July 12, 2015

Why the Future of Star Wars Films Concern Me

            I am scared for the future of Star Wars. The original film in ‘77, the original trilogy, the moments of the prequel trilogy, and the continuing stories throughout the saga are a dominant force (heh) in a culture, not to mention to me, personally. There is a lot at stake with the upcoming trilogy for Lucasfilm, Disney, the fans, and the film industry in general. But there is one thing that bothers me more than anything else: inexperience.  
Here is rundown of confirmed and rumored directors for the upcoming Star Wars films: 

Directorial Debut
Number of films
JJ Abrams
Rian Johnson
Colin Trevarrow
Rogue One
Gareth Edwards
Josh Trank
Han Solo
Phil Lord, Chris Miller
            An average of the seven directors shows an age of 39 years old,  directing fewer than three films, and who began their directing careers just six years ago. Now the filmography between these filmmakers has made generally-liked movies – Super8, Looper, Monsters, The Lego Movie – movies I’ve enjoyed. However, even though they could knock them out of the park, I still do not trust these men to make a solid Star Wars movie. So I have to wonder what the logic is by Kathleen Kennedy and the Disney leadership that they make these moves. Or to put it another way, why not hire within the plethora of veteran directors who have a proven track record of +20 years? A small sample of recognized and established are the following: Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Joe Johnston, James Cameron, Wolfgang Peterson, David Fincher, Mel Gibson, Robert Redford, Frank Darabont, Kathryn Bigelow, Fernando Ferreira Meirelles, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Sam Mendes, Guillermo del Toro, Denis Villeneuve, Jonathan Demme, Brian De Palma, Joe Wright, Sam Raimi, Danny Boyle, and Andrew Niccol.
            Disney’s argument could be that they have more control over the less-experienced directors. With a veteran, there is a greater potential for unwanted back-and-forth arguing with story, scenes, and look of the films. The auteur in some of the aforementioned directors may want things their way (although we are not talking about the Terrence Malicks or von Triers of filmmaking). With just two films under a couple of these guys’ belts does not instill confidence in me. 
           A related concern of mine is that they only have experience in the sci-fi genre. Although that helps with the eye-candy that we are beginning to see with every new VII image released, are we all not concerned with the storyline? The precedent was set with Irvin Kershner for Empire Strikes Back – arguably the best of the six feature films.  Because his specialty was not in the sci-fi genre but rather in drama, he brought out the best in each character, climaxing in the greatest reveal in cinematic history. A shining example of this is the Harry Potter franchise. The Boston Globe wrote a good comparison of the four directors of those films. None of them had sci-fi/fantasy experience, but they understood drama. Four directors on the younger side (to appease the Disney execs) who I can see handling both action and drama well (a la Kershner) are Sophia Coppola, Steve McQueen, Jonathan Glazer, and Garth Jennings. Admittedly, the Potter movies’ drama might have been a little heavy-handed, but they no doubt brought an exponential maturity to the films – something that the directors of the upcoming Star Wars films do not yet have.

