Kong: Skull Island – Movie Discussion

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Right before I saw Kong, a friend told me his testimony. He talked about some hard things that had happened in his life and how he thought, because of those things that had happened, that God hated him…and therefore, he hated God. He so hated God that he did things just to try to hurt God. He thought God wanted him to kill himself, so he refused to commit suicide, even though he wanted to, just because he didn’t want to give God the satisfaction (so that one actually worked out in his favor). Other rebellions didn’t, like, he literally “manufactured a porn addiction” (when so many fall into porn, he deliberately created his own addiction) just to make God mad. You get the idea. Craziness.

The thing is, he found out later that God was not his enemy; Satan was. God wasn’t against him. God was for him. God didn’t want him to die; Satan did. God wasn’t the cause of the suffering and pain of his childhood; Satan and sin were. He had gone out to pick a fight with God, and in the end, he’d only hurt himself.

THIS is the story of Kong.

When a bunch of military guys and scientists show up to “study” the island via bombing the island, they run into a battle with Kong. Kong was the “god” of the island. It was his place, a place he protected and guarded. He had to guard it because there was an enemy and the island was in a war between Kong and an evil monster. The humans didn’t know all of this, though. They weren’t aware of the real dangers, or that there was another monster who was the real enemy. They weren’t aware that their actions were causing danger for themselves, as well as for Kong and even the world (if those other monsters were let loose and not kept in check by Kong).

What they saw was that Kong “attacked” them. They totally missed the obvious that in reality, they attacked him and the island first with their bombs and explosions. Kong was simply trying to stop them from bombing the island, but they saw him as their enemy…and they fired on him and tried to kill him. They made an enemy of him. Even when he walked away and the fight ended, they continued to try to pick a fight with him. The worst offender of this, the man who drove the conflict, was the military leader of the group, Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). He really perfectly represented the hubris of man when he refuses to acknowledge God as King. “[I’m going to] show Kong that man is king.” He hated Kong’s power. He was afraid of and resented what he didn’t understand and couldn’t control. He blamed Kong for all his suffering and all the loss, refusing to see the truth. The truth that he picked the fight. That there was a real enemy and Kong wasn’t it.

Packard started firing at Kong before he even knew if Kong was against them. He assumed he had to be. He said something about how he knew an enemy when he saw one, and Kong was an enemy. He saw Kong as an enemy, not because Kong was against him, as we typically think of an enemy, but because Kong was a threat to his power and control.

While Packard was looking to fight god, there were a few other responses among the explorers. Another soldier, Cole, wisely recognized that, “Sometimes an enemy doesn’t exist till you go looking for one.” His response was just to leave well enough alone. Don’t mess with Kong and hope he doesn’t mess with you. A lot of people respond to God like Cole. They may not be angry with him or blame him for their suffering. They may not see him as a threat, may even recognize that He does some good in the world, but they have no desire to know Him, either. Maybe they don’t see God as good and loving, or they don’t see themselves as worthy… but for some reason they just want to fly under the radar. They have no interest in connecting with God.

Then you have Hank. He’d been on the island a long time and he knew a lot about Kong. He was able to tell the newbies all about him and all about the other monsters on the island. He had a lot of knowledge and even a lot of respect and admiration for Kong, but no relationship with him. The Bible and our churches…they are filled with this kind of person—people who know about God but aren’t really personal with him, people who are fans, supporters, admirers…but not actually friends.

There were two people, however, who went beyond this. Mason the photographer, and Conrad the mercenary/jungle guide—these two were different. They not only had a sense of humility before Kong, and a willingness to understand, but they also had a desire to know Kong. They were willing to be vulnerable with him and because of that, they had an intimate encounter with him. If anyone of us is to become friends with God, we, too, must be willing to be vulnerable with Him. It can be scary and even risky, but it’s also worth it.

It’s not that Kong was the greatest movie I’ve ever seen, but seeing it in the light of my friend’s testimony, recognizing in it the various ways in which we all respond to God—that made it so much better and more memorable for me. That was my favorite takeaway, but there are two other quick points I’d like to draw attention to.

As much as it can be about our relationship to God, Kong speaks to might is right mentality in general. It was even painful for me to watch and see how arrogant our American mentality can be (not that America is the only one with this mentality, I’m simply speaking of what I know and where I come from). These guys came in with all the answers. They came in to study, to fix, to impose themselves and their ideals in a place that they didn’t belong. They didn’t come humbly. They weren’t respectful or quiet or cautious. They blasted their way in, literally and figuratively. And then, when there was resistance, they saw it as a battle to fight. Sometimes conflict is a sign that there is a need for love and a need for connection and communication. Conflict doesn’t always mean that a battle is needed. Oh if we could learn to see conflict as a signal that love and communication were lacking rather than a call to arms!! But, when you’re a hammer, you see everything else as a nail…something to be pounded and put into place.

