Mully

mully

If you get a chance, see Mully!!!  The true story of a man who was abandoned by his family, rejected by his village, homeless, a beggar and sometimes thief who wanted to commit suicide…but who, after accepting Jesus (because one young man invited him to prayer and fellowship), became one of the wealthiest men in Kenya. That, however, is not his story. The real story is how he gave up his businesses and his money in obedience to the Lord and instead began to care for orphans, taking them into his home.

It’s one thing for a man to give up his money and privilege in pursuit of Jesus—that alone is unusual and arresting, but it’s another when he does so at the cost of his own family. The documentary includes his children and his wife who are very candid about their less than supportive responses to their dad’s madness. He wasn’t just changing his life, he was changing ALL their lives, and they didn’t like it. God hadn’t called them to do those things, as far they knew anyway. Why couldn’t Mully follow God and leave them out of it? Provide for their lives as normal and only give to the street kids from his personal surplus?

He took in child after child. Hundreds of children, actually. “I never said there’s no space for a child,” He explains. He would scan the streets at night, find the orphans and take them into his home telling them “these are your brothers and sisters now,” and to call him “Dad.”

Now all of his own children work with him and are fully on board. It took a while for them to get it, to catch the vision, and for God to work on their hearts, but it happened. Such a beautiful message—that our job is to follow Jesus, even at times when our loved ones don’t understand and aren’t on board. If we are obedient to God, He will deal with the rest…but we may have to wait a while.

There were two illustrations, if you will, that were particularly powerful.

Water from a Rock

Mully had moved his family (in the hundreds) out to some land in the country. When they got there there was no structure, no water, nothing but land. The kids built it all by hand. But the water—they had to truck in water EVERY day from miles away. This was sufficient (if inconvenient) until the drought hit. They needed water and there was none to be had. Much like the Israelites in Numbers 20, they began to complain about their need for water. They’d already dug for water many times and found nothing, but Mully had a vision that there was water on the land, and exactly where to dig for it. The boys were less than enthusiastic, but they dug … until they hit a rock.

Boys: We’ve dug. [It’s] your vision. And we have a rock. So, what do we do? Mully: I was shown a vision and there’s water there, so keep digging. Boys: We hit the rock and it was an explosion [of water].

Just like Moses. God told him to “hit the rock” with his staff and “tell the rock…to yield its water” (Numbers 20:8). We think rocks don’t have water, but notice the language! God didn’t say he’d miraculously put water in it, or water would come from under it…he said tell the rock to yield “its” water. That amazes me. There is no situation so hard or so dry in our lives that God can’t tell it to yield its water for us. With Mully as with Abraham, the rock’s water was enough for a nation, not just a person. Abundance. They’ve never lacked for water since. But here’s the thing—Mully trusted the vision God gave him. He trusted in the faithfulness and goodness and power of God and he acted. He dug. He dug even when it seemed impossible. The boys lost hope when they hit a rock. Mully pressed on. There’s a lesson in that for you and me!

Changing the Climate

“In Kenya,” Mully said, “everyone, even the government, depends on donations from the Western world. We have got to change that… A beggar has no choices. … [So,] How can we build a project that will be self-sustaining?” He started hydroponics and is growing enough food that they were able to feed an additional 4,000 refugee children every single day for a year. Amazing! Along with that, they have been growing trees.

He began to realize that he could plant tree to change their climate. Part of Kenya’s problem was the climate. They needed more rain. Did you know you can CHANGE THE CLIMATE??? I didn’t know that. Apparently, you can. More trees equal a micro climate and that can mean more rainfall, in that micro-climate. He has created their own rainforest of sorts!

Here is the thing—we can change the climate around us. We are not victims of it, but creators—if we choose to be. When we go in to a hard, dry, hot place (I’m talking metaphorically here… but you’ve been in places like that—where tempers are hot and hearts are hard and there’s no love raining down)—we can plant trees. We can plant seeds of love that begin to grow. We can plant so that we reap a harvest of righteousness. Those are things which change a climate.