May 27, 2015

Fury Road: The Perfect Mother's Day Film

How the feminist claims about the New Mad Max film are not right, yet not altogether wrong
            Three days before this year's Mother's Day, George Miller presented the world premiere of Mad Max Fury Road, the eye-opening ‘reimagining' of his hero, Mad Max in L.A. This was no accident, as one of the strongest motifs in the film is, surprisingly, motherhood. Underneath the spectacular smorgasbord of blood, sweat, dirt and explosions, a current of maternal importance shimmers through. This maternal theme also lies under the veneer that self-important and insecure critics (not film critics, mind you) have tagged as "feminist" and "emasculating." These days, however, there is a thin line between machismo and homo-eroticism and it takes a humble and honest eye to tell the difference. The purpose of this is not to tread down that path but instead to recognize the legitimacy of, yet move beyond, the movie's feminist agenda. Fury Road is not a feminist film. It is a film praising femininity in its strongest form.
            Certainly, there is an obvious effort in the film to improve the image of female heroes in the slog of summer popcorn action films. Prior to the film's release, the web was abuzz about the lack of respect for Black Widow, the Avengers' lone female teammate. Sitting in our seats, us men feel distantly sorry for Black Widow that she has to deal with "women problems." Us men can sort of understand that women, too, should use superpowers against inhuman villains to deal with emotional issues. Us men are indifferently satisfied with the resolution given her. And as we leave the theater, she does not seize the esteem or honor that should be due to such a killer character. As we view Fury Road and meet Imperator Furiosa and listen to her story, there is something different. There is no disassociated sympathy from the male audience. She has her agenda and we follow her set her own course, as opposed to Black Widow, who seems to follow along with what her male compatriots do. Furiosa does not command our attention by her vulnerability nor her bullishness, but rather by her leadership, her grit. There is no melodrama. Ending the second act, the film breathes for a few passing minutes as we simultaneously learn her backstory and discover how the journey will have to end (to go back the way they came?!). It moves the story along without playing at our heartstrings. So in a time where admirable female super heroes are too few and far between, Furiosa is admirable to both men and women audience. Yet, there is another reason for her transcendent quality.
            Those criticizing Fury Road for its feminist agenda do not go far enough. This is not the feminism of liberal political talking heads or women's lib movements of the 90's. There is a specific type of woman being praised and highlighted in the movie. It isn't the gun-toating, oil-stained, lone wolf characterization that it is proclaimed to be. It is the graceful but tough female we all need and love. The film celebrates mothers. And it does so in a covert way. Although there are many mothers in the film, there is not one single frame of mother-child interaction. We have the mother of Max's son, the ‘milk mothers,' the two pregnant slaves of Immortal Joe, the wife of Immortal Joe (who we can assume gave birth to his warrior son, Rictus Erectus), and finally, the Vuvalini Mothers that help Max and the gang. They all have their moments of strength. Interestingly, Max's wife's strength comes from her absence. She does not haunt Max like their son does because she does not need his redemption as much as their little one. The sickening sight of the milking machines applied to the grieving women reinforces the extent by which Immortal Joe's inhumanity can stretch. However, it also shows the length by which mothers can nurture the rest of humanity.       
            Coming to the collection of slaves that we know to be pregnant, they are tasked with the job of survival. They are the object of justice that the audience wishes to see. Miller most poignantly points this out in what is the seemingly obligatory shot of scantily-clad women hosing off in the hot sun. However, the teenage boys' gaze hits a wall with the shot of a full-term belly. At this moment we no longer view them as Megan Fox stand-ins for our viewing pleasure, but as victims that we, too, compassionately want to see arrive to safety. This victim motif now becomes inverted when (spoilers) one of them is taken back to Joe ("oh no!") and is killed, as is the baby ("oh… ok"). The future is impossible without maternal care and presence. It is as bleak and tumultuous as fury storms and the desert landscape on which they wreak havoc. Admittedly, there is little that can be revealed from the scene with Joe and his wife. I can only think about the stories found in One Thousand and One Nights, featuring a clever wife trying to withhold the destructive force of her husband's destructive power by lying to him. Again, this points towards the maternal instinct to protect - even if not literally her own daughters.
            Finally, there are the Vuvalini Women. The remaining sisterhood of a tribe long wiped out. While the ability for survival is an obvious trait that these women possess, a stronger feature would be that of wisdom. They teach the younger women the importance of hope, they train them how to fight, and they guide them in the heat of the battle. They are not some anti-male, Amazon Warrior Brigade. They are the sole survivors of a familial genocide; grandmothers of a memory. Which brings us back to Furiosa. In one sense, she plays a mother to the slave women - carrying them to new life in the "belly" of her rig. But in a stronger sense, she is the least maternal of all the female characters. With her cyborg arm continually in full view, she may be the least human of any of the characters in the whole film. How can a such a hand caress? Along with Max, she serves as the outsider; the guide for the audience to experience various forms of mother affection.
            In 2006's Children of Men, a miraculously pregnant woman is covertly escorted to a mysterious unseen land. Salvation was a land far away, not something that a good mother would recommend - to run from the problem. Salvation in Fury Road is to be strong, face your fears, and be confident. It is the baby that is held as an object of celebration.
            There are other interesting notes that can be gleaned from my initial viewing. First, this theme of maternal nurtire can be observed in the relationship between Capable one of the slave girls and Nux, the aspiring War Boy. He fails embarrassingly in front of Joe and the rest of the army. He hides, ashamed, and is found by Capable. If this were another standard action film, the two would have become lovers. However, the story recognized that Nux does not need a girlfriend. He needs a mother. She comforts him, reassures him, and unconditionally cares for him. Some may see this slip into Freudian territory, but I choose to see the initial relationship solely as a maternal one that develops into a romantic one, not vice versa. The backstory to Doof (the guitar/flamethrower-wielding maniac) found in various pieces of literature tells that he is wearing an adult-sized crimson baby onesie, complete with an open butt-flap and all. Oh and BTW, he is wearing his mother's face as a mask! Although grotesque and morbid, it continues to show the underlying need in a world without motherly love. A need for peace, quiet, sufficiency, and tenderness.  And what else can be said about Max washing his face in the mothers' milk? There was water on the other side of the tank, buddy. In a day where we find public breastfeeding increasingly offensive, this facial baptism reminds the viewer that it is natural - nay - necessary.
            Mad Max: Fury Road had its wide release just five days after Mother's Day to celebrate moms. Scott Wamper of birth.movies.death found it reasonable to not only show his mother-in-law the film, but to post her review of it on the website. It resonates with us. This is not so much a film about masculinity vs. femininity as it is about paternal vs. maternal provision. Mothers give us hope, security, rest.  The film extols not feminism, but femininity in its most powerful form: motherhood. Because motherhood, it shows, does not only compete with the testosterone-driven insanity of post-apocalyptic landscape, but it overpowers it, securing victory for the Cidadel people and providing life and sustainability for all. Moms empower each one of us; Miller wanted to return the favor. Whether we recognize it or not, motherhood (and its absence) girds the whole of Fury Road. Consider thanking your mom this week (it's never too late) by taking her to a movie she might just appreciate. 

