Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Apostrophes are excellent at hiding in caves."

I'm a little behind the buzz, but Oprah had Jenna Jameson on her show the other day. Whitney Matheson, who is the pop culture critic for USA Today (Hello, fantasy job. Nice to meet you.), also has a Twitter account, @popcandy. And the day before the broadcast, Matheson said the following:

"Oprah is interviewing Jenna Jameson tomorrow (?!). Man, I can't wait to hear Jenna's advice on how to live your best life."

It got me thinking. For the record, I didn't watch the Oprah episode, and my knowledge of Jenna Jameson is strictly limited to magazine articles (real ones, with words). But I do know that she's an extremely savvy woman, and she has basically built herself an empire. She even has instructional videos. And now she's on Oprah's couch, which is essentially a seal of approval from the most powerful voice in world culture. In a sense, Jameson's become the porn star next door.

I am not here to judge Jameson's actions, to critique her moral position, or to spark a debate on the evils or benefits of the porn industry. I'm here talking about Oprah and a porn star because I think Whitney Matheson's simple little tweet was actually quite profound.

Oprah is all about living your best life. She's also had Joel Osteen on her show more than once, and has embraced his extra-positive view of living the best life possible. And Osteen's latest book, It's Your Time, also just came out.

Matthew Paul Turner has a blog I follow, Jesus Needs New PR, and he's always full of snarky comments for almost everybody. He posted about It's Your Time, and posted the text from the book jacket, with his own comments interspersed. I have taken them out, but reposted it. I'm going to let the text speak for itself.

For legality's sake, I'll make it clear that the following is the property of Osteen's publisher, Simon & Schuster. Any grammatical or spelling mistakes are typos, and should be blamed entirely on me.

Get your hopes up. Raise your expectations. Your best days are in front of you. In challenging times, it may be hard to see better days ahead. You may feel as though your struggles will never end, that things won't ever turn around for you. This is exactly the moment to put your faith into action and expect God's blessings. It's your time to declare your faith, to look for God's favor, and to give control of your life to Him so that you can find fulfillment in His plans for you!

It's your time to believe.

It's not easy to always be optimistic. Life can be difficult and in hard economic times it's not just your finances that suffer. Your relationships can be strained. Your health can be stressed. When one part of your life after another takes a bad turn, you can feel like there is no end in sight, no way out. The truth is maybe you don't have an answer. But God does! Maybe you don't have the strength. But God does!

It's your time for favor.

In It's Your Time, best-selling author Joel Osteen, pastor of the nation's largest church, offers the inspirational truth that no matter where you stand in life, you are never alone. He reminds you also that the bigger your burden, the greater your blessings to come. You may have neglected God, but He has not abandoned you. He has already released good things into your future. As long as you're breathing, you can still reclaim His favor by renewing your faith and accepting His plans for you.

It's your time for restoration.

In these pages, Joel offers assurances that God does not want you to merely survive challenging times, He wants you to thrive. When you give your life over to Him, God will send new opportunities your way so that you can soar to new heights of fulfillment. History has shown that the most difficult times can serve as a catalyst for creativity, innovation and accomplishment. If you hold onto your faith, ask for God's favor, and don't give in to depression or discouragement, you will emerge not bitter but better, not a victim but a victor.

It's your time to trust.

God is already working in your life to arrange the right people, the right skills and the right opportunities to give you the tools you need to fulfill and exceed your dreams. Drawing from Joel's experience and those of people around the world, It's Your Time offers messages of faith, hope and strength to help you rise above any circumstance so that you can fulfill God's best plan for your life.

It's your time to stretch.

Joel has filled this book with bold new prayers, inspiring stories and practical tools for moving forward in faith. You will find inspiration from others who have overcome adversity and achieved their dreams. You will find proven methods for not just picking up the pieces but for building a new life better than you'd imagined. The hopeful messages and warm encouragements in this book will push you to expand your horizons beyond what you thought you were capable of doing so that you might go even farther than you'd ever dreamed of going.

It's your time!

I hope somebody can understand where I'm going. Oprah has adopted a "whatever works" policy that she is sharing, quite literally, the world over. Whatever gives you your best life! If it's God, great. If it's sex, great. If it's food...sorta great. If nothing else, you living your best life now will keep Oprah in business as she shills for every new diet fad and every new mildly attractive doctor she meets.

But ultimately, Oprah's message is that it's all about you. It's all about your pleasures, your satisfaction, and your fulfillment. And no wonder both Jameson and Olsteen make great Oprah guests--their messages are exactly the same.

Thinking about these two made me think about how often I have misrepresented God and the gospel, how often I have made it sound like something simple, happy and easy. The truth is that my relationship with God brings me joy, but it is far from easy. It has been an experience of letting go of myself and releasing my dreams, not of finding fulfillment in them, as Osteen supposes.

