone.

Bottomline: I am sure we all have things that we feel are indestructible. Something that makes us feel greater than we are. But isn't it amazing that anything like this is always subject to failure in light of some of just time. A simple discovery in life is to realize that everything you have, brand new today, will decay. Nothing will give a lasting sense of 'security'. There is only one thing in this world that is not subject to change,...Christ Jesus. Take a look around you to see what you place your 'ego' into: looks, fame, money, materials, education. How many of those things have a lasting shelf life?

2.15.2010

Day 63, Young Minister's Goals.

A Classic Craven Moment, at FOB Falcon. My impression of Billy Sunday ranting.
 
I think it is safe to say that I am no longer a novice to ministry. I am no expert as of yet, but I feel that I can at least encourage 'younger' minister's with this list of things to be mindful.

TOP 10 GOALS OF YOUNG MINISTERS ( in no particular order)
1. Get to know the Janitor of the church and love him to death. He will be your bread and butter.

2. People are typically not easy to read when you first get to a church/Duty Station. Don't show your cards completely.

3. Love your wife, more than your congregation. This is a safe-guard for later, and also helps establish a 'help-mate' in ministry. She will relax, if she knows your heart.

4. Give all money and financial responsibilities to a trusted elder/adult. Never pass money to anyone, simply defer, "I don't take care of that, Mrs. Smith is our financial secretary."

5. If you work with a staff, which you probably will, encourage them. Visit them in their office. Talk with them regarding their spiritual walk. See everything you do in light of the 'overall' goal/mission of the church. Don't be a lonewolf.

6. Read. Read. Read. Never forsake your daily reading of Scripture. Its called, "A Pastor's Study", for a reason. STUDY. Order books and surround yourself with them.

7. Get a calendar on your desk, on your computer, and a daily planner. Constantly, sync them. Always know whats going on in the church, not just your ministry.

8. Go to a conference once a year with your wife, no church people. I encourage you go to a Pastor's Conference. You will be surprised when you surround yourself with other ministers who are in the same boat you are. Always Refreshing.

9. Preach Teach Expositionally or on a rigid schedule. The reason here is simple. When you get frustrated, you will typically say things from the pulpit that sounds like 'ranting' if you haven't been forced to stay with a passage of Scripture. This will be a great guard for any pastor.

10. Take a vacation and forget your cell phone. LEAVE IT. TURN IT OFF. GO OFF THE GRID. Don't Facebook/Email/Blog/whatever. Go get a sabbatical rest somewhere with your family.

**11. Visit people by taking them to lunch or coffee. Bring them to your house. Show them you that your human.

This list could go on and on, but those are definitely my top 10.
(note: The ranting preacher, is mild in comparison to what I have been known to do when I am not staging photos)

2.13.2010

Day 62, Overly Valuing Gray, Part I


"Its not a gift, it is merely technique." Ask any artist of charcoal or pencil, and you will hear this statement in regards to what many people call, "shading." Basically, its the ability to gradually move from a black to white without obvious steps of gradation. A snooty word for it is "Chiaroscuro". That's about the only thing I remember from my Art Education degree.

But truly, with enough time and patience a student can easily learn the right cross-hatching patterns to create such a smooth well-blended surface to compete with any renown Master. I believe this so much that in my private lessons, I will spend hours teaching anyone the proper rendering of sphere on a table. Ultimately, if you can shade a sphere correctly, you can make any object appear realistic in regards to light.

In American popular culture, the ability of blending black and white to an indistinguishable gray has almost become a masterful value that is been heightened to virtuosity. Let me explain. In any opinion on a subject matter, it seems that a person is only seen as tolerable when a position of neutrality is given. This is what I am calling, "Gray". Sadly, its almost a race between parties to this punchline. I am not talking about compromise or settling differences, I am issuing in the thought that the party itself will not value its own position, but will move directly to a position of 'no conflict'. By doing this, the end result is not a conclusion of sorts, but a confusion. Neither positions can distinguish from where they came.

Here's a simple example: In my circles it is not difficult to hear of doctrinal distinctions. Chaplains must work with varying denominations and world religions. Yet, in many instances, when discussions arise about differences many (not all) want to make sure that a 'peaceable' solution is met quickly. Thus, a gravitation to the middle or Gray. There is no doubt in my mind, that many of the Chaplains mean well and quite possibly are avoiding an explosive or divisive discussion. Yet, what if this becomes the norm on a day in and day out discussion. Would the Chaplains value their personal doctrinal positions or will they gravitate to the center, where it seems more virtuous to uphold the ambiguity of what we believe? My fear would be that years would pass and the 'overly valuing of the middle' would become our doctrinal position, and we would forget what truly makes us distinct.

Of course, think about how this plays out into your life. Think about your convictions on homosexuality, your convictions on life in the womb, your convictions on views of history, your convictions on gender roles, your convictions on competing religions..etc.

Bottomline: Does God want us to have differences of opinion without any foundation reason to support them? Is Christ honored, when we race to mutual agreement when facts and convictions have been blurred beyond recognition? On the opposite side, can we hold a position firmly without destroying the unity of the Church? How do you know when a position should be taken so strongly as to cause division?

2.11.2010

Day 61, Back in the Saddle with Purpose.

Last night, Jessica launched her new blogger page and I am uber interested to see how far she will push herself to share her thoughts with so many. With this new challenge to our family, I feel the accountability for me will be heightened. I suppose a little 'friendly-competition' could be fostered.

So, for all of you who are reading my thoughts and see how accurately they portray our family, feel free to cross-over to the 'SHE SAID' hemisphere of the blogging world. The link is provided in my favorites blogs on the right column.

****THE REFORMED CHAPLAIN****

Yesterday afternoon, I sent off my Nehemiah Commentary to Lifeway to be looked at and prayerfully published in some upcoming Student Material that is debuting in the Summer. Although the labor of writing the material had its definite ups and downs it did stir in me a desire to do more writing, but this time in a particular field without the 'guidelines' that are attached to lesson writing.

Therefore, I am going start on a project. So this weekend, a little brainstorming on what I feel God has already placed on my heart. Where this road will lead, who knows?

Bottomline: Don't take a lot of medication and jump on Blogger and think you will pen anything of significance.