Mully is changing the literal climate, but he’s also changing the spiritual, emotional and political climate of Kenya. The church at one time kicked him out because they saw those kids as bad people. Now they welcome Mully and all his children. The religious climate changed. Educationally, things are changing. The schools at Mully family facilities are the best in the nation. And they are raising up a generation of kids who will impact the nation, changing the politics and education and legal systems, etc. In the last 27 years, over 12,000 kids have been successfully reinstated. Once orphaned, homeless and destitute, they now have a family, a man they call Dad, and a home that provides love, education, shelter, security, Biblical training. Mully is changing the climate of Kenya, but the ripple effects will be a blessing to the world.

For more information OR to help support Mully’s family go to:

Mullychildrensfamily.org              (https://mcfus.org/)

To read quotes from Mully, click here.

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LEGO Ninjago – Movie Discussion

Like the first LEGO movie, Ninjago returns to theme of fathers and sons. In the first movie, the son portrays his father as evil because they don’t know how to see eye to eye, but they are both good people who need to learn how to connect. In this movie, they take that idea to the extreme and Lloyd’s dad really is evil—the kind of evil that “levels cities and kills innocent people.”   Lloyd is persecuted everywhere he goes because people assume he is like his father, and that somehow his father’s actions are his fault. (Which, how many kids do feel that their parents’ actions are somehow their fault? It’s a good opportunity for discussion about what we are actually responsible for in this life.) People do not know that he is the green ninja, the savior of the city or that he objects to his father’s actions. They also don’t realize that he is like any other boy, still longing for a relationship with his father.

As the story progresses, Lloyd and Garmadon (his father) end up on a journey together to “the temple of fragile foundations,” aka Garmadon’s childhood home (that was pretty brilliant). They get to know each other for the first time. And as that happens, they begin to like each other and enjoy each other. Garmadon gets to be a father for the first time in his life, teaching Lloyd to throw and catch, for example…something he has been missing in his life. Lloyd gets to have a father, to be validated by one and to know where he came from…things he has been missing in his life.

Garmadon kind of misses the point, however, and thinks he can hold on to that joy by making Lloyd his #1 general. “I’ve realized, we don’t need to fight each other when we can fight alongside each other!” That’s not an all bad idea. The world is full of battles we will need to fight, and definitely better if we’re fighting alongside our loved ones than they become the battle and we fight with them. We need to know our loved ones are on our side, fighting alongside us. The problem, however, is when we reduce those loved ones to teammates or fellow soldiers, or co-workers… when they should be SO much more. Lloyd saw that immediately. He didn’t want to be Garmadon’s general #1. He wanted to be Garmadon’s son. Garmadon fired his #1 generals any time they disappointed him. They were disposable. Garmadon was excited to find a better version of a general, but Lloyd didn’t want to be disposable. He wanted sonship. Unconditional love. Permanent relationship. No matter what.

Lloyd is a remarkable character. He was able to fight against his dad and yet, all the while keep trying to reach his dad. He gave remarkable grace. Not only to his evil father, but also to the world around him that continued to judge him. It is hard to be the son of an evil man. It is hard not to let your father define you, or to be defined by the people who judge you. It’s hard to give grace when people hurt you and misjudge you. It’s hard to open up your heart to someone who has repeatedly rejected you. But Lloyd, as so many children do, chose love and hope over and over again.

Lloyd works alongside a group of ninjas who each have a special power—earth, fire, water, etc. Lloyd’s special power is green. Cryptic, unimpressive and disappointing to his thinking. His teacher tells him that he has to “play the part that only the son of Garmadon can play.” Also cryptic, until the time came. Then he realized that his power is the power of life. He realizes that he has the power to hold people together, to connect. What they don’t say but is also very true, he has the power of forgiveness and love—which is part of life. He sees the good in people. Listen to what he tells his father in the end:

I know it, I know it. You didn’t want to destroy everything. When people look at you, they see a monster, but I know that you just feel scared and alone and I know how that feels – to be judged unfairly. So I just want to say that I forgive you and I’m sorry when I said I wish you weren’t my father. I didn’t really mean it. What I should’ve said is I wish we didn’t fight all the time. I wish you could’ve been there… seen what I’ve gone through… I just, I need my dad.

