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.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Table Topic: Childhood Playtime

I recently began reading the book, "The Measure of Success" by Carolyn McCulley and Nora Shank.  This book provides a biblical perspective on work and what that means for women.  Carolyn is a never-married single woman and Nora is a married mom who works.  So far, this has been a very insightful book, affirming my love of career.  

Would I rather be CEO of a home and raising a family?  Sure, but that isn't where God has me.  This book helps me see what Scripture says about the importance of working - inside and outside the home - for women.  It's freeing to dig into this topic since, on some days, being a single woman can be discouraging.  All women, no matter where they work, have important roles.  Carolyn shared an interesting story about her childhood that has stayed with me.  She never played house.  Looking back on that realization made her evaluate where she is in her life and if that was by design in some way.  I found that tidbit fascinating!  

Reflecting on my childhood, I played house in church nursery (probably) and in least until Jimmie Walker made me mad and I quit playing.  But when I was home playing, I played one of three things - teacher, store owner, or prairie woman.  I would sit up my stuffed animals and teach them, and make up stories.  I had a cash register from Fisher Price that I LOVED and would play general store all.the.time.  And, when I'd play outside (when I wasn't swinging so high my swing set almost overturned) I'd play "Little Woman on the Prairie" trying to survive.  I would collect leaves and nuts and decide how I was feeding myself.  

Granted, I was an only child, so I played a lot by myself, but I could have just as easily played house (I had a kitchen set) as the next girl.  But, I'd grow weary of that and head to my cash register.  Could that have been my desires playing out (pun intended) of where my strengths would lie?  Maybe.  

That brings us to today's Table Topic:  What did you love to play as a child and is it a reflection of what you enjoy doing today?

Ready, Set, Play!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lessons Learned for a Lifetime

The recent appointment of a new Department of Education head and the move of the governor of my state to research the public school system in my county has caused me to think much about my education.  I have a lot of friends who are public school teachers and friends who teach at private schools and even at higher educational institutions.  It's not an easy job but every teacher is shaping the future of every student they teach.  Heavy weight to carry around for one person.  

As I've ruminated on this, I've come up with five teachers throughout my educational career that have impacted me for a lifetime.  Let me say there have been many more, but these were the first to come to mind, and span my education from kindergarten to MBA.  Most of them don't know the impact they made and some are no longer on this earth for me to tell them.  But I hope this post encourages you to share with a former teacher of yours the impact they've made.  Or, if you are a teacher, you'll read this and say "You know, this day stinks, but I may have just changed a life today."  Without further ado, here is my five featured teachers...

Mrs. Juanita Gass - Mrs. Gass was one of my Kindergarten teachers along with Mrs. Jacobson.  You really do learn a lot in Kindergarten and I have to admit, I did.  I remember distinctly on election day going into a cardboard voting booth to vote for what Kool-Aid flavor we'd have for snack time and my flavor won! (It was grape)  It instilled in me that my vote really does count!  The lesson learned from Mrs. Gass was unconditional love and how she wouldn't keep any child from being included.  It wasn't until I was 28 that I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, but even as a 5-year-old, I would wear out after walking a distance.  One day we took a field trip to the Zoo and I couldn't walk the entire way.  Mrs. Gass carried me on her shoulders the remainder of the Zoo trip.  She didn't have to do that, but she did.  I'll never forget that.

Mrs. Lily Kruetzman - Mrs. Kruetzman was my 3rd grade teacher.  She was one of the most jovial people I knew.  She'd laugh and we always had fun in her class.  One day, I came to school and my jacket's zipper was stuck.  I couldn't get out of my coat.  Mrs. Kruetzman saw me struggling and being the independent soul I wouldn't ask for help.  She came over and said, "I can get you out of that jacket!"  She quickly pulled it over my head, which clearly I hadn't thought of.  Her next phrase was, "There's more than one way to skin a cat."  She taught me that when you can't do something, or are in a pickle, there is always a way to get out of it, or make it work.

Miss Kathy Leonard - Miss Leonard was my 7th and 8th grade Core teacher.  In Junior High, Core Class was where you spent a good chunk of your day and I was thrilled to spend it with Miss Leonard!  I almost lost it when I found out I had her again in 8th grade!  Miss Leonard was another fun-loving teacher and was single.  I thought she was the coolest.  In 8th grade, she was working on additional education and used us as her guinea pigs for creative teaching techniques.  We did some of the most innovative activities to teach concepts.  We even held our own courtroom one day.  The lesson I learned from Miss Leonard is that you can do anything and don't have to be married to do it.  I don't think this was her main intent, and I didn't realize that lesson until I was older.  And even today as I'm still single and a career woman, I think of Miss Leonard and her inspiration of having fun and being successful being single.  

Mr. Lance Springs - Mr. Springs was my Junior English teacher.  During that year, we had to write a pretty extensive research paper - 25-30 pages on a topic of our choice, but we had to use 3 book references, 20 periodicals, and 1 special source, such as a newspaper or personal interview.  Now, keep in mind this was WAY before the Internet, so this was no easy task.  I presented him my topic choice, which was the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.  He said to me, "I'll approve this, but I doubt you'll be able to find the adequate sources."  You never tell me "can't" and I was on a mission.  Not only did I keep that topic, I received a 96 on the paper.  During my Senior year, I was his Teacher's Aide, so I felt like I reached a new level by proving my abilities to him.  The lesson I learned from him was "you can do anything you really put your mind to."  I don't know if that was his intent in his comment to me, but somehow I think he knew my personality and knew I would put forth my best work when challenged.  To this day, I still take a challenge as serious as I did that research paper.

Dr. Karen Rush - Dr Rush was my last professor during my MBA studies.  She was the professor of my last class before graduation - the capstone class.  Our biggest assignment was an analysis of a company using everything we'd learned in our MBA studies.  When I got my paper back, she said, "Have you ever considered getting your PhD?  This is great work and you'd do well in PhD studies."  Now, my PhD friend, Paige, is praying me in that direction, but for now, pursuing my PhD isn't on my radar.  But hearing those words encourage me to never close the door on any possibility.  I said at one time I'd never get my MBA and - boom - I have it.  I'd love to teach as an adjunct one day to see if it's something I'd enjoy and Dr. Rush has offered to help me in any way she can.  

I'm thankful for my education and for all the teachers who invested in me.  Hug a teacher today.  You are where you are, in part, because of them.