July 8, 2014

Krista Dalton.com - When All We Give is to Our Imagined Poor

Who are your imagined poor? What preconceived ideas do you have about which "poor" you think you should give to? What is your heart's motive for giving to your poor? What is your desired outcome?

January 17, 2013

My List of the 57 Most Anticipated Movies of 2013, In Order!

I split this list up into a couple of categories for clarity sake. I don't have enough time in my day to explain my choices unless you want to watch my kids and do my homework.

For the director/writer:
1. Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón
2. To The Wonder – Terrence Malick
3. Upstream Color – Shane Carruth
4. Inside Llewellyn Davis – The Coen Brothers
5. Elysium - Neill Blomkamp
6. Frank Or Francis/Anomalisa – Charlie Kaufman
7. Iron Man 3- Shane Black
8. Birdman - Alejandro González Iñárritu
9. Her – Spike Jonze
10. Mood Indigo – Michel Gondry
11. The World’s End – Edgar Wright
12. 47 Ronin – Carl Rinsch
13. Mud- Jeff Nichols
14. Snowpiercer – Joon Ho-Bong
15. Amicus – Richard Kelly
16. The Zero Theorum – Terry Gilliam
17. Night Moves – Kelly Reichardt
18. Pacific Rim – Guillermo del Toro
19. Robocop – Jose Padilha
20. Haunter - Vincenzo Natali
21. Bedbugs/The Sacrament – Ti West
22. Only God Forgives - Nicolas Winding Refn
23. The Rover - David Michôd
24. Freezing People Is Easy – Errol Morris
25. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Ben Stiller
26. The Wind Rises/The Tale Of The Bamboo Cutter – Ghibli Studios
27. Twelve Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
28. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson
29. The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese
30. Under The Skin – Jonathan Glazer
31. Last Days on Mars – Ruairi Robinson
32. The Green Blade Rises – A.J. Edwards
33. Monuments Men – George Clooney
34. Open Windows – Nacho Vigalondo
35. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag - Alex Proyas
35. Labor Day – Jason Reitman
36. Big Sur/18 Wheel Butterfly – Michael Parish
37. Our Kind of Traitor – John Le Carre
38. The East – Zal Batmanglij
39. Prince Avalanche/ Joe – David Gordon Green

