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“Holiday Inn” (I bought it without having seen it!!!)

23 Dec

Since I am stretching myself this Christmas and trying to see some holiday movies I haven’t seen before, I watched “Holiday Inn” today.  I believe I have seen parts of it before, but never the whole movie.  

What I took from it was that Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire finally learned that manipulating a woman to win her is not cool!  They fought over the same women all movie long.  If one wanted her, the other wanted her.  Usually it was Fred Astaire, scheming to take away Bing Crosby’s newest love.  But Bing did plenty of manipulation of his own, trying to keep Fred from taking away his girlfriends!!!  

When once Bing backed off and gave a woman the freedom to walk out of his life, he wound up winning back the woman he loved.  Tellingly, he was the first to the altar of the two (we presume, from the ending of the movie . . .). 

This movie reinforces the idea that love of a human being can easily become idolatry (of self or of that other person).  Even though the movie was not meant to teach Christian theology, it was made in a simpler time when such lessons often came just by being part of the society back then.  

People are not possessions.  Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire learn that in “Holiday Inn.”  Have we?  

Javert, Les Mis, and the Law vs. Grace

11 Nov

This is actually my favorite aria of “Les Miserables” because it shows how easily the human heart becomes enraptured by the law instead of grace.

Javert sounds so totally normal here until you remember he has spent over 20 years hunting someone down for stealing a loaf of bread.

Balance, people. Since we have to live together, there is a time for the law.

But we Christians should never define Christianity as being a list of laws to keep!!!


When Marriage Becomes Idolatry . . .

21 Sep

“And the prince and the princess entered the castle together as husband and wife and lived happily ever after, surrounded by their moat and their seven wonderful children . . .”

Isn’t that how the fairy tale ending usually plays out?  

Or, of more relevance to those of us raised on the beautiful love stories of the golden age of Hollywood, isn’t that how the movie usually ends?  Except the prince and the princess are usually commoners in the movies . . .

Regardless of the social status of the central characters, both fairy tales and Hollywood’s best movies convey the same idea– that marriage is a state in which two people spend the rest of their lives gazing into each other’s eyes, oblivious to the rest of the world out there, except for those gorgeous children who come along to complete the couple’s family circle.  

And this idea is one that I have long sought to balance in the thinking of the younger women with whom I have been privileged to have a friendship.  

It is a short step from loving someone with all my heart to idolatry.  And it is a short step from love to obsession, if love is anchored by Hollywood’s standards instead of by the Word of God.

God gave us the Great Commission to reach a hurting world for Christ.  That alone should tell us that we Christians were not created to spend a lifetime gazing into someone’s eyes.  There are times that is lovely and appropriate, but not an entire lifetime.  And it hurts my heart when I see younger girlfriends who seem to judge the health of their marriages by whether their spouses make them the center of their lives.  

Ummm, it’s Christ who is supposed to be the center of our lives as Christians, both as Christian men and as Christian women.  When we derail that truth, we go over the line into idolatry.  Or worse, into obsession with another human being, making him the center of our life and trying to force him to make us the center of his life.  

Not healthy.  Not tenable.  Life won’t work that way for long.  It isn’t meant to work that way.

I once heard the definition that a healthy Christian marriage is not two people gazing at each other, but two people, shoulder to shoulder, gazing outward at the world and the place in it where God has called them to serve together. 

Yet I still hear of situations where wives (most commonly wives, although husbands probably do this, too, and I just don’t hear about it as much) have absolute meltdowns over the fact that their husbands don’t do everything with them when not at work.  For those who work together, say in the ministry or in a family run business, the wife can end up totally doubting her husband’s love if he is not at her side 24/7.  

That may have worked in Eden before the Fall but it is not the way marriages work today.  If we put a stranglehold on a relationship we, umm, strangle the life and joy out of that relationship.  

The answer for a wife demanding that her husband put her at the center of his life is not more time and attention.  She needs to be drawn to the Word of God and challenged to put the Lord at the center of her life, as her husband needs to do. God has given us sufficient grace to live in relationship to Him and in relationship to each other without getting out of balance and into idolatry.  

