Sunday, May 8, 2022

Mother's Day 2022

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  Thank you!  We love you! 💕

One bright and guiding light
That taught me wrong from right
I found in my mother's eyes

Those faithful tales she told
Of streets all paved in gold
I found in my mother's eyes

Just like a wandering sparrow
One lonely soul
I'll walk the straight and narrow
To reach my goal

God's gift sent from above
A real unselfish love
I found in my mother's eyes.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

George Perez, Comics' Titan

For comic fans, when you mention any superhero, there is always a specific artist that leaps to mind as epitomizing the look of that character.  The artist defines the character.  For some, it is the first artist they have exposure to, with that first exposure burning the experience into their brain. For others, it is someone like Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, whose art for DC Comics characters was used for every piece of merchandise in the 1970s and 1980s, from books, to apparel, to folders and lunch boxes.  Chances are, if you can instantly recognize a particular Superman image outside of comic books, it's Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.  

For me, the artist I always leap to is George Perez. And because of his immense talent and prodigious output, it's not one specific character - it's nearly every Marvel and DC Comics superhero.

To me, he is the definitive superhero artist.

When I picture virtually every superhero, its his art that leaps to mind.  Perez's art in many ways defies description.  It's intricately detailed, but not hyper-realistic nor overly stylized.  It's active and vibrant in the way the best cartoons and comics are, but carries more detail in a single panel than many other cartoons or comics have in their entire product.

His art pushed the boundaries of what is possible in a single comic's page or panel.  Never content with what he had done previously, he always sought to top his previous artwork, increasing the complexity of panel design and crowd composition.  He holds the records for the largest number of characters on a single cover, soaring over 200 with his covers for Crisis on Infinite Earths and JLA/Avengers.

Perez created seminal runs of Wonder Woman, Justice League, Superman, Teen Titans, and the Avengers.  He drew the crossovers that are still seen as groundbreaking today - Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Infinity Gauntlet, and the historic intercompany work JLA/Avengers.  And he could do it all.  He penciled, he inked, he wrote.  And he did it with such perfectionism.

Above all, Perez had the greatest relationship with his fans.  Perez, ever the consummate professional, was known for having the longest lines at conventions, and yet still prioritizing time with each fan, singing and sketching on whatever they brought him.  Hour after hour, I've read stories today of other creators admiring this ability and wondering if he ever ate.  He has been described as the nicest man in comics, and from all indications, it seems to be 100% true.  

On December 7, 2021, Perez announced that he had been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer.  He made the decision to forgo any additional treatment and to focus on making the most of the life he had left.  Particularly, seeking to find ways to celebrate his life with his fans while he was still here.  Looking to sign books, looking to share stories, and to share the hugs that he was famous for.  I shed a few tears that day, moved by the love he had for those around him.  To be at what we would consider such an extreme low, and to be still moved by love.

Perez passed away yesterday peacefully at his home, at the age of 67.  

The light and spirit that he brought to this world and shared with us will be greatly missed.

May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

May the 4th 2022

If you traveled back 45 years, little could anyone imagine how big Star Wars would become.  At that time, Star Wars was just a movie that was set to premier 20 days later.  Given the recent performance of sci-fi at the time, it wasn't expected to have much of an impact.

And yet, here we are, with Star Wars a global phenomenon.  A multi-billion dollar, multi-media franchise.  Star Wars land, aka Galaxy's Edge, has finally opened.  Jediism is even a registered and recognized religion.

Yes, the movies can be clunky, they can be corny, they don't always work that well.  But there is still a magic in them.  Particularly in the original trilogy.  Lucas stayed so close to the mono-myth, to Campbell's Hero's Journey, that he created a new mythology that still resonates today.

We still connect to hope.  We still want to see good triumph over evil.  To see the evil Empire fall.  We like seeing Nazis lose, even if it's space Nazis.

Plus, the story, the world is so big, there is room for all kinds of storytelling, witnessed recently by the success of the Mandalorian.  Since we've viewed a lot of Akira Kurosawa, we can see his influences on Star Wars.  The touches from Hidden Fortress, from Yojimbo.  We talked about how we now want to see Seven Samurai in Star Wars or what Throne of Blood looks like.  What Casablanca looks like in Star Wars.  A more James Bond inspired Agent of the Empire.  You can tell almost any war story, any samurai story, any western in the world Lucas created.

If you are looking for ways to celebrate, for the best content, may I suggest the Original Trilogy, the Clone Wars television show (particularly the later seasons), The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and Rogue One and Solo of the newer material.

Or just dive in fully and embrace the weird parts, like Caravan of Courage or Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.  I mean, even the Star Wars Holiday Special has its moments.  Look it up on YouTube.

Enjoy the day.  Remember, there is hope, even when the world looks its darkest.  Look for good to win out in the end.

And of course, may the Force be with you, always.

