Midnight Movies: Ghostbusters II

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I was excited about this rewatching this Midnight Movie because I love pretty much everything about the Ghostbusters. Before I go any farther into this post though, I have a confession to make, one that could possibly get me shunned by the internet forever… I think Ghostbusters II is more fun than the original. Not funnier, but more fun. It’s bigger, the special effects are better, and there are way more ghosts. I realistically know that the first Ghostbusters is a better movie, but I just cant help myself. When I see the Statue of Liberty walking through the streets of New York to the tune of “Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson, I get goosebumps.

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This movie came out on video at the perfect time for me. I was nine and I already crazy about the Ghostbusters thanks mostly to the Saturday morning cartoon. I had a bunch of the toys and I’ve still got my Ghostbusters II Flip ‘n’ Fun Jokes, Riddles, and Coloring Book. (Sample joke: “What do ghosts chew?” “Booble gum.”) I drank Ecto Coolers and wanted to be Egon Spengler (and I still kind of do). So obviously my opinion of the movie is more than a little colored by my nostalgia, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great movie on it’s own merits. 

Apparently, a lot of people think this is just a mediocre rehash of the first movie (6.4 rating on IMDb?!?) but Ghostbusters II is one of my favorite movies. Jump down to the Highlights section to see how many awesome moments are in this movie. I watched this one with my kids (along with the first one) and we all loved it. 

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One sentence plot summary:

After losing everything following the events of the first film, our heroes must once again rise up to save the city from supernatural evil, this time in the form of a river of slime fueled by negative energy and Vigo the Carpathian, an ancient 16th Century medieval tyrant and sorcerer,  and they do this by hosing down the inside of the Statue of Liberty with positively charged slime and having her walk through the streets to the tune of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher.”

It is worth watching?

Yes! If you’re one of the people who has never given this sequel a chance, ignore the haters and watch this.  Some people just don’t like awesome things.

Highlights:

  • Janosz , everything thing that little weirdo does is gold

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  • The Pepto-Bismol colored river of slime
  • The whole courtroom scene and the Scolari brothers

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  • Toasters and slime love Jackie Wilson
  • Attack of the baby-eating bathtub
  • Winston vs. the ghost train
  • Three slime-covered men in their long johns invading a fancy restaurant
  • That Bobby Brown song
  • The Titanic’s arrival in the harbor

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  • Slimer’s cameo as the bus driver
  • The Statue of Liberty walking through the streets of New York (sure it’s not to scale but it’s awesome)

Favorite lines:

  • “Everything you are doing is bad. I want you to know this.”
  • “Do…” “Re…” “Egon!”
  • “Two in the box! Ready to go! We be fast! And they be slow!”

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  • “Suck in the guts, guys, we’re the Ghostbusters.”
  • “Being miserable and treating other people like dirt is every New Yorker’s God-given right.”
  • “Why am I drippings with goo?”

Coming next:

Taking a break from comedy, it’s time to experience the awesomeness that is Predator.

Yes, that's a full Ghostbusters uniform.

Yes, that’s me in a full Ghostbusters uniform.

Midnight Movies: Stripes

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One of the tried and true comedy movie formulas of the 70s and 80s was to put a funny cast of goofballs and screw ups in a serious or snobby institution and let them tear everything apart. Movies like Animal House, Caddyshack, Police Academy, and Stripes all used this anti-establishment snobs vs. slobs plot and even though it’s been a million times, I usually like it. I like seeing serious things brought down by a little bit of anarchy.

I think I might have seen Stripes at some point on Comedy Central, but I really didn’t remember anything about it. I must not have been paying much attention, because this is a really funny movie with a great cast. This movie is built around great lines and a big chunk of it was improvised by the actors. And this movie had some great comedians including Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, John Larroquette, Judge Reinhold, Joe Flaherty, and Dave Thomas. If you don’t know who some of those guys are, check out old episodes of SCTV and SNL.

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This was one of Harold Ramis’ first big onscreen roles and I think he does a great job. Of course Bill Murray gets the best lines because he’s Bill Murray.

