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My Heart Will Sing

It’s a cold and rainy Sunday here in Austin and after some quiet reflection, I need some writing therapy. I have what is referred to these days as “the feels” right now. My heart is heavy for loved ones that I know are suffering and struggling and even though I know that the Father’s promises are true and that one day there will be restoration and we will look back and see that the Lord used everything we ever travailed through for our good, in the moment the pain is overwhelming. Desperation is worn like a crown as we wait for God to move or give us a peek behind the scenes.

We led worship at our fellowship this morning and sang the song “Forever Reign” which always takes me back to February when life was especially hard for me. That song was played at another fellowship we had visited and right in the bridge where the words say, “My heart will sing, no other name, Jesus”, the Lord stopped me in my tracks and questioned whether or not I was really singing His name. It was immediately clear to me that I wasn’t. That I was singing everything else but His name. So today, as we sang that song, I shared that with our congregation and was overwhelmed with emotion, and with the heart of the Father for his people, for their pain and their suffering.

The answer is so simple that I can simply type it out, but putting it into action is a completely different issue. It means saying no to the fear that feels safe and normal because trusting in God seems ludicrous sometimes. It means saying no to the whispers that pull us into rabbit holes of defeat and anxiety, and it means ruling our thoughts and singing the only name that will bring us peace.

If we will just sing His name instead of all of the other things we sing, like success or failure, attention or insecurities or dreams and broken hearts, I know that we will see a change. That we will get that peek behind the veil. If we will just keep our hearts focused on Him, we will find that all we need comes from His perfect provision. We will find in Him our healing, our comfort, our joy. This world is so full of distraction, and the enemy has become the master of all lies and he weaves those lies around some our best intentions and favorite things. But we serve the Father of all truth and so again, if we will turn our hearts to Him — like really –  let’s not just sing the words, but let’s actually do it.

Jesus, right here, right now, my heart is only singing your name. None other. I worship you in spirit and in truth. Whatever you see in me that makes you sad, point it out so we can move past it. Draw me closer into your presence so that the folds of grace envelop me completely. And when I wander out on my own again in an hour or five minutes, pull me back in all over again. Overwhelm me with your love for me, your desire for me. You are my only hope. My heart will sing no other name but Jesus.

Movin’ On Up

Let’s pretend that it hasn’t been over a month since we’ve talked, alright? Thanks. I need some grace in this whole blogging/writing area lately. I swear, I think about blogging almost every single day, but unfortunately I only ever get that far. The thoughts never actually make it to the page. There is a lot of juggling and time management going on and unfortunately, the balls are dropping and the time is tick tock ticking away (props for the reference . . .).

BUT! Today I have a story to tell you that is burning in my heart! Here we go.

Last year when we were house hunting in Austin, life was too crazy and hectic to blog about all of what we faced in that season. It ranks up there with probably my top five most stressful moments of all times, but I’m pretty zen right now so I’ll just leave it out there ambiguously. It was stressful. Get the point? Good. We tried to buy a house and (thankfully!) that fell through for a few reasons. Then we decided that renting would be wiser and easier, so we started down that route. Well, it was wiser, but it definitely wasn’t easier. We had 2 houses rented out from underneath us while we were at the bank getting the deposit checks, within five minutes of each other, no joke. It came down to the point where I declared that we would just move into the La Quinta hotel because: 1. They did my laundry and cleaned my room. 2. The dog was welcome. 3. Free breakfast, and if we hoarded enough, free lunch too! 3. Free cable and (crappy) wifi and 4. We had adjoining rooms so the boys had their own little pad. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth as we continued our home search. It came down to the TUESDAY before the THURSDAY that the movers were coming to take our belongings and move them (to La Quinta) and then we got the call that we finally had an address in Pflugerville. YAY! We found a home and with two whole days to spare! Man that was a test of my faith, but I think I rocked it pretty good.

The La Quinta that almost became our home.

We always knew we would buy somewhere in this area when our lease was up, and we have flip flopped back and forth as to where and whether we would build or not. Our lease is up at the end of January, so the time for building passed in August, but we still didn’t have a clear direction as to where we wanted to end up. My preference is to go west (young man . . . reference anyone? This one is too easy) because there are more areas with mature trees and if I’m covered by trees, I can’t tell that there are no mountains holding us in. What is the opposite of claustrophobia? I’m totally claustrophobic in small crowded spaces, but when I drive down the highway and see NOTHING in the distance, it makes me feel pretty insecure in this world. This Canadian girl misses beautiful British Columbia. The other benefit to moving west is being closer to many of the connections we have made in Austin. So a few weeks ago, our realtor began sending us listings in the areas west of where we are now and we began preparing the boys to switch schools mid-year again as we planned to close on a house at the end of January.

Pulling them out of school last year was awful in and of itself. We had developed a wonderful little family at our school in Fort Worth and I still grieve that place, as do my boys. They still ask if we can go back to our beloved little neighborhood school. It kills me inside, and while I have never been a huge fan of our current school (the jury is out as to whether or not that’s a spiritual thing or just a ‘I don’t wanna be here’ tantrum), after our parent teacher conferences last month, we walked out of the school and I felt paralyzed at the thought of pulling them out of school in the middle of the year again. The thought made me want to hurl. I told Rocky and we discussed what our options were: buying in the area but not the exact neighborhood we are in, driving the kids in if we bought west of Pflugerville, and the original plan to make the move completely, school and all. As I looked at listings, my heart was extremely unsettled about the issue, and we hadn’t come to any clear direction or conclusions.

This past Saturday, Rocky got restless and decided to drive around to a few of the newer neighborhoods to look at some of the inventory homes and what not. He saw a floor plan that he really loved but had not been built yet, so he texted me and proposed the idea of extending our lease so that we could build after all.

Here is where I have to pause for a second and tell you something very important about me. Are you ready? Here we go: I do not love shopping for anything. I especially loathe and dread the idea of shopping for a home. Seriously. It. Wears. Me. Out. After all of the flip flopping we’ve done about this housing issue, and after the insanity of just trying to move here in the first place (I’m still recovering), Rocky’s text about sent me through the roof. I almost responded and said, “Or how about we move in to the La Quinta?” Instead I asked the appropriate questions and waited for him to come home and give me some context.

On Sunday we went to see the model of the floor plan Rocky had fallen for the day before. It was an absolutely beautiful home and I couldn’t believe it was going for the price on the paper Rocky had brought home. There were some optional things that we wanted to check out, so the realtor on site showed us the same house with some of the other options that we would need, but this house was already decked out with upgrades that put it outside of our budget. Sadly we trudged on to see another house that was also outside of our budget, but as we walked out of that house, Rocky looked across the street and said, “Isn’t that the same floor plan we were looking at down the street? Without the 3rd car garage?”

It was! The house was only framed out, but was the exact floor plan we were looking for, without the added costs! The realtor wasn’t sure what the bottom line was on the house, so we followed him to back to the office to find out and talk with his partner (who is also his wife). She checked her information and sadly informed us that the 2nd version of the house was also out of our price range. We were prepared to walk out but she looked at another sheet and pointed and said, “What about this one?”

