Monday, May 15, 2017

Musings of the Week: Butterflies, PhDs, and Summertime!

Butterflies - I received a butterfly garden from Amazon last week to take my first stab at raising butterflies.  Yes, I'm way beyond the age range on the package, but I've watched YouTube families do this and found it so fascinating I wanted to try it myself.  For just $27, you get everything you need (including caterpillars) to raise Painted Lady Butterflies.  After 3-4 weeks, when they are ready for release, the habitat and feeding tray can be used again and again....all I need to do is buy the cup 'o caterpillars.  I decided to do this for a couple of reasons...ok three, if you count YOLO.  First, this time of year brings back memories of my Dad's passing (May 4), and my Mom's passing with Mother's Day also in May.  On the flip side, May 12 is the day I decided to follow Christ 43 years ago.  With loss of life comes new life.  Wanting to celebrate life, I thought what better way than to watch life in the making.  Second, I've contemplated having a dog.  I don't have the time nor am I home enough to care for a dog, but butterflies, oh yeah!  Plus, I've kept a succulent alive since the end of March, so surely I can do this.  

PhD - During the last class of my MBA, the professor of my capstone class asked me if I ever considered getting my PhD.  She commented on this due to my final capstone research paper.  The answer to that question is, "of course," but the thought of doing it makes my stomach turn.  My friend, Paige, has always told me I'd get my PhD eventually and I normally smile and change the subject.  I'd love to "retire" in to teaching, but given I haven't taught at the college level yet to determine if I'd like it, I'm hesitant to invest in something that would only benefit me in academia.  Last week, said professor contacted me that my Alma mater, Campbellsville, is being accredited for a PhD program in Management, to start in Fall 2017 or January 2018.  In my life, there are more dreams I want to chase than there is time or resources.  I told my professor I'd pray about it.  Nothing like a random offering like that to get your mind whirling.  

Summertime! - You gotta say that word with an exclamation point!  I love summertime, even though I'm working and not a student any more - or teacher -  that gets to enjoy three months of leisure time.  As part of my online book club, we get a first look at the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide.  Think the summer reading program at the library for kids, but someone has already read a ton of books and selected 30 for the summer.  We received it last night - the rest of the world gets it on Wednesday - and I was reminded of those days when school was out and I couldn't wait to get to the library to sign up for the summer reading program.  Ah, summer.  Sipping on a Coke Zero, or Frappucchino and reading in the summer breeze.  People, that is Heaven on earth.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

What I'm Reading - April 2017

I've become obsessed with books and reading.  I've always enjoyed reading, but in the past few months, I've really looked to reading as my release, outlet, and vehicle to wind down.  Lately I've watched less television and aside from listening to podcasts, books fill up most of my down time.  As I said when I was a guest on What Should I Read Next, I feel like I'm dating books!

What is to follow is a recap of what I read this month and what I'm reading.  I recently joined Litsy, an app for bookish people - think Instagram for bookworms.  My username is RosieBoo65, so look me up there as I'll be charting my course of reading on that app.

What I Read

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon 
Judge Joe Crater goes missing in August 1930, never to be heard from again.  Yes, this is a true story.  This historical fiction novel focuses on the three women who had a connection with Judge Crater - his wife, maid, and mistress.  I love historical fiction, and add the layer of female protagonists and you've got a winner for me.  I enjoyed this book, but wasn't enthralled by the story.  I felt like it was a bit slow in the beginning, and eventually picked up pace.  I don't regret reading this book as I learned a lot about a historical disappearance I'd never known about before.  I read this as part of my online book club and participated in an author chat.  Ariel was so interesting to listen to as she explained how she wrote this, her first book, over 18 months only on Saturdays.  And she got contacted by a real life relative of a character in the book!  After hearing her interview, I want to read her other works.

The Measure of Success: Uncovering the Biblical Perspective on Women, Work, and the Home by Carolyn McCulley and Nora Shank
Being a career woman, and not a wife or mother, I often question what that looks like in light of the role of women in Scripture.  This book is solid look at how God ordains work for all of us - whether working inside or outside the home - and to have a purpose in fulfilling that role.  If you are a working woman, you'll benefit from reading this book to get affirmation that being a successful businesswoman isn't of the devil.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Lauren Willig, and Beatriz Williams
You never know when three authors write a novel what you are going to get.  This book surpassed my expectations.  The story of three women spanning three generations and how they are connected make up the tapestry of this book.  It felt like piecing together a puzzle and I had a hard time putting this book down.  I'm assuming each author wrote each of the three main characters, but you'd think all of it was written by the same author.  These ladies write in perfect harmony.

What I'm Currently Reading

A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell, #2) by Deanna Raybourn
A second in the series of a lepidopterist who has an amazing lineage and solves crimes.