There was one more image that stuck with me in a powerful way. Kong and the other monster were fighting and Kong ended up tangled in an old ship’s chains and anchor. It held him captive and nearly was the death of him. However, what chained Kong and held him down, when loosed, became his weapon and his very salvation. Once he got free of those chains, he was able to swing them and the attached anchor at his enemy. That was when the battle turned and Kong got the upper hand. The same thing is often true for us. We resent these things that hold us down, but what we don’t see is that those very things, once we are free of them, become our greatest weapons, the tools of our victory against our enemy. This is the power of God, that He can take the things the enemy uses to harm us and use them for our good and the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).

Questions for Discussion:

  • There were four main responses to Kong who was kind of a metaphor for god, (hater, avoider, fan, friend)—which of those would you use to describe your response to God?
  • Have you ever blamed God for something bad happening to you? Why or why not?
  • Have you ever falsely accused God of doing something when it was either you that was to blame, or sin and Satan (and/or his forces)?
  • When there is conflict in your life, do you see it as a battle cry or a need for love and communication and connection?
  • Have you ever been held down by something which, later on, became a weapon for you?

Click here to read quotes from Kong: Skull Island.

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Should Christians Boycott?!

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From time to time the call to boycott arises in our Christian culture. Most recently, the call to “Boycott Disney” was resounding throughout the Facebook landscape after the announcement was made that there would be a “homosexual moment” in Beauty and the Beast—before we even knew just what that meant. Was the call premature? Did it matter just what that “homosexual moment” included, or was the fact that there was any hint of homosexuality enough to justify the ringing of the boycott bell?

I don’t really have an answer for these questions, but I think perhaps we might want to consider that, while I am sure there is a place for boycotting, it may not be our best response in general. It might possibly be better to say “I am not (or we are not) going to see X movie, because I don’t think it’s good for my soul and/or that it would be pleasing to God.” That sounds a lot more humble than, “I’m going to boycott.” Boycotting can sound so arrogant. It carries with it the idea of punishment—that “I want to hurt this company because I think they need to be put back in their place or taught a lesson…and I am the one to do so, and am calling everyone else to join me in this crusade.” It may only be a matter of semantics. Maybe your actions are the same either way, but the way your actions will be heard by those around you can be greatly affected by the semantics. One invites others into an open discussion of why, the other makes people feel scolded and defensive.

The Bible says, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” (Proverbs 15:1). I would just suggest that “boycott” is a harsh word, a fighting word, and maybe there are more effective ways to unleash your inner-activist than to go around crying out “Everyone boycott!”

Food for thought, anyway.

On that note, I saw this video and it made me laugh. It’s a bit irreverent, perhaps, but it pokes some good fun at our boycotting, if we can laugh at ourselves a little. (I readily confess, that’s not always easy for me.) And, while this is very tongue-in-cheek, it might also give us a little insight into how our boycotting is perceived by the outside world. That’s not to say that we use their perception as a compass to point us true North—we live to please God and God alone—but that maybe we think about how our semantics and our ways of following our convictions might actually be hindering how others receive Christ in us.

Again, maybe it’s not our convictions or even our behavior that is the problem here, but maybe it’s the way we choose to communicate our convictions and behavior. Even Paul himself was willing to “become all things to all men so that” he might “win some” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Our first call is to be holy, to be obedient to God out of our love for Him. Our second is really to do all we can (within the arena of obedience) to win people to Christ. This means, we need to be careful not get in the way of the gospel of Christ, even with our “obedience.” What do I mean by that? I would say the Pharisees were those who were obedient such that their “holiness” and “obedience” got in the way of Christ and the gospel. Don’t be like them.

Reasons to ban every movie

 

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Great Message for Girls in Beauty and the Beast

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The message was there in the first rendition of the movie, but it wasn’t explicit. The creators of this newer version of Beauty and the Beast did parents of young girls at least one solid when they spelled it out for their audiences: Dignity is attractive.

Gaston is chasing Belle with no luck, and LeFou wants to help. He suggests Gaston give up his pursuit of Belle and instead look to any number of other beautiful girls who are throwing themselves at him daily. You don’t really expect Gaston to have any great lesson to teach anyone—he’s the villain—but even villains can get something right.

Gaston: That’s what makes Belle so appealing—she hasn’t made a fool of herself to gain my favor. What do you call that? LeFou: Dignity? Gaston: Isn’t it attractive?!

Yes!!!! Yes! Thank you! Dignity is so very attractive. And in this day and age, dignity is more rare than ever. Rare is also attractive. Rare is valuable—think basic economics, supply and demand. (It can also be lonely—I SO get that…but it’s worth it.) In a world where young girls (I’m talking early teens at least) are being asked (and even expected) to send nude selfies to boys (before they are even dating!!!!—just to show you how ridiculously and horrifically common place this is these days), the temptation is for girls to think they have to compete with that to get a guy’s attention. Therefore, they are going even beyond that to snag the guy of their interest.