Her husband peeked over her shoulder and said, “That’s the one we’re talking about!”

“Oh! Well we can get that one in your budget!” she exclaimed. She went on to explain that that house and four others qualified for an incentive that her manager had just ok’d in order to close on the sale before the end of the year. The incentive worked out to just about $20K off the retail value of the home.

*Cue elevator music while we pull our jaws up off the floor.*

Rocky got in touch with the company’s preferred lender to talk numbers and once again, we were told that the monthly payment was going to be outside of our budget. Having been through the ringer with this enough times, I let it go and started asking the Lord for clear direction on what we were supposed to do about our upcoming move. Even looking at houses in these neighborhoods was hard for me because I wanted to move west, dang it, not seven minutes northeast! WEST! DO YOU HEAR ME? WEST! TREES!!!!

Well, my husband, being the mastermind that he is, worked the numbers and figured out how to make the payment work for us rather than against us while I stood at a far distance in case his computer exploded from the stress of it all. The remaining issue was that the amount that our realtor’s (the one who was sending us the listings from the good ol’ west) lender had pre-approved us for a loan that was just a hair less than we needed for the new home.

“Rocky, we don’t even know if we can get approved for that much.” I said, oh me of little faith.

. . .Five minutes later . . .

“We’re approved!”

With zero hesitation in my heart, I said, “Do it.”

So Rocky called the builder’s realtors and told them we were in for the long haul and asked if he should come down asap. They assured him that was unnecessary, but after he hung up the phone he said he had to go stand in front of the house and make sure it was what the Lord was giving us. So, he took the earnest money and ran for the hills. Except not the hills because the hills are west.

Here is the important part of the story:

As Rocky was walking in to the office, the building contractor was walking out. He had just told the realtor’s that *our* house was not going to be finished by the end of December, which means that it wouldn’t be ready to close until January. The realtor was on the phone with her manager passing on the news. Remember that the incentive, the discount on the house was only good if the sale closed in December. In light of this new development, the manager said to pull the incentive and put the house back on the market at retail value. Dun Dun Duuuuuuuuun.

“But sir, I have a man in my office that was here yesterday and we quoted him that price and he has a check. In. His. Hands.”

*Pause for dramatic effect*

“DO IT!”

YOU GUYS! If Rocky hadn’t felt the pressure to go down to the house at the exact moment he did, we would have LOST IT.

YOU GUYS! The new neighborhood is only about 5-7 minutes away from where we live now and our kids can finish out the school year where they are now!

YOU GUYS! We get to close in JANUARY like we originally WANTED to AND we still get the incentive discount!!!

YOU GUYS! This house is beautiful and even nicer than our house in Fort Worth and I really never ever thought anything would compare to our first place.

YOU GUYS! To me this didn’t even really count as house-shopping because it was only ONE HOUSE! I’ve been dreading this process for months! ONE HOUSE! Okay, well, one house three times, but still . . .

YOU GUYS! The Father promised us all kinds of things about moving to Austin and about his plans and purposes here and this story is part of those promises being fulfilled!

And um . . . you guys? I think I can get over not moving west. . .  Just send me pictures of trees and mountains okay? Posters even?

It’s just a house, and I’d be okay if it hadn’t worked out, but I am receiving the Father’s gifts in all of this. I see His hand moving and providing and orchestrating and protecting and defending . . . I’ve seen it more in the past twelve months than I ever have. He is so good and His love is so completely perfect . . . and this is just one little story. There have been and will be others. Everything is not perfect, there are still things to work through, still plenty of mountains to climb up ahead, but He is faithful in the midst of that and right now I can see the beauty He is showing me today, I can see the blessings in this moment and I choose to receive them and honor Him above all else.10624806_10154819649285008_5340207334914686702_n

God is Not Dead, But is Heaven for Real?

**SPOILER ALERT**
(Heaven really is for real)

Now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about the movie, shall we? So this was the third epic Christian movie that was released this year. I think they were all released around the same time, kind of like how Netflix releases every episode of it’s original shows all at the same time. Mass consumption and binge watching anyone? I don’t think I could have sat through all three movies in a day though . . . I digress.

Here is my disclaimer about this post: I am not a theologian. In fact, I think that the more I read the Bible the less I understand it. So, but for one (maybe two) instance, I am not going to deal with the doctrine issues raised by this film. Also, I have not read the book, only seen the movie.

So, if you read my last two posts about the Noah movie and “God’s Not Dead” then you know I wasn’t particularly excited about watching this one. I left it for last on purpose because I expected the cheese factor to be through the roof and I figured I was going to need a lot of wine to go with said cheese. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the movie, though. The Christian film industry better be careful, it’s now got two decent ‘don’t-look-like-they-were-filmed-on-a-flip-camera-and-directed-by-a-ten-year-old’ movies under it’s belt (to be clear, the other movie I’m referring to is “Mom’s Night Out“). The bar is officially raised, people. I think that Todd Burpo should be very proud of how his book was represented — although, again, I haven’t actually read the book, so  . . . maybe not.

We meet the heaven-traveling Colton near the beginning of the film while his mom (pastor’s wife) hosts the church choir in her living room. I rolled my eyes at that scene, but Rocky was quick to point out how realistic it was. Smalltown, USA means First Small Church of Smalltown, which means, the rather unlikely group of women screeching “Come Thou Fount” probably meets in Smalltown Pastor’s house. So I got passed it, and focused on the cutest little boy I’d seen in that five minutes (I’m biased), howling like a dog with his father to drown out the mismatched harmonies of the ladies inside the house. He won my heart right there.

In keeping with the choppy-ness of books-turned-movies, there were moments where things happened quickly, for example, the pastor, Todd Burpo (based on the author and real-life father of the book, and played by his excellency, Greg Kinnear) experienced multiple physical ailments in about a three minute time span. It was kind of overwhelming, but I understand that they were trying to set the backdrop for the rest of the story. Todd went through financial and physical setbacks and then, whammo, his son’s appendix bursts and he’s taken to the emergency room to fight for his life, and apparently, take a nice long walk with Jesus. The stage for Todd’s crisis of faith had to be set.

When sweet, little, puckered lips, Colton wakes up and has an amazing story and descriptive images of spending the day in heaven with Jesus, everyone’s faith is tested. Dad wants to believe him, mom passes it off as a dream, the church board is offended and if I may say, frightened by the reality of it. Did Colton really go to heaven? But he didn’t die, his heart never stopped. How could he have gone to heaven? Burpo says from the pulpit, “ I stand here today with wounds that are still healing, doubts that are still echoing.  Was Colton in Heaven?  Yes.  He was in the Heaven that God showed Him.  Is Heaven for real?  Because if it is, wouldn’t we live different lives? ” (sidebar, I can’t even touch the last sentence in this quote. Not yet. Lots to think on.) I think that quote is key. “He was in the Heaven that God showed Him.” There are certain things that Colton woke up knowing after his surgery that happened while he was unconscious on the operating table. If you believe in the Holy Spirit’s gift of prophecy, then this is not a stretch for you to imagine. Same with the fact that Colton had sudden knowledge of the sister that never made it out of the womb, and the grandfather that he’d never seen in his four years. “Everyone is young in Heaven,” (Can we all stop and sing Hallelujah?) Colton says. I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt that Colton had a supernatural experience with Jesus (instance one in the journey we will never take called “Theology with Julie”). Did he see the real Heaven? He saw the heaven that God showed him. That’s what’s important. Stranger things have happened in this world. Elijah, for example. He was simply whisked away from this world, making another appearance during the Transfiguration in Matthew 17, no death or burial on record. If you really want far-fetched, take a few days and read Revelations. God showed Colton something and that something was a pretty big deal.