One sentence plot summary:

In just a few hours a down-on-his-luck taxi driver loses his job, his apartment, his car, and his girlfriend so he and his friend decide to join the army and hijinks ensue.

It is worth watching?

Absolutely. Bill Murray and Harold Ramis were some of the best comedians of the 70s and 80s both on screen and on script and they’re both at the top of their game here.

Highlights:

  • Da doo ron ron
  • Bill Murray’s inspirational speech to the troops
  • Graduation drill
  • The big reveal of the super secret EM-50 urban assault

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Favorite lines:

  • “And then depression set in.”
  • “No, we’re not homosexual, but we are willing to learn.”
  • “What happens if I refuse to get on the bus?”
    “You look like a sensitive intelligent guy. Don’t make me shoot you.”
  • “I don’t know what kind of soldier I’m gonna make, but I want you guys to know that if we ever get into really heavy combat… I’ll be right behind you guys. Every step of the way.”
  • “There is one thing that we all have in common. We were all stupid enough to enlist in the army.”
  • “Where is your drill sergeant, men?”
    “Blown up, sir!”

Coming next:

Continuing with the Harold Ramis love, next up is Ghostbusters II.

Quickie Update and Midnight Movies Format Change

Okay, so I’m less than 24 hours into my Midnight Movies project and I’m already working on revamping parts of it.

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First, I’m reformatting  the posts about the movies. After writing up my post about Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, I decided that these need to be less about summarizing the plot and reviewing the movie and more about my own thoughts, feelings, and impressions. This will give me a little more room to have fun with the writing and hopefully make it more interesting for you to read. Also, they’re going to be shorter. When I came up with my original plan I forgot that I own a business that I have to run and that I have enough kids to start a preschool so my time is limited. 

Secondly, because of all this there’s not going to be a post about Stripes tomorrow. I’m still going to do it, but the posts about Stripes and Ghostbusters II will both be out on Tuesday. That will give me a little extra time to get the format figured out. I hope you’ll stick with me as I work through all this. I’m looking forward to spending more time back in the 80s with you soon!

Midnight Movies: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

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I couldn’t remember a lot about this movie (and half of what I thought I remembered was actually from Wayne’s World), but I know loved it when I was a kid and after watching it again I remember why. I wasn’t expecting much out of this 25 years later, but despite being dated by the slang and the rockin’ 80s soundtrack, this movie held up surprisingly well. I will definitely be watching it with my own kids soon. 

There’s a lot to like about this movie. The plot is silly and fun. The dialogue is weird and quirky.The supporting cast of historical figures (Napoleon, Billy the Kidd, Socrates (“So-crates”), some bodacious medieval princesses, Sigmund Freud (“Frood”). Beethoven, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan and Abe Lincoln) is entertaining and actually played with a lighthearted respect for the real people they represent. But the highlight of the movie for me was Bill and Ted themselves. Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan are filled with so much life and joy throughout their most excellent adventure that I finished this movie feeling that way too.

Quadruple air guitar solo

One sentence plot summary:

Two lovable but dimwitted slackers travel through time in a phone booth kidnapping famous historical figures so they can ace their history presentation and start a rock band called Wyld Stallyns whose music will lead the world to become a utopia 700 years in the future.

It is worth watching?

Do you like having fun and being happy when you watch a movie? Then go watch this one.

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Highlights:

  • “Excellent!” (Air guitar solo)
  • Napoleon at the Water Lube Water Park
  • Billy the Kid, Socrates, and Sigmund Freud (complete with a suggestive corn dog) trying unsuccessfully to pick up some mall girls
  • Genghis Khan destroying a mannequin with an aluminum bat before escaping mall security on a skateboard
  • The rock concert style history presentation complete with lights and a smoke machine

Favorite lines:

  • “We are destined to flunk most egregiously tomorrow.”
  • “Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”
  • “Billy, you are dealing with the oddity of time travel with the greatest of ease.”
  • “Be excellent to each other. And… PARTY ON, DUDES!”

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Coming up next:

In honor of the late great Harold Ramis, I’ll be watching Ghostbusters II and Stripes on Monday.

Back to the 80s with Midnight Movies

After a break that has lasted more than three years, I have returned to my blog. Three years without a single post. I’m a really good blogger. 