The thing is, what they don’t realize is that that doesn’t make them stand out. That only makes them like every other girl. It even makes them look foolish. What will make them stand out is dignity. It’s uncommon and it’s beautiful and it sets them apart. Not to mention, it’s Godly.

I never thought I’d say this, but, “Thank you, Gaston, for that bit of wisdom!”

On a related note, Belle very much models the Proverbs 31 woman, not only in her dignity, but also as she takes care of her household, teaches children to read, handles business and supports her father, etc.

 

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Why is Beauty and the Beast so Timeless?

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I mentioned here that Beauty and the Beast is “one of the most beloved Disney stories of all time. Cinderella may be more “classic” but is very much a girls’ movie. Beauty and the Beast appeals far more broadly to both male and female.” Why is that? What makes Beauty and the Beast so beloved and so timeless? When something is timeless and classic, it’s enduring for a reason—there is something in it that rings true in our souls. I believe Beauty and the Beast rings true because it so closely resembles the Christian story. Let me explain.

Because of a curse, Eric wasn’t the man he should have been—he was a beast. He was going to stay a beast unless love set him free. Eric’s story is ours. We, too, have been cursed and because of it, we are less than we were created to be.

Belle’s father ends up captive in the Beast’s castle, but Belle comes along (interestingly, she’s an only child) and willingly gives her life for her father’s. While she’s there with the Beast, she begins to see not only who he is, but also who he was meant to be and could still be. Jesus, too, was an only child. He, too, gave His life and willingly left His Father and came and lived on earth with us. He too knew that He was giving up His life; that He came to die. And, like Belle, Jesus saw in us who we were created to be and who we could be… and He loved us.

The Beast learned to love Belle, too, so much so that he was willing to give up his life for hers. When we learn to love Jesus, we give him our life.

Their love started an epic war. There was someone else who loved Belle (Well, he wanted Belle; he only loved himself) and in his jealousy he incited a war between the villagers and the beast. If he couldn’t have Belle, no one could. Our love with Jesus is at the heart of an epic war, too. Jesus has an enemy and since the enemy can’t destroy Jesus, he comes after us, Christ’s love, instead. He doesn’t love us, but he does want us. He loves himself and wants us to worship him just as Gaston wanted Belle to adore him.

Gaston was defeated, but the beast died, too. He died, but then, because of true love, he was resurrected into new life—the human life he was meant to have. The movie ends with a wedding. Our story also ends with a wedding, but just as with Beauty and the Beast, that wedding happens after the defeat of our enemy as well as our death and resurrection. When we give ourselves to Christ, our old man (our beast, if you will, our sin nature) has to die so that we can live in the resurrected life of full humanity that we were always intended to have. All of which is only possible because of the love of Christ and HIS sacrifice for us.

Do you see the parallels? I could go deeper, but surely you get the idea. No wonder we love this story so. It’s our story. It’s our hope. Don’t we all long for that beautiful ideal that someone might see past our anger, our ugliness, our appearance, even our behavior, and see in us something good and loveable? Don’t we also long to see those we love who are living like beasts transform into the humans they are meant to be? We all know those people, those people who are running from the true love of God, convinced no one could ever love them, convinced they are too hideous to love or to save. Maybe you are one of those people. (If I’m honest, I’d have to say there are still parts of me that are.)

It’s not just a cliché; it’s true. Love changes us. We must let the love of Christ in if we are to be free from the curse of sin and death.

Questions for Discussion:

  • How does Belle act like Jesus?
  • Do you ever feel like the Beast, that no one could really love you? Why or why not?
  • Have you ever known someone who may have acted like a beast, but you knew there was a better person inside?
  • How does Gaston parallel Satan?
  • Have you ever seen anyone change because of love?

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Beauty and the Beast’s Gay Moment

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There was a bit of to do before the movie came out at the announcement of Disney’s first “exclusively gay moment” (read more here). Of course, no one knew what that would mean or just how explicit that moment would be, but the mere fact of the thing and its intentionality put the Christian community in an uproar, with many calls to “boycott Disney” as if we could in some way punish Disney for this indiscretion as we saw it (and maybe we can). But was it really worth the hype? Now that it’s out, let’s take a second to look at what’s really there.

From the perspective of introducing a gay agenda into Disney movies, they chose wisely, frankly. It’s one of the most beloved Disney stories of all time. Cinderella may be more “classic” but is very much a girls’ movie. Beauty and the Beast appeals far more broadly to both male and female. (I was shocked to learn it’s my brother’s favorite—the uber-macho, great-white-hunter, “Cowboy Clay” …who knew?!) It’s a love story for everyone…and now that statement is even more literally true. Think about it, if they’d chosen some new movie that no one knew, it would be easier for families to just not see it (or boycott, as the call has been—see below for a few thoughts on boycotting). But this one… it’s a story we all know and love and it’s hard to say whether the children or the parents are more anxious to see it.

