The Process

The man must be patiently cultivated to produce a wise man; and the wise man must be tested and tried if he is to become righteous, and the righteous man must have substituted the will of God for his individual will, if he is to become a godly man.

Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881)

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Sin vs. Middle Age

“If people fought sin as hard as they do middle age, earth would be a moral paradise.” Hal Boyle, columnist

So. Very. Convicting.

 

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The Mountain Between Us – Movie Discussion

The-Mountain-Between-Us-2017-Poster

When Alex and Ben, two strangers, charter a plane and the pilot dies mid-flight, they find themselves lost in miles of snowy, mountain wilderness. Alex is injured. No one knows where they are. All means of communication are destroyed. Their only hope is to get themselves out.

Alex urges Ben to go on without her. She is only going to hold him back because of her injuries. He would have a better chance of survival without her, but he refuses to leave her behind. She offers to sacrifice herself for him. He sacrifices himself for her. They know their odds of survival are almost impossible, but they have to try. And together, they do survive.

Even though it seemed that Ben would have been better off without her, he needed her. They kept each other going emotionally. She offered a different perspective and insight into their situation. And later, their roles were reversed and it was she who saved him.

The movie is an on-going illustration of the Biblical principle that he who wishes to save his life will lose it. But, in losing their lives for another’s sake, they found it. (The verse is actually, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” Matthew 16:25.) It was only because Alex and Ben each willingly gave their lives for each other, that they saved their lives. Had they tried to save themselves, they both would have died. Similarly, they both demonstrate Jesus’ words in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.”

Click here to read quotes from The Mountain Between Us.

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The Stray – Movie Discussion

stray long

The Stray is a sweet, family-friendly movie based on a true story about a family and their dog. When Mitch suggests to his wife, Michelle, that they should get a dog, she reluctantly agrees that they can pray and ask for one, and if a stray dog shows up, she’ll accept it as God’s will and let it stay, but she won’t go looking for one. Not long after, a stray dog shows up and they get Pluto. Here are a few (10) of the life-lessons you will find in the movie.

    1. God is not too busy to care about your desires. Rachel, their daughter, immediately prays for a dog (hearing her mom’s challenge to her dad). Michelle tells Rachel that “God has better things to do than get us a stray!” More because she doesn’t want a dog than because she doesn’t believe God cares. But in either case, the message, when the dog shows up, is clear—God DOES care and HE is NOT too busy and does NOT have better things to do… He cares about the little things that we care about. He cares about the flowers of the field and the birds of the air—He certainly cares for us. “Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:7).
    2. When you make a lot of mistakes, you have a lot to be sorry for. Let me explain. Mitch was busy all the time with work and frequently missed his son’s games. He told Christian he was sorry, but Christian, wisely, pointed out, “You’re always sorry because you’re never there.” We have a choice—we can always be sorry because we keep making the same mistakes, or we can stop making those choices and stop having to apologize. We have choices. We don’t have to live in a constant state of apology. We can choose to make better choices in the first place. As Jesus famously said, “Go and sin no more.”
    3. Just because you are working at something close to your dream, doesn’t mean you are actually working at your dream. Mitch said they were in LA chasing their dreams, but Michelle pointed out, “Your dreams or ours? Because my dream is a happy family and we’re not doing so well. And you’re dream is to be a writer and you’re not doing that either.” He was reading other people’s screen plays, but not writing his own. It was close, but that’s not the same. He was helping other peoples’ dreams come true, not chasing his own.
    4. You can believe in someone without believing in the direction they are currently headed in. Michelle told Mitch, “I believe in you. I do. I just don’t believe in this version of you. I definitely don’t believe in this version of us.” She wasn’t giving up on Mitch, but she was redirecting him and helping him get back on track.
    5. “Some things take time to fix” that’s what Michelle told Mitch about his broken relationship with his son. He was frustrated that Christian wasn’t immediately receptive to his attempts, but she kept reminding him, some things take time to fix. And frankly, some things are worth taking the time and effort to fix.
    6. Often, God puts the answer to our need into play long before our need arises. Michelle commented about Pluto, “He was the answer to problems we didn’t know we had.” They’d prayed for a dog, God sent them one, and he turned out to be the solution, the answer, to problems they weren’t even aware of. Before they even had need, God was in motion, supplying the answer. Beautiful. We see this over and over in the Bible. Just look at how often God sets in motion raising up a deliverer for His people so that he is ready when the time is right. God is always at work
    7. God can use even bad things for good (Romans 8:28). When Mitch and his son and son’s friends got struck by lightning, as horrific as it was, it brought him and his son back together. They lost their dog, but gained a relationship with each other.
    8. Ask in confidence. When Christian was praying for his Dad’s life, he heard God tell him to “ask in confidence.” God tells us to pray with confidence in His Word. See Hebrews 11:6, Ephesians 3:12, Hebrews 4:15-16…to name a few!
    9. When God moves you to pray for someone, do it! Michelle did not know why her daughter was compelled to pray for Mitch and Christian on their camping trip, but they prayed for them anyway. Turns out, God had them praying for their loved ones in their time of need. As Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us, He asks us to join Him in intercession for each other.
    10. Sometimes you have to give up something to gain something better. Jesus tells the parable about the man who sold all his possessions to buy a field because the field had a great treasure buried in it. He had to give up all he had to gain something of even greater value (Matthew 13:44-46). This is exactly what Mitch had to do. He had to give up his career in LA and all that he had worked for to gain back his family. In so doing, he also found the career he had truly wanted all along.