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I’m back on this blog because I’m working on an idea here. I’m going to start a project to help me meet a few of my goals. Here are some things I’d like to start doing more often:

  1. Sleeping an amount that leaves me feeling like a functional human being when I wake up.
  2. Watching more movies instead of getting lost in the Internet for multiple hours every evening.
  3. Writing (and actually having something to write about.)

I think I’ve found a way to do  all these things at once. I’m going to watch a bunch of movies from the 80’s and blog about them. You were expecting something profound? Anyway, every night in March after my wife and kids are snoozing peacefully in their beds, I’m going to fire up a movie that was released sometime during my formative years and then I’ll try to work up some kind blog about it the next day. Pretty simple. Here are the requirements for the movies I’ll be watching this month:

  1. It was released sometime between Jan 1, 1980 and Dec 31, 1989.

That’s all. Other than that, anything goes and I’d love to hear your suggestions for some movies in the comments below. I’ve got weird taste in movies so I’m down for whatever you can throw at me. Why limit myself to the 80s?  There were a lot of great movies released in this decade that I love and I’ve missed a bunch of others that I should have seen by now. Plus, nostalgia! Also, 80s hair.

If I feel ambitious at some point, I might try to theme each day of the week somehow (Comedy Mondays, Slasher Tuesdays, etc.) but for now I’m keeping it open. I’m calling this little experiment Midnight Movies, because I’m pretty sure midnight will happen sometime in the middle of most of these. I’ll be using that title in every one of these posts, so if you have a better name for this, let me know.

To keep me on track I’ll post my weekly schedule in advance. If you want to watch along with me, that would be great!

Disclaimer: I live in a house full of little kids a.k.a. “germ magnets,” so if I have to miss a night because I’m sitting up with one of the little ones or just too exhausted for a movie, I’ll just push everything off for a day and pick it the next night. I’m only human.

Here’s Week One, starting tonight on Saturday March 1:

  • Saturday – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
  • Sunday – Stripes (1981)
  • Monday – Ghostbusters II (1989)
  • Tuesday – Predator (1987)
  • Wednesday – Night of the Comet (1984)
  • Thursday – Dragnet (1987)
  • Friday – April Fools Day (1986)

That should get me off to a pretty good start. What do you think about my list? What should I watch next week? Is Midnight Movies a stupid name for this? Let me know your thoughts!

Here’s one of the most 80s things ever to get you in the right frame of mind:

Why I Care About the Islamic Center in NYC

Lately I’ve been posting a lot of links to articles about the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I’ve decided to take a little break from doing that, not because my convictions have changed, but because I’m afraid that if I post too many people will quit reading the articles. In case you haven’t seen the links, let me state my position clearly (in a bold font): I am strongly in favor of allowing Muslims in the United States to build Islamic centers, mosques, and any other meeting spaces they want to have. Why? Why as a Christian would I support building structures that will be used for Muslim worship services? Why do I even care about this issue enough to keep posting links and arguing in the comments section?

1. I have always been very sensitive to oppression in any form.

It’s always been easy for me to identify with the the little guy who’s being bullied by the ones with the power. As a teenager, I read Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King Jr. and even though I was a white guy living in a predominately white small town in the South, I began to care about civil rights. I recently read about the treatment of Native Americans at the hands of the Europeans and was horrified by the blood I see on my own hands. I hear about Christians in China and Indonesia having to hide for fear of being killed and I hurt along with them as members of the same body.

And now I see Muslims in the United States – not terrorists, not supporters of terror, but peaceful Muslims who simply want to live their lives and practice their religion – being told by potbellied rednecks on TV that “our laws don’t apply to you.” I see victims of the terrorists in New York (many Muslims died that day too and all were profoundly wounded by the attacks) being told that they sponsored the very terrorists that stole their family members away. I see politicians and pundits attempting to deny Muslims one of the fundamental rights that our country was founded on – the right to practice your religion without government interference. I don’t care if you agree with the Muslims or not, but to deny them basic civil rights goes against everything our country stands for. It’s oppression of a minority group in what is supposed to be the most freedom loving country on earth and it’s wrong.