He has a plan for each of our lives and that plan continues even if our spouse should die.  

The primary relationship is with Him, now and forevermore.  We need to be looking at Him,  as first in our lives, to stay on track with what He has called us to do.  

It is in that primary relationship that we find the reason He created us.  Our marriage is part of that reason, but it is not, nor will it ever be, the central reason of our existence.  In marriage, we help each other fulfill God’s plan for us as individuals, and as a team.  

And that is a very great grace.      


Losing 110 Pounds in 20 Minutes!

28 Jun

Losing 110 Pounds in 20 Minutes!

I got my new base ID today and, with it, a new picture of me, replete in a new red dress. The ID I turned in had my picture 110 pounds ago, in a red jumper that was precisely 10 sizes bigger than the dress I wore today. In essence, I lost 110 pounds in the course of a 20 minute photography session!

I was thinking about the fact that there are no shortcuts to weight loss. And wondering why God designed the universe that way.

Weight loss (and weight maintenance in a healthy state) are decisions we make one mouthful at a time. And daily when we decide whether we can find a half hour to work out before we flip on the television or the Netflix stream on our computer.

With very rare exceptions, most of us carry weight that is mathematically related to the quality of what we eat, how much of it we eat, and how much we exercise.

I have learned to shudder when I see most snack foods–full of sugar and salt for cheap flavoring, full of preservatives so that they will last on a shelf for years, full of . . . zero nutritional value.

Never say never . . . but I want to make my consumption of processed foods a rare thing. It grieves my heart that they are the cheapest foods in the stores, even in the convenience stores where they are marked up pretty high. Teens and poorer people without cars often buy their food in convenience stores. Teens and poorer people without cars often don’t have access to education about the nutritional value of various foods (or, in the case of teens, they may hear nutritional information but choose to not process it!!!). And those poor brains, when all they get for nourishment is potato chips and Coke!!!

I am hopefully not becoming a food snob, but I want to be a voice of reason in a crazy world of idolatry.

You see, I think the reason God made it so that we have to partner with Him to lose weight, one small decision at a time, is because we would otherwise make an idol of our food, rather than worship the giver of that food.

We still can and do. I read in the paper today that 41% of Americans regard themselves as overweight or obese when . . . it is actually 68.8% who are! Seven out of ten. No wonder the American Medical Association just gave in and declared obesity to be a disease. There is no fighting a statistic like that. We love our food in this country!

I have spent years at weights far higher than what my body was built to carry. I could do it again. I am not home free till I go to be with Jesus someday, to that world where temptations, sin, and idolatry no longer exist.

In the meantime, I struggle, one mouthful at a time, one decision to work out at a time.

But that is good, for the struggle directs me to the foot of the Cross, where I see Christ, who triumphed in my struggles for me.

I truly believe that, if we could eat anything we wanted and never gain weight or if we could will ourselves to lose 110 pounds and have it come off in a week, we would be neckdeep in food idolatry. I believe the struggle helps free us from the idolatry.

Food is a wonderful gift and, in one way, I will always be a foodie! I love cooking and trying new recipes and trying new herbs and spices and trying new combinations of things . . .

I just know that I can’t eat high density calories every day of my life. Either I eat them in smaller portions or I choose to eat something else instead.

And God is faithful, oh so faithful.

I am so totally ordinary, if I can do it, anyone can.

In Christian Marriage, Does God See Us as One Person?

4 Apr

This post goes out to some of our young Christian couples, hoping to keep them from making a mistake that Noel and I made, along with many other couples of our age group (and probably many, many other couples throughout the ages, all the way back to Christ’s time on earth). 

It is the mistake of thinking we need to correct our spouse (“edit his image”) in public.  

Used to be that was done with words.  It was totally unsubtle and pretty easy to eradicate early in marriage because it stuck out like a sore thumb.  

Now I notice it more and more on social media.  

A person tells a story about something that happened to his family; his spouse comes along straightaway and either contradicts some of his details or else expands the story outward with more details to make the person’s image or her family’s image more acceptable to her personal standards.  