On top of that, they waited to release the news until the excitement and anticipation had built to a fever pitch. People had plans to see it, never the wiser, when suddenly it’s released that there’s something “gay” in it. Had we known at first, things might have been a little different…but this feels like a bait and switch.

Disney also chose wisely (again, from a business perspective) to let this first “gay moment” be a mild one. So the news comes out, people get in an uproar and make big bold statements about boycotting before they know the extent of it all … and then people see the movie and the Christians look ridiculous for “overreacting” to such a subtle “no big deal” kind of thing. I get how it looks to the world looking in, the way we responded, because it’s not a big deal in their eyes. We were prepared for something really crossing the line… some sort of public display of affection, holding hands, a kiss, something. But that’s not what happened.

What did happen, exactly? Well…you definitely feel that LeFou is more overtly gay in this portrayal, whereas in the animated version, he was arguably just a hero-worshipper with no hint of romantic affection for his hero. (Although, “to the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; both their minds and their consciences are defiled” (Titus 1:5).) I also felt like Gaston (and LeFou, but particularly Gaston) was much more handsy and affectionate which would have increased LeFou’s romantic confusion towards his hero—although I confess that may have been because my sensitivity to the issue was heightened. These things are subtle, but they are felt.

Less subtly, when the villagers raid the castle, the dresser drawers “attacks” three men by dressing them in feminine clothes. Two of the men run off screaming, the third, however, turns and, dressed now in full drag (make-up and all), flashes that effeminate smile that is subtly but noticeably characteristic of the flamboyantly gay man. He liked his new look that is “out of the closet,” literally. Not long after that, LeFou changes sides and begins to fight with the castle against the villagers as he has realized that Gaston is the real monster. I’m sure there is another kind of changing sides that is also implied in this moment, and in case we missed that, it’s in the dialogue, as well. Mrs. Potts questions him on which side he’s on and he replies, “Well, I used to be on Gaston’s side, but we’re on [bad terms] lately.” To which she encourages him, “You’re too good for him anyway.” Which could be benign, sure. And it was true—LeFou was a better, kinder person and could easily have better types of people and friendships in his life. But, I doubt many people will mistake or miss the added connotation of a romantic relationship. It’s what you tell someone when they’ve broken off a romance. Not long after that, in the dance at the wedding, LeFou and the drag queen end up finding themselves dance partners and they have a “moment”—it’s a brief pause while the two of them get center focus and we see them smile with a sense of recognition and attraction—they’ve found each other. LeFou won’t have to be lonely anymore.

It’s subtle, maybe; left to inference, certainly. But altogether, these things add up for a pretty clear picture. These moments aren’t explicit or clearly stated, but it doesn’t make them any less powerful for it. They are seeds, and seeds, when planted in the right soil, take root and grow. Because we expected something big, however, something hugely offensive, we let this ride right on by and hardly notice it. Not because it’s not there, but because it’s so much less than we were expecting. Not to mention, we’ve been letting these subtle things slide for quite a while. Just think of all the innuendo and sexual jokes in Shrek! If you want to consider sheer volume of inappropriateness, I’m not sure Beauty and the Beast is high on the list, although the fact that its inappropriateness is homosexual in nature will trump the volume card for many.

So is it a big deal or not? Yes…and no, probably. Depends on how we handle it, certainly. Did we really overreact? Yes…and no, probably. Should you let your kids see it? Honestly, it’s moments like these when I’m glad I don’t have children and I am not the one having to make that decision for my family.

Here’s the truth, as I said before, seeds may seem small and insignificant, but don’t mistake their power. There’s a reason why Jesus himself spoke in parables. Stories are a powerful, maybe the most powerful, means of planting seeds into the soil of our minds. Let’s also acknowledge that Beauty and the Beast was a gateway. It was a subtle start, an opening to the idea of homosexuality being openly presented (and encouraged) in children’s movies. If pot is a gateway drug, I daresay this is a gateway movie. Maybe not for you or your family, but for the industry.

They say that if you put a frog in hot water, it will jump out. If, however, you put it in cold water, and subtly, slowly turn up the temperature, it won’t notice when it gets too hot. Ultimately, that frog will boil himself. This is the situation we are in, that we have been in¸ longer than we realize

It paved the way, and because they did so carefully, know that there will be another movie…and it will be subtle, too…but it will push the envelope just a tad bit farther.

We are that frog and our entertainment is the water. It’s been getting warmer and warmer and warmer, but it’s subtle and we don’t even realize how warm it is already. When someone says they are about to turn the heat up, we object…but then we realize it’s not a big deal, not a big change, not uncomfortable…so settle back into the pot and breathe a sigh of relief.

So, in many ways what they showed wasn’t a big deal, and in many ways, it is. It’s just that the ways in which it is a big deal, won’t really be all that evident. (I am reminded of Gone with the Wind – the first movie to allow cussing. Saying “damn” one time wasn’t that big of a deal…it wasn’t anything anyone hasn’t heard before, certainly. BUT…again, it opened the door. A small seed can grow a mighty tree.)