2. I can’t stand it when I see people use lies and fear to manipulate people’s emotions.

Muslims have become the new boogeyman in America, the people it’s socially acceptable to hate, and politicians and commentators have been quick to use this collective hatred to rally their supporters. They do this by lying and stirring up fear. The very name “Ground Zero Mosque” is an example of this tactic. There’s no mosque and it’s not being built at Ground Zero. Heck, when I first heard about the project I was against it and I think any rational person would be against building a mosque (or any worship center) in the hole left behind when the WTC fell. (Incidentally, there is a plan is to build something in that hole – a mall. Go capitalism!) So why do the opponents of this building call it the Ground Zero Mosque? Because it stirs up an immediate visceral emotional response and stirs up people’s fears of an imminent Muslim invasion.

Fear is a powerful emotion and people know how to use it to get the desired results. The guy who tells his girlfriend that he’s going to leave if she doesn’t have sex with him is using fear. Church-sponsored “judgment houses” at Halloween attempt to scare  people into a relationship with Jesus. Tea Party leaders say our nation is being taken away from us by socialists, communists, Muslims, etc. and if we don’t do something about it the hammer and sickle will be flown at the White House, the Constitution will be replaced by Sharia law, and we’ll all be forced to have computer chips implanted inside of us to buy or sell goods. Combine fear with lies and you can pretty much convince people of anything. People who oppose building mosques across the country regularly accuse the builders of supporting terrorists (even if they’ve publicly denounced terrorism and worked to fight against it). Supporters of these projects are called un-American, deluded, naive, insensitive, and a host of other names.

As a Tennessean, I’m particularly embarrassed by false statements that have been made by politicians in the primary elections. Ron Ramsey declared Islam “a cult,” while Lou Ann Zelenik said that a proposed Islamic center in Murfreesboro (the town I live in) would be a “terrorist training center.” I wasn’t aware that terrorist training centers had swimming pools and basketball courts. I guess even radicals need a little breaks from planning world domination. Thankfully both these politicians were voted down, but their statements still rile up their constituents and fuel the flames of fear against Muslims. If you have to resort to lies and manipulation to support your position, your position must be pretty shaky in the first place.

3. Most importantly, if we deny Muslims the right to practice their religion peacefully, we  act unlovingly  and drive people away from the Gospel.

As Christian, my first response to any person should be one of love. That includes people I disagree with. To act differently is to directly disobey what Jesus called the greatest commandment: love God and love people. To quote Dr. David Gushee,  Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University:

For those mainly conservative Christians who are responding to this and other mosque projects with open expressions of anti-Muslim hatred, and open rejections of the principles of religious liberty from which Christians themselves daily benefit, shame on you! As a fellow Christian, I say that you bring dishonor to the name of Jesus Christ, you directly disobey his command that we love our neighbors, and you drive the watching world even further away from any interest in the Gospel message!

As a Christian I benefit every day from the freedoms outlined in the Constitution. How can I deny others those same rights, even if I disagree with them? I truly believe that if we hope to win over the hearts of the Muslim people we must show love and understanding, and that means stopping the needless protests, the name-calling, and the generalizing that I see so much of. I hear pundits talking about remembering the feelings of the victims’ families, but we must also remember that on 9/11 many Muslims in that neighborhood also lost loved ones. Rather than acknowledging their pain and seeing that this center is part of their emotional healing, we instead lump them in with the very people who caused so much pain in the first place. We will only win people by showing love, not fighting.

If you’re interested, here are the links I’ve been posting about the issue:
The leader of proposed Muslim center near Ground Zero defends his plan
Controversy at Ground Zero
There Is Already a Mosque Less Than a Mile From Ground Zero
Why Building the Mosque is Good for America!
Islam has long history downtown
The Shameful Mosque Controversy
Olbermann: There Is No ‘Ground Zero Mosque’
“The Mosque at Ground Zero”

How Forgiven is Forgiven? A Blog Sermon

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

I haven’t posted in over a month, so I decided I wanted my next post to be a good one. After a great discussion in Sunday School yesterday morning, I realized what I wanted to do. It’s a long one so hold on tight…

A year or so ago, I preached to the youth and after I finished one of the adults came to me and told me that he was disappointed about the sermon. I was a little disturbed by this and asked him why. He responded, “Because this sermon is something the whole church needs to hear, not just the youth.” Since I longer have a pulpit, a blog will have to do.