Do you see what that does to the original storyteller?  Not only shows him his spouse doesn’t think he can reliably represent events happening to their family but . . . makes a point of showing him that in front of his friends.  I think that publicly airing such a lack of confidence in one’s spouse embarrasses the storyteller much more than he could ever have been embarrassed by any detail he might have possibly gotten wrong in the story!

This also establishes a precedent in a marriage that says, “If I don’t like the way you state something out in public, I regard it as my job to come along and ‘clean up’ after you.”  To edit his words, basically.  

That might be acceptable if God regarded us as one person after marriage, because it would follow that we shared one reputation and one image.  It might even suggest it was okay to jealously guard that reputation and image.  

Unfortunately for the spouses who do this, God’s principle of two people becoming one flesh  applies to their bodies, and to some extent, to their souls.  There is nothing quite so comforting as being physically with someone with whom our soul is calm and at peace.  Knowing that person as we are also known. 

However, spiritually, we remain two individuals, both responsible before God for our choices, especially our choice to either receive Him as Saviour and Lord or . . . to not do that.

Our primary relationship remains with the Lord.  The spouse, a very great gift from God, is the secondary relationship.  If we put the spouse before the Lord in our ranking, we commit idolatry.

I have never seen a spouse who edited her spouse’s words who did not end up having an idolatry issue with that spouse–wanting to present him to the world as almost godlike (and thinking she had a better idea of how to do that than he himself did!).  

When we first arrived in Virginia Beach, we had been married a year and a half.  One of our first friendships at our new church was with a couple just a few years older than us, but married quite a bit longer.  I recall as though it were yesterday an issue we faced at church and how well the wife taught me to handle it.

She and I sang soprano in the choir.  At the time, our husbands hardly came to church.  In fact, they hit it off with each other because they both liked to come once a month–on the day when the men’s group made brunch for everyone to eat after the morning service.  Both husbands basically liked to come to the church to fellowship with the men while they were cooking, then to sit around with the families and have brunch together.  They made a big joke of their once a month attendance!  

It was not a very spiritual orientation to life at the new church and I found myself thinking I should put pressure on my husband to come to church every week.  After all, I was up front in the choir . . .

Someone said something to my friend about her husband’s attendance and she later told me that she had to reach deep inside herself, take a breath, and realize she was not ultimately responsible for her husband nor his image.  She was responsible before God for herself–she was able to convey that to the person who cornered her.  

Later, her mentoring helped me a lot when a neighbor came over to complain to me about some painting he thought my husband needed to do on the outside of our house.  I did not promise to pass the word to Noel.  In fact, I was pretty sure he would not believe me that this neighbor was serious about the painting.  So I asked the neighbor to talk to Noel in person.  He never did.

Now either the neighbor really wasn’t serious about the painting or he was doing what innumerable men have done for hundreds of years–trying to avoid confrontation with another man by sending a message via a woman.  

In either case, I wasn’t about to play the game.  I realized that I was doing all I could to care for a baby and to keep the inside of my house clean.  It was not then my job to worry about fresh paint on the outside of the house and I was not about to make it my job, even to relay a message that may or may not have been well-received.  

It was freeing to realize Noel’s image did not belong to me and I was not responsible to maintain it.  I had gotten off on the wrong foot that first year and a half of marriage.  I might have turned into a huge control freak with Noel if my friend had not intervened when she did (even without being conscious, as she did it, that she was modeling appropriate Christian marital behavior to me!).   

Please, young friends, do not edit each other’s words and image . . . it shows an idolatry of the heart far worse than anything you are trying to cover up in your spouse’s life.  

Be that refreshing well of water for his soul.  The one who points him to God as his primary relationship!  In so doing, you will become the most valuable spouse you could ever be.

Just a Thought on Idols . . .

10 Dec

I John 5:21, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”

We assume that others want to get rid of their idols.  We assume that we want to get rid of ours, too.

For many reasons, that may not always be an accurate assumption.

Sometimes our idols are propping up another part of our life, a part we are trying to live independently of God.

Sometimes our idols have been in our life longer than God has and we have not identified them as idols because they are so familiar to us we can’t see the connection.  