Research is proving that the first time a child hears about something determines how they view it from then on. That first time is the lens through which they will forever view that thing. So, if the first time your child hears about sex is in the locker room, anything you may try to inform them about it later will be viewed through the lens that their peers gave them when they “taught” them about it. Conversely, if you are first, then whatever they may hear later, from school, entertainment, etc., it will be viewed through the lens that you gave them about it. THIS is why it is SO important for YOU to be the first one to teach your kids about these things of life. About sex and homosexuality and family, and God, and so forth. Beauty and the Beast may not “teach” your kids about homosexuality, but it will inform them. It will put LeFou in such a sympathetic light that your child’s natural response to it will be that “whatever makes him happy” and “whatever feels good/right” to him is what is truly good and right. The temptation is to be happy for him to have found another who will return his affection.

Despite how the movie might make us feel, the issue isn’t LeFou’s happiness but his righteousness. People want to make the gay issue about whether or not they have a right to pursue their sexual and emotional happiness. That’s not really the issue, if they are a Christian. For a Christian, the issue is whether or not you love God. If so, you choose righteousness. You choose to say no to fleshly desires when they don’t please God—this includes but it certainly not limited to sexual desires. And just because someone has an interest in the same sex does not mean they get a “get-out-of-jail-free card”—they are called to righteousness in the area of sexuality just as much as a straight person is.

In this respect, the Beast sets us such a beautiful example. He died to himself. He set all his desires for Belle aside because he loved her and she wanted to leave. That is love. It’s not pursuing your own happiness, but the happiness of the other person. How can we say we love God if we don’t love Him with that kind of love? If we aren’t willing to die to our own selves, our flesh and our desires? Especially when we know that He only wants what is good and best for us? (For more on this, read here.)

So, should we be mad at Disney? Should we expect more, especially noting that they are focused on entertainment for children? I think that’s partially why we have been so particularly upset—Disney is a company we have largely trusted because it is geared towards children and families. Let’s not forget, however, that if you are a family/kids organization without Christ, then your idea of growing and nurturing children almost has to involve recognizing and encouraging all sexual orientations and lifestyle choices.  (For more on this subject, Crosswalk’s article, Everything you need to know about the new Beauty and the Beast is worth the read.)

I am not going to try to tell you how you and your family should respond. It’s moments like these I’m glad I don’t have children … because I don’t know what I would do. I can honestly say that my response would probably depend a lot on their age, their maturity, where I felt their hearts were, and more than anything, what I felt God was leading me to do for my family. I can say I would want to discuss (as much as possible for their age) whatever we did, and why we did it. I would look for the opportunity in this to stir my children’s hearts, not towards rules and legalism, but in affection towards God and do my best to minimize whatever Satan might be trying to do against the Lord in this, by making God “against gays” in their minds, or “against Disney,” etc. I would do my best to show what God is for, rather than focusing on what He may be against. (More about that in this article.)

On that note, I want to say that yes, there is this SO unfortunate thing where homosexuality is brought into the movie, but on the other hand, it is also SO beloved because it represents the message of Christ so incredibly beautifully. You may not choose to watch this newest version, but don’t let the gay issue be the only point of conversation you have about the story. Take some time to talk with people about why they love it so and help them see how it resonates with their soul because it’s the story of the Gospel. As I’ve said already, seeds are powerful, and there are good seeds in this movie, too. LOTS of them. Do all you can to help those seeds take root! (Read about the connection between the Gospel and Beauty and the Beast here.)

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The Shack – Movie Discussion

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I wrote an article a while back about the four types of people most likely to see a Christian movie. The thing about The Shack is that, while those four groups of people will see it, I believe it is broader reaching than that. As a book it certainly was a cultural phenomenon in that it reached far beyond the normal Christian circles. The movie, therefore, is already starting with a fan base far beyond the normal Christian market. Beyond that, its subject matter also invites a broader audience. The movie centers around an encounter a grieving father has with the triune Godhead after the abduction and murder of his youngest daughter. It tackles head on, tenderly, intimately, the problem of pain in the world—quite probably the number one question/objection to faith that I hear many non-Christians (and Christians alike) wrestle with. Why would a good, sovereign God allow pain in the world?

Years ago, Shepherd Project Ministries did extensive work creating resources for people regarding the book which are just as potent today for the movie as they were for the book.

I highly recommend you read the Review as well as the Problem of Evil articles as they will equip you to clearly speak into the theological aspects (and they do so in an easy to read and understand fashion). As before with the book, I suspect the movie will resurrect many of the discussions about the theological soundness of the book. And certainly, you could hardly discuss the movie at all without a discussion of the problem of evil in the world. So, it doesn’t hurt to be equipped for those discussions!