I think that 1 John 1:9 is possibly one of the most harmfully misused verses in the Bible. Sure lots of verses get taken out of context and cause confusion, but the way that this verse is often used cripples believers in their walk with Jesus and buries them under a pile of guilt. Many of you have been told that in order to stay right with God, when we sin, all we have to do is confess and he’ll forgive us. If we don’t confess those sins and receive that forgiveness, we end up “out of fellowship” with God and he doesn’t hear our prayers. When we sin, God still loves us and our salvation is still intact, but he’s not going to talk with us until we “get right with God” and deal with our “unconfessed sin.” Therefore, we often live lives characterized by guilt, sure that God isn’t listening to us anymore because he’s so disgusted with us.

I had a seminary professor who calls this “Protestant Penance.” Catholics to confess the priest and the priest punishes them for their sin; Protestants confess to God and punish themselves. If I had to guess, I’d say that about 95% of my prayers in high school began with “Lord please forgive me for ________.” But is this what the Bible says the Christian life is supposed to look like? Does God want us to feel guilty? I’ll get back to 1 John 1:19 in a little bit but first, let’s see what else the Bible says about sin, guilt, and forgiveness.

From Temptation to Condemnation

When Satan wants to mess with a Christian, he uses two opposite strategies. The one we’re most familiar with is temptation. He coaxes and persuades us, leading us toward sin. He wants us to sin, but once we cross that line and commit a sin, he switches gears.

“See? I knew you were no good. You’re disgusting!”

“Can you really call yourself a Christian after doing that?”

“God can never use a weak, pitiful sinner like you.”

The Hebrew word that we translate is as Satan is ha-Satan a.k.a. “the accuser.” Satan first tempts us to sin and then destroys us with guilt because of that sin. And to make it even worse, he convinces us that God is the one accusing us and beating us down. Romans 8:1-2 tells a different story:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

No condemnation! God does not condemn those who are in Jesus. Instead or condemnation and guilt, we have freedom. This freedom is made possible because we are forgiven, our sins are no longer on us, we have the righteousness of Christ, and we are now at peace with God. But how forgiven are we really? When a person becomes a Christian, God forgives them of their sin because Jesus took their punishment on himself at the cross. Does that forgiveness only cover the sins committed prior to conversion so that a Christian must continually go back to God begging for forgiveness in order to stay in a right relationship with God?

How Forgiven Are We?

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Isaiah 43:25)

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14) (emphasis mine)

How forgiven are we? Our sins are so far removed from us, as far as the east is from the west, and God remembers them no more. Does that mean God actually forgets? No, but he doesn’t hold our sins against us and when he looks at us he doesn’t see those sins anymore. He sees us like he sees Jesus… completely, totally, perfectly righteous! When God forgives sin, he forgives ALL our sin. That’s ALL of them – past, present, and future. The sins we committed before conversion were forgiven but so were all of the sins he hadn’t even committed yet! I know I’m going to sin in someway tomorrow, but that sin is already taken care of, forgiven, and God won’t hold it against me or pull away from me because of it. I don’t have to go back to God to confess and ask for forgiveness; instead, I can praise him for having already forgiven me!

But What About 1 John 1:9?

See, I told you I’d get back here eventually. This verse says we have to confess our sins to to receive forgiveness, right? So we need to get out our lists every day and start fessing up if we want to stay right with God, right? Wrong. Let’s look at the verse in context with the rest of the passage.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

John wrote this letter to deal with the problem of some false teachers called the Gnostics. One of the claims that these false teachers were making was that they were sinless. In the passage above, John is warning his readers that those who say that they aren’t sinners are lying to themselves. Instead, we should humble ourselves and confess our sinfulness and receive God’s forgiveness. In the Greek language, the words “forgive” and “cleanse” mean past actions that have results today and will continue to have results in the future. This is not a continual cycle of confession and forgiveness. When we come to God and confess our sinfulness, we are forgiven. Period. From ALL unrighteousness.