It was interesting to me that so many people doubted Colton’s story, but at the same time, it made both Rocky and I uncomfortable to watch. Isn’t it strange that after shouting from quite a large platform “God’s not dead”, Christian culture begs the question, “Is Heaven really real?” Is God who He says He is? Can He really do something so grand as to show a little boy a sneak peak behind the veil between mortality and eternity? Hmmm. Interesting indeed.

The celestial scene in the movie could have been cut or alluded to in a way that didn’t have the little boy staring into a sky of quickly moving clouds and bright shiny angels . . . that was a bit much, but maybe we needed to be reminded that this wasn’t a Hollywood-produced film. Got it. Thanks. Beyond that though, while I believe that what Colton saw was what God intended to show him, it’s still . . . unnatural. It defies our human understanding, which I think may be part of the point. God is the God of the impossible, and I believe He delights in absolutely blowing our minds with things that don’t make any earthly sense. Maybe He wants to remind us that we are so small, and He is so much bigger than we can ever imagine. But that is an uncomfortable feeling.

About a year ago we watched part of Louie Giglio’s series “Indescribable” where he attempts to show us just how small we really are. I highly recommend the series, but you might want to hold on to something attached to the ground (like a tree) while you watch it, because it is extremely unsettling to see that in the grand scheme of things we are like dust to the universe. With all of our bills and health problems, world hunger and disease, we could be blown away by less than a breath from the heavens. The point of that series is that though we are so small, God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit still love us, watch our every move, and desire to give us every blessing under the sun. Mind. Blown.

I got side tracked again. Sorry. I’ve been sick all week and my brain is still on vacation. Ok, so there is one character who’s consistently struggling with Colton’s story, Nancy Rawling, pianist and church board member whose son died a few years ago. There is a moment with her and Burpo in the cemetery where her son was buried which presented my main theological issue with this movie. In this scene she is expressing her real fears about the nature of Colton’s journey.

Nancy:  [I’m mad at God.]  Why God would give you your son back and take mine away…
Todd:  Do you love your son?
Nancy:  Yes.
Todd:  Do you think I love mine?
Nancy:  Yes.
Todd:  Do you think I love mine more than you love yours?
Nancy:  No.
Todd:  Nancy, do you think God loves my son more than He loves yours?
Nancy:  No.

This is a very heartwarming moment for people who believe that there are many paths to heaven, and that repentance and acknowledgement of Jesus’ death and resurrection aren’t necessary in order to get there. Does God love us, everyone? Yes. Of course, but the Bible explicitly states that we have to actively choose Jesus. I wish the film-makers hadn’t sugar coated it. Maybe Nancy’s son was already a Christian, but it’s not stated in the film. The very fact that she asked if Todd thought her son was in heaven alludes to the fact that she didn’t know if he’d received Christ or not. After a quick Google search, I find that the book does not sugar coat the truth at all. I should probably read the book. In fact, anyone who has watched the movie probably should in order to get the correct context and spiritual message intended.

At the end of the movie, while we were both unsettled by the story, I felt an urgency in my heart to believe that it was truth. To believe that Jesus visited little Colton and showed him a world beyond his dreams and that He is still the God of the surprising, that He is always on the move and always willing to stir the pot, to encourage people to become uncomfortable, to doubt even, so that they seek His reality, His supernatural abilities, and to experience Him intimately for themselves. From a cinematic standpoint, I thought the movie was great with a few hiccups here and there. From a spiritual standpoint, I believe that Heaven is for real, and that whatever it was that Colton saw or experienced, was valid and given to him as a gift from the Father.

God’s Not Dead

***SPOILER ALERT***

Number two in the list of movies Christians were supposed to watch this year, “God’s Not Dead” got rave reviews from people on both ends of Christian spectrum. “Noah” lovers and haters alike praised this would-be evangelical film. What did that mean in the Presley house? We were skeptical, for sure.

I was pretty jazzed that Shane Harper was the main character in this movie because of all of the annoying, make-me-want-to-stab-a-fork-in-my-eye shows that my kids watch, “Good Luck, Charlie” is actually super cute (Okay, Charlie’s cute. I really don’t pay attention to anything but her) and that’s where Shane catapulted into the spotlight. I did not know, however that he was a believer. So the movie has two points on the scoreboard for me: Shane can act and Shane loves Jesus.

Aaaaand then the movie opens with him walking through his college campus with a grin on his face, a Newsboys T-shirt on, and gold cross around his neck. Okay, they’re trying to make a point. I get it. Unfortunately the biggest point that came across in the first thirty minutes was in fact the Newsboys. They were all over this movie, but I’ll talk more about them in a minute.

There is this extremely cheesy moment where main character, Josh Wheaton (played by Harper) and his girlfriend run happily into each others arms for a sweet embrace. This is our first introduction to the most unlovable girlfriend of the year.  This is also the first of many, “that would never happen in real life” moments that are spread throughout the film and designed to make you absolutely loathe certain characters. Well done. I absolutely hated her character. Though she is a believer, she is adamantly against Josh taking a stand for God in one of his classes as he is eventually challenged to do by his atheistic philosophy professor. “Sign the paper and move on,” she says. The paper being a statement: God is dead. When Josh refuses and decides that he’s going to take up his cross and stand in front of his class trying to prove that God exists, blondie-girlfriend breaks up with him.

The redeeming parts of Josh’s storyline are in his arguments in front of his class. There were moments when I had goosebumps (I termed the phrase ‘ghost bumps’ during this movie. Get it? Holy ‘ghost bumps’? Okay, never mind. Rocky thought it was funny.) because of how powerful his words were. At one point his professor quotes Stephen Hawking, a big name scientist (who I only know from watching The Big Bang Theory) who says that science supports a universe without a supreme being. His theory talks itself in circles, and after some research, Wheaton comes back with this quote from another scientist and believer, John Lennox: “Nonsense remains nonsense, even when spoken by genius.”

Prof. Radisson:  This is the height of hubris.  You think you’re smarter than Hawking?
Josh:  No. [But I don’t believe in his infallibility either….  ] Hawking says, “Philosophy is dead.”  … If you believe in his infallibility, then there’s really no reason for this discussion.

Zing! Wheaton for the win! I think that’s one of the first moments where you feel like he’s actually going to convince his classmates that God is in fact not dead.

There were a number of different story lines going on, and all of the characters were inter-connected in some way, shape, or form. I won’t go into detail about all of them because some of them were so under-developed and mainly there to evoke emotion or prove a quick point that it really isn’t necessary to pick them apart. As many reviewers have already stated, the non-believing characters were portrayed as idiotic, abusive jerks living their lives based in fear, and it reminded me oddly of the way Christians are portrayed in mainstream films/TV shows. Pot, meet kettle. Not that that makes it right . . . Back to the movie.

