Thursday, October 15, 2015

Some Star Wars: The Force Awakens theories that are actually plausible

It seems like everyone has a theory about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Some of these garner attention in the news and social media. Most have either been stated a dozen times already or are so far-fetched that it's not even worth the time it takes to read them. Mine are different for two main reasons:

  1. They are fairly unique
  2. They are graded. A = very likely, B = likely, C = possible. Why would I bother sharing a theory that was doubtful?
Without further ado, here are my theories:

1. Kylo Ren is tasked with retrieving Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber as a rite of passage into the Knights of Ren. It's fairly well established that Kylo is after the blue lightsaber, but so far, no one has expressly stated why, except to say that there's a bit of a Darth Vader cult obsessed with getting all his paraphernalia. I'm surprised I haven't seen it making the rounds on the internet, but it makes sense that Kylo must retrieve the lightsaber as his rite of passage to become a full Knight of Ren, just as Yoda told Luke Skywalker he had to face his father to become a full Jedi Knight. J.J. Abrams already revealed that Kylo is not fully formed and that his path is similar to that of Luke Skywalker. Final grade = A.

2. The main character of the trilogy is Rey, not Finn. The first character who appears in the first teaser trailer for The Force Awakens is Finn, suggesting that this film is about him. Rey appears to be helping him in the second trailer, and the third glimpse we've had of Finn shows him wielding Anakin Skywalker's blue lightsaber. Everything we've seen suggests that he's the hero. But Disney has been purposely keeping us in the dark about the plot, so we can't trust our eyes until we have a longer trailer or, more likely, until we see the film in theaters. Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm, has gone on record stating that the trilogy follows the Skywalker family. It's possible Finn is related to the Skywalkers, but doubtful, given that he'd either have to be adopted or of mixed race to be related to Luke or Leia. Rey is much more likely to be a Skywalker, and shooting for Episode 8 has already placed her and Luke Skywalker together, probably for her training as a Jedi. I anticipate that Finn will be the center of attention in Episode 7, but that he will either be wounded or die at Kylo Ren's hand in the snowy woods, whereas Rey will come out towards the end of the film to show she is indeed both a Skywalker and strong in the force. Final grade = B.

(On a side note, some have suggested that Kylo Ren is the next Skywalker, and that his story arc will be more or less the inversion of Anakin Skywalker's in the prequel trilogy. This too is possible, but not as likely as Rey being the heir. If he truly is a Skywalker, I expect that he and Rey will be revealed to be siblings in Episodes 8 or 9. I give this theory a grade of C.)

3. The Resistance is just that, a resistance movement. This theory comes in two flavors. In the first,  the Rebel Alliance eventually fought to a standstill with the First Order (Empire) and then signed an armistice agreement to end hostilities. In the agreement, some star systems were ceded to the First Order. Those who had been loyal to the Rebel Alliance felt betrayed by their cause and formed a resistance movement to continue the fight. In the second, rather than star systems being ceded, the First Order lay dormant for some time and has recently reopened hostilities. Through their blitzkrieg tactics they've occupied multiple star systems. Thus arose a resistance movement. I'd like to give this theory a B, but since there's been nothing explicitly stated about this, I'm afraid I don't have any evidence to support it. Final grade = C.

4. We will see a return of the Mandalorian armor. Now that Disney has retconned the entire Expanded Universe, including the part where Boba Fett escapes from the Sarlaac, we have no idea if he or anyone else will be showing up in that armor. Since it was featured in both the original and the prequel trilogies, as well as a female version in Star Wars Rebels, don't be surprised if we see that armor again. I'd give it a D (doubtful) for showing up in The Force Awakens, but there's a good chance we'll see it in Episode 8. Final grade = B.

Depression is not incompatible with Christian experience

David Murray offers sound Christian insight into depression (and mental health issues in general) in his book Christians Get Depressed Too. The “too” in the title points to one of his main purposes in writing the book, namely, to show that depression is not incompatible with Christian experience. It serves as a defense against approaches to depression that treat it merely as a sin to be repented of rather than a complex issue that is often affected by genetics, the environment, thinking patterns, and (sometimes) sin.