When we’re cleansed of our unrighteousness and clothed in the righteousness of Christ, our sins are taken care of completely. This obsession with confession keeps us focused on our selves and our sins instead of focusing on the one who has already taken those sins away. Sin doesn’t make God turn his back on us or separate us from him. He doesn’t hold our sins against us anymore.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

So What Do We Do?

This might have shaken you up a little. If you believe what I’ve been saying here, you might be wondering what you’re supposed to do now. You know you’re going to sin and you feel like you need to do something to make up for it. After I taught this before someone told me that they still wanted to confess and ask for forgiveness because it made this feel better. I guess that’s okay, but realize that it’s really more of a psychological trick to make you feel better about what you did than anything that actually affects your relationship with God. So what do we do?

First off, realize that you don’t have to do anything to stay in favor with God. There is nothing you can possibly do that will make God love you any less or any more. You can sin in the most blatant obviously way possible and God’s not going to love you less. You can sell all of your possessions, move halfway across the world, and devote your life to spreading the gospel to sick children in a third world country and God’s not going to love you more. God doesn’t play favorites. So when you sin, realize you already have the favor of God, he still loves you as much as he ever will, he’s still committed to being in a relationship with you, and you don’t have to do anything to restore that relationship because it’s not actually broken.

Secondly, if you’re feeling guilty, check to see where that guilt is coming from. Are your feelings driving you to change for the better or are they beating you down, making you feeling hopeless and useless? Sorrow over sin that leads to repentance is a good thing, but guilt is not. God does not make you feel guilty. Instead he convicts you to spur you onward toward change. Godly sorrow makes you turn away from sin and work to be more holy; worldly guilt makes you give up.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. (2 Corinthians 7:10-11)

Finally, when you sin, stop doing whatever it was that you were doing and go on with your life. Thank God that he loves you and that that he has forgiven you before you messed up. Remind yourself that you have freedom from sin and guilt and you cannot be accused by the one who wants to destroy you. Celebrate that God doesn’t require you to do or be anything other than who you are in order to gain his favor. Smile knowing that spiritually, you’re just as righteous as Jesus himself and that is the way that God looks at you. And live in his peace, his joy, and his freedom.

Are you excited knowing that when you say your prayers tonight, you can spend a lot more time on thanks than begging for forgiveness? Do you feel more freedom after reading this? Got your pitchforks out ready to string me up as a heretic? The comments section is your place to share.

Getting Serious

Just a note, this post is a duplicate from my new blog at Websterville.net. I won’t double post often, but since it’s my first one over there, I figured I could hype it a little extra.

So, here it is, the all new Websterville.net! I’ve been working non-stop to get this site up and running, and I’m very happy with the way it has turned out. I’d love to get feedback on the new look, so feel free to leave a comment.

If you’ve been following my page from the beginning, you know that this site is not the same site that was on Websterville.net a week ago. The look is different, the focus is different, and even the hosting and framework for the page are different. I really liked my last page and the company that I worked with to put it together was great. You can make some really great sites with them, especially if you’re building a site for a church. It was a really difficult decision to leave that site and make this one. I may have even hurt some feelings in the process. So why did I make the change?

It all came down to one question: Do I want to do graphic design/website building as a side business or is it is going to be my real job?

When I built my first site, I knew I wanted to do graphic design, but I didn’t have any real focus. The site was scattered, with links to 100 different project types and the general message seemed to be, “I’m desperate. Please hire me.” Even though I can still work on all types of projects, if I wanted to be serious about graphic design, I had to find my focus.

Since launching Websterville.net, I have been blessed with a pretty steady stream of work and a majority of it has come from small business owners wanting me to build them a website. After investigating my options for site building and trying a lot of possibilities, I’ve fallen in love with building sites using WordPress and the Headway Theme. (See why here.) After working on six or seven sites this way and getting completely sold on the idea, I realized that if I was serious about selling this to clients, I had to get on board myself.

