Monday, February 27

We shall meet, but we shall miss him

It's just now beginning to sink in that Don Knotts is gone. When he left The Andy Griffith Show after five straight Emmy-winning seasons, it never recovered from the loss of it's funniest cast member even though it finished its run in the number one spot. In a sea of situation comedies with forced humor, TAGS stood out as a character driven comedy. We laugh at Barney, not because he told a joke, but because Barney is funny.

I was raised on The Andy Griffith Show, and a more healthy TV diet couldn't be found. The quotes are so embedded in my memory that they come unbidden in everyday life--whether it's a party with friends ("Dogs, Andy, nothing but Dogs. If you flew a quail throw this room, every woman in here would point."); checking the rearview mirror before backing out of a parking space ("Any old tramps down there?"); or remembering spelling rules ("I before E except after C, and E before N in chicken").

Thank you, Don Knotts, for working hard to keep Mayberry from becoming a regular sin town...and for keeping us laughing.

ANDY: I'd say we're better off than a lot of people. Got a roof over our heads, Aunt Bee--finest food you ever put in your mouth--Barney for a friend. Yeah, in some ways I'd say we are rich.

BARN: You see Opie, it ain't only the materialistic things in this world that makes a person rich. There's love and friendship...That can make a person rich.

Thursday, February 23

Tonight in the line at the merchandise store

Christ is still haunting the South. If you need a reminder of this, just go to a Wal-Mart in Mississippi on a Wednesday night. I went last night for groceries and noticed that the attendance was way down from the usual weekday crowd. "Where is everybody?" I thought. Then it dawned on me: they're at church. I'm usually there myself on Wednesdays, but Redeemer called off activities due to their missions conference this weekend. I was mulling over the significance of this when I passed the book section. I noticed that it was divided into three main areas with shiny cardboard signs above each. They were: Magazines, Romance, and Bibles.

Although Wal-Marts stock basically the same items, there is some variation with different locations. For example, the Flowood Wal-Mart has a wider selection of Asian ingredients than the Richland location. They know what sells, and if it doesn’t, they don’t keep it. So what does this mean for the magazines, romance novels and Bibles? Something tells me that's not the general reading categories in the Wal-Marts of, say, New York or Los Angeles.

Tuesday, February 14

The moon was bright this weekend

If you’ve ever looked at a Madeleine L’Engle bibliography and thought, “The Chronicles of Narnia reading-order debate is nothing to the confusion of the Murry-O’Keefe-Austin storylines,” do not be alarmed. You are not alone. I read the “time quartet” about the Murry family (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, Many Waters and A Swiftly Tilting Planet) years ago, and decided last week that it was time to tackle the other stories. After some internet research to clear up the mystery of In What Order Do I Read Madeleine L’Engle’s Books, I bravely selected The Moon by Night and took it to the library front desk. I say bravely because I’ve chickened out of checking out this particular book before, embarrassed by the 80’s teenagers holding hands on the cover.

Yes, Madeleine L’Engle does write in the “teen fiction” genre—in The Moon by Night a 14-year-old girl is pursued by two 18-year-old guys—but she transcends it, and what would be forgettable fluff in someone else’s hands becomes something to contemplate. Especially when your pastor preaches on the very same ideas the next day.

The Moon by Night takes its title from Psalm 121:
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

While on a cross-country camping trip with her family, Vicky Austin meets Zachary Gray, whose background and philosophy are very different from everything she’s grown up hearing. In the course of the story, Vicky tries to reconcile the evil that is so obviously in the world—the Jewish holocaust, for example—and the Biblical promise that God will watch over his people. Anne Frank’s mother prayed this psalm, and she died in a concentration camp. So while the book is a coming of age/summer romance story, it is also a meditation on the sovereignty and goodness of God. How can a good God allow these things to happen, and how can a God who allows them be good? L’Engle doesn’t answer these questions neatly, but allows room for the eyes of faith to see things differently.

I had been mulling over these things all weekend when I sat down in the pew on Sunday evening. So I couldn’t help grinning when our pastor began his message on what psalm? 121. The sovereignty of God, huh? He went on to say that we lie when we say that there is no danger, or that we have no fears because, after all, we’re Christians. We lie when we think those problems we do have can be solved with a formula (most “Christian fiction” is particularly bad about telling us this). We also lie when we think that God doesn’t care. God is too wise to be mistaken, and too good to be unkind.

In thinking about Zachary Gray, who is probably my favorite character in The Moon by Night despite his flaws, I realized that to communicate with an unbeliever—or anyone, really—we need to be honest and quick to listen. Zachary was drawn to Vicky, even though he thought faith in God in the face of evil was absurd. Would he have kept hanging around her if, the moment he challenged her belief, she started quoting scripture that “proved” he was wrong? When I was reading, at first I thought, “Come on, Vicky. Say something. There are answers for these questions.” But now I’ve come to see that listening was one of the best things she could have done.

Thursday, February 2

Movies about books

Warner Brothers announced today that filming for Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix will begin next week. More big news is the casting of the role of Luna Lovegood. Evanna Lynch, of Ireland, was chosen from among 15,000 UK teenagers in an open casting call three weeks ago. She seems to be a huge Harry Potter fan, judging from the fact that she was first in line at the bookstore the day The Half Blood Prince was released. Mugglenet also reports that Tonks, Bellatrix Lestrange, Delores Umbridge and Mrs. Figg have been cast.

Disney announced yesterday that pre-production work for Prince Caspian has begun. This press release indicates that Andrew Adamson will direct again, and the four children will return. It's set for a Christmas 2007 release.