 

 

Read quotes from The Stray here.

 

 

 

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Where Love is Great

Some quotes just stick in your mind the moment you hear them and never leave. I read Othello in high school and a quote from that story never left me. Except, now that I look it up, I have the quote right, but the story wrong. It’s actually from Hamlet. Seems to me it applies to Othello so well that that is where I should have read it, and it’s quite possible that a teacher quoted the line from Hamlet as we read Othello for just that reason. In either case, the line has been rattling around in my brain recently, every day, with my own addition to it.

Shakespeare wrote, “Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear.” I remember it in conjunction with Othello because this is pretty much the plot device for the entire story. Iago plants seeds of doubt which turn into fear of unfaithfulness between Othello and his love, Desdemona.

But my thoughts aren’t about romantic love or fear these days, they are about brotherly love for our fellow man/woman. The phrase that has been running through my mind, a secondary couplet, you might say, is this: “Where love is small, the littlest offenses are great.”

Have you ever noticed this at work? Have you ever had to share a space with someone who you didn’t have much of a relationship with and found that everything they did was annoying? Little things that should really not be that offensive are a great bother to you? On the other hand, have you ever had someone in your space with annoying, irritating habits, but that you loved deeply? How different is your response to them? I think of mothers. They may not like that their children fight, yell, demand attention impatiently, and leave messes behind them at every turn, but their love minimizes those offenses. What they might not tolerate from anyone else, they amazingly endure from their children. Not only do they endure it, they serve. They clean up the messes. They patiently ask their children to be quieter. They find ways to pacify them. The difference isn’t in the annoyance, but in the love someone has for the annoyer.

The difference is perhaps most pronounced when your reaction to someone’s quirks changes after you get to know them. I’ve seen it work both ways. You start out enamored with someone and see nothing troubling about them (even when everyone else may be trying to show it to you). Later, however, the newness wears off and your affections die down, and then you suddenly realize that love really was quite blind. Now you have no tolerance for things which you didn’t even see before. Or, more positively, it can work in the other direction as well. The movie Green Card showed this side of it. Two people couldn’t stand each other until they got to know each other and in the end, though neither had changed, their affection for each other had, and with it, their tolerance of their differences. There is no offense where there is love; there is only grace.

The Bible puts it this way, “Above all, love one another deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Love minimizes offenses. It sees them less, and where it sees them, it covers them. Where love is great, offenses are diminished.

Is someone in your life annoying? Are you irritated with someone…or perhaps with everyone? Their habits, their hygiene, their loudness, their quietness, their rudeness, their sloppiness or their neatness… Perhaps the problem is not with them, but with your love for them. Maybe you don’t need to require that they become less annoying, maybe you need to pray and ask God for more love.