For Lloyd, this works out well. But in real life, let’s be honest, not every evil father is going to change into someone good. Some people have fathers (or sons) who are dead. Not everyone gets to fix that father/son relationship. But here’s what we can learn from Lego.

  1. We need to try. We need to do what we can to be at peace with others, especially our family. The Bible says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
  2. As much as we may want peace with others, sometimes it is out of our control. Lloyd kept reaching out to his father, but didn’t take responsibility for things that were out of his control. He also didn’t compromise his beliefs or standards in order to have a relationship with his dad. If you look at Romans 12:18 again, it only holds you accountable for yourself. “As far as it depends on you.”
  3. God provides fathers for the fatherless. For the years Lloyd’s father was absent, he had an uncle who fathered him and taught him and stood in the gap. Sometimes we need to be thankful for what we do have, rather than only seeing what we don’t have.
  4. You can both love someone and oppose their bad deeds. Lloyd continued to love his dad all the while he was fighting to stop him from destroying the city. Jesus opposed our sin, all the while he was dying for us to pay for it. Love doesn’t always mean acceptance.
  5. When people are angry, hostile and destructive, it’s often a sign that they are scared and alone and hurting. Sometimes, rather than being called out on their sins, what they really need is for someone to acknowledge their pain, speak to the good in them, and apologize for the ways in which they’ve hurt them. Paul writes in Romans 2:4 that “it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.” We are so tempted to think that we need to show someone their faults, but in reality, most of us know our faults. What we need is kindness to break us and lead us to repentance. Is there anything quite as devastating as receiving kindness and tenderness when you know you deserve a lashing?
  6. We need to be careful not to judge someone by their parents.
  7. With family, it’s not enough to be coworkers or partners, we need to be family. LOVED ones. We want a different and deeper relationship with them that what the rest of the world has. We want unconditional love. Permanent relationship. No matter what. We don’t want something that is based on performance. THIS is the relationship God wants us to have with him. He doesn’t want us to try to perform or earn anything with him. We are sons and daughters and that is different than being servants.
  8. Our homes give us a foundation for life, and that foundation may indeed be fragile, but we have another Father and another home we can call our own—and they are the ultimate stability.
  9. Sons may not be able to have a relationship with their fathers. And fathers may not be able to connect with their sons. BUT – our triune Godhead has both a father AND a son, so fathers can have a relationship with THE son, and sons with THE Father. What a sweet, tender mercy that is!

Click here to read quotes from LEGO Ninjago.

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Posture has Purpose

I went to a new doctor[1] yesterday. I’ve had back and neck problems all my life. Structurally my back is good, but I’m in constant pain—something I’ve just learned to ignore and live with, sadly. To a point, anyway. And then I give in and go see someone, hoping for some relief and that I can get back to an acceptable pain level. (Which really is kind of twisted thinking, but…that’s the truth of it all.)

One thing I have learned to do with my health issues is to begin to ask the Lord to speak to me through them. To let them be parables of His Kingdom. God’s SO amazing like that—everything He has created teaches us, speaks to us, reveals to us things about His nature and His Kingdom, if only we have ears to hear and eyes to see.

As the new doctor was telling me his perspective on things, I was wanting to grab a video camera and let it roll… because he was preaching a sermon on many deeper levels than he actually intended. (He just posted some videos to his Instagram account:  primalwalk !)

He has a passion for posture, and for helping people walk with the right posture. I thought my posture was pretty OK. I’m an athlete and I’m strong and I keep my shoulders back… I thought I was pretty good. Wrong. He began to show me how, because I walk incorrectly, my posture is affected negatively. Because my posture is wrong, my body is having to compensate and those compensations are why I have pain and inflexibility.

It was like magic. He started explaining how being on my heels was wrong. I should be on my toes.   He started explaining history and how our walk and our posture has shifted in the past hundred years. (It was a little like when Jesus would teach and suddenly people would see all the Bible, all of time, through a new lens.) It was fascinating, but what really sold me was when he had me demonstrate. He would have me hold my arm out to the side and try to resist him pushing it down. When I was on my heels, my resistance was minimal. When I was on my toes, my strength was multiplied, miraculously, it would seem. I like strength, so that really spoke to me.

