On my to-do list: re-listen to Terry Gross’ interview with Paul Schrader and Ethan Hawke about “First Reformed”


Probably a month ago, I heard bits and pieces of the NPR show Fresh Air. It was an interview with Filmmaker Paul Schrader and actor Ethan Hawke about a movie Schrader wrote and directed called “First Reformed.” You can listen to it here.

You’d know Schrader from the movies he wrote: “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” He also wrote the script for “The Last Temptation of Christ,” one of my favorite books and movies.

Schrader has reached 70 years and decided that after a long career of purposefully staying away from the topic of religion, it was time to maybe pursue it.

Apparently Schrader and I share some similarities. He grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, deep in the heart of the Dutch Reformed Church. My dad is a Dutchman, immigrated to Grand Rapids as a teen and comes from the reformed tradition. My mom grew up in Grand Rapids as well.

We all had very religious upbringings.  Continue reading

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They say your media diet says a lot about you … Well … damn.


This past week has been dedicated to photo editing. Between a 50mp camera and a 40mp camera, save times can range from 3 to 8 minutes, and my computer is not slow. It gives me time to blaze through different websites for stories.

Keeping up with all the fake news in the world can become a time suck. Here are just a handful of stories that have had my attention over the past few days.

The thrill of abandon


In a little bar in New York City back in 2012, our friends Becky and Luis sat with Tina and I over a couple of drinks and we discussed a dream possibility of staying at their friend’s farm house in the Loire Valley of France. They said the farm house was offered up for stay at next-to-nothing rates.

Becky and Luis brought it up.

T & I latched on like leaches.

It was one of those discussions that usually turn into a whole lot of nothing. The home was owned by their friend’s family.

Tina and I didn’t let it go. And we reached out to the couple and asked a few times, “Do you think we could really stay in that farm house?”

Between 2008 and 2012, Tina and I didn’t travel much. But that trip triggered a full-on travel bug infection.  Continue reading

learning from life on the road


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The trip that Tina and I just returned from was the best one to date. We saw and did a lot.   And by a lot, I mean a shit ton.

In France, We visited Paris, Bonnieux, Lourmarin, L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Gordes, and several other miscellaneous sights along the way. In Portugal, we hit Lisbon and Sintra. In Spain, we stayed in Barcelona, but knocked out a lot of sights in the city.

We ate and drank both the best and the worst of food and drinks. We toured like the best and worst tourists. I dented and scratched our rental car. Tina lost her phone in plain sight, searched frantically for it. We thought some Italian tourists in a camper van somehow swiped it while we were looking on. Eventually, after almost losing our minds, we found the damn phone in the bathroom beside the toilet.

Especially in crowded areas, we wore our wallets in front pockets, and I never kept my phone or cameras available for theft like that time in Rome when I was taking a photo in a touristy area with my phone in the big pockets of a rain coat.

We took risks in little shit restaurants. We pointed and grunted not knowing but a few words in Portuguese on several occasions. We paid one euro to use bathrooms in little restaurants only to get the money back by buying something, like a beer to walk down the street with.  Continue reading

Sometimes everything you try to avoid is unavoidable


I don’t remember the exact reason why I wrote the above title. I know something prompted it. Likely, I was trying to avoid something from happening and it happened despite my efforts.

I found it in my phone’s notes the other day. I wanted it to be a blog post. And now it is, but I forgot the story behind it. Oh well.

Sometimes fate is just that. Fate. And despite our best efforts to avoid it, Fate shows up anyway. Sometimes with a shit-eating grin and a hearty laugh while your face is in the mud and your pants around your ankles.

There are religious ideas of destiny, of pre-destination, of fate. Like there’s something out there in the invisible controlling it all. Our ancestors went and made up a bunch of fantastic stories about an invisible being and that this being controls all. It took me years to disrobe these ideas and send them packing. I wish that the process only took seconds. You know, the time it takes to determine if a movie is crap or a song is shitty.

These concepts of fate are, in a sense, very human. We have brains that look for cause and effect, for patterns, for results.

The brain likes to convince humans that there’s another ear at the other end of questions or requests that listens to and responds. “Where are my keys? Please help me find them,” you say to the universe. Some people think there’s an old bearded man at the other end of that request holding your keys just out of sight.

“Please let me pass this test.”

“Please let that person like me back.”

“Please get me to my rent money faster.”

“Please let me win this hand of black jack.”

“Please help me get through this investigation into collusion with Russia.”

Who are we talking to about the things we want to avoid or that we want to happen?

I know, a big percentage of you named it god. But that doesn’t make god real. It just gives a name to the same thing everyone seems to make requests to in a time of supposed need.

And if you don’t pass your test, we’ve devoted a way to declare that the invisible being is still in control, and that the invisible being had other plans. We’ve done that for everything. “We” being a lot of people, but not everyone.

If more people gave not believing in an invisible controlling force a try, I think it’d be great. Responsibility would be personalized and controlled. The outcome of a test or an issue wouldn’t be pinned on something invisible, but visible. Something everyone can agree on.

But those are wishful thoughts for a Monday morning. #keepdreaming.

 

Who is this Kent Dobson …


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Kent Dobson Photo by Ted Bingham 

I talked to my brother the other day on the phone and he recommended that I take a listen to comedian Pete Holmes’ podcast recorded with a guy named Kent Dobson. You can listen to it here.

In a nutshell, Kent Dobson is a friend of Rob Bell’s, the controversial pastor who lead Mars Hill church to mega-churchdom. Bell later removed hell from his personal views, maybe even heaven, and concentrated on the here and now. His blasphemy cost him his pastorship.

I read about Bell long after I had left faith. Hell was one of the first things I was able to let go of as being biblically unsound. So reading him was a little boring. Bell was late to the party.

From what I understand, Kent Dobson took over the church after Rob Bell was basically pushed out. Dobson also flew the evangelical nest and stripped lots of dogma from his perspective.

 

From listening to this podcast, his perspective(s) is/are hardly unique.  I wished that when I was going through my own period of stripping off the dirty, wet clothing of evangelical Christianity, that I could have known more people like Kent, Pete, or anyone else who is able to leave the ideas of our youth.
Continue reading