This sounds like I’m pointing fingers, making suggestions to you to change… Just know that that is not the case. There is a reason why this phrase has come into my mind every day at the same particular time of day. Because I have been annoyed, and I hear God gently reminding me that these are such small offenses to be so great, and the only reason they are offenses at all is because of my lack of love. The issue is that I am offendable. If those same “offenses” had been done by someone I loved, I would likely not even notice, or if I did, I would think nothing of serving and giving grace in response. So don’t take offense…I’ve been writing this article to myself for days.

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Battle of the Sexes – Movie Discussion

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I saw a preview of Steve Carrell as Bobby Riggs, hilariously “putting the show back in chauvinism” and Emma Stone as Billie Jean King good naturedly sassing him back—and I couldn’t wait to see it. I love true stories (as true as Hollywood makes them, anyway) and I love sports, and this looked delightful, comical and maybe even significantly moving. The second half of the movie did deliver some of what I was expecting, but the first half was an uncomfortable shock, and the overall message of the movie was not at all what was advertised. Spoiler alertBattle of the Sexes is FAR more about lesbian rights than women’s rights. The battle of the sexes was more of a delivery method, than the actual point of the story.

There are different ways a story lets you into its main idea. Perhaps the most common way is its bookends, its beginning and ending. The first half of the movie focused on Billie Jean King’s developing relationship with her (very aggressive) hairdresser. Billie Jean was married and tried, if weakly, to turn down Marilyn’s advances, but when Marilyn made it clear she didn’t care about right and wrong , Billie Jean gave in. (Personally, I found As the pressures of tennis and the women players quest for equal pay mounted, Billie Jean was torn between her guilt over her affair (which her husband had discovered), her attraction towards Marilyn, and the need to focus on her game.

So Marilyn and Billie Jean took a break. Like many a romantic movie, the characters get together, there’s rising conflict which strains their relationship, and they take some time apart. During that time, they each grow and each realize how much they mean to each other, and then, in the closing act of the story, there is resolution. They get back together. This is exactly what happens here.

Just as the battle between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs is about to begin, Marilyn comes back to help and support a distracted Billie Jean King focus on the game. And now that Marilyn is back in her life, all is right with Billie Jean.

Billie Jean beats Bobby Riggs. It’s a big deal, but in this movie, it’s the sideshow to the real message which isn’t about women’s equal pay in sports. Ted, the girls’ clothing designer (who is gay) had been protecting and subtly helping Billie Jean in her lesbianism along the way. At the end, as he sees her eyeing Marilyn in the crowd and presumably wishing she could bring their relationship out of the shadows and celebrate publicly with her, tells her, “Times change. You should know. You just changed them. Someday we will be free to be who we are and love who we love.” That is the closing line of the movie. It’s not a celebration of women’s rights, or of equality in sports, it’s nothing about a battle between men and women as the title would suggest. It’s a line about someday being free to come out of the closet and be openly gay.

I may not agree with the point of the movie, but I understand the beauty that is American freedoms which means that I can’t really be too upset about it. Why I AM upset about, is the false advertising. The movie I saw is not the one I went to see. I felt like there was a bait and switch going on. A bait and switch that then tried to manipulate me into feeling sorry for Billie Jean and sympathetic to her situation—that focused on feelings and desire over truth and/or morality. A bait and switch that, because her husband was so unbelievably kind and supportive of her relationship with Marilyn, makes us think that she had done him no wrong in cheating on him. Not only was it a bait and switch, but it also told a very biased story, one that glorified the LGBTQ agenda.

There were a few positive things however, so let me take a minute to point out the good.