Or, for my more orthodox Jedi,

May the Force be with you.
And also with you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Superman @ 84

Superman turned 84 yesterday, marking the anniversary of the publication of Action Comics #1 on April 18, 1938.  The series has been rebooted, the costume has changed and changed back, and Superman has died and come back (a few times), but the first superhero is still being published monthly and still fighting the never ending battle.

And boy do we need him now more than ever.

Think about it.  Everything Superman stands for seems to be under attack.

"To best be in a position to use his amazing powers in a never-ending battle for truth and justice, Superman has assumed the disguise of Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper."

The American Way was later added to Superman's fight, making the better-known phrase "Truth, Justice, and the American Way."

But what is truth when unpopular realities can be dismissed as "fake news" or a documented record can simply be denied.  When the images we see must be evaluated for their level of manipulation.  When scripted dramas are passed off as reality television.  What is truth when feelings and opinions matter more than facts.

What is justice when it seems to be applied unevenly at best.  When the color of ones skin can be the difference in a business meeting in a coffee shop and an arrest at a coffee shop or between life and death in a traffic stop.  When antisemitic, white power, and alt-right groups are on the rise.  When the gender pay gap still exists.  When affluenza is a recognized condition.  What is justice if it is not blind.

What does the American Way mean anymore.  Especially when our country is as fractured as it is.

Sadly, even the "reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper" part is going away in our society.

Superman has always existed to be our ideal.  The hero of heroes.  The greatest.  He has been a social-justice warrior before the term ever existed (look back to those initial comics where he was beating up slum lords and corrupt business men).  The Blue Boy Scout.  A father figure figuratively and literally.  The leader of gods and men.

He has been portrayed as a Messiah figure of late, though that is a little misguided in my opinion.  He is much more of a representation of Moses, the leader-deliverer.  A child sent away in a vessel, raised by adopted parents who discovers his heritage and becomes a leader and inspiration.  An important distinction given the heritage of Siegel and Shuster, two Jewish kids growing up in the Depression, with a war raging in Europe.  Into these dark times, these two guys created a beacon of hope.  A strong man who could stop all the bullies and protect the little guy.

Over time, Superman's character continued to solidify.  Powers and weaknesses came and went; some of them very, very strange.  But the core of the character remained.  Superman is honest, fair, and decent.  He is a paragon of virtue who knows and does what is right.  He is the strongest one there is, but uses that strength to protect only, not to intimidate or bully.  Strength with responsibility.

And through the years, we have seen him bubble to the surface when he is needed.  Christopher Reeves fully embodying the character more than any other actor, making us "believe a man could fly."  More than any actor, Christopher Reeve gave the character a lightness, a comfort in his own skin than shone brightly through the screen.  The movies may be a little corny and only two of the four really work, but there is no denying the sincerity of the portrayal that would define the character.

It's that character we need again.  Not the struggling, near-objectivist protagonist present in the more recent Warner Brothers films.  

We need that paragon, that beacon of hope to inspire us again.  The example that causes us to find a better way.  That figure that causes us to lift our heads and look...

Up in the Sky!

Monday, April 18, 2022

Resurrected Monday 2022

Easter is now officially over.

The question is, what now?

The Resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.  If Christ is not resurrected, then what hope do we have.

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith.  In that case, we are also exposed as false witnesses about God.  For we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead but He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men."
1 Corinthians 15: 12-18

The greatest hope of the Resurrection is not that Jesus was raised once.  It's that He remains alive.  He is alive and omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  He is alive and at the right hand of the Father.  He is alive and reigning on high.

That is something we can and should celebrate each and every day of the year!

For far too many people, Easter is the one time of year that the Resurrection is given any thought.  It may be one of only a couple of times some people enter the church, likely as a responsibility to family.  It's the only time they hear the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.  And with the Monday after Easter, everything is back to normal.  Easter is over.  The obligations are complete.  Reality sets back in.

Sadly, I think this is the case for far too many Christians as well.  

Oh, they can quote the verses.  They sing "My Redeemer Lives," "He Lives," and "Resurrecting."  They are in services every week, and they would say they believe every word of the Easter story.  They believe in Jesus' death and literal resurrection.

They just don't live like it.

For far too many Christians, the Resurrection is brought out at Easter and then celebrated, but then Jesus is put back in the tomb or back on the cross.

Others may only be celebrating this one time a year; gathering with family for the annual obligation.  Without being able to gather this year, what happened to that obligation?  Did many still view a service out of habit?

Jesus on the cross is marketable.  It's fashionable.  It can be worn on t-shirts and jewelry.  It can be put on Bible covers, hung on walls, and be used as an easily recognizable symbol.  And when Jesus remains on the cross, when he remains a savior that died for our sins, then we have been saved and our present obligation ends.  Likewise, with Jesus in the tomb.

The resurrection is something different.  If Jesus not just rose again, but is alive today, then we have obligations to him.  We have to recognize him as Lord.  As the ruling King of Kings.  And we have to live accordingly.  Jesus as Lord requires more of us.

