Friday, June 17, 2011

The Gospel According to Army Wives - Part One

I'm a fan of the Lifetime drama, Army Wives. My friend, Julie, introduced me to this show a few seasons ago and was my primer to understanding all the Army lingo as she is a real Army wife herself. Now, you might read "Lifetime drama" and have a pre-conceived idea in your head about the tawdry, awful show this surely must be. But, I have to admit that this show is not your normal Lifetime fare of kidnappings, love triangles, soppy love stories and the like. This truly is one of my favorite dramas on television. The most recent season just came to an end, much to my dismay, but towards the end of this season, there were a couple of story lines that truly showcased the gospel. Since I'm accused of seeing Jesus in everything, I couldn't resist writing about this and making it a two-part series.

The division that is featured on this show was deployed earlier this season. One of the best episodes ever was one about a fallen soldier that was the son of Frank and Denise...Frank, an LTC in his son's division. That episode should win an Emmy...but I digress. While the division was deployed, Roxy, the wife of Sergeant Trevor, went against her husband's wishes and invested in a venture to build a truck stop in the town. Though Roxy's actions were out of a fear of Trevor being killed in combat, leaving her with two young sons to support, she and Trevor had many an argument via the phone across the seas because she refused to listen to Trevor's counsel on the topic. She ended up investing in the truck stop and hiring a contractor from her past....the father of her youngest son. Not the smartest move on her part as their past together was quite interesting. Whit and Roxy were friends, but he never really was a part of their son, Finn's, life. On top of the unwise investment in the truck stop, Roxy wasn't honest with Trevor and didn't tell him Whit was the contractor.

The division was coming home and the job wasn't complete. Now Roxy was going to be faced with having to tell Trevor the truth as he would see that she went against his wishes and invested in the truck stop and had Whit there as the main contractor. The age old problem of "your sins will find you out." Needless to say, Roxy was in a mess. Life wasn't good between her and Trevor. So much so it was affecting Trevor's performance and their marriage was clearly on the rocks. Prior to this deployment, Trevor and Roxy were one of the cutest couples on the show, so seeing their marriage and trust crumbling was very disheartening.

Roxy did what many of us do when we're in a pickle...she sought counsel from a close friend. Denise, who has had her own share of dishonesty in her marriage in the past and turned her life around, was her Army wife of choice. Roxy explained to Denise what she had done, shedding tears of regret and sorrow. Denise calmly looked at her and said "Roxy, you need to see this from your soldier's eyes. You've lied and you've not honored his wishes while he was away. You need to go to him and ask forgiveness for what you've done." I almost did a rewind on my DVR. Denise said what? She just gave Roxy solid marital advice unlike anything you'd typically hear from Hollywood. Denise didn't tell her to exercise her women's rights....or "you make money too, you can do what you want"...or any of that women's lib mumbo jumbo that has caused our society to believe something different than what the Bible teaches us about marriage. No, Denise told Roxy to honor her husband, follow his leadership. She told her that she failed to do that even when he wasn't present, but that whether he was physically there or not, she did wrong and needed to ask for forgiveness.

The show ended with Roxy confessing to Trevor her sin...her lies, her dishonesty. And her regret for doing those things, asking for his forgiveness. The gospel kept on going when Trevor sweetly forgave her and embraced her with a hug and kiss. He didn't condemn her or chastise her for the choices she made. But as a man who is worthy of being followed for sure, he loved her through the pain she had already endured. This forgiveness and mercy hung true in an episode or two later when he encouraged Roxy to bring Whit back to finish the project in a timely fashion. He trusted her and through this act of ongoing mercy was rebuilding a love and trust that had been broken. That persistent and redeeming love that never fails.

When I mess up and don't know how to even confess it to the Lord, I need to remember that He is waiting with open arms to forgive me, love me and wipe away my tears with His Hand of mercy. This is why God uses marriage as His picture of the Gospel. If only all our marriages would reflect the Gospel so clearly as this one little scene from Army Wives, the world would surely see Christ in us.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Soli Deo Gloria

Today in Trinidad, friends and family said their final earthly good-byes to Jan Harriott. This sweet Trinidadian Princess, at a very young 29, took her final breath on this earth May 25. When I heard the news that day, I remember the numb feeling I experienced and wanting to stay in denial that surely it wasn't true. I had just talked to her a week to the day prior and all was fine...I was even trying to coordinate a trip for her to come to Louisville one last time before she returned to Trinidad. But, alas, that never happened.