  • Billie Jean King did have a great awareness of the spotlight she was in. The Bible says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. She didn’t have a Biblical understanding of this, but she did live with a sense of responsibility towards the people who were watching her.
  • Billie Jean said, “I’m going to be the best, that way I can really change things. That way I can have a voice.” She recognized that in excellence there is power. If you want to have a voice, it comes with hard work.
  • Bobby Riggs commented, “I’m going to be on the cover of Time magazine. Won Wimbledon three times, never got on the cover of Time.” It is sometimes surprising that the great things we do go unnoticed, and then something we deem far less, trivial even, is the thing which catapults us into recognition. I think of Chewbacca Mom, putting that mask on and laughing—who is to say what God might use in our lives to catapult us into our destiny.
  • Bobby Riggs was mouthy and offensive, and yet, he wasn’t. He was a lot of showmanship and silliness but in the end, he was humble and gracious to Billie Jean as she won, telling her, “I underestimated you.” On the other hand, Jack Kramer was far more suave. He may not have made the outlandish statements that Bobby did, but he was much more egotistical and sinister in his desire to keep women in their place. For all their talk, Bobby about women being kept in their place and Jack about honoring women, Bobby was just that—talk, and Jack was just rhetoric. Billie Jean saw that. She saw that Jack was the real danger, the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sometimes you have to look past what people say and look at their hearts to know the truth.
  • In many ways, I don’t know what to make of Larry, Billie Jean’s husband. While I have great reservations about his support of Billie Jean’s affair with Marilyn, I do have immense respect for his kindness towards them both. Where many would have picked up a stone and commenced to throw it, he was more like Jesus, writing in the sand, patient, forgiving, gentle, kind. The one thing Jesus did, however, that we don’t see Larry do, was to say, “Go and sin no more.” Larry, in contrast, seems to say, “Go and sin some more.”   While it is God’s kindness which leads us to repentance, He also admonishes us away from sin and toward holiness. Nevertheless, Larry’s example of humility, self-control and kindness is impressive.

Questions for Discussion:

  • What would you say was the overall focus/point of the movie?
  • What made Jack Kramer more dangerous than Bobby Riggs? Did you see them like Billie Jean did?
  • Do you think it matters that Billie Jean was married? If she’d been having an affair with another man, would you think differently about her actions?
  • What do you think about Larry and his response to his wife’s affair?

Read quotes from Battle of the Sexes, here.

Read A Single Girl’s Perspective on Homosexuality, here.

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They are a Gift To You

gift

I’ve been thinking and writing about gifts lately. About how sometimes good gifts come wrapped in “bad” packages. Or how sometimes we are disappointed with what we’re given and we want a different gift instead.

Along those lines, I was reading in Numbers the other day about the rebellion of Korah. Basically, Korah and some other guys incited a rebellion against Aaron and his sons, wondering why they should be the holy priests when they were no better than any of the rest of them. It didn’t go well. It wasn’t about gifts or abilities or holiness, so much as it was that God had chosen Aaron and his sons for that role. So, when Korah rebelled against Aaron, he rebelled against God and HIS choices.

Moses then responded that the people would know that he and Aaron were acting under God’s authority (and not their own ego trip) if the men leading the rebellion died of some crazy miraculous cause, like the ground swallowing them up. Which is exactly what happened. The ground split apart and 250 of them fell in and died. Right then and there.

You might think that would be sign enough, but to make it crystal clear to everyone, God told Moses to collect staffs from leaders of every tribe. They were to place those staffs in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where God met with them. The staff of the man that GOD chose to lead the people would sprout—and then the people would know whom GOD had chosen as priest. He chose Aaron, again. His dead wooden staff didn’t just sprout—that alone would have been miraculous. It sprouted, budded, blossomed and produced ripe almonds. Just to be clear they didn’t question anything.

After all of this, God talks to Aaron about gifts. “I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the people of Israel. They are a gift to you, given to the Lord, to do the service of the tent of meeting… I give your priesthood as a gift, and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death” (Numbers 18:6-7). He told Aaron about the heavy burden being a priest would be (as if he didn’t already know), being responsible before God for the people, bearing their sins, etc. He also reminded Aaron that this, even the burden, was a gift.

In the wake of rebellion and death and conflict and the people’s criticisms, God tells Aaron this is all a gift. It’s almost a warning. When the people didn’t see Aaron as a gift, they died. It’s important to recognize the gifts God has given us, and to agree with God that they are what He says they are. It’s important that we not complain and grumble against the things He has given to us, appointed for a role in our lives.