In it, Murray addresses various approaches to depression and mental health within the church, arguing that depression is more complex than some well-meaning pastors and counselors have stated or implied. Using statistics, anecdotes, reason, and Scripture, he shows that depression may stem from multiple causes, and he provides guidance to both those who suffer from depression and those who would provide care to them on how to go about identifying the cause(s) and planning a route forward. This might seem like an overly ambitious goal for a book that’s barely a hundred pages long, but Murray has done it. The end product is something people struggling with depression can actually read and find hope in, as well as something counselors, pastors, friends, and family can use to get on the right track in providing help to others. It may be succinct, but it is not incomplete.

I personally benefitted from it during the week it took me to finish it. I was having a very stressful and difficult time at work, and listening to the book on the way home helped me see how work was affecting my attitude, thoughts, and feelings. Rather than sink towards depression, I found myself uplifted, more self-aware, and ready to tackle my responsibilities because of the book. Like so many others who’ve weighed in on the book, I heartily give my recommendation.

I should add that the audiobook is read by David Murray himself, and if you’ve ever heard him, you’d know he has a Scottish accent. If you enjoy listening to Alistair Begg on the radio, you’d probably enjoy hearing Murray’s narration as well.

I received this book from christianaudio in order to write this review.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Peru is less than a year away

Next year I will be participating in a mission trip to northern Peru in a small town called Chazuta. The trip runs from October 8-15, 2016, so we're now officially less than one year away!

While I'm in Peru I'll be helping to train pastors from all over the countryside. We'll be teaching on prayer and giving a survey of the New Testament. This is one of over ten such trainings conducted over multiple years to bring a solid theological education to those who wouldn't have the opportunity to get one otherwise.

I've already been thinking about how I can prepare myself for this trip, even this far in advance. Since prayer is one of the areas we'll be teaching on, I've been praying about the trip in general and the pastors in particular. I've also been praying for good weather. This area of the country is prone to rains and landslides that can dump large boulders on the mountain roads. It can also dump those same boulders on people traveling those roads. God alone determines if, when, and where they will fall, so I appreciate your prayers on my behalf. If this week's weather is any indication of what I can expect next year, it's looking hot. It was 96 degrees yesterday, and all next week is looking like rain.

In addition to prayer, I'm seeking financial support from anyone who feels inclined to give. In my last post I shared how you could give through my church. You can still do that, or you can give directly through the mission agency, Reaching & Teaching International Ministries. Either method is tax deductible.

Checks can be sent to:

Reaching and Teaching
PO Box 122
Wheaton, IL 60187

Just be sure to include a note (not on the check) with my name and "Chazuta October 2016 Trip"

A more convenient method is giving online either by an electronic funds transfer from your bank or by credit card. Simply include my name in the comments field.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

September in review

September is our family month. Hannah and I went on a date to see an Indianapolis Indians baseball game. Despite a one-hour rain delay, we were able to relax and enjoy ourselves. We left in the seventh inning to pick up the kids, but the break after such a busy month in August was welcome.

Mid-month we packed everyone up and traveled to Michigan to see family. This will be our last trip up north before Natalie is born in November. The trip worked out better than we planned because my employer asked me to speak at a careers event at Ferris State University, so my mileage was covered, and I didn’t have to take as much time off. We went to a corn maze with my parents, my sister Alyssa, and her husband. It took us a while, but we made it through without getting too lost. A friend of Hannah’s mom invited us to an estate sale and we ended up shelling out some money picking up tools, toys, and other miscellaneous items. Before the weekend was over we celebrated Abby’s fourth birthday early with both sets of grandparents.

There were a bunch of birthdays to celebrate this month. We went to Munro Lake to celebrate the birthday of one of Abby’s friends, and later in the month we went to a Minion-themed party where I created a “Minion-melon.” I can’t wait to test out my skills on Jack-o-lanterns. Although Abby’s birthday party in Indianapolis wouldn’t be until October, we ate cupcakes and gave her some presents on the 30th.

At church the youth group was treated to two self-defense classes from a couple from church who hold black belts in Tae-Kwon-Do. The husband also teaches hand-to-hand combat in the military. I preached at Enfoque and after the service Hannah was treated to a baby shower by the women at church. It’s hard do believe the due date will be here in less than two months.

Finally, I signed up for a mission trip to Peru in October 2016. I’ll be training pastors in a remote area of the country. Most of these pastors haven’t had any formal training outside of this program, so this trip is an opportunity for me to share what I’m learning in seminary with men who can use it for the betterment of themselves and their congregations. I appreciate your prayers. If you’re interested in learning about the trip or how you can support me, please click here.