The Patriots by Sana Krasikov
The book based in Russia in the 1930s and 2008 is segmented into different segments of "Books."  It was slow starting, but now about halfway in, I'm hooked.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This is a small book, but with a heavy theme.  This book won many awards in 2016 and I know the epilogue was written by his wife after the author's death, so I'm moving slow as I know the outcome will be heart wrenching.




Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Day in Between

Good Friday and Easter are the focal days that we Christians celebrate each year.  Good Friday is the remembrance of what Jesus did for us on the cross and His brutal, unthinkable crucifixion.  Easter celebrates (spoiler alert!) His Resurrection and hope for all of us who believe to have eternal life.  This Easter season, I've been doing a Lent study through Sacred Holidays, focusing on the final days of Jesus.  This is the first time I've done a specific study during Lent and it has been amazing.  I've read the various accounts of Scripture in a new and fresh way, and although I've heard the resurrection story my whole life, it continues to present itself anew.  

What we don't always focus on is the day in between Good Friday and Easter.  Jesus is dead.  In the tomb.  Hopeless.  We scurry about filling Easter baskets, hiding Easter eggs, and choosing our Easter outfits on that day now.  But this day 2000 years ago wasn't as joyful.  You see, the end of the story hadn't happened.  We can celebrate this day in between because we know Easter is coming.  But I've reflected today on the people present on the first day in between and what they could have been thinking.

The disciples.  "It's over.  All that Jesus talked about, what does it mean now?  We didn't always understand what He was telling us, but now, He's dead.  What do we make of this?  Maybe we followed a Man who wasn't telling us the truth.  Could He not have been the Messiah?  We followed Him for three years, gave up our livelihoods.  Now what?"

The Pharisees.  "We won.  Thank goodness that distraction is dead and buried in the tomb.  I don't know who He thought He was to have tried to challenge what we know to have been true forever.  A new covenant?  What's wrong with the old one?  At least our teachings and leadership can go on now without that pesky Jesus trying to persuade our followers of His unbelievable message."

Pilate.  "What have I done?  I allowed a persuaded crowd to encourage me to let a criminal go and crucify an innocent man.  I've made a lot of decisions and many I regret.  But this one.  This one seems more dire than any of the past decisions I questioned.  It's over now.  Nothing I can do about it.  Time to move on with my life."

Mary, Mother of Jesus.  "This can't be real.  I know what the angel told me when I conceived Him.  I know His purpose in coming was to die.  But this way?  I'll never get over seeing my baby on that cross.  Suffering for me.  How is this all going to work out?  I know what the prophets said.  I know what Jesus said during His short 33 years here on earth.  But did I believe a lie?  No.  Surely not.  I love my Son.  He was the Son of God.  My tears may never end, but I simply can't lose hope." 

These people lived between hopelessness and hopefulness.  There was a time - the day in between - when Jesus was dead.  The emotions, the questions were surely endless.  I can't even fathom dealing with that mourning and grief, not knowing how God was going to respond the next day.  But we know the end of the story.  Resurrection is coming.  Hope is on its way.  Mourning is turned into joy.  And we don't have to grieve as those did at the cross because we know Jesus is alive.

I live each day with the hope of eternal life as my security.  Do you?  If not, you are living in an endless "day in between" without hope, only the end.  By choosing to follow Christ, and turning from your sinful lifestyle, you can have this hope too.  If you don't know how to do that, contact me.  I want you to live life everyday like it's Resurrection Day.  

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Gospel According to Beauty and the Beast

The newest trend in Disney productions is to take what was animated and make it new again with live-action films.  With the technology available today, this is nothing like live-action has seen before.  The latest in their live-action portfolio was released earlier this month - Beauty and the Beast. 

The animated version that debuted in the early 90s became one of pantheons of Disney princess movies, and started a trend in that decade for an onslaught of Disney princesses.  I loved that movie. Even though I was way beyond the age of the target audience, I went to the theater with my Mom to see it and fell in love with the story.  The last theatrical stage production I took my Mom to see was Beauty and the Beast, so it holds a special place in my heart.

A few weeks before this movie release, news hit of a an openly homosexual character being portrayed by Josh Gad.  He plays the sidekick of Gaston, LeFou, and it was reported - though not seen in film yet - that Disney had made this character so overtly homosexual that they've now gone down a path of no return.  I'm often skeptical of the media (Trump is, right?) and don't believe everything I see or read until I see or read it for myself.  Journalists live for the hype, so I withheld my judgment until seeing the movie, which, I was fortunate to see on opening night.  

First off, before I provide any commentary on the movie itself, let me say a few things.  I don't go to Disney for my theology.  Do I believe that homosexuality is a sin according to what the Bible teaches?  Yes.  Do I expect Disney to withhold Christian values?  No.  I'm also not a mother of children, but I have many friends who are, so I'm sensitive to that as well.  As I was growing up, my Mom and Dad didn't shield me from the things of this world.  They raised me in a godly home, with godly principles, and anything they felt on the fence about, they would watch with me or before me.  Then we'd discuss it.  In my early teen years, Judy Blume was a hot Young Adult writer who produced some steamy fiction that many of my friends couldn't read or her books were being banned from school libraries.  Shock alert:  I read them, and at the approval of my Mom.  Why?  Because she read them too and we talked through what we read.  How did the character in this story respond to situations?  Is this how I would respond as a godly young woman?  Instead of throwing me in a Christian bubble, my parents walked into the world with me.  Saying I'm forever grateful for them isn't really enough.  