As there is so much information already available on The Shack, I will focus this article on a few of the poignant lessons in the movie. Know, however, that the power of the story is that its truths are couched in parables, metaphors and visuals—no list of lessons will quite touch you the way seeing the story play out will.

  1. Sometimes we have a hard time relating to God as a Father because we’ve been hurt by our fathers, and sometimes we need God as a Father.
  2. Sometimes we feel that God is silent. We feel He leads us somewhere and then doesn’t show and/or abandons us. Our perception, however, is not necessarily reality. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” Hebrews 11:6.
  3. Sometimes the only way to heal is to go back to our place of woundedness, the place where we got stuck. It can seem cruel to us to have to face that pain, but it’s God’s love that takes us there, so that we can heal.
  4. We may want a quick fix to our pain, but as Papa told Mack, “There’s no easy fix… It takes a bit of time and relationship.”
  5. Just because bad things happen to us, it doesn’t mean God left us. As Papa explained, “No Mack, you misunderstand the mystery… Don’t ever think what cost my son didn’t cost me, too. [As Papa revealed the nail scars in his own arms.] Love always leaves a mark. I never left Him. I never left you. I never left Missy.”
  6. Jesus point out to Mack, “When all you see is your pain, you lose sight of me.”
  7. Mack thought he wouldn’t be free until his circumstances changed, but Papa reminded him that it’s not our circumstances that set us free but Truth…and Jesus is the Truth. Therefore, Jesus, not a change in our circumstances, will set us free.
  8. “Birds are created to fly. You, on the other hand, were created to be loved. Living unloved is like clipping a bird’s wings.”
  9. Even if you can’t see it, you are in the center of God’s love and purpose.
  10. “Dreams are important. They can be a way of opening a window, letting the bad air out.”
  11. God doesn’t punish the people who disappoint him. Sin is its own punishment.
  12. The flaw in our thinking, often, as we try to make sense of our world and our pain is that we don’t think God is good.
  13. If something is to be planted, the ground has to be prepared. This involves tearing up the soil and getting rid of any old roots. Sometimes when our lives are being torn up, it’s just proof that God is making room to plant something beautiful.
  14. In the garden, the flowers were beautiful, but they had to be cut down to make room for something better. We see two things here – first off, there can be too much of a good thing. Even good things need to be trimmed and kept in balance and order at times. Second off, the good can be in the way of something better. When God cuts down something good in your life, it may not be that He’s trying to take away something good, but only that He is freeing you up to receive something better. It may not be His judgement but rather His love and generosity at work.
  15. Mack judged a poisonous root evil because it could kill him. Sarayu pointed out, however, that that root, when combined with another plant, had great healing properties. (The same could be said of Paul—he was murderous, until combined with the loving power of God.) Sometimes we judge things evil because we don’t know what good they may become when combined with the love of God. God can work all things (including all people) to good…Romans 8:28.
  16. God loves his children, even when they are in rebellion. He desires that none should perish.
  17. We are often in judgement of both God and man, thinking we could do a better job. When giving the job, however, Mack realized it wasn’t one he wanted. Only God can judge.
  18. Forgiveness is a process.
  19. We can get lost in our own sadness so much that we aren’t able to help others through theirs.

Click here to read quotes from The Shack movie.

 

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Dogs and B****es

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Photo ©Stacey Tuttle

I worked at a wonderful camp one summer that specialized in inner-city youth, Kids Across America. At that time, it was all the rage for the guys to refer to each other as “dogs”. “What’ up, dog?!” “Naw, dog.” (That’s “No, dog” for those of you who don’t read things with a southern twang.) “Come on, dog.” You get the picture. I never really thought twice about it—it was just the term of the day—so it surprised me a bit when the leadership took a strong stand against it that summer. It’s not like they were calling each other bad names, really. It was just a nickname, right? So why the offense?

I learned a lot that summer, but one lesson that really impacted me was the idea that words mean something. NAMES mean something. We may think it’s just a harmless word, but are words really all that harmless? The world was created with a word. Words are pregnant with creative power…and with destructive power. Remember James’ admonition about the power of our tongue to speak life or death, to create or destroy (chapter 3)? The power is in the tongue because the tongue speaks words.   How can we doubt their power when we read what John writes—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1)? Words were here before we were. And just as we are made in God’s image but are not God, words we speak are also a reflection of the Word, but not Him.

Words are powerful and therefore names are powerful. Names are the labels we put on people. This is why the Lord so often gives someone a new name. He wants them to be known for something new, something different, something better than they were known for before. He renames people because sometimes they need to see themselves differently. He gives people a new name so that they will know how HE sees them.

If God thinks words and names are so important, is it any surprise then, that Satan might feel the same? Is it any wonder that Satan is out to give us destructive names and to speak condemning, shaming, harmful words over us? If we just start with recognizing the power in names and the fact that both the Lord and Satan are out to name us (for better and for worse), we will likely start to notice things we missed before. Like “dog.”