One character, Amy Ryan, played by Trisha Lefache, is struggling with a diagnosis of cancer that her not-so-super boyfriend (Dean Cain) dismisses as easily as if it were a conversation about sorting laundry. She stands out because of her acting skills and the potential for redemption. She actually has two of the best scenes in the movie, one with a couple from Duck Dynasty (it’s clever and concise and clearly at least one of them is remotely used to being in front of the camera), and then another where she breaks down emotionally and begins a montage of moments of brokenness in a few of the characters lives. In turn, she also has (in my opinion) the worst scene in the whole movie, and sadly, it was the scene with the Newsboys in it, towards the end of the film. It was such a contrived moment, and it just didn’t sit well with me. I’ll admit, I was distracted by the fact that it’s supposed to be the Newsboys and only one of them sounds Australian. They’re not the Newsboys I grew up listening to. In fact, there isn’t one single original member in the band, and yes, DC Talk was my favorite band as a teenager, but I just can’t wrap my mind around Michael Tait as lead singer of that band. Aside from that, it’s clear that they’re not going to moonlight as actors anytime soon . . . yikes. Anyway, I get it, the *finger quotes* “Newsboys” are a big backer for the film because of their super catchy song titled . . . you guessed it, “God’s Not Dead”! (Edit: I’ve since been schooled on the way I read Wikipedia’s band member lineage and some of the guys in the current NB’s ARE in fact original members, mostly. I apologize.)

Now, what about the atheist professor? After some obvious soul-struggle, he does make a commitment to the Lord, right after he’s hit by a car and about to die. I’m not a fan of scare-tactic Christianity, which isn’t to say that I think death-bed conversions are invalid, I just felt like this particular storyline ended in such a typical ‘Christians telling a story” way.  I do have to say that earlier in the movie the scene where he is pressed about why he doesn’t believe in God is another one of the best scenes in the movie. I had those ghost bumps and real tears of empathy for the little boy who lost his mother even though he made promises and begged God for her healing.

There are definitely some powerful moments and some extremely poignant things said throughout the film. For example:

Mark (not so super boyfriend – Dean Cain): You prayed and believed your whole life. Never done anything wrong. And here you are. You’re the nicest person I know. I am the meanest. You have dementia. My life is perfect. Explain that to me!

Mark’s Mother (who suffers from dementia and has not been lucid through the entire film): Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God. Their sin is like a jail cell, except it is all nice and comfy and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to leave. The door’s wide open. Till one day, time runs out, and the cell door slams shut, and suddenly it’s too late.

That one got an “oooooh!” from me, and there were more than a few other moments where I sat and honestly thought, “I wouldn’t be embarrassed to show this scene to a non-believing friend.” But then I’d get hung up on the bad acting or the literally unbelievable exchanges between people and Rocky and I would have to wisecrack our way through the cheesiness to get to the next scene.

From the reviews that I’ve read, non-believers who saw the movie are still non-believers and are even more adamant about their stance because of the film. Some of them are out right offended by the religious propaganda spewed throughout the movie. Well . . . it’s not like it was a secret that the movie was about proving God’s existence. I think it’s safe to assume that many of them walked in, expecting to be offended, and unfortunately for the Christian film industry, the truth was not presented in a relatable, realistic way. I’m not surprised that the movie wasn’t taken seriously by atheists and unbelievers. As a Christian, there were large parts of the movie that I myself couldn’t take seriously. So then, I have to ask, what was the point of the movie? To make Christians feel good about themselves? I’m sure there have been heated debates and arguments spurred from this movie, but those kinds of conversations aren’t the kind that introduce people to Jesus. I wouldn’t doubt that there have been some constructive conversations as well, but on the whole, I don’t think this movie lived up to it’s potential.

That said, up until last night, I would have said that (though I was going to preface it and say, ‘this isn’t saying much’) this was the best Christian-produced movie that I’ve ever seen.  I watched “Mom’s Night Out” last night, though, and was totally blindsided by the fact that it was a “Pure Flix” film. Everything about that movie was done better than any other Christian film I’ve ever seen (Sarah Drew was absolutely awesome). Now I’m spoiled. I know that there are filmmakers out there who can make a wholesome film with a good message and actually entertain people at the same time. It wasn’t an excellent movie, but it was had the quality acting, writing and directing that has been severely lacking in the others that have gone before it. To be honest I’m always so disappointed in what believers put out into the mainstream film industry.  With all the money spent on chairs and parking lots, lighting systems and guest violin players on the weekends I just wish, with all my heart, that the body of Christ could empower these kinds of films with better quality budgets. There is still too much cheese in these movies, too many unrealistic moments and not enough real life in the mix to make them relatable. “God is Not Dead” makes a valiant effort, but unfortunately, still comes up lacking in my books. We can do better. We have to do better.

Next on the list is “Heaven Is For Real.” I’m not crossing my fingers.

 

 

 

40 Days, 40 Nights and Some Rock Giants

Rocky and I are finally making our way through the “Christian” movies of 2014 after hearing everyone’s extremely biased opinions of the three big screen releases, “Noah” dubbed as ‘Don’t Waste Your Time’, “God’s Not Dead” also known as ‘The Best Movie Ever’ and “Heaven is For Real” subtitled ‘We’re Not Really Sure About This One.”

The overwhelming consensus about the Noah movie only made us want to see it more. You can pretty much bet that if Christian culture says it’s unacceptable, the Presley’s will find something absolutely invaluable about the message portrayed, and “Noah” was no exception.

Let me start by saying something very important, that may offend you right off the bat (feel free to click that X at the corner of your browser at any time.) : It is my personal opinion that if a person expects Hollywood to produce a movie about Biblical events that is a.) 100 % accurate, b.) anything less than creative, or c.) unoffensive in some way shape or form, that person is acting out of ignorance and a general disillusionment about the way the world views God, as well as how actors, producers and directors, screen writers etc. make money.

Are you still here? Good! Take this as fair warning, THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD.

I can’t even tell you how many posts I saw filling up my newsfeed about how terrible “Noah” was. “What a disgrace! Don’t waste your time or money! At least there was actually a flood! An abomination!” Okay, I didn’t actually see the word abomination, but I’m sure someone said it . . .

Before watching the movie, I can honestly say that the best depiction I had seen of this story was told by flannel graph.

54505Look how happy those puppies are! They’re so excited about getting on that boat with those lions and elephants, oh, and the skunks too.

*Eye roll*

I’d like to take a minute to thank Hollywood for completely rocking all the ways I’ve ever thought about Noah and the Ark.  The one thing I heard repeatedly about the movie was that “we hope it inspires conversation.” Everyone hoped that. Guess what? MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. There are so many great conversations to have about this movie!