If graphic design was just going to be my hobby or side business, I could keep my old site. If I was serious about making sites for living, I had to make some hard decisions and build a new site.

I chose to start getting serious.

I am now a full time freelance graphic designer making websites mainly for small businesses. I love my new WordPress site and the control I have over every element. I love working with clients and delivering websites and graphics that make them happy and help their businesses. I love learning new ways to customize the sites I build with CSS and HTML. I love the freedom that freelancing offers. I’m serious about graphic design now and I’m seriously happy about it.

Never Miss Any of the Wanderings

If you’re a Facebook user, you might have noticed posts from this blog and my other one (1000 Reasons I Love You) showing up on Facebook with a little RSS symbol next to them. Thanks to a handy little site called dlvr.it, when I post on either of these blogs, it will be automagically (that’s right) posted on my Facebook page. So if you’re using Facebook, you should never have to miss out on any my posts, whether you want to or not.

If you really, really want to make sure you don’t miss anything, I’ve added a subscription link in the upper right hand corner of the page. Click there to subscribe through any RSS reader like Google Reader, iGoogle, Netvibes, or others. If you’re not using an RSS reader, it’s a great way to keep up with web content on your favorite sites. I personally like Google Reader. And if you’ve got an iPhone or iPad, you can pick up an app like Feeddler that syncs with Google Reader to pull all your feeds over to your mobile for easy access.

Please subscribe and leave some comments every now and then. Hope you enjoy reading and interacting here on this page! I’m always open for suggestions, so hit me up if you have any ideas for stuff that would make this better for you.

Unprofessional Christian

For the past few weeks, I’ve been doing something that I haven’t done since I was in college. I’ve been going to church on Sunday without being paid for being there. I don’t have to go if I don’t want to. But I actually do want to be there. I even want to serve and I don’t want or expect any money for doing it.

I’ve gone amateur.

I’m not saying that the paycheck was the only reason I went to church when I was on staff, but when going to church is also going your job, it’s impossible not to occasionally have mixed motives. For example, when the average church member misses a church service, they are missed and prayed for. When one of the ministers on staff misses a Sunday, the same things happen, but they also use a vacation day or a sick day. They must refer to the employee handbook to see exactly how many absences are allowed without it affecting their pay. For a minister, missing a day at church is not only missing out on worship and fellowship, but it’s also a business decision that could affect their career.

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that.

I realize that every paid job involves hours, absences, time sheets, and all that other administrative stuff, but this is church. Church should be different, right? But it gets even more complicated that. Not only is a minister’s church involvement affected by the job, but the minister’s own spiritual health can get mixed up in the pursuit of a paycheck.

According to a Barna poll, 70% of pastors admit that the only time they study the Word is when they’re preparing for a lesson. Even more, when a church member is struggling with sin, they can go to their Sunday School class or small group and pour out their hearts to get support and encouragement. However, when you’re on staff in a congregationally governed church, those small group members are not only your friends and companions, they’re also you’re employers. Most people only have one or maybe even two bosses to keep happy, but a minister has hundreds and they hold the power to hire and fire you. A minister who confesses their struggles to the church at large could be putting their job on the line (depending on how invincible a congregation wants their ministers to appear.)

So because they need to keep that job, many ministers hold it all inside, putting on a strong outward appearance to keep anyone from seeing their weakness. Then, because they have no one to turn to, the sin in their life is free to fester. Maybe that’s why 50% of pastors polled say they are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry, but they stay because they don’t have any other way to make a living. Sometimes, they keep their job by forfeiting their soul.

I hate talking about church using terms like “paycheck,” “employer,” and “professional.” The church is not a business, but it’s easy to forget that when church is your job. It’s easy to become a professional Christian. I’m definitely not opposed to paying ministers; they work extremely hard and deserve to be compensated. I admire the godly men who are able to serve on a church staff without letting the job (or the fear of losing it) take over their spiritual lives. I just personally am happy being an amateur for now.

If you’re interested in reading more about those statistics and the pressure that ministers face in their jobs, I strongly encourage you to read Mark Driscoll’s Death by Ministry series, compiled here in a handy PDF file.