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Summary: March 2007 Pastor’s Letter - Transformation often consumes the past in favor of the present reality of Christ; requiring us to allow the past to go peacefully to its rest.

“Upon Further Review…”

A consideration of less-than-instant replays.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

Prior to 1950, most motion pictures were shot on a cellulose nitrate film that, even if carefully stored to slow the process, deteriorates until one day (a day that has come for over 80% of silent films) the film storage canister contains almost nothing but dust. Organizations like the American Film Institute, the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, and their Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center use surviving negatives, paper prints of each frame of some early films (originally submitted to the Library of Congress for copyright protection), and parts of many distribution prints pieced together to produce, in some cases, a complete restoration of the film as it is believed to have been originally shown.

Often, however, there remains some question regarding the original vision of the director, and a variety of guesses, large and small, are necessary to “fill-in-the-blanks” as to which scenes go where, and what was and was not originally included. These questions are not limited to historic preservationists, though. Many modern films have been released in a variety of versions influenced at times by whether they were to be shown to American or European audience, whether test-audiences desired a happier ending, and sometimes whether the film “needed” to be longer or shorter. “Director’s Cuts,” “Restored Originals,” and “Archival Editions” all claim to present the vision in its original form (or originally intended form— particularly when studios have demanded changes from a director).

This all came to mind for me the other morning when talking with a Psychologist friend of mine in Redding about the various “triggers” we experience from time to time, bringing up previous similar experiences, often with a compounded depth of emotion far beyond what the immediate situation would merit. For example, I recently learned that a friend had passed away. I heard about his death just hours before his memorial service was to take place, and while traveling in the opposite direction of the location of that service. While I was disappointed to be unable to attend, I knew that the family and friends were supported and would understand my absence. At least, that’s the emotional state I reached after a significant time of reflection and prayerful consideration of the much stronger emotions I experienced initially. Simply put, I was “hopping-mad!” But why? This friend’s death had been anticipated as the result of his illness. Certainly I couldn’t fault my friends for having assumed I would know much sooner. And as a brother in Christ I look forward to a reunion with him in heaven before very long.

The timing, and the circumstances under which I learned of this death, however, brought to the surface several unresolved issues related to an experience from just over two years ago. I had received a voice-mail from a former colleague in Fort Collins. He alluded to a memorial service at which he thought he might see me. It was scheduled for that afternoon. It was in honor of my best friend, who had passed away during the night at the end of the previous week. This was the first I’d heard. As one who has guest-lectured at Colorado State University in Death Notification Policies and Procedures, I feel qualified to say that this is not how you do it. Again, though, the reasonable assumptions were that I would know.

So, upon hearing of this more recent death, I did what my friend in Redding referred to as “playing the tapes.” The mental recordings of these and other actual events, though, are sometimes not so accurately archived as I might imagine. Still, certain details are sharp enough, and the emotions deep enough, that a restoration can be made that fairly well portrays the original. In some cases, those originals are masterpieces. The director of my life has clearly had a hand in shaping a vision for ministry that has been far more elaborate, far more complex, and far more rewarding than I could have dared imagine.

For some events, however, I might choose to blame the studio, the financiers, or—in more candid moments—the choices I have made as the primary actor in this drama of life (Does that make me the hero of my own story?) for “wasting precious footage.” It happens in Hollywood, of course. There are some movies that are “so bad they’re good,” others that are just bad, and others that are “classics” that don’t merit viewing. As you may have heard, “Birth of a Nation” (D.W. Griffith, 1915) is a masterpiece, as is “Triumph of the Will” (Leni Riefenstahl, 1935). Both films are essential to an understanding of cinematic history. Yet, in my humble opinion, nobody would blame you if you were to read the synopsis of either and decide that it isn’t something you really need to see. This is the attitude I have held toward a number of events in my past.

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