"For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.  For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death works in us, but life in you."
2 Corinthians 4: 5-12

Leaving Jesus in the tomb or on the cross misses out on the power that He can demonstrate in our daily lives.  On the mission that He has for us today.  Now.  On the blessings, the comfort, and the life that only He can provide.

This seems to be a great part of why the early church did not use the iconography of the crucifix.  The cross was too recent, too painful, perhaps too close to the reality of what the crucifix did.  It was seen as the instrument of torture that it was.  

Instead, the imagery was focused on the Good Shepherd.  Jesus with a lamb resting across his shoulders.  Jesus with the shepherd's crook.  

And to me, that really re-centers the focus of the Christian life.  Don't get me wrong, the crucifix is still powerful imagery and represents the greatest victory that we have.  There is, however, also a tendency to treat it as a one-time historical event, both in the life of Christ and in our lives.  It's too easy for us to leave Christ on the cross.  To stop at our salvation and not pursue sanctification - to just get "fire insurance" and that's it.  To treat Jesus as just Savior and not Lord.

Focusing on the Good Shepherd reminds us that He is still watching over us.  He is still guiding us and protecting us.  And that we are still required to be listening for His voice.  To follow His voice and His voice alone.  To go where the shepherd guides us and to graze there.   To lie down in good pastures, to drink still waters, to graze along the Paths of Righteousness.

It reminds us that the Good Shepherd is and should be a part of our daily lives. 

So don't let your celebrating end.  Don't let Easter be the end of your remembrance and celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.  Don't keep Jesus in the tomb.

He's alive!


Now let us live like it on more than just Easter Sunday.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter Sunday 2022

"Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.  But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.  Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.  Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen!  Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.'"

Luke 24:1-7

Today marks the greatest celebration of the Christian life.  The greatest news that could be shared.  He is not among the dead.  He's alive!  He's alive!  He's alive and I'm forgiven, Heaven's gates are open wide!

We have hope because He has won the victory over death and the grave.  No matter how dark Friday was, no matter how difficult the waiting on Saturday, it's Sunday and Christ is victorious!

May the joy and grace of the Easter season be on you and your family!  If you do not know the reason why we celebrate, I pray you find yourself surrounded with friends who exemplify the good news and are overjoyed to share. There are plenty of online opportunities today to join a celebration.

God’s blessings on you today and continuing through this year.

"And the morning that You rose
All of heaven held its breath
Till that stone was moved for good
For the Lamb had conquered death

And the dead rose from their tombs
And the angels stood in awe
For the souls of all who’d come
To the Father are restored

And the Church of Christ was born
Then the Spirit lit the flame
Now this gospel truth of old
Shall not kneel shall not faint

By His blood and in His Name
In His freedom I am free
For the love of Jesus Christ
Who has resurrected me

Praise the Father
Praise the Son
Praise the Spirit, three in one
God of glory, Majesty
Praise forever to the King of Kings"

Words and Music by Jason Ingram, Brooke Ligertwood & Scott Ligertwood
© 2019 Hillsong Music Publishing CCLI: 7127647

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Holy Saturday 2022

Here the whole world (stars, water, air, and field, and forest, as they were reflected in a single mind) like cast off clothes was left behind in ashes, yet with hopes that, in lenten lands, hereafter may resume them on Easter Day.
-  C.S. Lewis - 

Holy Saturday reflects on an interesting period of time in human history.  The day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  That period between death and resurrection.  The period between the event that causes suffering and the event that brings deliverance.  The eternity between sorrow and joy.

In the Easter week, Friday is definitely a difficult day.  It's the infliction of pain.  It's the day where the death occurs, the suffering is inflicted.

But to me, Saturday, that next day has to be the worst.  It's that period of waiting.  Of reality setting in.  The shock wears off, and everything is real.

On Friday, they were experiencing everything as it was happening, perhaps holding out hope for a miracle to completely change their circumstances that day.  Perhaps in complete shock through the whole experience.

Saturday is the day everything sharpens.  Jesus died.  And for all the disciples know, he is not coming back.  It's that period we all find ourselves in, where all we can do is just wait in our suffering.  And I do not know about you, but I'm terrible at waiting.  I want solutions. I want action.  I want to change things, now.   And the fact always remains that you cannot rush this time.

Saturday is when grief begins.  

The good news is that we know it does end.  It does get better.  "Every storm eventually runs out of rain."  Especially, for those that follow the Way, for those truly living the life He has called us to, we know the end.  Even if we do not see the victory here, we know who holds it in His hand.

It's Holy Saturday.  But Easter is Coming!

Today Thou dost keep holy the seventh day,
Which Thou has blessed of old by resting from Thy works.
Thou bringest all things into being and Thou makest all things new,
Observing the Sabbathh rest, my Saviour, and restoring strength.