I love my iPhone along with millions of others around the world. I am so thankful to have almost all of the information in the world that I can connect to from such a little device. For the information and social connection hound I am, it is gold.

Yet, there are many days that I want to throw the phone in the water and say I’m done with it. My very reasonable wife would strongly prefer I put it away more often and she is right. It is a battle I fight daily.

Apple’s latest iPhone Christmas advertisement caught my eye this week.

It is a beautiful commercial that gives you a double take, which is Apple’s intention. After all, it is titled “Misunderstood” and there is nothing wrong with the message of capturing the great moments with your family through your phone. I also love how Apple beautifully showcases the boy’s creative talent to honor his family with video memories. Bravo on accomplishing such a feat, Apple.

iphone

What Apple misses is what the boy misses. He misses the moment and the opportunity to be fully engaged in all of the activities with his family. Thus, he was a spectator rather than one living richly in the beautiful moment with family. Apple has a knack for trying to show us what culture should look like through its products. Although we are led to believe this is the way life should be, so much is missed in this message.

Despite the happy tears in the commercial, my tears were about how technology has removed us from experiencing life without each other’s full attention. When my wife and kids see me looking at my phone in their presence it is a clear message that I’m sending and that the phone is more important than precious time with them. I’ve got to change. We’ve got to change. There is a balance in living life fully and embracing the joy of technology.

This Christmas and New Year, my prayer is for the discipline to be intentional and present for my family and others. It is my family’s prayer too.

What did you think of the commercial? 

How has technology affected the ways you have had genuine connection with others?

The other day I was driving in my car and The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want was playing. It is an iconic song from the Stones but it is also the memorable opening song played during the funeral procession in the movie, The Big Chill.

I remember my parents in the 1980s sharing how much that movie meant to them and how it captured their generation and its joys and struggles. My parents were born in 1944 and 1945 so they would associate themselves with the Baby Boomer Generation but as the joke in the movie Field of Dreams went, they had two fifties and movies straight into the seventies. In other words, they didn’t fully associate themselves with the hippie movement yet they experienced the complexities of the Vietnam era. Like my parents, I have always felt like I was in a lost generation being born in 1978 and am often thrown in either the younger part of Generation X or older in Generation Y.

parenthood-1989

Harper Lee said it best in the book and movie To Kill A Mockingbird,

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Lee’s wisdom applies to how we feel about people of different generations. In my observations, it seems like the newest generation seems to be labeled as the most “selfish” when if we study history, each younger generation was judged in a similar way. For example, in life I have witnessed many people blame the Baby Boomer generation for their perceived lack of morals but as they are getting older, it has given us time to let history tell their story better. By giving them time, we are learning that they are a generation with great strengths and complexities and we can better understand their impact on the way we live today.

I believe we will be better people if we take time to learn about each other, which will minimize incomplete judgments. The past century has been defined by many things but one of them is the way movies can tell each generation’s story. I have compiled a helpful list of movies that best define each generation. The list is compiled from my personal observations, research and comparison of similar lists online and from polling friends. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this list but my hope is for this to be a way to learn more about our generations through the art of movies.

I isolate three types of movies for each generation; cultural, comedy, and war. I want to know what makes people laugh, how they live and what they fight for. I have watched all of these movies and appreciate them uniquely for what they represent. I hope you will enjoy them too.

The Greatest Generation – The “G.I. Generation” or “WWII Generation” (1925-1939))

Silent Generation / The Boomer Generation - “The Sandwich Generation” or “War Babies” Born 1939-1964

Generation X - The “Gen X’ers” or “MTV Generation” Born 1965-1979

Generation Y & Millennials The “Millennial” or “Echo Boomers” Born 1980-1991

Generation Z - The “iGeneration” Born 1991-present

Which movies do you feel best defines your generation? Why?

In a world of real loss, this post may seem insensitive but stay with me.

On one of my favorite shows on television, The Walking Dead, one of the main characters is killed. His name was Hershel Greene and served as a patriarch to the group of people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Over the past few seasons we have gotten to know him better and his wisdom became clearer with his smooth Georgia accent. Hershel seemed to be a devoted husband before losing his wife during the apocalypse. He was also a father of two girls and tried to be as good of a father as possible despite the circumstances of the world falling apart. His clothes were tattered, wore suspenders and throughout the story his beard grew longer and more scraggly. When he died, it was as if we lost a lion. I was stunned by his loss and for the next few days I’ll admit, I kind of grieved. I thought I was ridiculous to grieve for a person I didn’t know let alone even exist. Then I realized that the reason I grieved was because I connected so deeply with the idea of Hershel.

Hershel was a walking and talking, wise Proverb. Hershel was a central voice of reason through the past few seasons of the show and felt almost like another father for the viewer. He sure was to me. He was far from perfect and full of rich humility acknowledging publicly when he was wrong. In the group’s darkest days, Hershel’s words would provide comfort and guidance to everyone.

You walk outside, you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. Nowadays you breath and you risk your life. You don’t have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for.

hershel

I loved Hershel because he was such a genuine character, made for a great book and for a great show. Legendary teacher of story through film, Robert McKee shares in his book Story

“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.”

Hershel was character. I will miss Hershel but I am also reminded that to love a character you must risk losing him or her. Losing Hershel also shows us that sacrifice is important. We run toward a safe life yet our heart screams out for real adventure. Characters like Hershel remind me that we have a short time on earth and life is worth risking.

To risk is to live. 

Hershel carried a beautiful worn leather Bible with him throughout the show. I think if he were sitting next to us today he would share where he derives his wisdom. He would share something like this.

Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure. – Proverbs 4:25-26

Who is your favorite fictional character? Why? 

 

George Washington

This prayer is abridged from George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789.

————-
May we all unite in rendering unto God our sincere and humble thanks— For His kind care and protection of the people of this country, For the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have enjoyed,

For the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness,

For the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge, and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And may we also unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him—

To pardon our national and other transgressions,

To enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually,

To render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed,

To protect and guide all nations and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord,

To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science,

And generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

————–

 

His prayer rings true today. Thank you President Washington.

Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Americans.

 

C.S. Lewis 50 Years Later

November 22, 2013 — 4 Comments

C.S. Lewis wrote,

“After I’ve been dead five years, no one will read anything I’ve written.”

Well Jack, you were wrong and we are so thankful because of it.

On this day 50 years ago the beloved Clive Staples “Jack” Lewis passed away from renal failure. It was  onNovember 22nd, 1963 when Lewis passed and his death received little media attention due to the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy. His incorrect prophetic words above were likely due to the nature of publishing at that time and how easily books would go out of print. For the next fifty years, Christians young and old discovered his writings from Till We Have Faces to The Screwtape Letters to The Chronicles of Narnia. At the 2012 London Olympics, many other British writers were honored during the opening ceremonies; Lewis was omitted. Lewis has never had the widest appeal compared to other contemporary British writers but his readers have a passion for his work like none other. Perhaps his humility transcends today through subtle ways and readers share his words with others one by one.

CS Lewis

I learned that he will finally receive an honor memorial in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey. This gives me great joy knowing that hundreds of years from now someone will discover him for the first time when walking through the historic Abbey.

There are a handful of writers who have influenced my life and C.S. Lewis is on top of that list. As a new Christian almost twenty years ago, I was exposed to Mere Christianity and it helped me then as it does today to better understand the beautiful mystery of this grand faith. I recently read a couple biographies about his life like Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis and I encourage you to do the same to learn more about he and his writings. You can view a complete list of his works here but if you have never read his books, start with the classics like Mere Christianity, The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Four Loves, Surprised by Joy, The Screwtape Letters, and The Pilgrim’s Regress.

I am still discovering his words and hope to until the day I die. My young daughters are close to the age of me sharing the great stories from The Chronicles of Narnia.

Thank you Jack for your faith, your boldness, and for allowing God to work through you in your pain and your joy. We all feel it through your words and will share it with generations to come.

Have you ever seen someone who has achieved a certain success in their job and thought “how did they do it?”

If you hear that they did it alone, then you obviously don’t know all of the story.

Twenty years ago a very amusing movie released called Dave (1993) starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. In the story, Kevin Kline plays Dave Kovic who runs a temp agency. What is amusing is that he looks very similar to the current President of the United States, President Mitchell. On the side, Dave Kovic is hired to impersonate the President and in a bizarre turn of events is called into help in more ways than just impersonating the President. I won’t ruin the movie because it is a joy to watch.

Kevin-Kline-Dave-Kovic

Despite this being a movie with politics as a backdrop, it is really a movie about people helping people. In the movie once Dave Kovic eventually is acting as the President, shares with the American people,

“If you’ve ever seen the look on somebody’s face the day they finally get a job, I’ve had some experience with this, they look like they could fly. And its not about the paycheck, it’s about respect, it’s about looking in the mirror and knowing that you’ve done something valuable with your day. And if one person could start to feel this way, and then another person, and then another person, soon all these other problems may not seem so impossible. You don’t really know how much you can do until you, stand up and decide to try.”

Dave was trying to help others find jobs so they could live passionate and fruitful lives. A job doesn’t solve every problem and it doesn’t guarantee you will find your full purpose. A job can help give someone the opportunity to have passion, purpose and the ability to better themselves to make a difference.

Dave wasn’t just a job-placement owner.

What matters is that Dave Kovic was a connector.

I am only where I am because of the help of other people. Period. Did I work hard and was persistent to meet with people? Of course but doors would not have opened to me if I had not been helped by courageous people who took a chance on me. Here are a few of the many examples from my own personal journey:

  • My high school friend Kara recommended me for a position that ended up being my first job in marketing and sales in the film industry. I wouldn’t even have gotten the chance to interview if it weren’t for her. This also helped fuel my love for movies and great storytelling.
  • When I moved to Nashville, my sister’s childhood friend’s brother, whom I hadn’t seen in twenty years, introduced me to a publisher and led me in the door to my first job in publishing.
  • I am at my current position because of working hard but if I weren’t recommended by mutual friends, it would have been difficult to get to the next stage.

None of the people who helped me got anything in return except being able to see me thrive in those positions. They simply enjoyed seeing me be in a place to thrive.

I have learned from many others along the way.

One of my friends who inspires me greatly is John Bergquist. You need to know John because he lives for helping others do amazing things.

What I have realized is that as a connector, my success will be measured by the successes of others.

Marketing thought leader Seth Godin wrote in his book Linchpin

“Not only must you be an artist, must you be generous, and must you be able to see where you can help but you must also be aware. Aware of where your skills are welcomed.”

The Bible also has a lot to say about helping others. In Philippians 2:4, Paul encourages the early Christ-followers;

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

To summarize, here are three ways to be an effective connector:

  1. Be aware of those around you who may need help and make yourself available to them. You may be igniting a fire in a true change-maker. 
  2. Invest time each week meeting with and helping people. 
  3. Don’t expect anything in return except the joy of seeing someone else thrive in their sweet spot making a difference.

Let’s be like Dave Kovic. The world will be better because of it.

One of my favorite scenes in comedy is a scene that takes place toward the end of the movie, Tropic Thunder (2008). This is a crucial element in the storyline when Robert Downey Jr.’s character(s) attempts to get his friend played by Ben Stiller out of a prison. Both of the characters think they are part of a movie and disguised as their characters. What they are coming to realize is that what they are facing is actually real and are trying to come to terms with it and what to do. Forgive the initial vulgarity of this short clip but I promise you will laugh.

tropicthunder

Humorous as this scene is, there is a lot of truth behind it.

This week I read an article about someone who called herself an “Orthodox Christian” because she didn’t like the other term “Evangelical Christian.” After listening to her, I found that I agreed with just about everything she said about her faith but wondered why she needed to label herself with the preface ‘Orthodox’.  I also attended a conference with a group of people who called themselves “Reformed Christians.” I was asked by some people there of what kind of Christian I am and I said something along the lines that although I am part of the Anglican denomination I am a “Young Life Christian” because it was in the group Young Life where I accepted Christ. I was unsettled about this answer for a few days.

When we turn to scripture we find that the first time a name or label was put on the followers of Christ, it was in the city of Antioch.

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,  and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Acts 11:25-26

I am not a bible or church scholar but from what I know, when the church grew and expanded throughout the world, divisions occurred and thus new identities. Here we are 2,000 years later and if someone asks you who you are, you could respond in one of these ways.

  • I am an Evangelical Christian
  • I am a Southern Baptist Christian
  • I am an Orthodox Christian
  • I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian
  • I am a Catholic Christian
  • I am a Reformed Christian
  • I am a Coptic Christian
  • I am an Anglican Christian
  • I am a Young Life Christian

The labels go on and on.

Almost 20 years ago when I first accepted Christ, it seemed so simple and beautiful. I felt a humility and honor to call myself a Christian and by his grace, follow Jesus as best I could. The older I got the more complicated life became. Like Kirk Lazarus, I became a dude, playing a dude disguised as another dude. I am to blame for this because I fell for the trap and forced myself into a corner within the subculture of Christianity to put a very specific label on my faith.

Do you think someone looking in on us as Christians even cares? I am not saying that the specific beliefs or denominations are not important but put yourselves in the shoes of someone who does not know or understand who Jesus is: Our faith looks so divisive and confusing.

Have our descriptors become our titles of pride and nobility? Our idol? 

Thankfully, where our heart is, our true identity lay. Our heart that holds the promise of Christ shapes how we truly live our lives no matter what title we give it.

I am trying to not over-simplify life and this topic but what if it is meant to be that simple? Jesus asked the Apostle Peter one of life’s greatest questions,

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15-16

I pray that everyday I answer  like Peter in today’s language, “I am a dude who follows Christ, the Son of the living God.”

What do you call yourself? What have you learned about “identity”?