Aaron just had people question his authority and his role. Not just people, but Levites, the very people who were assigned to help assist him in the temple. They weren’t content to be assisting him, they wanted to be him, so they had rebelled. It’s easy to guess that he might be a bit suspicious about letting any other people, especially any other Levites, continue to assist him in his role. He’d probably rather serve alone than risk another rebellion or even just live under the microscope of their criticism. So God re-established Aaron in the sight of all, AND he re-established the Levites (those who hadn’t died) in the sight of Aaron. They are a gift to you. They might not act like it; they might not feel like it, but trust me—you need them. They are a gift to you.

Not only might Aaron feel like the Levites weren’t much of a gift to himself, but he might easily have begun to believe the people were right to wish that someone else had been given to them as priest. In other words, he might not have believed that he was a gift to them. When people don’t like or want you, you can begin to think they would be better off with someone else. I’ve known children who have felt they were a disappointment to their parents and spouses who felt like they weren’t good enough for each other. Just because we aren’t what someone else wanted, doesn’t mean we aren’t exactly the gift God chose to give them. We can be a gift to someone even when they don’t see it… even when we don’t see it. So God affirms in Aaron the truth that, no matter what the people feel, Aaron is the priest God chose to give to the people of Israel.

If Aaron couldn’t question the Levites as a gift, then it might be easy for him to turn his frustration to his job. So, God reminds him that his role is also a gift. The priesthood is a gift. The statement is a little ambiguous. It’s a gift to whom? To Aaron? To the nation? To both; to all. Aaron needed to remember that this position was sacred, needed and honored. If anyone didn’t give Aaron the honor due the position, then God would deal with them. But, that also applied to Aaron—if he didn’t honor the priesthood he, too, would be dealt with.

At first read, I thought it was odd that God had to tell Aaron, “this is a gift.” Don’t we know when we receive a gift? They come wrapped in packages and we love them! At least, that’s the image I think of when I think of a gift—Christmas packages, birthday gifts, wrapped in bows and give for the sake of delight and joy. They may be frivolous or useful, but in either case, no one has to tell me “this is a gift.”

Not all gifts are like that. I think about Paul’s “gift”—he was “given” something to “trouble” him.

So that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Paul asked God to take it away because he didn’t recognize it as a gift at first. Later, however, he saw that it was good for him and learned to be content with all manner of things that didn’t look like gifts at all. (For more on this, see God is Such a GUY!) We receive all kinds of gifts. Some we love, some we don’t, at least not right away. The thing is, our feelings about the gift do not make it any more or less a gift to us. I think the challenge is to begin to recognize our gifts, and then to be grateful for them (or at least content). It’s also a challenge to see when we are a gift to someone else, when shame would tell us we aren’t what they wanted us to be.

Let me close with Hudson Taylor’s beautiful and humble attitude towards the gifts of God. I remember reading a quote where he said (roughly) after enduring tragedy in his family, that he considered “all circumstances as necessarily the kindest, wisest and best because either ordered or permitted by God.” In other words, anything that came into his life, good or bad by earthly perspective, he saw as a gift of God’s kindness, wisdom and sovereignty that God allowed into his life. Oh that we might all have such humility and trust in God’s great sovereignty and tender love towards us.

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Award – Look Away

Have you ever had an embarrassing moment? I am sure some of us have had more than others, but who hasn’t at one time or another. Some people can laugh about their embarrassing moments and have no problem sharing them, for laughter’s sake, with others. I’ve never really been that person. Even if you are, however, that doesn’t always mean you want other people sharing them for you. And some embarrassing moments just aren’t ones you want public. Not everything needs to be caught on tape and shared with the public.

I was thinking about this other day, about some of the video compilations that I’ve seen floating around out there of embarrassing moments caught on tape. I’m not talking about the times someone tripped and fell or sat in a chair and it busted. I’m talking about really embarrassing, painfully embarrassing things that you really want to keep private. Maybe someone did something and got caught, or possibly even worse, something happened to them, like someone’s clothing “malfunctioned” or their body betrayed them in some way and this embarrassment was not only captured on tape, but has now been posted online and marketed for the world to see. When I see those videos, a part of me is curious while another part is horrified. What if one of my embarrassing moments had been caught and paraded around for others to laugh at?