Of course, he could explain the reasons why. He explained how being on our toes activates our connective tissues and strengthens them. He had me do some things with a kettle ball. The higher I got on my toes, the stronger I became. Craziness! So now, I’m changing my walk. I’m learning how to walk on my toes, rather than on my heels. It’s a little awkward, and even exhausting. I’m using my muscles in a way that is new to me. I’m literally having to think about how I walk, which, as my Dr. pointed out, is good, because it means I’m living in the present, rather thinking about all sorts of things that aren’t doing me any good. AND, it means I’m not walking with my head in my screen. My walk is now exercising my muscles, strengthening my body at a new level. Instead of making time to go to the gym for a work out, suddenly working out is a part of everything I do. And everything I do (or much more so, anyway) is working towards strengthening my body.

Hopefully one day I can get him to do a video and share more—because it really is profound on so many levels. But for now, I want to focus on some applications.

  1. Posture has purpose. He is right about that. I remember reading in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters a passage about the connection between our minds and our bodies—the psychosomatic union. A demon is teaching his young nephew how to be a good guardian demon, and gives him this advice: “At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.” One of Satan’s big lies to us is to tell us that posture doesn’t matter. It does. How we posture our bodies before the Lord will affect how our souls are postured before the Lord. This is where the Catholics and Charismatics have an edge on Evangelicals as a whole – they practice an intentional posturing of their bodies in prayer and worship. It’s awkward for me to raise my hands in worship—I’m not a very demonstrative sort. And it’s annoying (and even painful) at times for me to kneel in prayer, when I would much rather pray from the comforts of my bed. But when I do, when I risk feeling exposed and give up feeling comfortable, I find that my prayers and my worship have a different timbre, a different strength.
  2. Your strength is affected by your posture. Just as a change in physical posture affects physical strength, a change in spiritual posture affects our spiritual strength. God calls us to be humble, dependent, yielded and surrendered. It is in that position of seeming weakness in which His strength is perfected.I love what Deuteronomy 30 says:See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
    If we want to be strong, we must learn to have the right posture before the Lord.
  3. If we are feeling weak, the solution is not necessarily working out and getting stronger. That has been my solution for too long—when I was feeling weak, I increased my workouts. Seems logical. But strength wasn’t my problem—posture was. So to try to get stronger in the wrong posture was causing more pain. In order to sustain the physical demands I placed on my body without the right posture, my body had to put some artificial supports in place. Those supports may have sufficed as a temporary fix, but they have had long-term negative consequences…and are excruciatingly painful to remove. You see, it’s not good to fix a problem with a wrong solution.When we are feeling weak in life, our tendency (maybe more so in the Western world) is to get stronger. We focus on self-help through books (which aren’t all bad…don’t hear me wrong) and seminars and motivational quotes. We work harder. We push through. We pride ourselves on pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. And frankly, it may work for a time. We may fix the problem of our weakness—at least for a while. The problem is, we are doing so in the wrong posture and that means we are filling our lives with temporary supports to sustain the added strain of our efforts and those temporary supports are doing us more harm than good. They make us inflexible. They make us proud. They make is independent and often isolated. And those supports are painful to remove because our souls were never intended to be supported by such.

    The Bible says that God has already “given us ALL things we need for life and godliness…through His promises” (2 Peter 1:3-11, emphasis added). So, when we are feeling we that something is lacking, the solution isn’t to go creating it, but to discover it. We need to go back to our posture and correct that. We don’t need to work out more; we don’t need to add anything, we need to correct what’s broken, fix what we’re doing wrong. We need to repent. We need to humble ourselves before the Lord and pray and wait on Him. The Bible says it this way, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and then all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, emphasis added). In other words, when you feel something is missing, the solution isn’t to go and get it for yourself, but to reexamine your posture and pursuits. When your posture is right, when you are seeking the right things, everything else will come into alignment and into being.

  4. Posture comes through learning how to walk, rightly. In order to correct my posture, I have to learn how to walk well, correctly. When I do that, my posture will correct itself in every area of my life. Posture IS walking. Walking IS posture. Have you ever notice Psalm 1? It starts with walking.