The most powerful moment for me was the scene where Noah and his wife are sitting against the side of the ark and they can hear the shouts and cries of the people outside trying to get in. Noah is very obviously tormented by their cries, but He knows what God has decreed, meanwhile, his wife is broken for the loss of lives that (in her opinion) they could have prevented. Now, the Bible doesn’t give us anything to go on as far as what was going through the minds of those inside the ark. We have the bare bones of a story that has been passed down from generation to generation before being put to paper and preserved for thousands of years. Never once in my thirty-three years did I ever consider what it must have been like for Noah and his family to shut the door on the rest of the world. In that moment I was reminded of the scene from “Schindler’s List” where Schindler looks down at his hands and sees a ring on his finger, realizing how many more lives he could have saved had he sacrificed more of his possessions. One of the most heartbreaking moments in all of cinema, now challenged by this moment with Noah trying to ignore the screams of humanity just outside of the boat that he built. I cried like a baby.

There were definite embellishments to the story told in the Bible — but come on. How long did it take your Sunday School teacher to tell the story? Five maybe seven minutes, if that? Again I go back to my preface that you simply can not expect Hollywood to tell a Biblical story in a way that doesn’t grasp at just a few straws, unless of course the person at the helm is willing to commit career suicide to do so (Ahem. Mel Gibson.). So there were some giant rock creatures that were former angels . . . yeah, I could have done without that. I felt like I was watching a Pixar film for a little bit, but then when the fight for the ark is on (in the movie the people begin scrambling to reach the ark in hopes of taking it over in order to save themselves) and the rock giants that had been banished to their gnarly forms are each defeated and basically resurrected into their old selves and back to Heaven — it was a powerful moment and a testimony to the faithful love of our Father. That’s right. Those ridiculous rock giants reminded me of how nasty I must look most days, and that there will come a day when my spirit will soar to heaven in spite of my human nature; that my Heavenly Father will have grace on me, sinner that I am.

When Methuselah meets up with Ila (Shem’s . . . wife? fiance? Baby-Mama-To-Be? played by Emma Watson who is brilliant) and blesses her,  her barren womb is immediately opened, which proves to be an extremely important part of the rest of the story. Here is some creative license coming into play, but the fact is that it doesn’t detract from who God is in any way, shape or form. Au contraire, mes amis! It speaks to the healing nature of our Father and that He desires for us to go forth and multiply! It speaks the promise of new generations, and you know what? I just can’t see anything wrong with that being part of the story, be it fiction or truth. He did it countless other times in the Bible, didn’t He? And doesn’t He still open the wombs of the barren today? Absolutely.

It was interesting to me that the writer’s chose to give Noah the standpoint that said they would eventually all die off and only nature would survive. Spinning off of that for a second, this was our one major issue with the movie: It was presented that God was destroying mankind because they were not taking care of the planet. Vegans and Tree-huggers unite! Just kidding. But really, that was a ‘meh,’ point for us, an obvious undertone from environmentalists or someone who hates the Duck Commander. “Why do they eat meat, father?” Ham asks Noah. “They think it makes them strong.” (not a direct quote)

Bacon anyone?

Ok so back to movie-Noah and his misgivings about the flood and the future of mankind: He believes that it is God’s will for man to die completely and his family has been spared only to save the animals. In this story, only one son has a wife and to his knowledge, she is barren. They will all die eventually, the last men on earth. But Noah is surprised with the news of a grandchild on the way. He swears that if the child is a girl, she will be killed immediately in order to fulfill God’s plan. Obvious creative license here? Yes. There are so many wide open holes in the version of the story that we know to be true that don’t give us any glimpse into what may or may not have happened during those 40 days and nights, or how Noah may or may not have felt. If only David had been around to write some Psalms . . .

Later, when the ark has come to rest on Mount Ararat, and after Ila gives birth to twin girls and Noah is unable to fulfill his vow to take the infant lives, (because his heart  is overwhelmed with love for his grandchildren), he says to Ila that he has failed the Creator, that he has not fulfilled his duties because all of mankind was to be wiped out. And then Ila says this amazing thing:

“Did you (fail)? He chose you for a reason, Noah. He showed you the wickedness of man and knew you would not look away. And you saw goodness too. The choice was put in your hands because he put it there. He asked you to decide if we were worth saving. And you chose mercy. You chose love.”

Aaaaah, sweet Jesus. Love. It comes back to love. So, no, the story is not the exact one you read in the Bible, but all of the points are there, including Ham leaving the family. Ultimately, I believe that the movie does the story justice. Many reviewers say that it was violent and scary at times, but it was also rated PG-13, which, if we’re gonna go there, means that the movie is allowed one F-bomb, so . . . did they really expect smiling puppies and people waving happily as the ark set sail? Did God wipe out mankind because they were planting flowers and sharing sugar with their neighbors? It’s remarkable to me that people complain about the inaccuracies of the story, but then when things are shown in what was probably an authentic depiction, they’re still unhappy. Christians are some of the hardest people in the world to please. Bless the Lord, He still loves us anyway.

We have the Bible and we have the Holy Spirit, but there is still so much that we don’t understand, so much that we just don’t know. I for one am thankful that someone took the chance on making this film, to put it out there with all of its inaccuracies and creative imaginings, because it rocked me to my core. I bawled my way through it as the story of Noah and the ark become more real to me than it ever has been.

Sidenote: I think we should just burn all the flannel graphs.

What did you think?

When the Lights Go Down

*Disclaimer* This post went live while I was in the middle of editing it and because WordPress and I are sworn enemies, I can’t get it down. I’m taking it as a sign that you will appreciate my unfiltered words. Sigh.

Cory Monteith. Whitney Houston. Michael Jackson. Brittany Murphy. Amy Winehouse. Heath Ledger. Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Robin Williams.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

When I read the news of Cory Monteith’s death, I was heartbroken. I loved his character on Glee, he was a fellow British Columbian and I felt a (lame) sense of connection with him because we grew up not too far from each other and he was only a year younger than I was. I knew immediately that his death would have to do with depression or drugs, and I told myself if it were either of them, I would write a scathing post about the effects of our depraved society on people who rise into the spotlight. I couldn’t find the words though. I didn’t have a solution to the problem. All I can do is jam my finger into the bruise that this issue is, proving that there is in fact something wrong, but not doing anything to fix it. So I put it off.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman died in February of this year, once again, drugs were the culprit. The righteous anger welled up inside me again and I wanted to implore the world on behalf of the celebrities, and then I came across this blog by creative director Blaine Hogan and he summed up my feelings in one paragraph:

“And so here is my question: to my actor friends, to the Screen Actors Guild, to Actors Equity, to all the unions representing directors, agents, casting directors, and writers, to every audience, and to all who care for artists in their lives, when will we start caring more for the souls of the artists than for the way our souls are enriched by their work?”

So I put the post off again.

Last week, Robin Williams committed suicide in his own home after years of struggling with depression. Robin. Freaking. Williams. The man of a thousand voices, who was probably one of the funniest guys to ever walk the planet. His suicide stopped me in tracks, it was literally hard to breathe for a minute. It was the last straw for me. My feelings, my words will make no difference in the world. I will not be able to change society or the way we view celebrities, but at least I will have said my piece.

I have to admit that when I found out (prior to his death) that Monteith was from B.C., I Googled him and read his page on Wikipedia. I felt a sense of comradery and sent him a tweet as a fellow Canadian (he never responded). I went a little fangirl on him in spite of my own aversion to that kind of behavior.The internet makes it so easy for us to know whatever we want to know about our favorite celebrities, including when their last trip to rehab was, and the tabloids with their exaggerated stories and flat out lies don’t help things at all.