I met Jan around 10 years ago and I never knew the impact her friendship would have on my life and simply how much I would truly miss her. Even though miles separated us now, we were just as close. She was a heart friend...those friends that know you at your depths. Those friends who ask "What is God teaching you this week?"...or "How can I pray for you?" Jan was a partner in ministry with me. When she came here to attend Boyce College, she was a member of my church and served faithfully, primarily discipling teen girls and we both dreamed of writing literature together one day. I'd call her when I had ministry issues and needed her advice. And though she was much younger than me, so many times we lived out the verse "iron sharpens iron." I've ruminated over this blogpost since the day she passed. How can I sum up in one post all that Jan meant to me? At first, I was too bitter and angry that she was gone that I needed to confess to the Lord and work through that with Him before I could move forward. God is so patient with me, someone slow to learn and stubborn as can be. Now that I've had a few weeks to press forward, I felt like the best way to sum up the rich, but short life, of Heber-Jan Harriott, is to list the three things I think she'd charge me with if she could talk to me straight from the feet of Jesus.

1. Laugh a lot...and when you're done...laugh more - Jan had a laugh that was more than contagious. I so wish now I had it on recording somewhere because I'd replay it on days when I needed a good dose of the giggles. Her Trinidadian British accent made her proper diction eloquent, and then she'd say something hilarious, get tickled at herself and become a silly American like the rest of us. I'll remember all her fun sayings that would sweep the nation....when she'd hear a good sermon, or good teaching, she'd say "Everybody raise your right hand and say 'Who stole my Hummer?'"....she'd start a conversation, "Tell your friends and neighbors"...those voicemails I'd receive where she'd open with singing "Good Morning, Baltimore!" and provide a "Shimmy" at the end....we were "Diva Agents" and went on many a "mission" that we couldn't discuss. Jan would want me to laugh now...and even more because I'm sure she'd say "Diva, you aren't going to believe what is waiting for you!!"

2. Dream Big - If there was one thing Jan did, it was dream big. She was never satisfied with the status quo...she wanted more. She longed for the fairy tale herself, but even when she coordinated weddings for others, Jan realized she could do this and dreamed of having a Wedding Planner service named "When Dreams Come True." Jan loved discipling girls and she worked many a summer at Centrifuge Camps as a development director helping the leaders prepare sessions...Lifeway even used her curriculum one summer at a camp. When she took care of those leaders, she did it in a big way. Those leaders were loved and she made sure of that. And every girl that came through camp was loved even more. She'd call me during her breaks in those summers to share stories or seek counsel on how to deal with some of the toughest teen problems girls face. Her dream for discipling girls into godly women always grew bigger. One of those dreams came true when she developed and launched a "GIRL Talk" event at our church for the youth girls. Every aspect of it was her vision...or shall I say, God's vision through Jan. From the fashion show, to the panel of women, to the "pink" theme, to a single male sharing what a godly man looks for in a woman, to a fine dining experience learning proper etiquette, it was all part of her dream. She hosted one of those events at our church and truly wanted to see us take it on the road to other churches. Sadly, that never happened. Jan had a lot of dreams, many of which never were fulfilled...this side of Heaven. I rest in the fact that more than all her dreams could imagine have been fulfilled at the feet of Jesus.

3. In all things, give God glory - The one thing I'll always remember and be challenged by Jan's life is that no matter what, she always gave God all the glory. When I was dealing with the anger and bitterness of losing her way too soon in my limited perspective, I recounted all the things she didn't get to do that she longed to do. She loved to sing and was gifted with a beautiful voice....but never got to do it at the level she'd hoped. She longed to disciple girls 24/7....but that dream didn't happen. She loved the fairy tale and hoped one day to marry that man God had for her....that didn't happen. She was waiting for her green card at the time of her death...but it still hadn't cleared and she was going to have to head home to Trinidad on June 20. Even when immigration tried to send her home two years ago, then stopped the process, she decided to go back to school to become an EKG tech and use that training in medical missions one day. She had just finished her certification....and that never happened. Though Jan and I shared our hearts and we shed many tears and questioned "why?" on many occasions, we always closed our conversation one way. Jan would always give God glory. I can still hear her say "God is sovereign." That passionate commitment to the Lord will forever be Jan's way of keeping me accountable even though she's left this earth.

I have many notes, books and other cards that Jan gave me. I'm so thankful for those little touches of her in my life. Every note she would leave...every message inside a book....every card she'd send...ended the same way "Soli Deo Gloria" which means "to the Glory of God alone." If I had to sum up Jan Harriott's life in three words, it would be Soli Deo Gloria. Until that day when I see her again and she takes me on a tour of Heaven and to my mansion, which will be next door to hers as she always hoped, may I live giving all the glory to God and God alone.