As one of our amazing leaders, Rene Rochester[1] pointed out, dogs are not created in God’s image. Dogs don’t have a moral accountability. And more specifically to a huge issue in the inner-city, dogs mate anywhere and anytime with anyone, without any sense of responsibility for the offspring. This is not God’s plan for man. MAN is made in God’s image and has the ability to choose to rise above his “primal” or “animal” instincts and behave better, with character and integrity and holiness, in every area of his life, certainly including his sexuality and paternal responsibility. Calling each other dogs may seem harmless enough, but it’s low. At best, it offers no inspiration, no challenge to grow, to rise above. At worst, it gives men the freedom (and even encourages them) to think and act like dogs rather than the glorious creation in God’s image that God intended.

Sound like I’m overstating the case? Let me remind you of a few name changes in the Bible.

God changed Abram’s “high father” name to “Abraham,” “father of a multitude” (Genesis 17:5) and his wife’s name from “Sarai,” “my princess,” to “Sarah,” “mother of nations” (Genesis 17:15). We know from history that the descendants of Abraham and Sarah formed many nations, including the Jews’ and Muslims’. God changed Jacob’s “supplanter” name to “Israel,” “having power with God” (Genesis 32:28). He changed Simon’s “God has heard” name to “Peter,” “rock” (John 1:42).[2]

One of my favorite chapters in the Bible, Isaiah 62 speaks repeatedly of God giving us a new name.

The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,[a]
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,[b]
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,[c]
and your land Married;[d]
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married…

And they shall be called The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken

God gives us names that give us hope for our future, that inspire us to believe that He will do great things in us, that challenge us to live up to his beautiful idea of us.

That being said, I am concerned with another nickname I’m hearing repeatedly in the youth of today. This one makes my skin crawl a little more than the “dog” did, because it’s profanity to start with. The girls are calling each other “bitches” (excuse my French). First off, let’s just start with the fact that it’s not really culturally acceptable to use that term in public in the first place. But let’s get beyond that. It’s a curse word, a “vulgar slur for a female” (according to Wikipedia). It’s a word girls use to hurt someone (if the speaker wants to be mean) or to denounce someone’s bad behavior (if the other person is behaving meanly). It also means griping, moaning and complaining or can be used to describe a difficult or unpleasant situation or thing. The only truly acceptable (non-offensive) use of the word is when you’re talking about female dogs, which are technically called “bitches.” It literally has no positive use, and the one neutral-ish (technical) use brings us back to the start of this article, calling people dogs…animals…instead of man and woman, made in the image of God. (Not that anyone calls someone a b**** and actually, only, means female dog…but even still, that has its problems.)

It’s bad enough that we use this kind of language against each other in our anger (that’s speaking a word curse over someone, and shouldn’t be done—it’s not how Jesus would have us talk to each other), but perhaps even more perplexing and disturbing is this trend for girls to call their friends and bff’s “b****es.” “Hey, b****es!” “What’s up, b****es?!” What madness is this?!   I know people will say it means nothing, but what happened to “Hey, ladies”?! Or “Hey, friends”? There are so many good terms we could choose from and we choose b****es?! Why??? Could it be that our enemy is trying to undermine our calling as women? That he is trying to belittle us and derail us from the idea God had when He made woman? Is it possible that the reason so many young girls are acting like b****es and being mean spirited and entitled and bullying each other is because they’ve been telling themselves that’s what they are?

What if we worked to change the language we use when we speak to each other? No doubt, many of you reading this are like me and have never used a word like that as a term of endearment. So, what can we do? In Isaiah 62, God doesn’t command the people to give themselves a new name, sometimes we can’t see ourselves better. No, HE initiates the name change. HE gives them a new name. He denounces the old names like “forsaken” and “desolate” and instead gives them new descriptors. Here are just a few of the beautiful words he uses for his people: righteous, glorious, beautiful, royal, delightful (My Delight Is in Her), Holy People, Redeemed, Sought Out, Not Forsaken.

I may not have ever called myself a b****, but I’ve worn plenty of unflattering names, some inflicted by others, others self-inflicted. Every time I read Isaiah 62, I raise my head a little. I think a little higher of myself and I feel a little more inspired to live up to God’s idea of me. Is He really delighted in me? Am I really not forsaken? Can I really be holy and righteous? Does God really see me that way and is He really making me more like that? There is power in what we say.

Perhaps it starts with seeing ourselves the way God sees us, changing the words we use when we think of ourselves. It needs to go further, however. We then need to not only pray that God helps us to see others the way He sees them, but we need to also speak that into them. We can do as God does and give people new names, better names. We can initiate that for them! What if we began to talk to others with these kinds of words and names of power, of love and tenderness and future glory? If hearing those beautiful words in Isaiah 62 makes me raise my head a little higher and act a little better, then couldn’t I expect it to have a similar effect on others if I were to speak those things over them? I can’t guarantee the effect it will have, but I do know that to do so is to live not as b****es, but to live as Christ, in the image of God, following His example.