For the story:
1. The Europa Project - Sebastian Cordero
2. World War Z – Marc Foster
3. The Double – Richard Ayoade
4. The Seventh Son - Sergey Bodrov
5. Top of the Lake – Jane Campion
6. The Last Voyage of Demeter – Neil Marshall
7. Magic Magic/Crystal Fairy – Sebastian Silva
8. Prisoners/An Enemy - Denis Villeneuve
9. The Invisible Woman – Ralph Fiennes
10. Out of the Furnace – Scott Cooper

Because its a good franchise:
1. The Arrested Development Movie - Mitchell Hurwitz
2. Man of Steel – Zach Snider
3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Peter Jackson
4. Neon Genesis Evangelion: You Can (Not) Redo – Hideaki Anno
5. The Wolverine – James Mangold
6. Evil Dead – Fede Alvarez
7. Star Trek: Into Darkness – JJ Abrams
8. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – Robert Rodriguez
9. Monsters University – Dan Scanlon

Absent from most people’s anticipated list (for good reason):
1. Oz: The Great and Powerful
2. Jack the Giant Slayer
3. Hansel and Gretel
4. The Muppets 2
5. Thor 2
6. The Lone Ranger
7. The Hangover 3
8. Epic
9. After Earth
10. 300: Rise of an Empire
11. I, Frankenstein
12. The Tomb
13. Planes

Will we see something from these guys this year?!
Duncan Jones
Mark Romanek
David Fincher
Terry Zwigoff
Mike Leigh
Michael Mann
Peter Weir
Paul Catling
Lynn Ramsay
Alejandro Amenabar
Elmore Leonard

June 5, 2011

Missing scenes from The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick notoriously uses only a fraction of the scenes he shoots for his films. After viewing the film last night I have cataloged all of the screencaps of scenes thus far found on the internet not included in the finished film. This is mostly for my own benefit but I'm sure there are others who are as obsessed about Malick's films as I. Please correct me if any of these are actually in the film. I understand that some of these might be publicity or reference photos and were never meant to be in the film. Enjoy!

From the trailer:

From kinopoisk.ru

From other promotional material:

From NYTimes.com:

From posters

Curiously, young Jack is not in this poster at all and it looks like they are trying to hit a bird or something in the air.

Unused poster that shows a tent set up in the sea.

Behind the scenes: 

IMDB lists Kari Matchett as "Jack's ex". I presume this is her.

From i09.com

From TerrenceMalick.org

Missing scenes from interviews and articles:
Dancing in the rain
Mr. and Mrs. O'Brien with Dexter
Francois Larosa had scenes that were cut from the film
Filming was done with Sean Penn inside of a car
Lightning, Chastain and woman in bridal gown underwater
Filming was done at the Houston zoo, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Wilson Tunnel - none of which made the cut
IMDB lists Zach Irsik as "Jack's son" and Jackson Hurst as "Uncle Ray" who are missing from the finished film.
"Jordan" was an extra who sung 'Amazing Grace' for a scene in the movie
Jack goes off to boarding school
Jack's ex-girlfriend
"Love every blade of grass, every ray of light" voice-over was originally part of a different scene
60,000 lb tree of life relocated to film set is hardly in film
A grey dinosaur was cut after the Cannes version? @13:40
The dinosaur scene was cut from 50 pieces of footage
Filming was done at the Palace of Versailles
"a  friend of mine got a part as a (factory) employee who gets screamed at by his boss..."
Paul Maher Jr. will feature many more missing scene descriptions in his book to be sold on his website
2nd Unit shots video

Varied film lengths:
2 hr 45 mins
4-3/4 hours
6 hours
8 hours

If you know of anything to add or subtract, please e-mail me at Light.Knowledge.Glory@Gmail.com