The live-action movie was exquisite.  Many people know my affinity for Cinderella, but Beauty and the Beast comes in a close second, but her live-action film wins over Cinderella's version.  The way the story was expanded to bring out more depth was amazing.  It's definitely one to watch again and again.  And for LeFou?  His actions could be interpreted as simply the loony character we saw in the animated film or homosexual, but for someone of a young age, unless they followed social media on the hype, they wouldn't automatically assume he was homosexual.  It definitely didn't hurt the movie at the box office...and honestly, might have helped it, which is why when these types of things get blown out of proportion, we need to be wiser in how we react.  

Was Disney's intent to shroud a homosexual character in the form of LeFou even if it wasn't overt?  Doesn't matter if they did or didn't.  I'm sure every media I take in - books, movies, television shows - all have a back story from the producers and directors I may never know, but only be a subtle appearance.  I don't expect anything in Hollywood that is not based in biblical values to be something to tout the Truth from the Word of God.  Simultaneously a movie based on the book, The Shack, was released, yet I heard very little from Christians on the damaging message that movie presented, under the guise of a "christian" movie.  That would take another blog post, but the Bible teaches us to beware of false teachers who take the Truth of God's Word and twist it even a smidge to make us feel good and accept what is false for truth.  If you want to get in an uproar about something, wave the flag on The Shack.  

The messages that should outshine the rest in Beauty and the Beast is the sacrificial love that Belle showed when she took the place of her Dad being locked up at the castle. (spoiler alert)  This comes straight from John 15:13, "No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends."  Even Belle's love for the Beast speaks to a Scripture that described how God views man, "Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)  

The world is never going to give us the love story that is pure and true.  We can only write stories that can maybe have a whiff of what true love is.  The greatest love story of all time is about The One who gave His life for me and loves me beyond all my outward faults and appearances and covers me with His Righteousness.  Now, that is a tale as old as time.   

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Why I Love This is Us

Last night I watched the season finale of the new NBC drama, "This is Us."  For the first time in, oh, forever, I'm actually watching a show in real-time.  That never happens.  Never.  Even the handful of reality shows I watch are watched on demand.  Yet this show captivated me so much I don't want to miss it as soon as it airs.  And, I watch the episode again, maybe more than once, because I love it so much.  

I'm not the only one in love with this show. My social media feed fills up on Tuesday nights when this show is on.  It's been a long time since a drama like this one has drawn so many people into its fold.  It's this observation that made me examine why I love this show so much.  

There are a lot of things to point out - the acceptance of an interracial adoption at a time when it wasn't so much the norm, a woman battling weight issues, the challenges of the every day life of a normal American family, the realism found within this family.  But I can narrow it down to one major thing.  The men on the show. Specifically Jack Pearson, played by Milo Ventimiglia. If you haven't watched the show and intend to, spoiler alert ahead.

Jack is the father of the children who star in the show.  In this first season, we've seen the birth - and adoption - of his children, the love he has for his wife, the struggle with alcohol that is becoming more evident, and the way he parents his children.  In the season finale, we learned even more about his family background that was hinted to before. The refreshing thing about Jack is the writers aren't portraying him - or any of the men for that matter - as weak, meager men like most dramas and sitcoms do these days.  Jack is strong.  He fights for his family.  He fights for his marriage.  Yes, he has his faults, but he admits to them.  He's not perfect. And we know that Jack has passed on, though we don't know details.  

We've seen Jack proclaim he doesn't want to be like his father, who was abusive to his mother.  We learn in the season finale that he was a Vietnam Veteran and didn't come back angry at the world and his country.  And we see how his parenting is being played out in the lives of his children.  So many touching scenes to represent that, but one comes to mind.  His son, Randall, suffered from panic attacks, and Jack knew how to calm him down in a way no one else could.  Now in adulthood, with his father gone, Randall's brother, Kevin, comes to the rescue of Randall's latest breakdown.  Just like his father, Jack, would.  There are some many more examples, but are beautifully written in a tapestry-like way that make the most impact when watched on the screen.  This is one of the most exquisitely-written shows I've watched in a long time.

Thank you, NBC, for allowing a show where men are portrayed in a way we rarely see in today's television shows.  Thank you, Hollywood, for producing a show that doesn't push agendas every week.  I'm worn out over everyone - on both sides - pushing agendas in my face.  You've brought a show to the screen that is so well written and pricks the heart of the viewer in a way few shows do.  We need more of those kinds of shows.  And more Jack Pearsons in our lives.