Culture

Low-tech parents: Why Steve Jobs wouldn’t let his children touch an iPad and other digital gadgets | Financial Post

Even parents who work for tech companies are asking the question: How much is too much time in front of a screen?

Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired and now chief executive of 3D Robotics, a drone-maker, has instituted time limits and parental controls on every device in his home.

“My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules,” he said of his five children, 6-17. “That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”

The dangers he is referring to include exposure to harmful content like pornography, bullying from other kids, and perhaps worse of all, becoming addicted to their devices, just like their parents.

Some of the questions that I had after reading this.

What limits do you set for your kids in the home?

Do you have limits that you place on yourself?

via Low-tech parents: Why Steve Jobs wouldn’t let his children touch an iPad and other digital gadgets | Financial Post.

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Risky play and skinned knees are key to healthy child development | Toronto Star

By exhilarating kids, it gradually exposes them to things they fear, so they can learn to cope and master new skills. Fear protects them from situations they aren’t ready to handle.

Taking risks is important towards understanding who you are. How do you as parents and leaders encourage smart risks?

Or, why do you feel kids should not take risks?

Share your thoughts below!

via Risky play and skinned knees are key to healthy child development | Toronto Star.

March Reading List

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I would recommend this book to anyone in youth ministry. The dialogue between characters about what makes one pretty, or not is worth the read alone. There are some great sections in this book that would be very useful when we teach our youth on self image and self worth.

“We’re not freaks, Tally. We’re normal. We may not be gorgeous, but at least we’re not hyped-up Barbie dolls.”

The book centres around Tally Youngblood and her upcoming surgery to become pretty. Every teen when they turn 16 in Westerfeld’s series is turned from an ‘ugly’ into a ‘pretty.’ Tally cannot wait to become a ‘pretty’ until she meets a new friend that challenges everything that it means to be pretty. The story is not that original, but the questions asked in this book are phenomenal. I would recommend this series over The Hunger Games.

“Or maybe when they do the operation- when they grind and stretch your bones to the right shape, peel off your face and rub all your skin away, and stick in plastic cheekbones so you look like everybody else- maybe after going through all that you just aren’t very interesting anymore.”

The book takes place in a futuristic setting of our world and there is a great conversation between Tally and her friend about the celebrities that we would look at as beautiful. Her reaction to their looks as she flips through a magazine is priceless. 5/5

It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get IT and Keep IT. by Craig Groeschel 

What I liked about this book is that it was open and honest about the type of things that we chase in ministry and leadership that are not important, or take us away from our greatest task.

I believed we needed our own building and all the other things real churches have—like a sports ministry, concerts, conferences and our own church van. I thought those important elements would give us it. Then we’d be a real church. Little did I realize, we already had it. God was doing something very special. Lost people were being found. Found people were growing. The church was spiritually vibrant. All without any of the things I thought necessary.”

Having these types of things in our ministry are not a bad thing, but when they start to contradict or work against the vision of the church there is a problem. This book looks to help leaders steer clear of that. For me the the selling point for this book is the continual challenge towards kingdom building first. It is not about YOUR ministry it is about the vision of the church and how Jesus is always at the forefront. A great leadership book that is worth a read. 4/5

February Reading List

I am about two months behind on posting my reading lists, so I will get caught up in the next couple of days. First up is my February reading list.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

I fell into the same trap that everyone seems to fall into when they start reading this book, you cannot put it down until you are finished. It was a quick, entertaining read that I enjoyed way more than I thought I would. I had heard all the arguments about the violent premiss of kids killing other kids for sport, but to be honest as you get into it, there is not much more here than there was in Lord of the Flies that I read as part of a school curriculum. I enjoyed the journey Katniss takes in this first book. She has to wrestle with many of the developmental questions every student wrestles with as they emerge into adulthood. She has to find out who she is, beyond the conformity of the world she is forced to live in. Katniss finds the answer to the three basic questions of adolescence: Who am I? What is important to me? And, Where do I belong? A great read that needs to be addressed beyond the questions surrounding the violent plot. After all, Lord of the Flies is a staple in many schools and this book will be too. 5/5