[1] Find out more about her via google… or on this speaker’s bureau site: http://www.ccda.org/speakers. Dr. Rene Rochester.
[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/name-change.html
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Horses (and other animals), Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quote for today

History is filled with men who would be gods, but only one God who would be man.  – author unknown

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Beauty and the Beast, and What to do About it

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/01/disney-launches-first-exclusively-gay-moment-beauty-beast/Beauty-Beast-Live-Action-Movie-Details.jpg

I just saw an article about Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast due in theaters on March 17.  (As a side note: the article headline, which I reposted on Facebook, indicated Christians should boycott the movie…I wasn’t posting the link as an endorsement of the call to boycott, or an argument that we shouldn’t.  My only intent was to inform people of the facts of the article.)  Apparently…

Many families are concerned after the company says the film will feature a gay character and a love scene. 

Disney calls it the debut of their first ever “exclusively gay moment” on the big screen. 

Much of the storyline centers around LeFou, the clumsy sidekick of the film’s main antagonist Gaston. LeFou, played by actor Josh Gad, struggles with secret lust for Gaston throughout the movie.

‘It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings,” director Bill Condon told Attitude magazine. 

He believes adding a gay character will bring America one step closer to accepting the gay agenda, but many parents are outraged.[1] 

And another article states, “By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural – and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay.[2] (This article is slightly more robust, if you choose to read one.)

I’ve read all kinds of comments back and forth about how parents felt they should respond…  I think the general concern is that parents are saying, “children see, children do.”  And they feel that Disney is intentionally pushing the LGBT agenda, knowing that what we see affects and normalizes how we feel about something.  Also, they are irritated that Disney had to taint something that was pure and innocent.  (I was wondering just how they would change the remake – they always change it, they never just simply retell it.)  Of course, there are others that think the concern is ridiculous and/or a message of hate…  that they aren’t going to “become gay” just because it’s in a movie… to which the parents are arguing that there is a difference in how things affect a 4-year old mind vs. a grownup’s mind. And one person gently pointed out that her personal choice not to see something isn’t about hate or even boycotting, but about wisdom.

I love a good healthy discussion, and appreciate when others gently challenge me to think through my decisions Biblically, but I’m afraid much of what I see on Facebook becomes unhealthy (and even unbiblical). I love that phrase, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” because it reminds us that at the end of the day we are all simply accountable to God and God alone for what we do, not what we argue on FB or who we convince to see things our way.

I want to point out that no matter how you respond to the movie (see it, don’t see it) the enemy can twist your response into something unhealthy in your children, just as God’s love can cover and protect them, no matter what you do. So, a kid can see the movie and be affected by seeing a gay agenda on screen. That same kid could also grow up thinking his parents were hateful towards gays because they didn’t allow him/her to see it. They can misunderstand God’s plan for sexuality, or misunderstand his heart for people—because Satan twists things and is out to hurt us. Need I remind parents that Adam and Eve had a perfect Father and there was no sin…and even STILL Satan convinced them that God was holding out on them?! Imagine how much easier it is for him with our children—with sinful parents in a fallen world! But not to despair, greater is He that is in us, and His love can cover over a multitude of wrongs! The enemy is searching the earth looking for someone to devour. God is searching the earth, looking for those whose hearts are fully His that He might bless them. The question is, who will you (and your children) be found by?

No matter what you decide to do for your family in regards to this movie (and all things), PRAY! Pray for wisdom in your decisions. Pray for the wisdom to communicate your decisions well with your children. (There were many things growing up that my parents didn’t let me see or do that my friends were doing. You know what I remember? It’s not that I couldn’t do something, it’s the WHY. I remember why my parents had concerns about certain things, and that showed me their heart, their love for Jesus and righteousness, and their care for me… and it got me “on board” with their decisions so I was less likely to want to rebel.) And finally, pray for God to protect their hearts and minds from the enemy who would try to twist your decisions for your family into something ugly. Oh…one more thing…pray that God would give you grace for those who choose differently and especially for those who criticize your decisions.

Pray. Be wise. Communicate your thoughts and decisions clearly and lovingly. Try to get buy-in from your kids about those decisions. Ask God for His protection over your children/family. Be graceful to those who choose differently… and pray for them, too! And remember, whatever the enemy intends for harm God is able to use for good. So, partner with God in allowing this new Beauty and the Beast to become an instrument of good and not harm in your home.

[1] http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2017/march/why-some-parents-may-not-take-their-children-to-see-disneys-beauty-and-the-beast?cpid=:ID:-18068-:DT:-2017-03-02-15:20:52-:US:-JG1-:CN:-CP1-:PO:-GC1-:ME:-SU1-:SO:-FB1-:SP:-NW1-:PF:-TX1
[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/01/disney-launches-first-exclusively-gay-moment-beauty-beast/
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Movies, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments