Sunday, July 31, 2011

Christmas in July

I am an endangered species, one of a rare breed. I have never seen "It's a Wonderful Life" all the way through. Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, you can take comfort in knowing, as of yesterday, I have now seen the movie. Every year at Christmas time, NBC would show this movie (usually on Christmas Eve, if not 55 other times between Thanksgiving and Christmas) and I'd start the movie but by the time George Bailey sings with Mary "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" I'd lose interest. Those who know me best are aware that my all-time favorite Christmas flick (from the classic genre) is Holiday Inn, followed closely by Miracle on 34th Street (original version, in black and white) and White Christmas. But, I know there is this faction of Bedford Falls followers that would gasp in disbelief that watching this movie wasn't a tradition of mine. You would think I'd have defamed Rudolph or something.

Every summer the Louisville Palace hosts a summer movie series. On Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening, for two months in the summer, they show a genre of classic movies for a mere $5 a ticket. Past series have included Hitchcock movies and movie musicals. This summer the theme is Jimmy Stewart movies. The Palace is located on 4th Street in downtown Louisville and the perfect venue for a classic movie series. Built in 1928, it was originally built to be a movie theater and was restored some years back to its original ornate and beautiful decor as a location on the National Register of Historic Places. Now it hosts many a concert and theaterical production, and the annual classic movie series. This series includes all of the well-known Jimmy Stewart classics - Rear Window, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Harvey, Vertigo - and others...including It's a Wonderful Life. Since it's July and hotter than all get out here in the Ville, it seemed appropriate to go with some friends to see what is traditionally known as a Christmas movie. Consider this my version of Christmas in July.

For those other rare species like myself who may not have seen the movie, it's the story of George Bailey. George has big dreams, but things always seem to keep him from getting to those big dreams. This movie theme alone hooked me in as I'm a lover of Mr. Holland's Opus and any movie that shows a life traveling an unplanned road, but when looking back, you see how you have touched and changed many a life. George was that kind of guy. From saving his brother from a death via falling in a frozen lake to marrying the love of his life who had loved him since childhood. Yet, all along the way, he felt like his life was worth nothing. George even gets to the point that he decides the world is better off without him and he decides to jump off the bridge and leave his wife with his life insurance policy. But, Clarence, the angel, jumps in and George feels compelled to save him and thus begins Clarence's journey to get his wings. He does this by showing George what the world would be like without him. Needless to say, the movie ends happily and for those few Whos in Who-Ville who haven't seen the movie, I won't completely spoil it.

Sometimes it's nice to stop in the middle of the hot, sweaty summer and watch a story that normally life is too busy to truly allow me to let it soak in during the holiday season. This is just that movie. And, I can hear Clarence say to George, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" Thanks, Clarence, for the reminder that no matter how big or small we seem in life, or no matter if we live out our wildest dreams or not, our lives touch others and make a huge impact, even when we think not. That's a lesson that should ring true throughout the year, not just when the Christmas bells are ringing. Maybe I'll make this my new Christmas in July tradition.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Good Friends = Good Times

You know those kind of friends that you can catch brief moments with along life's journey and let way too much time pass, but when you finally connect for a concentrated period of time it's just like one second had never passed? Mark and Sharon Robinson are just those type of friends. This sweet couple lives in Nashville - a mere three hours from my home - yet it had been a year and a half since my last visit to Robinson Mountain. Life moves at a fast pace and with both of our schedules, finding time to visit when it worked for both of us was a challenge. Around the middle of May, I decided it was way past time for a visit and contacted the bed and breakfast for available weekends. It just so happened that July 4th weekend was free for both of us and my reservations were booked. Only God would have known that a week later I would lose my dear, sweet friend, Jan, and would desperately need this time away on Robinson Mountain. The weekend was simply...good.

Good Food - The Robinsons can whip up the best meals in the snap of a finger. They make it all look so easy. And I learn much about foods and prepping for a meal for one (or two, in their case). I learned how hearts of romaine last longer than other greens, so a value to buy for my money. I was introduced to Greek yogurt and I may have to do a jig over that delicacy. Mark made some excellent blueberry pancakes for breakfast one morning and even when we had a "pancake down!", he was able to rescue it from a certain demise. On Saturday night, Sharon realized she needed to make breakfast for their Bible Study class the next morning. She poured through her recipe books and we talked about her options based on what she had in the pantry. She decided upon a blueberry crumb streusal cake that turned out lovely and delicious. This is proof why Robinson Mountain is the ultimate bed and breakfast.

Good Worship - One of the highlights of my visits is attending church with them at Clearview Baptist. I get a double blessing as one of my former ministers of music, Michael Smith, is now serving at that church. Mark and Sharon are the mentoring couple for a co-ed singles class and it was so refreshing to see them lead what many would chalk up as too challenging a role to undertake. I don't know a couple more fitting for that role than Mark and Sharon. It was precious to hear their heart about all the sweet souls in this small group and their vision for the growth of those in that class. One of my weekly routines is to listen to sermons online. It helps me keep focused on the Lord throughout the week and allows me to learn from many godly pastors from across the country. My list of "virtual pastors" comes from my travels. Once I visit friends and their church, I begin to listen to their pastor regularly. This is no different with Clearview. Ever since my last trip in February 2009, I've been listening to Pastor Mark Marshall almost every week since. When I visited this time, I was fully prepared to jump right into his expositional series through Luke. And if corporate worship wasn't enough, the tender time of devotions at Robinson Mountain were also refreshing. Each day we would have a devotion together and pray for each other. There is something unexplainable when you can open God's Word and share with each other and dig into what a verse means or what God is trying to show you. It may seem small and insignificant, but this time on Robinson Mountain may be one of my most favorite parts of my visits.

Good Conversation - The July 4th weekend was blazing hot in Nashvegas and our brief idea of going to a local botanical garden early on Saturday before it got too hot was scratched when by 8am it was already over 90 degrees. We enjoyed a matinee movie at a local theater - Cars 2, great sequel - but the majority of the weekend we spent in the air conditioned comfort of Robinson Mountain, or in one of the Robinson vehicles. Since my life goes non-stop every other day of the week, I wasn't disappointed at all to relax and just catch up with my sweet friends. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, we have kept in touch enough to know the basics, but we needed all those outlines colored in and that took time of great conversation. And, when I arrived, Sharon said that she hadn't really grieved the loss of Jan and had prayed that while I was there we both could talk through our loss together and truly grieve the passing of such a precious friend to both of us. And that we did. We laughed as Sharon shared the story of Jan's "SNAIL" fist bump. And we shed tears as we prayed together and sought God's peace and comfort as we continue our journey here on earth until we see our Trinidadian Princess again. You can't really top great conversation. Having that uninterrupted time to truly share our hearts, our desires, our struggles and seek each other for counsel was simply priceless.

The word "good" just doesn't seem strong enough to represent the weekend of comfort I had. But "good" is a strong and solid word, much like the friendship I have with the Robinsons. A strong and solid friendship that stands the tests of time and distance and is simply...good.