January 11, 2011

My Year with Tim Keller

Or how the Pastor Who Preaches against Idolatry Became My Idol
      On mastering an author: “What happens after a period of time, you don’t only get to master the person’s works, but you begin to understand how the guy’s mind works. … you can get an author who really speaks to you, and eventually you go beyond just the words of the book or the sermons and you’ve come to penetrate the way the guy’s mind works. His words and ideas just come out extemporaneously out of you.”
- From Keller's series in Ephesians
       My New Year resolutions are never what you would call “normal”. They are more like tests of endurance than anything else. A few years back I didn’t cut my hair just to see how long it would grow. Another year I tried to drink only water. During this last year, though, I came up with something that was a little more spiritually satisfying. Every day for the year 2010 I listened to one sermon by the preacher, Tim Keller. Because his influence and popularity are becoming more well known (he’s even mentioned in George Bush’s memoir Decision Points) I will do as little as I can to summarize his ministry and allow other websites to do so. What follows will be my best attempt at describing what it was like to be emerged in all things Keller, consistently listening to him for 365 days and the ways that it has changed me. It was an amazing experience, learning so much and growing in my walk with the Lord. Admittedly, at times it was extremely tiring, but other times, life-changing. Understanding Dr. Keller’s processes and motives and methodology has been a slow but rewarding process.
       I first heard Keller in 2008 after I downloaded a talk he gave at a college about Suffering. This was good timing as I was currently at home in bed with the flu. I was struck by his combination of intellect, creativity and congeniality, which is a rare and difficult combination these days. He was speaking to non-Christians the way I wanted to; reasonably, speaking the truth without coming across as condescending. We understand their disbelief because we, too, were once in their shoes. I then listened to a talk here and there amongst the other speakers/preachers I would download. But a little over a year ago I would decide that since there are only a limited number of his sermons available for free (I have only a limited amount of money to spend) that I would download them all to gain a better understanding of his work as he ministers in New York City. I don’t know when I would ever find myself there so this is probably going to be the closest that I’ll get to attending his services. As I was searching for and downloading these sermons in December, I found that my collection was nearing 300. I resolved that I would listen to each one of these every day. Very reluctantly, my wife complied with my eccentricity and didn’t give too much heed. At first, I didn’t know if I had the stamina to actually accomplish this feat. Then I heard in one of his sermons that there was a time in his life where he listened to about 400 sermons of David Martin Lloyd-Jones. I was in good company! I knew that I wanted to collect all the insights and all my discoveries, so I found my wife’s Oxford Study Bible from college with very wide margins and I began to create a Tim Keller Annotated Bible. Lord willing, it will be a great tool to use in the future. 

Sorry, my handwriting is nothing more than hen-scratching.
       As I began listening, I started to pick up on reoccurring themes quickly. Some of these themes are religion/moralism vs. true Christianity, the motives of the heart, modern idolatry, the importance of the city, the current and eternal renewal of all things through the ushering of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ, and how to balance the tricky relationship between Christ and culture (in one of his lectures at Western Theological Seminary, he admits that although he had probably preached 2000 times in his life, he only has about 20 sermons). But if you think that listening to these same themes over and over would get boring or repetitive, Keller presents these ideas through creative and engaging ways that, over time, build his case, and it is enjoyable to hear them being told again to refresh the memory. Keller’s sermons are very formulaic, yet they are great and convincing formulas. As he says, “If the Gospel isn’t explicit, it won’t be assumed.” He sees and understands what is severely lacking in much of American preaching -- the Cross and its power. If the grace of God offered to us on the Cross is not explained, the preacher will merely be preaching, most unknowingly, guilt-motivated moralism and works-righteousness.
The most thorough explanation of his method and ideology for preaching can be found in his preaching class from WTS available on iTunes, Preaching Christ in a Post-Modern World. If you have the time, you will learn what Keller and his former professor Ed Clowney define as “Christ-Centered Preaching”. Other lectures of his that help explain his technique are his lectures, “Edwards on Preaching” and “How to Preach”, both in the WTS audio archives, “Dwelling in the Gospel”, and “Gospel-Centered Ministry”. A nice thing about Keller is how self-aware he is. He acknowledges that much (but not all) of his preaching is a conglomerate of techniques which does not save, but will help bring the listener closer to the Gospel. To sum up his style of preaching, Keller uses both the traditionalist view of salvation (personal, eternal) and the neo-fundamentalist, Kingdom of God view, which stresses the communal and earthly. Seeing that both views are Biblically valid and culturally relevant, he creates an all-encompassing presentation of the work of Jesus, salvation from our own sin and idolatry.
On a personal note, I suppose that the reason I go into such great detail into his preaching is that, as a 28-year old unemployed father, husband, and college student who has never felt any assurance in a calling, I have felt God pulling me closer and closer this year to becoming a pastor than ever before. One day I read a Redeemer article and listened to both a sermon and a lecture (I would often listen to more that one mp3 a day) and in each, Keller explained how to discern your calling. In prayer and contemplation, I felt God’s sanction to move forward to a life in the ministry. As I work towards this, I still feel unsure and unqualified, yet I feel God’s assurance and guidance of my journey to such a goal. This year, Keller has been to me a preacher, teacher, pastor, mentor, and friend. He has challenged and rebuked, humbled and lifted up, assured and encouraged, opened my eyes to many things and closed my eyes to others. He has taught me in new ways that no matter what, through complete self-assurance or absolute insecurity and humiliation, God loves me because my salvation is not based on my performance or failure of one. As part of the aforementioned formula, Keller stresses this fact in every one of his sermons.