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Everything starts with how we walk. The Bible is full of verses about walking… here are just a few:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
  • Deuteronomy 5:33 “You shall walk in all the ways that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.”
  • Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
  • Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
  • Psalm 119:133 “Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.”
  • Colossians 2:6 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.”
    Romans 13:13 “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.”
  • Galatians 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

5.  Correct posture strengthens us. I already mentioned that our strength is affected by our posture, but it’s more than that, too. The good doctor was explaining that not only is there an immediate change in my strength when my posture is correct, but there is also an on-going strengthening that happens when I practice good posture. My connective tissues will be activated and strengthened by my good posture. Conversely, they will be weakened and diminished by bad posture. Not only are we stronger when our posture is correct, but we are also strengthened, ongoing. The more we practice right posture before the Lord, the easier it gets to maintain, the stronger we get, the more natural it is. Perhaps this is part of the reason why the Bible says, “Resist the devil and he will flee” (James 4:7). The more we resist, (which is part of a right spiritual posture), the stronger we get until he is actually scared of our strength and runs from us.

6.       Correct posture takes exercise from a some-time thing to an all-time thing. Exercise was something I did at a specific time in the day at the gym, just like for many people, their relationship with God is something they do on Sundays at church.  He explained explained, however, that when your posture is correct, exercise becomes an ongoing act. It’s no longer something you do at a time and place but something you are always doing everywhere you go.

This is what God had in mind for our relationship with Him. He didn’t intend it to be something we did on Sundays or in a Bible study, but rather a way of living. It’s who we are, all the time, everywhere. When we focus on having a right walk with the Lord throughout the day, in every step we take, we are exercising our faith ALL the time. We begin to think about God when we are in the store, in a conversation, at the movies, etc. We become like Jesus who said that “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. (John 5:19-20). And again, “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:49-50). We get to the point that exercising our faith, walking with the Father, becomes such a pervasive, all-encompassing, on-going action that we literally don’t do anything but that it’s in sync with God’s heart and will.

7.  Until good posture becomes a habit, (and even then), it’s good to surround yourself with reminders. Patients were complaining that they kept forgetting to walk on their toes. They kept slipping into bad, lazy habits. So the doctor created a wristband as a daily reminder.  God told his people to do the same. They were to write the law on their doors, so that they would see it going out and coming in. They were to memorize it. They were to incorporate reminders into their dress and even their hair…everything around them was to be a reminder of the posture they were supposed to walk in. We would do well to follow suit, to surround ourselves with triggers and reminders lest we get lazy or forget.

8.  Correct posture takes work. I would love to say this all comes naturally, but it doesn’t. This is why we need reminders. The doctor told me of countless patients who do really well at first. They are thinking about it, changing things, focused…and they see a lot of improvement. But then, after a while, they start to forget. They think they’re doing good in that area (and they are) so they relax their focus, assuming it’s automatic now. That’s when their problems start to resurface and they find themselves back in the doctor’s office, needing a tune up. Needing to sharpen their focus, to get back on their toes.

We are no different spiritually. It’s not easy to keep humble before the Lord. It’s not easy to stay on your knees, to keep from sin, to have a righteous heart. But we make some progress at it through disciplines of the faith, through prayer and the Holy Spirit’s help and we start to feel better about ourselves. We start to be healthy. And that’s when we’re tempted to relax. We aren’t feeling the pain of bad posture anymore, so we think we’ve arrived…until, a little while down the road, we notice some familiar pain coming back into our walk and our life. This is why Paul writes to the Corinthians “be careful if you think you are standing firm, lest you should fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). We are most in danger when we think we’re good…because that’s when we get lazy, when we stop thinking about our posture. So a little pain comes back into our life and then we go back to the Great Physician and he reminds us the importance of our posture, and shows us where we have gotten off.

[1] Actually, he’s not technically a “doctor”. He’s an acupuncturist. I still call him a Dr.

If you would like to contact Greg Shim, the “doctor” I have mentioned, you may reach him at:  www.primalwalk.com or 720-201-8063.  Additionally, he has some videos on his “primalwalk” Instagram account that will explain more about the way to walk.  You may purchase his book via his website.

posture.jpg

 

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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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