We have lost the sense in our world that some things ought to be private, covered over, protected. We see no reason why everything shouldn’t be paraded and exploited, especially if it’s something we can laugh at or be shocked by.

As I was thinking about this, the Bible story about Noah and his nakedness came to mind, and I suddenly realized with greater clarity why I find those videos so troubling and so unfunny.

20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded[a] to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan!  The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!     May Canaan be the slave of Shem. 27 May God extend Japheth’s[b] territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.

When Ham caught his father in an embarrassing situation, he had a choice, to exploit it and laugh at it and point it out to others, or to cover it over and give his father dignity. “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Ham was not acting in love for his father when he exploited his embarrassment to others. You may not think it a big deal, but Ham was cursed for it. His brothers, however, who covered their father’s shame, who protected him from further embarrassment—they were blessed.

Why? Because this is the way of the Lord. From the very beginning when shame first entered the world with Adam and Eve, the Lord worked to protect them and cover their shame. He sacrificed an animal and gave them clothes to wear from the skin. It was an act of love, protection, and covering. Love is a safe place. It’s a place where you can be naked and unashamed, because no one is laughing and no one is exposing you.

If we are to live in the image of God, we have to learn to love like He does. We have to become a people who don’t rejoice in (and who aren’t entertained by) other people’s shame or embarrassment. We need to be people like Shem and Japheth who, when presented with an opportunity to catch someone at an embarrassing moment, make two choices: 1. Not to look. And 2. To cover it over, best they could. That means we don’t watch those videos and we certainly don’t forward them. With regards to such videos, we may not be able to take them out of circulation, but we can certainly not perpetuate them.

Think beyond that, however. Think about things like Jerry Springer type shows and real housewives type “reality” shows—shows which exploit people’s sin and stupidity and drama. Yes, they are proudly putting themselves on display, but it is our attention to their display that glorifies it and feeds it. Maybe such things also ought to be covered over, minimized, and quieted. Certainly, they ought not to be celebrated and laughed at. Is another’s sin or stupidity really something to laugh at?

It’s a sobering thought to consider how one day God will judge us for the things we looked upon. I’m not just talking about whether we saw a rated-R movie, but also for the way we looked at (or looked away from) the embarrassment and/or shame of our fellow man or woman. Let us be a people who treat people with dignity. To treat someone with dignity means we will often have to choose to look away from someone’s shame and simultaneously provide some dignity where it has been lost, following in the steps of Shem and Japheth. It’s not always easy to do so, but don’t miss that God blessed them for doing so, while he cursed Ham who looked and laughed. This is serious business.

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Home Again – Movie Discussion

witherspoon-againposter

Home Again works as a feel good movie, but not as a moral one. A product of our culture, it celebrates the idea of happiness without any concern for righteousness. I don’t just want to toss the baby out with the bathwater, however, so let’s take a closer look at what’s in the tub, if you will.

Let’s start with what makes it appealing. In many ways, it’s honest about how complicated and messy life, particularly relationships, can be. Alice and her husband are separated. She moves back into her Dad’s house in Los Angeles. She has a habit of letting herself get a little crazy on her birthday, and her 40th is certainly no exception. She meets 3 younger men (in their 20’s) while out on the town who end up moving into her guest house for a while.

Let’s suspend the criticism about “what mom with young girls would let strange men move into her home.” That’s a valid question, but let’s just assume, as things sometimes go, that she just knew she could trust them and accept the world presented to us in the story. The guys each bring something to the family dynamic, offering practical and emotional help and encouragement to Alice and her daughters. They create the most beautiful “village”—a community of love and support and good-will. It’s so appealing. It’s why shows like Friends and Hawaii Five-0 are such hits. There’s this beautiful sense of love and living in a family community that we make for ourselves that we all, deep-down, long for.