Now I have to stop here and say, for the record, that I know stardom and fandom isn’t the root cause of the issues we see in Hollywood today. I know that people are broken as children and young adults and grow up trying to hold all the pieces together. But think about this: Do you know someone who struggles with an addiction? With depression or anxiety? Insecurity? A mood disorder? How do they react to normal, every day life? Now imagine them in spotlight, their face plastered on magazines across the country, being hounded by fans and paparazzi every time they walk out the door. Living life as a normal every day person is hard enough without the insane amount of attention that celebrities get.

Lindsay Lohan. Miley Cyrus. Owen Wilson. Robert Downey Jr. Amanda Bynes. Justin Beiber. Charlie Sheen. Chris Brown. Paris Hilton. All of the Kardashians.

Why are the Kardashians even famous? I asked that question on Facebook last year. Most people thought it was because of the O.J. Simpson trial, but believe it or not, it was because of a sex-tape, okay, and probably a little bit of the O.J. Simpson trial. But seriously. The Kardashians are on the map because of a sex-tape and we’re all better for it. Wait. Back up. No. No. No.  A few months ago I saw something about one of the youngest daughters in my Facebook trending news, and for some reason I can’t remember, I clicked on it and ended up seeing a picture of the barely eighteen year old on a runway for a fashion show, wearing a sheer top with nothing underneath. I mean nothing. I confess, I straight up judged her mother. But that’s another post, and it’s one I just won’t write. She’s eighteen and now her breasts are all over the internet!!!

All of this attention, all of our star-crazed googling and stalking and tweeting is contributing to the death of our society, figuratively and literally. Why in the world do I care about what the Kardashians are up to? Why in the world does it matter to me that Lindsay Lohan has been arrested again? That Justin Beiber acted like a complete jackass in his deposition? Why are we (as a whole) so obsessed with these people who are just like us?

Paparazzi in Los Angeles. Paparazzi could soon be using unmanned drones to take their photographs Photo: REX. By Nick Allen in Los Angeles (via google images)

Obviously I can’t speak to the root issues that anyone struggles with in their life, but I can speak to the things that aggravate them: Paparazzi, you are aggravating them! Perez Hilton, you are aggravating them! Reality TV producers . . . don’t even get me started! Teen Mom? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? <— again, another blog post.

I know. I’m ranting, but I warned you. I have no solution, just a lot of pent up frustration that we (as a whole) continue to get sucked into the glitz and glamour that seems to exude from Hollywood, when if you look *just* a little bit deeper, you’ll see that the pressure that is on our favorite celebrities is driving them actually crazy.

Remember when Lindsay Lohan was that sweet girl who pulled off recreating the family Classic “The Parent Trap” so brilliantly? She’s lost her ever loving mind and taken her parents down with her! To be fair, it might be the other way around, but still! Did rising to stardom at such a young and impressionable age do her any good? And what do you think it does to a person to have every single mistake she’s ever made paraded in front of the world like a circus act? Gossiped about on every morning radio and talk show in North America? I could show you, but I think that would be hypocritical, and I’m sure, unless your my mom (sorry, mom), you know what I’m talking about here.

I remember listening to the radio one morning and hearing about Prince Harry smoking pot in his hotel room in Vegas. I almost stopped the car. Why do we care? Why do we need to know? WHY WHY WHY? So what if he smoked pot! It doesn’t affect my life in the least. Now, it might affect the Queen’s life, and maybe some members of parliament in England, but Come. On. Why is this news?

I honestly don’t know what the allure is, and I’ve already admitted that I have been victim to it before, even recently. But this last one, this thing with Robin Williams killing himself, I can’t take it anymore. They’re people. They have problems just like we do. Many of them are just as talented as people that you know for real right now. The difference is being in the right place at the right time, or maybe the fight to be recognized. I don’t know. But seriously . . . my heart is broken for the people whose lives are being pushed further and further into the darkest places because someone decided that the world needed to know about their every breathing moment on this planet. If I lived that life, I can’t imagine I’d want to breathe that much longer either. I can’t imagine I’d be able to make it through a day without a hit of something.

Did that shock you? Did you think believers were immune to these pressures? Ever heard of a guy name Ted Haggard? Michael English? Ray Boltz? Sandi Patti? The lists go on and on and on. Jesus can be our rock of salvation and our healer but only if we let Him! Plenty of the celebrity believers that have failed have now found their redemption, but what hope is there for those who don’t know Jesus or refuse to know Him?

You guys, I just can’t even wrap my mind around it all. Robbin. Freaking. Williams.

“Isn’t it funny how I can bring great happiness to all these people, but not to myself?” –Robin Williams, quoted by Dick Cavett, Time Magazine 8/25/14 issue P. 58

So in conclusion, I’m rephrasing Blaine Hogan’s question and asking it of you: To my friends, to strangers, to audiences, photographers, reporters, online personalities, radio and talk show hosts, when will we start caring about the souls of these artists rather than their mistakes and mug shots? Than what coffee they ordered this morning and if they wore skinny jeans or mom jeans? When will we step back and allow them to enjoy their newborns without waiting in line to hear which magazine they sold the pictures to, and for how much? Allow them their humanity rather than lifting them up to impossible god-like standards? When will we see look at them and see reflections of ourselves? Imperfect, frail, nervous, shy, depressed, scared, broken, healing, recovering, learning to breathe again individuals who just need to be.

6 Reasons Why I Kissed Facebook Goodbye

A few of you have noticed I’ve gone dark on Facebook over the past few weeks. I didn’t want to make one of those stereotypical “I’m fasting Facebook” posts, because that’s not what this is. This isn’t a fast, it’s a necessary life change that may or may not last a long time. So far, life has been better without Mark Zuckerberg dictating what I do and don’t know about your Facebook feeds. I’d much rather hear it directly from you anyway! But, since I’ve spent so much time thinking about my exit from social media, I figured I should let you in on some of the reasons behind it.
Screen shot 2014-07-28 at 5.04.28 PM

1. Communication with my husband:
This was one of the first reasons why I started contemplating giving Facebook a rest. There were so many times, day after day, that Rocky would come home and say, “So and so got accepted to such and –“ and I’d stop him mid sentence and say, “Yeah, I already know.” I cringed every time it happened, first because it was rude, second because I was irritated with him for not realizing that the only reason he knew that particular piece of information was the same reason I knew it: Facebook, and I cringed because there had been an opportunity for a conversation to take place, and since we are so over-informed thanks to the interwebs, instead, the conversation fell flat. Wouldn’t it be nice to be surprised by information once in awhile? Since I’ve been off Facebook, he catches me up on the important things, and now because I haven’t seen the entire comment thread following the news, we get to have a discussion about whatever it was, important or not. I like talking to my husband!

2. My kids:
How many times have we all vowed to limit our computer/phone time in an effort to be more present with our kids? I’ve done it at least ten times in the past five years. A few years ago, before I started the publishing game, I got off Twitter and tried really hard to cut back on Facebook so that my kids wouldn’t think that those things were more important than they were. Eventually my old habits crept back up, and though I had cut back on the amount of posts I made on Facebook, I still spent a lot of time scrolling through the news feed and searching for friends. When Josiah asked recently, “Mommy, why are you always on your phone and texting?” my heart crumpled and I heard myself say, he thinks this is all you do.
Additionally, any time I take a picture or video of my kids, or anytime they say anything cute, they follow it up with, “Are you going to post that on Facebook?” Typically when they ask that, I don’t post it, and I tell them so because I don’t want them to be attention-seeking-selfie-posting-teenagers in a few years. I don’t want them to need to find their value in what others think, say and do. Which leads me to . . .

3. My own insecurities and need for affirmation:
Whenever I post something on Facebook, I look at my notifications constantly. Even though I want comments more than I want ‘likes,’ I’m happy with both. I want to know that people think I’m funny and clever, and I want to banter back and forth because it makes me feel validated. I have things to say and people should hear them! I feel better about myself when my notifications on my own posts start popping up. I need to seek out the things that actually do speak of my value in an authentic way. Facebook is not one of them.

4. My News feed Brings out the Worst in Me:
I love my friends, I really do. But the past nine months have been some of the darkest of my life, and while plenty of people refer to Facebook as “Fakebook,” I have always given people the benefit of the doubt, because I am a transparent person. A number of years ago I realized that maybe I was a little bit too transparent and I tried to reign myself in a bit more, and complain a bit less, but still, what you see is what you get with me. More and more lately, however, I felt myself feeling intense bouts of jealousy, envy, irritation and anger at a lot of posts and pictures that came up in my newsfeed. It’s been a lonely season, and so looking at all of the happy people with all of their happy friends on their happy vacations, well, let’s just say I was not rejoicing with anyone in their successes and victories. I do want to say that none of this was personal, that this particular bullet point is NOT directed at any one person, and none of you should feel guilty for posting anything that you post. This is about the darkness in the depths of my soul and how my news feed shoved me further and further into it. I just couldn’t deal, and I found myself unfollowing people left right and center, but I was still unsatisfied.

5. Facebook gives a false sense of friendship and reality:
Sticking with the ‘Fakebook’ idea, it’s true that many people only post the best things, the uplifting things, the best pictures (I’m definitely guilty of that. I have even untagged myself and hidden pictures because of how badly I look in them.). That speaks for itself. I don’t know what is really going on in your life unless I ask and you tell me. Your status update only gives me a glimpse, and maybe not an accurate one.
The whole reason I got on Facebook in the first place was because all of my Canadian friends were on there rather than Myspace. I was always excited to find another long lost pal from the past, and for at least a day or two, that excitement spurred conversations and memories between us, but inevitably the emotional high of having finally found one another wore off. There have even been times when I’ve re-remembered someone and searched for them, only to find that I’d befriended them years ago, then eventually deleted them and completely forgotten about it.

6. I need to be present in my reality:
I’ve been thinking a lot about this one because when we moved from Fort Worth to Austin, Facebook was my lifeline to my old friends. I depended on it to keep me connected and grounded. Being able to see what they were up to and ‘liking’ their posts and pictures and vice versa made me feel like I was still a part of their daily lives. The problem is that I wasn’t a part of their daily lives. At all. I’d moved away and had yet to really begin existing in my new reality. Facebook was where I lived my life.
There is something natural about distance between friendships when someone moves away. You are supposed to miss people, to feel the ache in the place where they used to be. Facebook blurs that line, and while it is truly amazing to be able to chat with people and see pictures from across the world and what not, for me, it was my escape from a reality that I didn’t want to accept. I was holding so tightly to the friendships I’d left behind that I was fine staying holed up in my house, waiting for notifications and retreating from the new life and new friendships that were to be made here. That was where #4. really came in. I was holding on to friendships that were moving on, and it was heartbreaking to see them moving on without me, all day, every day.
I’m ready to move on now, and getting off of Facebook has opened the door for me to see so many things more clearly, it has given me time, capacity, and it’s helped my moodiness immensely.

Screen shot 2014-07-28 at 5.13.20 PMWith all of that said, I’m not saying anyone else should ditch the news feed, and I’m not saying I won’t ever log on. I’m keeping my profile because I have hundreds (maybe thousands?) of pictures and memories there that I don’t want to lose. Also because I have my author page and a number of groups that I admin for. So, it’s not a clean break, and I’m not saying I won’t ever be back. This is what’s best for Julie right now, and by best, I mean, life-giving and necessary.

I will continue to post my blogs on both my author and profile pages, I will continue to be able to receive messages via Facebook/Messenger. I’ll also keep updating my author page (more regularly than I have the past few months), and if I just really need to say something, I’ll probably say it there. You should go ahead and follow me there now, just so you don’t miss something brilliant! I also have a twitter account that is connected with my author page, but they are basically duplicates of each other, so you can pick which ever medium you like the best!

And so there it all is. My not-so-stereotypical reasons for breaking up with the Facepage. It may still be cheesy and you might just roll your eyes at me, that’s fine. I won’t know about it . . . unless of course you message me. And hey, I need some props for not saying, “God told me to,” right? *wink wink* Seriously though, I do still want to know what’s going on, so hit that message button anytime.

Rite of Passage

Bueller. Bueller. Bueller?

I’m here, I swear. This summer has brought a lot of change to our routine and while I’ve been planning some posts in my head, actually sitting down to get them out has been less important than getting my kids out of the house and into the water! But I’m here, and feeling guilty about not actually being here.

Today is a huge day in our family — at least I think it is. Today my son gets to go on what I hope will be a life changing adventure that he dreams about repeating every summer. Today, Salem is going to camp! Are you sick of me talking about camp yet? Sorry. I’m at it again. We are about two hours out from leaving, his stuff is packed, his brother has faked excitement and tears at the thought of being an only child for five days, and Salem can’t stop bouncing up and down, smiling with pure anticipation of what’s ahead.

I have had to remind myself that he is going to experience it differently than I did, mostly because he’s a boy and about a thousand times less emotional than his mom (who, in spite of her best efforts, still cried during the Lego Movie.), but still, it’s camp! Countless adventures to be had, new friends to make, hopefully some solid influence from a teenaged counselor who loves Jesus and kids . . . Seriously, I think I might be more excited than he is, but he’d totally say that’s not true.

I used to dream about this day, for real. The only thing is that in my dreams, Salem was going to the camp I went to. That’s where some of the sadness is from. I had it all planned. We’d go spend 2 weeks in Canada, and for one of those weeks, the boys would be at camp. Putting all of that aside, though, I’m SO thankful that the Father has prepared a way for Salem to be able to go to camp period, and well, it makes sense for him to go to camp here. Here is where we are after all (yes, after 8 months I’m finally ready to accept that fact).

 

I am praying that he has an amazing time that he will never ever forget. I’m praying that he makes friendships that will be meaningful, and mostly I’m praying that the Father touches his heart in a new way, that he experiences the Holy Spirit like never before and comes home with a deeper understanding of who God is. Those are the three treasures that I always came home from camp with. I’m so ridiculously nostalgic and emotional about sending him to camp. Okay, I’m pretty nostalgic and emotional about basically everything, so this is no surprise to anyone, but really, this is a big deal. A really big deal, and I just can’t wait to hear all the stories he’s going to come home with. I really can’t.

Something else I can’t wait for? The day Josiah comes of age, and they both go to camp together and Rocky and I get to actually get to have some grown up time! There will be both tears of sadness and joy when that day comes!

The Good Samaritan — Guest Post

Y’all are in for a treat today. My husband is one of the wisest, most articulate men I know and when he speaks, people stop and listen. I hope that you take a moment today, and listen not only to his words, but hear the heart of the Father in them. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rocky Presley:

The Good Samaritan : Where Did You Go?

I don’t blog. My wife blogs. She is quite good at it. The way she weaves a story together is profound. Perhaps she should tell this story, but it is so heavy on my heart right now that I have to do it.

It’s a story we all know: the story of the Good Samaritan. I am going to tell it once again in this blog, because I am fairly certain that many believers have forgotten its meaning. I am going to change the story up a bit, however, just to make it clear of how we have erred.

There once was a child growing up in unimaginable conditions. Food was scarce. Starvation was a regular occurrence. There was seldom a night when this child couldn’t sleep for fear that the violence just beyond her window would break through and she would be its next victim. Conditions worsened to the point that her parents only had one option, to make the unimaginable decision to send her away to a better land.

Leaving her family was heartbreaking. Surely, someone of such a young age couldn’t process the why behind her loving parent’s decision. After a long and arduous journey (with the complete strangers to which her life had been entrusted) which was wrought with just as much fear and violence that she’d been sent away to escape, she arrived in the new land. She wasn’t alone; many others were there with her, more than she could count. But her hopes were high, because her parents had said that this land was good and just, and that she would be safe and provided for, something that her parents couldn’t offer.

But this land turned out not to be good and just. Rather than being greeted into the arms of the compassionate, she was hurried to an internment camp. No one knew what to do with this girl, or the many that accompanied her. So, they placed her in a room to wait. Conditions grew worse. The stench of being in such a confined space became nauseating. The hope that was there had now turned to despair. Truly, it would seem that this journey was all for nothing.

A rich man heard of this story. His heart raged with anger. How dare this little girl have the audacity to break the laws that he and his forefathers fought to preserve. This man had great influence in this land, and rather than having compassion and offering an open hand, he used this influence to incite anger in others. He raised his fist, and cried “Vermin! Send them home! They don’t belong here!” And he went about his business while the suffering became worse.

Another man heard of this story. This one was a religious man. He gave regularly to his religious activities and would on occasion give to those who were in need, both in his community and in lands far away. Upon hearing this story, his mind wandered to the salaries he must pay and the mouths he must feed. He too felt that these children did not belong in his land, and though rage did not rise in his heart, indignation ruled the day. So rather than having compassion and offering an open hand, he went about his religious duties while the suffering became worse.

Lastly, another man heard of this story. This man was not of means. He was not particularly religious, but when he heard the stories of children suffering, he was moved with compassion so much so that it grieved his heart. “How could we as this great land allow these children to suffer so?” he asked himself. “How could we who claim to know Christ and live by his creed not be moved with compassion and grace as surely Christ would be?” Anger did arise in this man’s heart, but not the same type of anger as the first man. This anger was one that saw injustice and would move heaven and hearth to see it remedied.

This is the story of America today as tens of thousands of refugee children pour across our borders. These are the needy that need us. These are the blessed children that Christ told us to emulate. The way that the Church and the politics of this land have responded have sickened me, but it is not too late to redeem ourselves. There is a work in our hearts that can be accomplished if we simply set aside our world view and political leanings and see these children as those created by the Creator, precious in his sight, and fully deserving of our welcoming hearts and our treasure. Please, I implore with the believers that I know. These men, one and two, these men are not us. This shames us. This completely undermines what we profess to believe. God, please do your greatest miracle, change our hearts. I ask that you would provide for these beloved children, and Holy Spirit, convict our hearts and reveal the darkness that has crept in. We need you Lord, more than these words can convey.

I’m a Survivor

Okay, maybe that title is a little dramatic . . . but then, my year has been pretty dramatic. It all started with the first day of school, sending my baby off to Kindergarten. Man that was a really hard day. I sucked it up though and learned to really cherish the time alone, maybe a little too much because nowadays, the hours between 3 pm and bedtime are often some of the most exhausting of my day!

But I’m not here to whine. I’m here to tell you that sending the last one off to school is a wonderful thing. We have made the sacrifices and have been blessed for me to be able to be a SAHM, so this year there was much time for ME. I remember the big question I had at the beginning of the year was, “Who am I now?” Well, I can’t tell you that I discovered the answer because things got twist-turned-upside-down (get that reference?) at the end of September and instead of discovering all the wonderful things there were to discover about Julie post babies-turned-toddlers phase, I discovered a lot of things that needed changing in her. But the good thing was that I had the time to process through those things.

DSC_0040-3The other amazing thing that happened this year was that we got to watch our little man burst into more of who he really is. Listening to him sound out words in a much different way than his older brother and learn to understand this ridiculously hard English language (can I get an Amen? You just don’t realize how stupid hard this language is until you try to teach a kid to read, geez! And then we move to a town called Pflugerville. For real. Someone should ask me about how we can make this language more humane for kids.) have been really fun experiences. Discovering what he is capable of, and where I have underestimated him has been a sweet, sweet surprise. The kid blows me away.

During the first half of the year he had some difficulties and because our Kinder team in Fort Worth knew that a big change was coming for him, they were very proactive in getting him the support he needed to master some of those more difficult skill sets, and now he is leaps and bounds from that point. I could not be more proud of the effort he puts into his work, and how he really strives to understand all of what’s going on on paper and in the world around him.

Another plus? Having peers influencing him on a daily basis. Now, of course, this can be a negative, but we’ve tried really hard to use the bad examples as teaching moments, explaining how to love people even when they’re not nice to us, discussing how to behave in ways that tell our friends and teachers that we respect them . . . before you start judging me, let me tell you we aren’t always on top of this, and there have been times with both of the boys this year that I wanted to race up to school and smack certain children upside the head. On our best days though, we had great conversations about situations like that. But on the other side of that equation, Josiah saw good things in his friends that he wanted to emulate, and that pushed him to work harder on a lot of things, including tying his shoes, which we finally (Praise be to Jesus and velcro) mastered a few weeks ago thanks to the big brother and maybe a little bit of bribery.

It all boils down to the fact that this kid is now empowered in ways he wasn’t before, and it has been a gift to watch his little mind open up to all of these new thoughts and ideas. I am so thankful that he has had two awesome teachers — I mean, what a lucky kid to get two Kindergarten teachers in one year — and that the trauma that our move invoked in me was not transferred down to him. It’s true: kids are super resilient.

And now, we head into summer and try to forget that there is a fourth and first grader in our house. There will be more snot and tears to come . . . But for now, CHEERS! WE DID IT! IT’S SUMMEEEEEEEEEER!

via google images, pretty sure it is property of Disney :)

 

 

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