Revival: A Memoir

After working for Microsoft for several years (managing the company’s first web team and the content for msn.com for a while, among other things), starting a couple non-profits, and producing a movie, my uncle, Andrew Himes, is in the process of writing his first book of memoirs, “Revival”. We spent some time talking about blogs when I was with him in Seattle last week, and he finally decided to start one up. The name? Revival: A Memoir by Andrew Himes. – A Work in Progress… Jesus Saves, Proletarian Rage, Tibetan Dreams, Bullhorn Arrests, and Other Tales of Evangelism, Revolution, and Rebirth.

When I read a book, I prefer to buy it rather than borrow it from a friend or the library. Even if I don’t think I’ll read it again, I almost always keep it so that I can flip through it later and remember why I read it and where I was at in my life at that time. Same with CDs. Out of the 1000+ CDs in my living room now, there are probably quite a few that I’ll only listen to every couple of years, if that often. But I don’t get rid of them because they are, in a way, a part of my story.

Along the same lines, Andy’s first post, This I Believe – Take One, includes this sentence about reading: “I believe it’s a good idea to read as many books as you can get away with, and to keep them around on bookshelves as a way of reminding yourself who and where you used to be at the time in your life when you read that particular book.”

For more musings like this, and what are sure to be some thought-provoking posts, add Revival to your links list and be sure to check it often.

Seattle Vacation, part 2

After arriving in Seattle last Wednesday just in time for dinner with my aunt and uncle, on Thursday morning my brother, who moved to Seattle about 6 months ago, and I drove out to the San Juan Islands, about an hour and a half drive from Seattle and then another hour ride on the ferry. My aunt and uncle own a cabin on the main San Juan island, a couple minutes outside the city of Friday Harbor, where we stayed until Friday afternoon. The weather was perfect, about 55-60 degrees, just right to grill some steaks for dinner on the back deck while listening to Sara Groves’ new record, “Tell Me What You Know”.

Whenever I hear a song from Sara’s third record, “All Right Here”, I think of the five weeks I spent in the Dominican Republic a couple years ago, helping lay the groundwork for a new church. Most every evening, before I went to bed, I would walk out to the patio behind my apartment, gaze up into the sky, past the palm trees, into the vast expanse of stars, and listen to Sara’s music over the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks fifteen feet away. Whenever I hear “Remember Surrender”, “Maybe There’s a Loving God”, or any of the other songs from that record now, it takes me back to those nights just outside of San Pedro de Macorís. I have a feeling that now, whenever I hear “It Might Be Hope”, along with the rest of the songs on “Tell Me What You Know”, I’ll be transported back to that evening on the island, eating steak and grilled bell peppers, drinking red wine, and soaking in the beauty all around me. And hopefully I’ll be reminded to open my eyes to the beauty around me in that minute, to not give up when I don’t see any reason to keep on believing, to realize that what I caught a glimpse of around the next corner just might be hope.

Friday, after lunch, we drove around the island for a little sight-seeing. A couple minutes from the cabin, we passed a sign by the side of the road that had once said “watch for ice”, before someone scribbled an M before the last word. “That”, I said to my brother, “is when you know you’re in a small town”. We visited the sites of the American and British army camps, dating from 1859 when the two countries were on the brink of war. Over a pig. Seriously. Somehow, it was amicably resolved, and both countries enjoy their own pork today.

Here are a couple pictures.

Cabin01

Cabin02

Tree

Beach"

View out the window

Space Needle

This was one of the views out a window of the revolving restaurant where I ate lunch yesterday. After the meal, I walked up a couple flights of stairs to the next level of the Seattle Space Needle, another 20 feet higher, and spent the next hour-plus drinking a cappuccino (a no brainer, being in Seattle), enjoying the view, and getting some writing done. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Space Needle 02

Why I Believe in God

A commentary on Woody Allen’s “Match Point”

[note: this essay contains spoilers for “Match Point”]

Spin. In today’s culture, all information is spun. It doesn’t matter what the facts actually are, whether they support or refute your argument; you can always convince people of your side (this was humorously demonstrated by Aaron Eckhart in “Thank You for Smoking”). Working for a radio station, a television station, a church, and now in the music industry, I’ve often seen the discrepancies between the “full story” and the information actually presented to the public. I’m always amused at how easily people can be convinced of a position after being given only a small slice of the information, the parts that will help them see the speaker’s point.

That, I think, is one of the reasons apologetics is not as effective today as it may have been 50 years ago. In the information age we are living in, people are overwhelmed by facts and arguments and opinions. If you argue one thing, I can easily find several other viewpoints, just as well argued, and oftentimes using the same facts, only with a different conclusion. If I’m not immersed in the same sub-culture as you, starting with the same presuppositions, you’re not likely to persuade me with what may seem to you airtight arguments and indisputable facts.

So, whenever I’m asked why I believe in God, I don’t bring up historical evidence or talk about a “God-shaped hole” or hints I think I’ve seen of Him in my life. I talk about Woody Allen’s film “Match Point”. Why would I choose the most nihilistic film in recent memory to explain my belief in God? Because of the ending. For those not familiar with the film, it is basically a remake of Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” but without the humor, as he has said that he feels it detracts too much from the point he was trying to make. Caught in an affair, Chris, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, decides to murder his mistress, played by Scarlett Johansson, after she starts insisting that he leave his wife. He is comfortable in his “real life”, and doesn’t want it disturbed. But he is aware that his decided course of action is wrong, and he decides that God, if there is a God, could not let his actions go unpunished. He is even intentionally a little careless in his execution of the murder, half hoping that he will be caught, helping out God, if you will. And when, purely by chance, a key piece of evidence that he tries to discard lands on the wrong side of the fence, later resulting in his exoneration, he is convinced of the non-existence of God. Everything comes down to luck and chance.

Shortly after seeing the film, I read a review by a Rabbi who said that, after watching the last scene, after seeing the expression on Chris’ face and his reaction to what should be one of the happiest days of his life, the birth of his son, we are left with one question: If God is dead, as Woody Allen wants to believe, with this film, is Allen spitting in God’s face or crying over His grave? And I think you have to conclude that he is crying over God’s grave. He is truly convinced that there is no reason for anything that happens, that everything is left to chance, and therefore nothing means anything. And he is heartbroken about it. Pleasure, joy, even life itself, is futile.

I told a friend a couple weeks ago that I don’t think I could listen to jazz and be an atheist. Sitting there with a glass of wine in my hand, the music washing over me, I find it impossible not to believe in something more. I hear the same echos of eternity in Mahler’s 9th Symphony and in Górecki’s 3rd Symphony, in the songs of guys like Andrew Peterson and Andrew Osenga. And I’m grateful for those moments, thankful for reminders of what I too easily doubt, whenever I hear them in music, see them in film, or come across them in the pages of books. To quote Jeffrey Overstreet, “God heals us through creation and art”.