The Flinch by Julien Smith

The Flinch is about our ‘flinch’ mechanism that fires every time we have the possibility of failure, or running into danger in our lives. The concept and the potential for this book in terms of leadership growth was huge in my mind. However, I felt that it just did not live up to the potential. Personally, I never got to the point while reading this book where I felt that it defined how to overcome the flinch. The steps are all there in the book to overcome your flinching mechanism, but I found that it was too focused on finding and defining what causes you to flinch instead of how to change. How to change the flinch is all about acting against it and moving forward and I did not think that the author covered more about what is the ‘Flinch” and not how to remove it. The style of the writing screams Seth Godin, but the impact does not.  2½/5

Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Games with God by Craig Detweiler

“We are concerned by the desensitizing aspects of video games. They often objectify women and glorify violence. . . . [this book] aims to demystify the gaming universe and dignify the passions of the most active gamers. We believe in the theological possibilities contained within even the most debased popular culture.”

I really enjoyed this book and it digs deep into the mechanics of video games and their potentially addictive element and all the while Detweiler attempts to bring it all back to God. The book is a collection of essays that tackle questions of identity, science, art, story telling, religious undertones, teaching possibilities as well as the ethical and social applications of video games. The book can become dry at points, but the content is worth the read. The big takeaways for me were the essays on creativity within Halo as well as the ethical implications in games like BioShock. A great read. 4/5

I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives by Dave Sterrett and Doug Bender

I have been watching the I Am Second videos on YouTube for quite some time, so I was very excited to find some of the stories in book format. I did enjoy reading the stories of transformation and reconciliation from a wide variety of individuals, but I did not find it as effective as the videos. If you are looking for inspirational stories of lives being changed this is a great read. 3½/5

 

 

 

 

Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership by John Dickson

“the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself,” such that a “humble person is marked by a willingness to hold power in service of others.”

John Dickson takes the reader on a historical journey to trace the route of human development and their understanding of the term ‘humility.’ I was not sure how I would like a book that took a historical look at a term, but I found this book fascinating. Humility, as it began to change in how it was understood and how it was practiced within leadership roles needs to be studied in order for anyone to truly embrace humility as a leadership characteristic. Humility has taken many forms, but for Dickson there are some very clear guidelines for someone to be an effective leader and it begins in this clear understanding of humility. The motivational aspect of humility is seen as a leadership quality as opposed to the gluttonous view of self-promotion; and that humbling oneself to serve others is a sign of strength and not weakness for Dickson. I was worried that this book was going to be a self-help type of read, but it becomes very clear that this book is a calling out effective leaders to step up and embrace being small. A must read for leadership. 5/5

What I Took Away From Reading ‘The Day Metallica Came To Church’ and Watching The Grammys.

The Day Metallica Came To Church : Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything
by John Van Sloten

Below is the question I pulled out of the text for my mini review last month. I will continue with a larger look at the book now.

”If God speaks through both the Bible and human culture at the same time, how would that work?” 

That is the central question to this book. Personally, the chapter on Van Gough and his painting The Church in Auvers was brilliant and this is the chapter that John Van Sloten uses to framework this discussion in detail. He gives out two implications that help him ask the question that I used above, but it also helps with this question from the book.

“How would it affect how I seek out, listen to, and experience God?”

If we begin to look for God at work in the music, movies and other cultural experiences we have everyday how would that change the way we view and understand God?

Would it?

Or, would we realize we do it without even thinking about it?

The first implication is co-illumination.

By co-illumination I mean that the truth contained in the Bible brings light and understanding to the truth contained in broader creation and culture, and the converse: that truth revealed in creation and culture can illuminate the truth revealed in the Bible.

The second implication revolves around the counterbalance of this type of worldview.

This interconnection brings a counterbalancing influence to the reading of either text. God’s revelation through the Bible tethers, holds in balance, and offers perspective on God’s revelation through nature and human culture, and God’s revelation through culture has the same effect on the Bible.”

When he works through the idea of co-illumination the premise of the whole book takes shape. God is at work through the ordinary. By that I mean think of that awe inspiring moment as you looked out over a crystal clear lake, that mountain top view, or that feeling of a great cup of coffee on your tongue. Each experience, every verse and each scene has the opportunity for a co-illuminating moment of reflection towards God’s creation.