Sometimes we even have habits we know are not pure but they are so familiar we can’t believe they could possibly be an idol.  

They can.

When we are ready to be serious with God, He will show us our idols, one by one.   

A Tale of Two Forgivenesses

7 Dec

Isaiah 44:20,  “He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, [Is there] not a lie in my right hand?”

This has always been my favorite verse for teaching on idolatry of the heart, and the self-deception we all have.

The only hope for all of us is to cry out, often, to our merciful Saviour to spare us from ourselves.  He will answer that prayer.  But we have to be prepared to “live in the light” He gives us and to confront and actively put to death those parts of ourselves that live in rebellion against Him.  He will show us where they are.  We need to make them die.

One area that I have lived long enough to see multiple times is the area of strained relationships within a church or parachurch organization.  We like to say that Satan targets churches (and para-churches) in order to destroy Christian unity.  But so often we have no idea what Christian unity looks like and couldn’t build it if we tried.  His Word tells us what it is, but we ignore His Word, to our detriment.

And our flesh gets in the way, oh so badly gets in the way.  An older friend of mine once joked “Satan could sit in his bathtub drinking a mai tai and I would still have issues because my flesh is a greater enemy to me than he is.”

She was right about almost all of us, and very wise to say so!

An example I will give, building a composite from various situations I have seen, so not picking on any particular person or place, is the example of Christian forgiveness.

Let’s say that Person A and Person B, ministering together in a church, have reached such an impasse that they have to do a Paul and Barnabas act and split up.  Maybe they both leave the original church and go on to two different ministries.

Person A forgives Person B from his heart and, after expressing that he will pray for him and his new ministry, goes on, with not a word to anyone else.  Oh, his wife knows the details and a few close friends probably can figure them out because they have walked in on conversations inopportunely in the past.  They have put the pieces together in their own minds as the months have gone by.  But this person keeps his silence, regarding forgiveness of private things as a private matter.

Person B, on the other hand, also expresses forgiveness when with Person A.  However, he keeps rehearsing his issues with Person A to anyone who will listen, as the months, and then years roll by.

In fact, he often couches his discussions with, “I forgave this person but he ripped my heart out and I can never get past that” sorts of remarks.

See what he is doing?  He is:

A) making private matters of forgiveness public.

B) using the old saying “I can forgive but I can’t ever get over the hurt” (which is, technically, not Biblical forgiveness at all).  There is a principle that the more you talk about something, the harder it is to get over that thing, so much of what we claim we cannot get past are things we will not get past.  In fact, if we are totally honest about that saying, it enshrines our emotions as god, by saying that we are trapped forever by an emotional response we had to that person in the past.  God says, very simply, we are to forgive others because He forgave us for a whole lot more than we need to forgive in others.  That is at once the easiest thing to say and hardest thing to do, but He says we must do it.

C) painting himself as the righteous one in the scenario, by saying over and over again that he forgave things that occurred to him.  Person A forgave, too (and actually exercised his forgiveness in a Biblical way) but, if we are not careful, we can start suspecting Person A of evil because we never heard his side of the story.  The Bible says it is easy to side with the first person who talks to us about a situation (particularly if we never hear the other side).

D) being a drama queen.  Using phrases like “ripped my heart out” or “hurt me so deeply I can never forget” gives us no idea of what Person B himself did in the scenario.  He may have done even worse things, but he is not mentioning those.

We all want to be like King David’s son Absalom and gather a crowd of people around us when we are in conflict.  We want people who will side with us.  But when we feed our fleshly nature that way by making conflict a popularity contest, we cut off the possibility of hearing or knowing the other half of the story.  And we guarantee that we remain blind and deluded.

God is so good that He will offer us chance after chance to get this right.  If we have blown off one relationship this way, He will bring us other strained relationships, and then more after that, until we pass the test and treat these relationships Biblically.

You see, the thing is that usually the people involved in strained relationships within a church are truly Christians.  They may get nasty with each other and accuse each other of not being truly saved, but usually they are.

They just would rather feed their flesh, feed on ashes.  They would rather indulge their need to be right than follow the clear words of Scripture about what to do when relationships are strained.

May we stop doing that!

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