Wednesday, August 27, 2014

God's Not Dead- Whether I Believe It or Not

I finally got to watch the movie,"God's Not Dead."  I was going into it with my best efforts at not being cynical, but as the movie ended I was in tears and shaking with anger. So, I'm super sorry to all my amazing friends who loved this movie, but I'm afraid it has hurt our fellow Christians more than helped them. There were several stumbling blocks I found tucked away in the film, but I'll just mention one. Several times in the film when Christian characters spoke plainly about their faith in God, they used language such as "To me, He's not dead, He's alive" or "I think of Jesus as my friend." Now, maybe this is a simple case of poor writing, but those little words "to me" and "I think of" are cop outs and kinda just plain wimpy. 

When I talk about my husband, I don't say "To me, he's a 34-year-old man and he's not dead." Nope, rather I'll just introduce you to Joshua without any mention of his state of aliveness or how I feel about his existence. His existence does not depend on how I see him nor does His relationship to me. He just is alive and married to me- whether I believe it or not. And so it is with God. I do not claim that "to me" He is God. He simply is God- whether I believe it or not. And He is my friend. This truth is outside of myself and independent of me.

When our fellow humans who are atheists hear Christians talk like this, I can't imagine they are very impressed with our faith. It seems to me that they would rather hear us speak strongly like we actually believe this stuff we're talking about. (My dear atheist friends, I don't want to speak for you so feel free to chime in if you're so inclined.) Wouldn't it be better to be bold and declare that God is who He is without adding in the bits about He is who He is because I feel like it's true?

Yes, I'm being harsh with this movie. If something is going to bear the name I proudly claim then it had better be ready to withstand some scrutiny. The movie itself was sloppily written, but I could have forgiven it a thousand wrongs if only it had displayed Jesus' name boldly without cheapening our faith. I'm not saying we should toss this film out, but we do need to be discerning in the movies (and music) that we support. Just because something has a Christian label, doesn't mean it's making God happy.

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, please don't be content with "art" of this caliber. Don't be content to watch movies that make you feel good about being a Christian. Let's strive for excellence in our stories because these stories help shape the way we live our lives. And be careful with the words we use to display our faith. The tiniest word can have tremendous implications. We have power in our words and in our art- let's use them wisely.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Movie Review

Movies have long been one of my favorite art forms. I love watching and discussing them, critiquing them, and diving into the reality they propose. When a great storyteller crafts their art on the screen, all the details come together to form a whole; the script, the actors, the music, the scenery, and even the hair and makeup each hold tremendous power as they work together to create this experience, this story. Once in a while, a movie comes along that combines these elements so elegantly that the resulting product attaches itself to my heart and touches my soul in a mysterious way. Isn't this what good art is supposed to do?

"Finding Jenua" was one such movie. It is a story about a young woman, Edie, who is running from her brutally painful past as she builds a relationship with an old woman, Jean, who is forgetting most of her own once happy life. This is a story about healing. We watch these two women stumbling through their pain into peace. The story is told in a nonlinear style which only serves to give more potency to the emotions that are swirling about and forces the viewer to lean in as the story slowly unfolds. My tears freely flowed as I witnessed the beauty of hope blooming before my eyes. 

Movies like this are the reason I force myself to dig up obscure independent titles on Netflix and devote hours of time to watching them. I'm searching, not often succeeding, but still searching for beauty. I know there are artists in the movie industry who are dedicated to their art and who make significant sacrifices to share their gift with the world. The least I can do is search for these artists and endorse them as much as I can. They are, after all, making the world I live in more beautiful and more honest by their efforts. And they inspire me to strive as they do and endure the labor pains of my gifts as I wrestle with my art to bring it out into the world.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Flannel Shirt

It drapes across my shoulders, this thick flannel shirt that belongs to him. The stiff fabric, starting to soften from use, billows around me making my bulky frame feel small and delicate in comparison. The collar brushes my cheek. It smells like him. A whiff of his cologne, a whisper of sweat from the last chore he did, keeping our home in good repair. I breathe deeply, filling my lungs with him. A glance in the mirror tells me I don't look nearly as cute as I think I do, but I don't care. The shirt hangs open over my clothes, lending me its warmth like arms wrapped around me. His arms. Holding me though he is not near. I pull the fabric tight across my chest.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Spoken Psalms

I've started reading the Psalms for my morning Bible reading since it turns out that trying to read Jeremiah in February is a *bad* idea. I'm reading these Psalms and realizing that they sound, in my mind's voice, like spoken word. I hear the impassioned speech of a desperate poet, trying with all his arts and knowledge to find words to communicate his plight and then his salvation. I hear his voice rise as he describes his anguish and his joy. I feel the pauses, the weight he gives to certain phrases- Selah. I hear the catch in his throat as he is overcome by emotion at the realization of his god's goodness. I can almost see his hand clenched at his chest as he breathes out the final words, "In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for YOU alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."

These are not dry words penned by a religious scholar. These are my kind of words. Words that bring tears and tug at your soul. Words from the heart of a man who suffered well and rejoiced even better. These words are balm to my own heart and they spur me on toward hope, closer to joy, and further into the presence of true beauty.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

I Met a Murderer Today

After a conversation I had today about Jeffrey Dahmer, I was reminded of a poem I wrote 8 years ago at a time when I was struck with the depth of my sin and the ridiculous expanse of God's forgiveness. I dug up the dusty words to share with you all. 

I met a murderer today
I hid my eyes and looked away.
His face was too grotesque to me,
His gleaming teeth a fright to see.
I saw the people that he killed-
Their bodies bruised, their breathing stilled.
I heard the screaming, felt the tears,
Saw the culmination of his victims’ fears.
Oh, what horrors this man wrought!
I uncovered my face and for some comfort I sought.
The murderer does the same, I see
And now I know it’s only a mirror in front of me.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Of Magic and Mugs

This past New Year's everyone in our family got a special new mug for coffee, tea, and cocoa. When I was purchasing the mugs, I ended up with an extra snowman mug that I then set aside, thinking it would make a cute gift for someone else at some point. Totally not a big deal. Fast forward to today when Zoe's adorable penguin mug was scattered on the floor in pieces after an unfortunate accident. She was in tears and understandably so. But when I was able to hand her a brand new mug in the shape of a cheerful, rotund snowman, her eyes lit up and wetly sparkled with almost unbelieving delight. My simple error in buying one too many mugs resulted in a magical moment in our house.

My life is filled with moments like this. Most days I hardly notice the magic happening, but it's always there, buzzing in the air. I'm convinced that when I first emerged into this world, kicking and screaming, that God chuckled to Himself. He knew all the little pockets of mystery that awaited me, all the glimmers of magic and miracle, the dusting of the eternal on every surface of my life.

I've been so grumpy today. I don't wanna do, well- anything. But God (there it is again!) took the ugly minutes and breathed His Spring-like breath on them. Out they blossomed, like so many lilies, reminding me that yes, today is beautiful. And, yes, there is magic in my home.

Snow Angel

I wrote this yesterday after playing outside with my children. Lying on a mattress of fresh snow and feeling the snowflakes falling on my face made me feel like a kid again. 

I made a snow angel today,
A clumsy act of former times.
In the frozen white, long I lay
Stealing this moment my only crime.

Eyes shut tight with smiling lines
Then the hush a whisper brings.
Joy curled round me- frosty vines,
On my face, the icy brush of angel wings.