The Bible is full of these moments. The parables are told around elements of the natural world, tax-collectors taught about God, as did shepherding. If Jesus used those daily jobs as ways to show his Father’s mighty works we should be able to see his teachings in the pouring of espresso, or through an architect that forever changes the skyline of our cities.

“It’s about the co-illumination of the ordinary and the ineffable. Christ’s weavings of word and world left an unforgettable impression on his follower’s lives. Not only dod they come to see God’s material goodness implanted in everything around them, but every time they would take a sip of wine, witness a wedding, or walk a certain road, they were reminded of Jesus’ words.”

 Here is the start of his explanation of the role counterbalance plays in how we view God in the everyday.

The fact that God speaks today keeps us from limiting God to only what he spoke in the past in the Bible. And reading God’s Word in the Bible keeps us from misinterpreting his words today.

He uses a great story of Van Gogh’s father and his refusal to look at the world in any way other than his own way to illuminate the idea of a counterbalance. Van Gogh’s parents refused the idea that the book spoke of anything beyond thievery and dismissed it for portraying a worldview that was opposite to the biblical worldview that they had. The book was Les Miserables and they refused to read it. THey missed out on a story about grace and forgiveness that illuminates and gives an example of the type of grace and forgiveness that Jesus spoke of.

“The Bible offers a clear, personal presentation of God; it brings God close, gives God a name, and reveals the new life we have in Jesus Christ. Creation and human nature, on the other hand, speak more obliquely about God, often via a different language, and they reveal more of God’s breadth, depth and enormity.” 

This book is a great tool for any youth worker. It challenges everyone to have an open and critical mind to the world around us. It calls us to see God at work around us and to be able to share that with others. What has made you stop and take a second look in the last week? Did you tell your students about where you can see God at work in their media choices?

As I watched the Grammys I could not help but think of this book. You can see God at work in the creative minds of the individuals that performed.

What can we take away from the collaboration between Foo Fighters and Deadmau5? A very unlikely combo that have a great single and yet so far apart on the musical spectrum.

What can you say about Adele’s jaw-dropping rendition of Rolling in the Deep? All she had was a microphone and a voice and yet her performance was one that I will remember for a long time. She took out all the special effects and stood there as she proclaimed, “This is me and I am good enough as I am.”

What can you say about the ending and the multi-generational line-up of Sir Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl? I am currently reading Dave Grohl’s biography and it is constantly referencing the musical influences that shaped his career. We promote mentorships and strong positive influences as a way to help our students grow and what better way to show them the importance and the fruit of those relationships through real life instances playing out on stage. If you watch Adam Levine’s facial reactions while he is playing with The Beach Boys you can see that he was living out a dream.

There are moments that the teachings and wisdom from the Words of God enter into our life each day, but we need to ask ourselves if we are watching and listening for them.

One practical point that I have started since reading this book is that I have started a media journal. In it I usually take lyrics of a song, a movie plot, or a sit-com scene and right it down the centre of a page and then from that I mind map out different biblical or life stories that I can use as teaching points. This helps me put together series based on themes, or biblical passages.

If you are looking for other materials that promote biblical worldviews and talk about how to include media choices in that discussion check out these as well.

media.faith.culture by Brett Ullman

media.faith.culture : Parents 101 by Brett Ullman

Think Christian website

Bags and Boards : DC Comics New 52 – Too Racy For Some? (Rated T-TEEN)

For some reason this post got deleted. This is just a re-post of an article I posted earlier.

* Some of the quotes have strong language.

DC Comics has unleashed all of its new 52 titles as of this afternoon and they have officially sold out of all of them, and now entering into a second printing. I have really enjoyed some of the new books (i.e Captain Atom, DC Universe Presents and Men of War), and I have also disliked some of the new titles (i.e. Green Arrow, Batgirl and Animal Man). While DC Comics would like you to believe it is a relaunch of their titles some of the books, even though they were fantastic reads did not change from their current story lines (i.e. Batman and Green Lantern).