Add to that, Alice is very emotionally relatable. She’s wounded and vulnerable and raw, but also strong and independent. She’s kind and caring but not a pushover. She’s OK on her own, but willing to accept help when it’s offered. When a suave young man, Harry, puts the moves on, frankly I’m torn. So is she. It’s flattering, but she’s better than that—she doesn’t just need someone to make her feel good. And yet, she’s human and she’s lonely and she’s struggling in her marriage (they’re separated because her husband has neglected her). So we see her wrestling with herself over Harry. Common sense says he’s too young. Her heart, however, says he’s paying attention to her.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, this isn’t a moral movie. Alice never questions if there is anything “right or wrong” about having an affair with Harry. She only wonders if it feels good, and if it’s going to hurt her in the end. So she does. She has an affair with Harry. One that she later says helped her feel better about herself and helped her move on in life. (THIS is what I really don’t like about the movie – the utter lack of righteous thinking and/or consequences. They celebrate her affair with Harry as being a good and useful thing in her life.) I kind of want to crucify her for her weakness in this, but if you take the sex out of it, I actually relate to her more than I care to admit.

He made her feel seen and special in a time when she felt completely overlooked. Maybe she was weak to allow him into her life like she did (especially at a physical level) but maybe emotionally she was brave to be so vulnerable, hopeful and willing to trust. The moment he failed her, and he did, she shut down—like so many of us do. She was annoyed at herself for not knowing better. She felt stupid for putting her heart out there for someone to hurt again, especially someone so young. She had a pattern that is common to most of us—she put herself out there in a daring risk of the heart, then shut down and reeled herself back into control at the first sign of danger. All exposed with no common sense, and then all controlled and contained. One extreme to the next. If I’m honest, I get her.

I’ve struggled to write about this movie. What do we do with this? What do we do with the longing for that sense of beautiful community and laughter and goodwill she had? What do we do with her marriage? I mean, he wasn’t sleeping around on her or abusive. In fact, he was generally kind and caring, and yet, there was something grating about him and sadly, you aren’t sure you want her to work it out with him. But shouldn’t we? I don’t like it when I am hoping for someone to leave their spouse in a movie, when I am pulling for divorce… especially when I’m pulling for divorce when there’s no good reason for it other than “happiness.” This is my huge struggle with this movie. It doesn’t make you want morality or righteousness. It feels good and make you want happiness, even if you have to sacrifice God’s standards for right living to get it. The connection she shares with Harry makes you, the watcher, feel good inside. It should make you feel dirty.

So, I’ve tried to ask myself, as I’ve wrestled with why I liked the movie, what is it that this story touches in me? What is it about Alice and her journey that strikes a chord in me? What am I longing for? What is it that makes me happy about this? (Because happiness isn’t a bad thing, at all, it just needs to be subjected to righteousness, not the other way around.) Then I ask myself, how can I bring those things to God? How can I let God meet my needs for community, connection, love, affection, etc.? How did she meet those needs? What might be the realistic consequences of her actions? In other words, I try to understand my heart’s response to what I watch, and I try to separate the chaff from the wheat.

And frankly, I pray about it. I ask God to help me see things with HIS eyes. We are so inundated with the message of happiness that it becomes an idol in our lives. We let happiness dictate our actions, when we ought to let the pursuit of God and His righteousness dictate our actions. We’re so used to it we don’t even realize it. We see a story like this and we just “like” it. It “makes us happy” so we look past the little bit of awkward uncomfortableness we have niggling at our conscience when she goes to bed with Harry. It’s not us, after all, so we just watch and enjoy the story. We aren’t having the affair; that would be wrong. Not to mention, we are more uncomfortable with the fact that he’s too young (and therefore maybe not a responsible, long-lasting choice for her) than we are with the fact that she’s both having sex outside of marriage, and that she is still married to someone else. Ugh. So I pray that I would not get calloused to sin just because it’s dressed in a happy, appealing package. Lord, let me see what you see. Let me love righteousness, even in the stories I watch. And let me be willing to set aside my pursuit of happiness and instead embrace the hands of sorrow and suffering if you think I need them more.

Read quotes from Home Again here.

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The Dark Tower – Movie Discussion

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The Dark Tower is one of those movies that could prompt any number of deep discussions about spiritual matters. It’s full of rich metaphors and symbols and parallels, ripe for exploration and debate for those of us so inclined. Rather than delve into all the nuances, however, I want to simply focus on the central mantra of the movie—the Gunslinger’s Code.