Moving on, I saw in Keller that he has a real bird’s eye view on American Christianity, recognizing the hypocrisy and moralism of religious Christians, the various types of preaching models, preaching motives, motives for sin, motives for obedience, motives for social concern, trends, dangers and influence. Assisting in overseas church-planting, he receives a larger perspective still. He understands the dangers of being a ‘fundamentalist’ or a ‘liberal’ in any category – he has an ability to stay quite moderate in any man-made ideology. He pushes the buttons of the liberal and conservative, both who have felt that he was once on their side. But the genius of Keller is that he isn’t on anyone’s side, and yet at the same time, he is. He understands that, with the discernment of the Spirit, one can hear the opposition’s side and be humble enough to recognize truth when present. This gives him the freedom from the religiosity of Christianity and his PCA denomination and enables him to make great strides in the Kingdom of God, not any constructed institution. How many American, protestant, and evangelical preachers do you know write their first book on mercy ministries, on giving to the poor and loving the unlovable? Nor are there many people I know who can participate in a roundtable discussion of secularists with adequate influence on Saturday and then on Sunday faithfully preach the Gospel to his congregation. Neither do I know of any pastors who can successfully create a lesbian Bible study and see one find conversion from the discussion. When we are free from the constructs of our self-made rules, we can truly be a light on a hill and bring great glory and joy to Christ. This also helps free us from plagiarism. I understand that I could not preach a Tim Keller, New York City, 5,000-attendant sermon to a Jon Houting, suburb of Sacramento, 12-person college discussion group. I would soon realize that it just will not work because those are two different cultures with two different priorities and passions in life. I am free to share what I’ve learned from whoever I’ve learned it from by whichever means I learned it.
       Keller is so well-read that he has an influence on a range of topics. My typical week would look like this: Sunday would be a lecture on diaconal ministry, on Monday I would learn that it is Biblical to be a good steward of the Earth, Tuesday would be a talk on Christian worldview and cultural context, I would learn that Jesus is the new and better David on Wednesday, Thursday, Keller would preach that I have turned my religion into my righteousness, Friday would bring helpful remarks on church planting, and then Saturday he would help me see how I am trying to make my social status into my functional savior. This typical schedule would often overload me mentally and spiritually, and I don’t really recommend this type of daily regimen for anyone with a busy schedule. There were sermons I would want to just linger on for days because I wanted it to really sink in, but it would often get pushed to the back of my mind with the next day’s sermon.
Now, as there is no such thing as a perfect preacher, I became aware of the various criticisms against Keller. The blogosphere offers plenty, from concerned analysis to claims of heresy. You can’t get away from it. In some Christian circles, “popular” simply means “heretic”. For a taste of something somewhere in the middle, these two men offer a primer of Keller criticisms, most notably concerning his view of the city (although I don’t see much difference between the Redeemer’s mission statement and what Calvin did in Geneva). As you can read criticism here and elsewhere, I will limit myself to two that I believe to be fair. First, his preaching will often use the text to offer the listeners exegesis which isn’t always there. His style of preaching isn’t the typical exposition, but rather reflections upon the passage, pulling from the text what is relevant to the context of his hearers, which is reminiscent of Spurgeon. He does not make up truth or take a text out of context to create a pretext, but finds in the text exactly what intellectual New Yorkers need to hear. This may not be so much a criticism as it is an observation but I do believe it becomes harder to accurately convey the meaning of the passage this way.
       The second is pretty technical and has to do with what I call “emotional monotone”. It may be preferable to the Manhattan congregation’s ability to listen to sermons that he doesn’t get very emotional in the pulpit, or maybe simply it’s just not part of his personality. Yet Intellectual preaching doesn’t necessarily rule out emotion; when in preaching seminars Keller stresses Jonathan Edwards’ idea of preaching the “sense on the heart”, it would seem more persuasive to me if this was presented with more emotion and soul. And I know that you can’t (or shouldn’t) fake an emotion that isn’t there and his messages still strikes to the heart, but it just seems like an inconsistency.

       So as I was learning and growing over the months I was feeling pretty good about myself. My conversations were growing richer and I began to sound smarter. It wasn’t until October that my imagination got away from me about how I could gain from this little hobby of mine, I realized I was no longer doing it for my relationship with God and others, but for myself. This experiment had become my idol. I was spending too much time thinking about how I could benefit from doing this, allowing all this knowledge to puff me up, that it wedged itself between me and others. I was beginning to feel superior to others. I quickly had to spend some time with God about what I was doing and what I wanted to get out of this. Honestly, I had a difficult time deciding to write this post and I have to still measure my motives for doing it. But in the end, I hope that this somehow benefits others more than myself. The last sentence in the introductory quote above is, “…His words and ideas just come out extemporaneously out of you. What if God was like that to us?” In all things, in all pursuits, we need to constantly check our idols because they pop up new every day and in all types of avenues. Jorge Luis Borger has this quote: “To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god”. Now I know that I’m taking it a little out of context, but I think it’s applicable here. To fall in love with ANYTHING is to set that thing up for failure because it will never satisfy you as much as you want it to. We can never be fully satisfied with anything except Jesus Christ.
       Lastly, I wish to share two of the greatest things from Keller that I have really taken to heart. First is his description and use of Gospel Humility, the idea that since we are chosen by God to receive a gift completely free from anything we have done or will do at the expense of His Son, we have no right to look down on anyone else, to feel superior to other people or to use our faith as a weapon for any other means that to show the Gospel. “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” In listening to his discussions with Christians and non-Christians alike, he holds to this formula with great humility. The other idea that completely blew me out of the water the first time I heard it was the fact that our source of strength comes from Christ alone and not of our own willpower. I can try over and over to stop sinning or to keep trying to be good but I just can’t do it. It is only when we look to our Savior do we gain the strength for our sanctification. I’ve searched the New Testament and I see this come up over and over again. Even the times where Paul says to use self-control, God gives us the desire to deny myself, pick up my cross, and follow Him. It is all from His power.
       This past year I have simply come to love God more and have been able to delve deeper into my relationship with Him, receiving a greater knowledge and appreciation for His Word. It has been an inspirational and challenging time with Dr. Tim Keller, and I wish him all the best. I hope that all of you, too, can reap from him and his ministry as much as you can. Listen to a sermon, read the Redeemer newsletters, read one of his books. I pray that God will retain the good that I’ve learned and dispel the bad. After this year, I notice and can sense the slightest influence of Keller from any preacher I listen to. His influence is wide-ranging and I believe, completely beneficial for American Christianity. There is an adage of Keller’s that is gaining popularity in evangelical circles and is extremely important for our journeys. “If you listen to one thinker, you become a clone, if you listen to two thinkers, you become confused, if you listen to about 10 thinkers, you being to develop your own voice, when you listen to near 50, you begin to get wise.” It is my hope that I can move on, “get wise”, and continue to utilize the vast resources out there to strengthen my faith in God, my walk with Christ, and my testimony to the world.