First off I have always been a Captain Atom fan and loved that the character got a new monthly title as well as Sgt. Rock in Men of War. Two great characters who were given a new life from the relaunch. Two characters that I feel took a step down from their previous monthly series were Green Arrow and Batgirl. I did not like the art work in Animal Man and the unbelievable writing was not enough to get me passed the visuals that didn’t work for me.

However, the biggest controversy that has come out of this relaunch is the visual representation of some of the female characters within the DC Universe. The website Comic Alliance has made numerous posts on both Catwoman and Starfire (Red Hood and the Outlaws).

First up the articles on Starfire.

The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their ‘Liberated Sexuality’

Read More: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/09/22/starfire-catwoman-sex-superheroine/#ixzz1ZINQxqoL

DC Comics On Starfire Controversy: ‘Pay Attention To The Ratings’

Read More: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/09/28/dc-comics-on-starfire-controversy-pay-attention-to-the-ratings/#ixzz1ZINcjXRJ

DC’s response to the articles was for parents to pay attention to the ratings of the book they are about to buy. Red Hood and the Outlaws is rated T – Teen, which means that it is meant for readers twelve and up, but a character such as Starfire has been introduced to many loyal DC fans through the child friendly cartoon Teen Titans, which airs on the Cartoon Network. The most compelling article that I have seen is a response to the new Starfire from a seven-year-old fan.

Michele Lee took the new version of both Catwoman and Starfire to her daughter and wrote about her response in this article, A 7-year-old girl responds to DC Comics’ sexed-up reboot of Starfire. Here is one of the more compelling quotes.

Most importantly? Starfire is her favorite hero.

So today I showed her your rebooted Catwoman and Starfire. She is not happy with you DC.

“Why do you like Starfire?”

“She’s like me. She’s an alien new to the planet and maybe she doesn’t always say the right thing, or know the right thing to do. But she’s a good friend, and she helps people. 

When asked about the new Starfire and how it makes her feel she responds with the following.

“Is this new Starfire someone you’d want to be when you grow up?”

*she gets uncomfortable again*”Not really. I mean, grown ups can wear what they want, but…she’s not doing anything but wearing a tiny bikini to get attention.”

“So, you know I’m going to put this on my blog right? (she nods) Is there anything else you want to say?”

               “I want her to be a hero, fighting things and be strong and helping people.”

               “Why’s that?”

               “Because she’s what inspires me to be good.”

Starfire like many other superheroes are role models to many kids, but this book isn’t intended for kids. Does this make it right, well no, but the same question can be said about movies adapted from comics. When my wife and I went to watch Captain America this summer there was a toddler in the front row at a nine o’clock showing. Was that movie kid friendly? No. Just like movie trailers for Captain America should have given the clue about the age appropriateness of the content, comic covers are usually a good indication of what is ahead.

Well, how about Catwoman. Andrew Wheeler wrote that the cover alone should have given you the clue to what the contents of the book would be.

But if you still haven’t understood what sort of book this is going to be, the first panel of the first page gives the mission statement. It is boobs. Bosoms. Breasts. The first panel is framed not on the protagonist’s face, but on her brassiered chest. Page two ends on a shot of her derriere. It’s an action shot. Men are unloading their guns on her derriere. On the third story page Catwoman smashes through a window with one boob hanging out of her costume.

The last page of this month’s Catwoman title was a drawn out sex scene with Batman. Yep, Batman and Catwoman on the roof. I think Comic Alliance got this one right when they wrote the following.

Here’s the question, though: Why? I know why Catwoman and Batman would have sex; there’s nothing wrong with the idea. We saw him hook up with Talia in Son of the Demon and that was pretty cool. I mean literally, why is that last page a full-page splash of Batman actually penetrating Catwoman? Why do we need to see that? What does it accomplish or tell us about the characters that would have been lost if that page had been omitted?

The answer is nothing. They just wanted to see Catwoman and Batman bang on a roof. And that is the whole problem with this false notion of “sexually liberated” female characters: These aren’t those women. They’re how dudes want to imagine those women would be — what Wire creator David Simon called writing “men with t*ts.” They read like men’s voices coming out of women’s faces. Or worse, they read like the straight girls who make out with each other at clubs, not because they enjoy making out with women but because they desperately want guys to pay attention to them.

Read More: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/09/22/starfire-catwoman-sex-superheroine/#ixzz1ZIXj0n8y

Comics are no different than any other form of media out there. They contain content that isn’t intended for every reader, just like you wouldn’t take your six-year-old to Transformers, or Kick Ass.

As parents and leaders we have the responsibility to be aware of what our kids are reading and watching. I would not recommend any of the new relaunched titles for anyone under the T-Teen rating. That is why they have a rating on them. The new issues of Batman and Detective Comics were some of the more violent issues of the relaunch. The best way to make a statement about the state of these new DC comics and characters is to just let it be. Stop buying them for your kids, especially if they are under twelve. Sara Lima on ComicVine made some great statements at the end of this week on this very idea. These are some quotes from her article on ComicVine entitled, Sexism in Comics is Not New–Here’s What You Should Do about It

With a struggling industry like comics, it wouldn’t be hard to see some real change if everyone that hated the interpretation of Starfire never picked up another issue of ‘Red Hood and the Outlaws’ again. That’s how change happens. Speak with your wallet, not just your words. Then, take that money you’ve worked so hard to earn and put it towards a title you can really appreciate, because at the end of the day, comics should be fun. They should make you feel good; and there have been plenty of female characters who are for more interesting and have a lot more depth than the interpretations of a few of the women in the books we’ve seen lately.

I really feel that a lot of comics that feature female characters in a positive, empowering light have gone overlooked. They have been overshadowed by so much hostility towards two titles and that is unacceptable. Yes, it’s easy to get upset and rant about how angry you are at the interpretation of a character, but that won’t help bring positive awareness to some really good books that deserve some love.

As a leader and a parent you should be aware of the content in these books. That can be done multiple ways. You can easily talk to the comic book store owner, read blogs and websites like Comic Vine, or Comics Alliance. Having a keen awareness of the media that we are giving our kids is the best way to protect them and teach them about the kind of worldviews they should be striving to live out.

I am a huge comic book fan and I love DC Comics, but the way they taking their female characters is more than a little disappointing. I’ll end with a couple of more quotes.

If it were just Catwoman that went this way, it wouldn’t be such a concern, but many of DC’s female characters are suffering the same fate. Characters who should be leveraged to show female readers that the medium is a safe place for them to find entertainment are instead showing more skin and less gumption than they might have a month ago. Perennial favourite Harley Quinn has switched from sassy moll to Suicide Girl. Bisexual stripper Voodoo is one of only two female character to get a new title. Power Girl’s book got cancelled, and she’s now someone’s girlfriend. – Andrew Wheeler

When I read these comics and I see the way the female characters are presented, I don’t see heroes I would want to be. I don’t see people I would want to hang out with or look up to. I don’t feel like the comics are talking to me; I feel like they’re talking about me, the way both Jason Todd and Roy Harper talk about Starfire like two dudes high fiving over a mutual conquest (left).

Read More: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/09/22/starfire-catwoman-sex-superheroine/#ixzz1ZIb0mLCu

Here are some great follow up questions for students to tackle topics like this one.

 

What do the drawings teach us about these characters?

What values do these characters represent?

Where are their values portrayed?

What does this teach us about how to value the women in our lives?

Do these characters make you want to be better?

 

What questions would you ask?

Cocktail Party Effect and Jr. High Students Part 1

The cocktail party effect attempts to explain the reasoning behind the question, If I have two ears why can I only focus my attention solidly on one audible source. The ‘cocktail party effect’ by definition is the ability an individual has to focus their attention on a single conversation, audible noise, or the ability to pick their name out among various other background noises and conversations happening around them. This effect can happen in one of two different situations: First, when an individual is focused on one sound that is around them, or secondly, when we become invoked by a sudden stimulus that grabs our attention (i.e. someone calls your name from across the room). Our hearing reaches a noise suppression from 9 to 15 dB, i.e., the acoustic source, on which humans concentrate, seems to be three times louder than the ambient noise. The cocktail party effect has become more noticeable in society with the introduction of more ‘distractions’ in every day situations (i.e. cell phones, iPods, video games etc.) The goal of this paper is to examine the original research on the cocktail party effect and examine how it is relevant or even noticeable in among the jr. high age bracket of grades 6-8.

The motivation of the correlation of the early work of the cocktail party effect and the research done with jr. high students would be to see how technology has become so dominant in their culture that their ability to multi-task is their new ‘cocktail party effect’.

Notes From The Field: Part 1c

These are my personal notes from the Promise Keepers event held on the 13th and 14th of November. These are my notes and my thoughts that go along with them. They are not necessarily the thoughts of the speakers, so they should not be taken as so. This event was a fantastic, eye opening weekend that I shared with my father. Enjoy the notes and thoughts and if you have any questions feel free to comment or email me.

Thanks,

Session Three – Craig Gross

  • Founder of xxxchurch.com
  • There has been a change in the world of pornography
    • It used to be hard to obtain and see, now it is hard to avoid
    • 400 million porn sites
  • Porn isn’t real it is a reality and has no place in a healthy relationship
  • Two Truths about Porn
    • Fantasy, not reality
    • You are not alone in your struggle
  • 70 billion dollar industry
    • 12 Billion is pent on the industry which is more than the revenue for professional organized sports in North America
  • When caught in the struggle and fantasy of porn the question that needs to be asked is whether or not you are willing to fight for your family and for your relationship with God
  • “What started online has taken me offline”
    • An individual that confessed his addiction on xxxchurch
    • Online surfing only leads to even more addiction outside the comfort of home
  • Craig on what he sees when he looks at the crowds from his booth at Porn Shows
    • “These aren’t images, these are lives.”
      • The people that are in the industry are now real for Craig at the shows and he sees them with the lens of Christ
      • People broken, in pain and in most cases seeking for help
  • Best quote of the whole weekend
    • “You can’t blame the dark for being dark, you can only blame the light for being dark.”
  • “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” Bible
    • He does love Porn Stars, just not porn
      • These are children of God not images or fantasies
    • On average they give out 3-5 thousand bibles per show
  • He has never met a girl that is in the industry that says she is happy
  • Romans 7:18
    • 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
      • What holds us back in the world?
      • We begin to believe things like “I can will it, but I cannot do it.”
      • We get pulled by the influence of sin to do the opposite of Christ
  • As men if porn gets into our lives it strips us of our integrity and our word (influence)
  • Three Steps
    • 1) Step up and confess to God
      • God loves us despite our faults
      • We can’t live freely unless we are willing to die for Christ first
      • All roads to recovery begin with Jesus
    • 2) Confess to someone else
      • most confessional emails sent to xxxchurch are to the info account, not to accounts of actual people
      • They still haven’t confessed to a real person, they are still stuck in their fantasy land
      • nine out of ten conversations actually stop after they realize that it takes a real person to stop an addiction
        • They get scared off when info@xxxchurch emails them back
      • Filters found on xxxchurch.com send emails to your selected individuals to foster an accountability system
        • This allows for some light to penetrate the darkness
    • 3) Physical Removal
      • Proverbs 26:11
        • 11Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.
          • Who really likes vomit that much?
      • The Bible is very clear as it tells us to flee sexual sin
      • x3pure.com (type in Canada for promo offer)
        • Process of removal and a curriculum
      • At this stage if it takes getting rid of your computer do it, cell phone, blackberry etc.
      • WHATEVER IT TAKES!
  • The message of Jesus is to unite not divide
    • This was in reference to his friendship with Ron Jeremy
    • Love the sinner hate the sin idea

Community Support

I started a new book this week by Peter Block, which is simply called “Community.” It is an interesting read and a unique book with regards to its layout and content. It has a brief introduction at the beginning of each chapter which allows the reader the option of reading the summary or the whole chapter. The chapters also include review questions that not only cover the ideas in the chapter, but also allows us as readers the opportunity to think about how we can improve the communities of which we are apart. I have only begun the book, but I am excited to see where it leads me, especially with regards to the communities that I am in: our family, our churches, and also the Yonge and Eglinton area where Amy and I call home.

I had a brief thought as I read the following in the introductory pages of Block’s book:

“If it is true that we are creating this world, then each of us has the power to heal its woundedness. This is not about guilt, its about accountability.”

I started to think about the first community – Adam, Eve and God. They fit right into this premise raised by Peter Block. Adam and Eve lost their sense of accountability and what happened they felt guilt and shame. When the two of them were accountable to God, they had the perfect community. When they lost their community, there was shame. Accountability is what will lead us into better communities. If we build communities through feelings of guilt and shame, then we will not allow ourselves to be 100% committed to the communities we are apart of. However, once we allow ourselves or, better yet, open ourselves up to the vulnerability of accountability, the communities WILL become apart of us.

Let’s take pride in our communities and hold each other accountable to the decisions and actions that will either build up our communities or tear them down.

A Bright Light Found in the Blackest Night

One of the biggest events in DC Comics right now is the revealing of the Blackest Night storyline based around the Green Lantern Corps. It has the tagline The Dead Shall Rise… and up until the last year, the idea of multiple colors in the Green Lantern world was debatable. I truly appreciate what the multiple colors have brought to this fictional universe; hope, love, and a unmistakable reference to a Messiah. To my surprise, as I read Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps 1 of 3, there was a sermon reference jumping off the pages in the clearest words that may have ever been spoken in a comic. saintwalker_hs

As the reader is introduced to the Blue Lantern Corps, there is a journey about to take place to find the Messiah. Their faith and guidance comes from a fairly thick book that strikes a very similar resemblance to what the Bible tends to look like. So, where do they need to go in search of the Messiah? The top of a mountain, of course. Is this a reference to Mount Sinai and the journeys of Moses or could it be in reference toward many of the other mountain top journeys found in the Bible. Then again, it could just be coincidence.

To continue, as the family makes its way up the mountain, Saint Walker (the name of the first Blue Lantern) loses his whole family as he makes his way up the mountain. In each instance of tragedy, he continues to tell those that are around him to have faith and that all will be well in the end. Some of my favorite lines come from his son as they ascend the mountain. As the son looks down at his village from the mountain, he notices that he cannot see the tragedy and pain that filled the village and asks if that is why God does not seem to help those in trouble. To him, if God is found at the top of the mountain, then He must not be able to see all the pain and suffering. Saint Walker responds by saying that God wants to see how those in question will respond in the end.

As Saint Walker reaches the summit and feels that his faith is about to be validated, he makes a surprising discovery: the Messiah is not there. He then goes through a huge crisis of faith – yelling at God because of everything that he has lost on his journey and what he felt should have been waiting for him on the summit. As Saint Walker cries out, asking to be shown a message from God, there is a response. In the words of the comic, “God yelled back…” in the form of thunder and lightning. He sees his reflection in a beautifully polished rock and he makes his way back to the village to share what he witnessed: reflection.

From their book of faith, Garba, Chapter Three, verse One Hundred and Thirteen, it reads, “Live life every day as if it were the first and the last for they are both a celebration. And when we face the end, face it together.” In those words, however fictional, we see the core of the Blue Lanterns: Hope. Saint Walker gains the Blue Ring of Power because he posses the ability to provide hope to those around him.

I was brought back to one of my favorite verses in the Bible in Hebrews 10:25 that tells us that even in the approaching last days, we need to worship together and give each other hope and community.

I truly enjoy comics and love being able to look for lessons in them. I suggest that for any youth leader, this option to find God or, yet, the messages of God in any medium is essential to meet youth in the culture in which they thrive. Movies, music, books, poetry and even comics are communication “gold mines” for youth. If you are throwing out lessons that include the so-called secular world, you could be hurting the ministry that you are apart of… the youth are surviving for God in the secular world.

Just like the story of Saint Walker, how many of us have searched for Jesus and then were disappointed when we did not get the answers we were looking for? How many of us did not notice that Jesus was there, but not how we expected? Did Moses expect to see God in a burning bush? Did we expect Him in a cloud of dust, or even more importantly, how many thought that the Messiah would come in the form of a carpenter?

God is all around us, He created it all. We just need to open our eyes, remove the barriers, and be open to the endless possibilities of God.