This doesn't mean that I don't have dreams or hopes--it means that I have a new hope, one that isn't based on my success or failure, or my ability to perform. It's based in allowing myself to be changed, and to be transformed, little by little, into who I am and will be. I understand that part of that will mean failure, and part of that will mean continually allowing my dreams to change and re-emerge, rather than demanding that they succeed and expand. It means that I won't always be satisfied in other people, and that I won't be able to make them react and respond how I want, no matter how many videos I watch or inspirational prayers I pray.

Jenna Jameson, Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey are not the enemy. I am just like them, and at heart, I want the same things they're offering. I want what I want, even as that changes day to day. The real enemy can wear lots of names (greed, selfishness, pride), but it's always hard to define.

What do you see as the enemy? What's the best way to not be taken over by it?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This is probably sacrilege.

When I signed into Blogger tonight, it told me I had 12 followers.

Being the seminary grad that I am, my first thought was, "Ooh, just like Jesus!"

No lightning bolts as of yet. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I gotta write things down sooner, because you guys are funny.

A real blog soon, but first, more funny bathroom signs!

Matt sent this to me from Fire on the Mountain, with the caption: "It's like the one on your blog...except this one is giving birth."

Stay classy, Planet Earth.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Actually, I prefer your midsection."

Christina and I watched the movie "Hidden Secrets" tonight. Just as I had feared, this "Christian version of 'The Big Chill'" was a perfect example of everything that tends to go wrong in "Christian" movies.

The editing. The music. The script. The pacing. The cheesy wordless montages. It was all there. But the worst part was, as Christina and I discussed after finishing the film, the characters were like cardboard cutouts rather than real people.

It tried to do what other Christian movies have failed to do. It tried to present non-Christians in a positive light and some Christians in a negative light. But this was done with such extreme, broad strokes that it was caricature from the outset.

It also tried to be a movie that, according to the behind the scenes featurette that we, of course, watched, "dealt with the issues". And because this is a Christian movie, those issues were abortion, homosexuality, skepticism, and for one or two scenes, stem-cell research.

It troubles me that this is the best Christians can come up with, because I know it's not true. The fact is that there are Christians making movies, and making good movies, but they choose not to put the Christian stamp of approval on it, and I don't blame them. Placing a Christian label on your film puts you in league with "Hidden Secrets", "Left Behind" and "The Omega Code". I wouldn't want that for my film.

What about you? Have you seen a "Christian" film that was done well? How have you seen Christianity portrayed in film?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sorry, today's been quiet.

Here are the big discoveries of today:

I learned that I can STILL access my old Yahoo email account, and when I did that, it gave me access to this:

I started using LiveJournal when I was in Ireland the first time, and used it off and on. As of today, I had not signed in for 95 weeks, though, so...

I've read through the oldest couple months of entries, and it's funny. Some things are different, and others... you just realize you are how you are.

For years, Robin has told me that the day we first met one another, we went to Shari's, and for years, I have claimed no memory of this. And then, I found this:

"Friday i went out with raina, mandee and robin to shari's. robin is a complete spaz--we're so alike, i don't know why we're not twins. we had fun, she spilled ice cream on herself, it was good times all around"

I love that girl. And I was her maid of honor. Amazing.

Tomorrow, Christina and I are watching this: Netflix billed it as "A Christian version of 'The Big Chill'. I think there will be giggling.

Also, I stopped writing at midnight last night to get my NaNoWriMo count for the day, and then I wrote a little more. I have not touched it since. The count at this moment is 2,058, and yes, I will write tonight, and take another count at midnight. Only 47, 842 words to go!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"You took the toilet paper out of your hair."

Oh my, my friends. Another weekend very nearly done, and here is what I did:

*Watched "Medicine for Melancholy", which was neither as excellent as I hoped it would be, nor as disastrous as it certainly could have been. It may or may not come up again in the future.

*Remembered terribly late that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), decided to take the "Why the heck not" approach and do it, or more aptly, attempt it.

*Watched "District 9" on the big screen. Didn't throw up or pass out, though I thought about doing both. Comments are likely to appear in a future blog.

* "Built" my own Halloween costume. Being neither crafty nor particularly handy, the "Basket Case" costume took a lot more effort and elbow grease than I had originally imagined.

*Attended a Halloween party with friends old and new, and at one point glanced around the room and thought, "These are some good people right here." It was nice.

*Began NaNoWriMo right around the time of the DST switch. Just over 600 words in half an hour. Mostly dialogue, like the rest of my life.

*Discovered an extensive NaNoWriMo community via Twitter and the official site, both in Portland proper and worldwide. It's an engaging crowd.

*Attended Emmaus after a one-week absence, and rediscovered my unreasonable love for the family there. Cole also rocked it, in a message that will be shared here soon.

*Discovered that November is also National Blog Posting Month, one post a day for 30 days. May attempt it, may not. Blogs may begin to look like this.

Life's alright. How are you?