I do not aim with my hand. He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye. I do not shoot with my hand. He who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind. I do not kill with my gun. He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.

Admittedly, the idea of killing with your heart is very, very dark, (until you realize he’s basically talking about killing demonic forces, not mankind) but that’s not what intrigues me. What I’m captivated by is this idea of forgetting the face of the father. It’s in the creed, but we also hear Roland (the Gunslinger) say it to some prostitutes, that they have forgotten the faces of their fathers. It’s more than just the creed, it’s a way of thinking about the world and where you come from.

The idea is that, at least in Roland’s culture, that most sons were taught lessons by their fathers, and learned from them. They were raised and taught how to act by their father from a very young age, which passed on both behavioral beliefs, spiritual beliefs, and traditions. To “forget the face of your father” is to act outside of those beliefs, outside of what you were taught. It’s seen as equal to abandoning all the lessons and teachings you were raised by. To “remember the face of your father” is to make sure that those teachings are remembered in everything you do, guiding how you act and what you do.[1]

It’s a little like how we might say, “You’ve forgotten where you came from”, or, “You’ve forgotten who you are.” Actually, Roland’s phrase encapsulates both of ours. It’s about identity, but also recognizing that identity has to do not just with who we are, but with where we come from—with whose we are. It’s recognizes that our future should be inextricably linked to our present and our past and when those things are severed, we are easily shamed and lost.

Of course, this is predicated on us having a good father. We may not always want to remember our earthly father’s face, but we do have a Heavenly Father whose face we should always remember in everything we do. His face, his ways, beliefs, traditions…HE is perfect. The more we keep Him foremost in our minds, the more we will act with honor and righteousness. In Gunslinger terms, the more true our aim will be. As in the movie, “to ‘remember the face of [Our Father]’ is to make sure that [His] teachings are remembered in everything you do, guiding how you act and what you do.”

This isn’t a new principle or even a merely good principle. It’s actually a Biblical one. See it echoed here in Isaiah 51:

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
and who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were cut
and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
look to Abraham, your father,
and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was only one man,
and I blessed him and made him many.
The Lord will surely comfort Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

The challenge to this is the same in our world as it is in the world of The Dark Tower. We have an enemy who moves about us unseen, whispering into our minds things which make us forget Whose we are. The Man in Black functions just like Satan and his forces, speaking hate and shame over humanity.  Sometimes he speaks into our minds, sometimes he speaks into someone else’s, and they become his mouthpiece. In either case, know this, there is no shame or hate or depression or negativity or futility in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is not how your Father, the God of love and light, speaks to you. His is the voice reminding you to hold on to what is right, to cling to his ways, to let go the shame and lies and hold fast to righteousness and to hope. You can see it again in Isaiah 51:

Hear me, you who know what is right,
you people who have taken my instruction to heart:
Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals
or be terrified by their insults.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
my salvation through all generations.

There is no futility in our Father’s face! But how the enemy wants us to think there is. He wants us to think the situation is bleak, hopeless even. He wants us to stop resisting. It’s what happened to Roland. He got discouraged by the losses he saw and began to believe the Man in Black’s lies that “darkness is everywhere. Fighting against it is futile.” As it does so often, it took the faith of a child to restore Roland’s faith. (Is it any wonder Jesus extolls the faith of children?!) Jake helped Roland remember the face of his Father. He helped Roland remember whose he was, and therefore who he was—a gunslinger to fight the enemy and bring them to freedom—because anyone, even those who claim to remember their father’s face, can forget it.

What will people say of you and me? Will they see our Father’s face in all we say and do? Will they know the hope we have? Will our Father’s character and integrity and teachings be evident in our actions? Will they know that we are firmly rooted by a strong sense of our identity, not only knowing who we are, but also knowing whose we are? Will we live as orphans or as much-loved sons and daughters of the Lord most High? May we always remember the Face of our Father and live in the light of it.

[1]https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/5otxb2/eli5_what_it_means_to_remember_the_face_of_your/

Click here to read quotes from The Dark Tower.

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