Archive for April, 2009

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April17

 

Actor’s Devotion

 

I can’t help it, I’m a greedy slob, it’s my hobby” – Daffy Duck

 

If Mickey Mouse brought cartoons to the general public’s attention, then it was Daffy Duck who made them funny.  He’s been through several evolutions, changed considerably throughout the years but one thing he remains… and that’s funny… And the voice of course.  The voice of Daffy (created by Mel Blanc) was meant to be a high-pitched copy of the shows producer Leon Schlesinger.  Leon is reported to have said, “Thaaay, where’d youth get the idea for that thilly voith?”  He never did get the joke.

 

Up until the time of Porky and Daffy, the public largely saw cartoons as a different way to tell the same stories their human counterparts were playing.  They didn’t necessarily have to have humor as there driving theme.  Daffy was about to change all that.  With his patented, “hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo”, and his bouncing (literally) off the ceilings and the walls, the American public was to taste something they’d never really had before… funny cartoons.  America liked it very much.

 

That 1st wacky Daffy, though, was a bit much if the scriptwriters were going to give him any longevity.  So not long after his arrival on the screen, Daffy was given another persona, still pretty wacky, but with a brain and sharp whit.  In this version of himself, the duck was paired with Porky pig.  Porky was always the straight man to Daffy’s wacky comedy stylings.  They played off of each other in everything from Westerns (My Little Duckaroo) to Sci-Fi (Duck Dodgers), and the formula always worked.

 

Of course, his work with a certain rabbit also met with huge success.  In fact so much so that the model for that pairing, in which Daffy is continuously trying to outsmart the other character in the film on one pretext or another, became the model for much of his future work.  Whether it was Bugs, or Speedy Gonzalez, Foghorn Leghorn, or Elmer Fudd, Daffy could be seen being bested, well… by the best of them.  Much of this stemmed from what were termed Daffy’s “greedy duckling years” in which his need for greed was the sole driving force of his life.  He was forever trying to dupe or trick the other character into giving him their money.  This theme sort of morphed, because to watch Daffy trying so desperately to make money, build a house, rent a home, fix a car, in short to try just about anything and fail was…well…funny.  He would try to be a swashbuckling hero in the “Scarlet Pumpernickel” and fail.  He would try and be a marauding Arabian knight in “Ali Baba Bunny”, and fail.  He would try to be the world’s greatest door-to-door salesman… and fail.  He would try in several different short films to take over someone’s job (Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig say) and he would be the decidedly more talented, erudite and savvy actor… but he would still fail.  The question is not why did he fail so much.  The real question is, why do we love someone who is such a miserable failure?

 

I believe that we love Daffy because we love us.  We fail.  We fail often.  We fail often and in a grand manner.  We fail because Adam failed, and that is the nature of things now.  We want to do right, and we do many good things, but like Daffy somehow (in our own strength) we come up short.  Everything is falling into a state of greater and greater disorder.  There is nothing we can do or say to stop it.  It is what is, as they say.  Dr. Larry Crabb puts it well when he says, “Wretchedness- our own wretchedness- must be recognized before true greatness can be properly defined and passionately desired.  And it must be recognized not only as a past reality that only memory keeps in view, but also a present reality that, in all honesty, we must continue to acknowledge.”  It’s always gonna be here.  We have seen the enemy, and it is us.  And what can anyone or anything do about it?! 

 

Romans 7:21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

 

“Unless we have some understanding of the ‘great principle of wretchedness’ and can see it in ourselves, we will not be impressed by it’s opposite.” (Dr. Crabb again)

 

I will strive after greatness and obedience because he has done great things… for me!    No matter how many times I fail, Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient to cleanse me from all unrighteousness, to correct me, to mature me, and to finish this good work he has begun… even if I fail as much as Daffy.

 

It was on this day in 1938, that Daffy Duck made his debut in the short animated film “Porky’s Duck Hunt”

October8

 

Actor’s Devotional

 

The bishop approached him and said, in a low voice, ‘Do not forget, ever, that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man.’ Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of any such promise, stood dumbfounded. The bishop had stressed these words as he spoke them. He continued solemnly, ‘Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God!”

–Victor Hugo from Les Miserables

 

Les Miserables is one of the most enduring stories of the 19th, 20th, and now the 21st century.  The story, originally a novel (1862) written by Victor Hugo, follows the long and winding life of the tale’s hero Jean Valjean.

 

At the outset Jean’s parents both die and leave him to fend in the world for himself.  Eventually, after years of having to steal his food, he winds up in prison.  His original sentence is not all that long, but he tries to escape (3 times) and fails, each time adding more time to his original sentence.  After 19 years Jean finally is released from prison and makes his way back to Montreuil where he hopes to retain a job and lodgings.  But because he is on parole, as attested to by his yellow parole papers, and because he must show his papers to anyone he works for or lives with, he is taken advantage of and has a hard time finding a place to stay.  But one man, a kindly priest, takes pity on him and invites him in to stay with him.  Jean promptly agrees, but that night when the old man is asleep, Jean steals all the silver except the candlesticks in the house and makes his escape.  He is quickly caught however, but when he is presented before the priest with his booty the old man insists that the silver was a gift from himself to Jean Valjean, and by the way he says, “You forgot the candlesticks”.  The kindly priest adds them to Jean’s sack, and at the same time adds to his confusion.  Later when the authorities have left, the priest tells Jean hat God has spared him from prison for a reason, and that Jean should go and sin no more.

 

Jumping ahead Jean is now Monsieur Madeleine (another form of Magdalene) and he has used his wealth, acquired from the sale of the silver, to become quite prosperous.  He has even become the Mayor of Montreuil.  There is only one problem with that.  The policeman who originally had Jean put away is suspicious that Jean may very well be Monsieur Madeleine.  One Madeleine’s employees (Fantine) had been sending money to her illegitimate daughter, and had subsequently lost her position, on Madeleine’s authority, because she was considered a low woman for having such a daughter.  Having thus fired her she is driven in desperation to prostitution, where she comes to the attention of the very same police officer Javert.   Javert whose name which loosely translated would probably mean “to turn from bright” becomes more sure than ever that Madeleine is Jean Valjean, when Jean comes to have Fantine freed.  He is upset with himself for the harsh treatment she has received because he did not know her story, and wants her to suffer no further on his account.  This happens, but now Javert is on the trail and determined to send Jean back to prison because he is a fraud.  Soon, Javert has the proof he needs as another man is about to be convicted… for being, of all things, the “real Jean Valjean”.  Of course Jean cannot stand by and let this happen so he throws himself on the mercy of the court and admits whom he really is.  Jean is sent back to prison, and is scheduled to die.  However, the king shows mercy and commutes his sentence to life in prison.  After only a short while Jean Valjean escapes again.

 

Soon after, Fantine has fallen so ill that she is about to die.  Because Jean’s very soul is caught up in treating people fairly and living well he feels bound to care for Fantine’s child… Cossette.  After her death he seeks out the girl and pledges to care for her.  She has been in the care of a family that has stolen all the money Cossete’s mother had sent throughout the years, and spent it on themselves and their own daughter… Eponine.  Jean (now calling himself Monsieur LeBlanc) actually buys the poor girl from them, and for a while they live in relative peace… but Javert is always out there, still looking for them both.  So the two fugitives flee to the inner city of Paris.

 

Of course no true comedy would be complete without the love interest and this story is no exception.  Marius is a wealthy, handsome young student involved with the student uprising movement sweeping through Paris at the time.  Cossette and Mario meet and eventually fall in love, and have decided to leave France altogether, because of his families disapproval of his loving such a low creature as Cossette.  But Cossette has lived such a quiet secluded, secretive life with Jean that she’s not sure how to handle disclosing this information to him.  Into this complicated state of affairs Eponine re-enters the story.   The student activists are now taking to the streets and have formed a barricade from which to fight the government from behind.  Eponine has disguised herself as a man to be able to be close to Marius whom she has recently met and fallen in love with.  In the ensuing action she dies, although Marius had recognized her and tried to get her to safety by sending a not to Cossette which he asked Eponine to carry.  She, however, stays and perishes.  In fact all the rebels perish except for Marius and Jean Valjean, and Marius is gravely wounded.  And let us not forget Inspector Javert.  He had been dressed up as a rebel and spying on them for the government and was caught in the act.  Jean however saved Javert from certain death, but now as Jean is escaping with the injured Marius through the sewers of Paris, Javert comes across both and arrests jean on the spot.  After an impassioned speech from Valjean, Javert agrees to let the two men seek medical attention.  Javert is so aggrieved at the low state to which he has sunk that in a fit of pique he commits suicide.

 

The story quickly reaches its climax afterward.  Marius and Cossette are married, and though her “parents” (the actual parents of Eponine) show up at the wedding trying to ingratiate themselves to, and insinuate themselves in, the wealthy family Marius is not fooled.  Cossette has told him all.  Marius punches Cossette’s would be father in the nose, and the young married couple set of to find Jean Valjean, her true father, on his death bed.  Here jean confesses all, asks for forgiveness, is assured that he needs none and is the greatest of men, and (as he dies) is led by Eponine and Fantine upon the path to heaven.  It was on this day in 1985 that the musical “Les Miserables” would make its English language debut in the West End of London… it would continue non-stop for 21 years.

 

The redemptive arc of the story is clear. But in case we missed it, even the names Mr. Hugo uses for Jean lead us to this unmistakable conclusion.  For at first he is Jean Valjean, basically a French version of John Smith. Later he is Ultime Fauchelevent, which when parsed would basically mean “the ultimate wind chaser”.  Then he is Monsieur Madeleine, or mister Magdalene… a clear reference to the forgiven harlot or sinner.  Finally he is Monsieur LeBlanc… Mister White.  He is forever pursued by Javert or one who inverts the purpose of the light.  Javert loves the law but fails to see the reason for the law is to point out transgression, so that character may be reformed.  It is not a mallet with which to bludgeon people to death with.  And so, when confronted by mercy, unable to handle what he believes to be true and what is reality, he takes his own life… for he sees his whole life has been a sham.  Valjean was a mess of a man, who by meeting God was transformed little by little into Leblanc.  Javert was the shining man, who kept all the rules and made sure everyone else kept them too.  This then is a mythic retelling of the two great mindsets of faith, Law and Grace, Mercy and Legalism.  Christians have been having this debate for centuries, that of which path is the true path, the better path.  Victor Hugo asked those same questions, answered them with an epic novel that begs but one further question.  Ask yourself who you’d rather be in the end… Javert or Valjean.

 

Romans 8:1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.

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Posted: April 14, 2009 in Notices

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The Gospel according to Mark/notes taken in study with Dr. Bill Lane from Jan. ’99

 

The Life Situation that Explains the Gospel

         The early church consistently associated Mark’s Gospel with Peter and with Rome. Mark was considered the interpreter of Peter as he wrote his Gospel in the region of Italy. So behind Mark’s Gospel account stands the preaching of Peter (For more details regarding this matter see The Gospel According to Mark, by William L. Lane pp. 7-10).

         In the summer of 64 A.D. a great fire destroyed much of the great city of Rome which held a population of 1.5 million people. The fire burned for two weeks damaging 10 of the 14 districts of the city. Three districts were leveled to the ground, and in seven other districts many of the oldest buildings and monuments were either seriously damaged or completely destroyed. Rumors persisted that the fire was started by order of Nero himself. The fire started among the shops near the Circus Maximus where the emperor wanted to build a grand palace. Another persistent rumor was that while the city was burning Nero had gone on his private stage and celebrated the disaster by singing about the destruction of ancient Troy by fire.

         In the aftermath Nero instituted various programs to relieve the impact of the fire’s destruction, but this was not successful to alleviate popular suspicion or resentment of him. He sought a scapegoat to blame for the fire and he chose the Christians. The Roman historian Tacitus writes: “Neither human resources, nor imperial munificence, nor appeasement of the gods, eliminated sinister suspicions that the fire had been instigated. To suppress this rumor, Nero fabricated scapegoats – and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called)…. First, Nero had self-acknowledged Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned …. Their deaths were made farcical. Dressed in wild animals’ skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be ignited after dark as substitute for daylight. Nero provided his Gardens for the spectacle, and exhibited displays in the Circus, at which he mingled in the crowd – or stood in a chariot, dressed as a charioteer. Despite their guilt as Christians, and the ruthless punishment it deserved, the victims were pitied. For it was felt that they were being sacrificed to one man’s brutality rather than to the national interest” (Tacitus Annals of Rome 15.44).

         Because of the persecution the Christians and the church in Rome went underground into the catacombs which consisted of narrow underground tunnels and tomb-chambers cut in the soft rock seeking a place of sanctuary. Christian commitment could result in a martyr’s death! Peter speaks of the church in Rome (note the “she”) and of Mark as he closes his first letter with greetings “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark” (1 Pet. 5:13). Babylon is a cryptogram or code word for Rome where the church, the new Israel, found itself in exile and captivity.

         Mark is writing a pamphlet for hard times. The Christians needed encouragement at a time when confession of Jesus as Lord might mean their death. He wanted to strengthen Christians and prepare them to be faithful to Jesus in such a hostile environment as Rome under imperial persecution. He wanted to show Christians that the pain or humiliation they were suffering or might suffer was endured already by Jesus. Notice the things Mark includes in his account:

         Driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, Jesus was “with the wild beasts” (1:13)

         Jesus was “betrayed” by one within the inner circle (3:19; see 14:17-21)

         His family misunderstood him and thought he was “out of his mind” (3:21)

         Jesus foresaw some would fall away as “persecution comes because of the word” (4:17)

         The call to discipleship is a call to martyrdom: “…take up his cross and follow me” (8:34)

         Jesus said everyone would be “salted with fire” (9:49)

         Jesus promised those who followed him a hundred fold return “with persecution” (10:30)

         Jesus warned that his disciples would be betrayed by those in their inner circles (13:9-13)

         Jesus stood before a Roman magistrate (15:1-15)

         Jesus was condemned to be scourged and crucified (15:16-20)

         A Roman centurion seeing the manner of Jesus’ death said “Surely this man was Son of God” (15:39)

         Jesus was vindicated by God after his death through the resurrection (16:6f)

 

Mark’s Response to the Crisis

         Mark gave his Gospel a confessional structure. He starts with the confessional statement: “The beginning of the gospel concerning Jesus the Messiah the Son of God” (1:1)

 

              1:1                 Jesus the Messiah                         The Son of God

              1:11                                                                          [“You are me Son, whom I love…”]

              4:35-41        “Who is this?” (4:41)

              7:31-37        “He has done all things well” (7:37)

              8:29               “You are the Messiah” (Peter a Jew)

              9:7                                                                           [“This is my Son, whom I love…”]

            15:39                                                                         “Surely this man was the Son of God”

                                                                                                      (The centurion – a Gentile)

            Mark uses structure to call Christians to true discipleship. Note the pattern of prophecy, misunderstanding, and call to true discipleship:

            Prophecy of Suffering             8:31-32a      9:31                 10:32-34

            Misunderstanding                  8:32b-33        9:32                 10:35-41

            Call to True Discipleship            8:34-38        9:33-37        10:42-45

Identification with the suffering Servant-Messiah will expose Christians to suffering as well. Just as Jesus had to trust God for vindication, so Christians will have to trust God for vindication!

         Mark gave his Gospel an abrupt beginning (Prologue – 1:1-13). Jesus is introduced on the scene as an adult at his baptism (1:9-13). He concludes with an abrupt ending as well (Epilogue – 16:1-8). There was an attempt in the early 2nd century to conform Mark’s Gospel account to the pattern of the other canonical Gospels (see 16:9-20).

 

Summary

         Occasion: Nero’s persecution of the Christians following the great fire of Rome

         Life-Situation: “Mark is a pamphlet for hard times” (Bill Lane). It addresses a church that was the object of imperial persecution following the great fire of Rome.

         Purpose:  To strengthen Christians and to prepare them to be faithful to Jesus at a time when Christian confession could lead to a humiliating death in the arena. And to show that Christians can suffer no form of humiliation that has not been endured already by Jesus the Messiah the Son of God.

March15

 

Actor’s Devotional

 

And the little ugly ducklings

Are swans that got away

‘Cause Cinderella stories,

They still happen every day – Nicole C Mullen

 

Broadway historians have called it “the perfect musical”.  And indeed from the moment “My Fair Lady” debuted on Broadway on this day in 1956, it has lived up to that title. 

 

Henry Higgins is a famous linguist who lives in a posh section of London.  He has a friendly wager, with his fellow linguist Colonel Pickering, that anyone, given the proper training, can pass for someone in High Society.  “Why even that girl”, he quips referring to Eliza Doolittle a local flower girl, with a thick Cockney accent who live in Covent Garden.  The bet is taken and so begins the adventure and misadventures of the play.

 

Higgins works tirelessly with Eliza, and at first she seems hopeless.  But little by little she “gets it” and she is ready for her first real test.  Higgins takes her to his mother box seat at Ascot Racecourse, one of the premiere social functions of the London season.  Everyone is taken by her good manners, only to be later on shocked by her vulgar Cockney observations as she lets her façade slip as the encounter goes on.  Her cultured-ness is only skin deep it would seem, but she still manages to catch the mind and heart of a young bachelor named Freddy.  He follows her home and throughout the remainder of the play tries to win her heart.

 

The training continues, and the grand finale test finally draws near.  This is to be an Embassy Ball at which Eliza must pass for a Duchess.  A Hungarian “spy” is even enlisted in hopes of revealing Eliza’s secret, but she even convinces him that she is royalty… of Hungarian decent!  For Higgins, this is the sum and total of the operation.  They sought to prove that social distinctions rely mainly on how a person speaks and acts, and has little to do with the blood running through their veins.  They had done that and so Higgins is through with the whole thing.  Feeling used, Eliza blows up at the confused Higgins who meditates for a time on what he could’ve possibly done wrong.  Making a visit to his mother, he instead finds Eliza having tea with her.  He overhears her telling his mom that Higgins has always thought of her as a flower girl, but she transformed because Colonel Pickering saw her as a lady.  Eliza confronts Higgins and says that she doesn’t need him anymore and she never really did, and now she has resolved to marry Freddy who loves her as she is.    Higgins leaves to go home in a huff, but over the next few days he realizes how much he misses Eliza.  He’s “grown accustomed to her face”.  So much so that he puts on some recordings he had made of her, and realizes, when he hears himself interacting with her, that he had treated her rather shabbily.  As the recordings end the Cockney voice is still speaking saying, “I washed me face an’ ‘ands before I come, I did.”, the lines she used when she first met Professor Higgins.  We are left to imagine, but given to understand they live happily ever after, as to what happens after their sweet reunion.  The play was a smash hit.  “My Fair Lady” played for record setting 2,717 consecutive performances before its original Broadway run came to an end.

 

The reformational context of the play is unmistakable.  After all, what were we when the Lord found us?  Weren’t we poor, broken, and abandoned? God uses much the same language in Scripture that the writers of the play used. The plots are similar too.  God, finding us broken down and seemingly worthless, raises us up, refines us, dresses us in white, and redeems our lives.  The great attraction for “My Fair Lady” then is not merely the conflict of class distinction, but even more so it is the very Gospel, the Divine romance being retold to us in musical theater … and we are moved.

 

·      Ezekiel 16:4-5 “‘On the day you were born your umbilical cord was not cut, you weren’t bathed and cleaned up, you weren’t rubbed with salt, you weren’t wrapped in a baby blanket. No one cared a fig for you. No one did one thing to care for you tenderly in these ways. You were thrown out into a vacant lot and left there, dirty and unwashed—a newborn nobody wanted.  6-7 “‘And then I came by. I saw you all miserable and bloody. Yes, I said to you, lying there helpless and filthy, “Live! Grow up like a plant in the field!” And you did. You grew up. You grew tall and matured as a woman, full-breasted, with flowing hair. But you were naked and vulnerable, fragile and exposed.  8-14 “‘I came by again and saw you, saw that you were ready for love and a lover. I took care of you, dressed you and protected you. I promised you my love and entered the covenant of marriage with you. I, God, the Master, gave my word. You became mine. I gave you a good bath, washing off all that old blood, and anointed you with aromatic oils. I dressed you in a colorful gown and put leather sandals on your feet. I gave you linen blouses and fashionable wardrobe of expensive clothing. I adorned you with jewelry: I placed bracelets on your wrists, fitted you out with a necklace, emerald rings, sapphire earrings, and a diamond tiara. You were provided with everything precious and beautiful: with exquisite clothes and elegant food, garnished with honey and oil. You were absolutely stunning. You were a queen! You became world-famous, a legendary beauty brought to perfection by my adornments. Decree of God, the Master. 

Never Giving Up on Love

 Copyright 2009 Funattic Music/Funkabilly Music/Razor&Tie Music

no part of this lyric may be copied or used without the authors consent

Verse I

I could give up you and me

I could give up easily

Give up the sleepless nights

The silly arguments and the silly fights

Hey baby that just aint my thing

 

Chorus

Never giving up, never giving up, never giving up on love

Never giving up, never giving up, never giving up on love

I love you more than you’ll ever know

I’ll never leave ya where would I go

 

Verse II

-Baby lets just get away

-I don’t care just anyplace

-Don’t you know we’re gonna be all right

-It all looks different in a different light

-But this one thing will not change

 

Chorus

Never giving up, never giving up, never giving up on love

Never giving up, never giving up, never giving up on love

I love you more than you’ll ever know

I’ll never leave ya where would I go

 

Bridge

I couldn’t love anyone else

That’d be like losing part of my self

Let geta away from all of this mess

From all the failure and the success

I love ya baby what can I say

And I’m not ever goin away

 

Chorus

Never giving up, never giving up, never giving up on love

Never giving up, never giving up, never giving up on love

I love you more than you’ll ever know

I’ll never leave ya where would I go