Archives For Faith

My days are often spent like a pinball; I bounce between here and there. Oftentimes I circle like a ziggurat, working my around, and up through, the building in which I work. So it was on this day, the day a homeless man asked me for beer money. The day was clear, bright, not hot; in other words a perfect Spring day. The kind of day you wish would last forever, stretching out into eternity. The air was clear as crystal, the sun a golden disk in the azure sky. Nary a cloud scudded by.

It was as I passed through this day, scurrying from a lunchtime game of racquetball, on my way to grab a bite, that I was brought up short. Working in an urban environment for a great number of years now, I’m somewhat inured to the plight of my less fortunate fellow man, to the human pain and tragedy which faces me daily. Yet there was something about this man, something in his careworn face, in the cornflower blue of his eyes, that stopped me. I think it was the eyes, how they reminded me of my grandfather’s. Eyes which had seen so much pain, heartache, loss, had seen accident, illness, injury. The eyes of an alcoholic, spidery veins zig-zagging around the nose between and beneath them.

Eyes which somehow still had a sparkle, a twinkle of mirth and mischief, to them.

So I stopped. He said something; I didn’t catch it.

“You think I’m homeless. I’m from Las Vegas. I had a seizure this morning. Listen, I’m an alcoholic. I need beer. I feel another seizure coming on. I’ll be a big one.”

“I don’t have any cash.”

“You’ve got a card, right? Please, I need your help.”

The naked, plaintive need was plain for me to see, but my mind was a whirling chiaroscuro of conflicting thoughts. On the one hand, I wanted to believe him, but on the other I’ve been burned enough by similar situations over the years to have developed a veneer of cynicism. I was on my way back to work, with my credentials on display. I couldn’t be seen buying beer.

“Listen,” I said. “There’s a Chipotle right there. They have single serve.”

Clutching his weather worn leather bag a little tighter, the man with eyes like my grandfather’s replied, “I’m not going in Chipotle.”

“They’ve got beer.”

“I just need a couple bucks.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, walking away.

——————

I saw him again a short time later, in line behind me at the drugstore where I picked up a prepackaged lunch. He didn’t seem to recognize me, asking about how I was, how my day was going. In his hand was a six-pack of Busch beer. I went back to my busy workaday world.

I’ve wondered about that man.

I keep asking myself, “What would Jesus do?”

What would He have done?

I don’t know how to answer that. Maybe I never will. Jesus did turn water into wine to keep a party going, but would He have given this man that for which he’d asked? Knowing that it was killing him daily by degrees? I wish I had the faith of Peter and John, could shout, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee. I the name of Jesus Christ…”

But I didn’t.

What would you have done?

There is scene in The Lord of the Rings which Professor Tolkien felt was the pivitol moment of the book; in it, Gollum nearly repents, having been won over by Frodo’s kindness. But the well-meaning Sam interferes. Chastened by Sam’s meanness, Gollum sulks off. Following are Tolkien’s thoughts:

“For me perhaps the most tragic moment in the Tale comes when Sam fails to note the complete change in Gollum’s tone and aspect….His (Gollum’s) repentance is blighted and all Frodo’s pity is (in a sense) wasted. Shelob’s lair becomes inevitable” (Letter #246).”

One wonders how often this happens, e.g., when a sinner is close to repentance, but one of God’s well-meaning children interferes? More often than we’d care to admit. There will be much one day which we will have to answer for. Many surprises are in store.

Along these same lines are the all-too-often instances of when a brother, or sister (or both), are hurting, and reach out for help. Let’s say that they’re getting help, finding some measure of mentorship, of folks coming alongside them. Things are happening, God is moving.

Then the church steps in.

The church leadership. If the church is a hospital, they are its doctors facilitating a connection to the Great Physician. Not this time. Not on their rounds.

The church says “No, you can’t do it that way. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting helped, making connections. You’re not doing it under our auspices. You have to stop.”

There again, Gollum is shut down, shut out, feeling cast aside… Wondering “What did I do wrong? I thought the church was supposed to help me? Isn’t this a spiritual hospital? God was moving, my struggles were getting better. Why did you shut me down?”

Brothers and sisters this ought not to be. But it happens over and over again. 

Have you been there? You think you’re doing the right thing, reaching out, in evangelicalese getting “plugged in,” but it blows up in your face, and then crumbles into dust… Leaving you wondering why you ever did this in the first place. You’re left feeling like you’d find more camaraderie, more acceptance, down at the corner bar. At least there they won’t judge you for being a sinner seeking solace, relief, healing.

What do you do when the church fails? Where do you go?

Who has the words which bring you life? Can life be found? Is it worth trying again?

Jesus, where are You in this?

Jesus

If you’ve been following along this week, the blog has been dedicated to publicizing the upcoming film, The Conjuring2, directed by James Wan, and starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. I’ve done this for a number of reasons; first, because I’m a fan of the 2013 original. Second, because it’s a rare film that can scare the pants off without descending into a morass of gore, language, and nudity. Yes, that’s right; unlike Friday the 13th, or It Follows, there is no onscreen sex here. Third, the screenwriters–Chad and Carey Hayes–are believers. Fourth, and truly the biggest reason, is that although evil is depicted as formidable, it is nowhere glorified. Fifth, if we are believers ourselves, we absolutely hold to the fact that there is a real, unseen world which intersects with ours (“God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”). Moreover, the Bible itself tells us that the “weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” And that, friends, is exactly what one sees in a Conjuring movie: the mighty power of God overcoming the spiritual forces of wickedness.

So just to sum up: evil is depicted as real, formidable, but not all powerful. It is not glorified, or presented as something desirable. In the end, as all such battles between God and evil must, God wins. And when He wins we win.

The first movie ended this way:

conjuring-quote

That, in my book, is a bold way to end a Hollywood movie in the 21st century.

But you didn’t come here to read my musings on horror films, faith, or the ongoing battle between good and evil; no, today you came for the swag. 😉 I did say I was giving away a Conjuring2 prize pack. So, in partnership with Grace Hill Media and Warner Brothers, I offer you the following:

Conjuring2 Giveaway

In the prize pack are:

2 reusable plastic cups

a leather bound journal

2 t-shirts

and a pair of tickets to see the film

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Just in case you didn’t catch yesterday’s post, I’m a fan of The Conjuring, a film based upon the work of real life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. The sequel to that film, The Conjuring 2, releases this Friday. I have partnered with Grace Hill Media to help publicize the movie’s release to the faith community. Following is a clip, “We Don’t Run From Fights.”

 

You may be on the fence with movies like this, or you may not be interested at all. It could be that you’re wondering is the the kind of film that a God-fearing believer should see? I would say yes–stretch yourself into something that makes you uncomfortable. I think that we do ourselves, and the world, a disservice when we depict evil as something less than evil in our media. Yes, the darkness is on display in the Conjuring films–but so is the light. The world can be a dark place, and spiritual warfare is very real, but the fact is that in a battle of God versus evil evil never wins. Never. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness is not able to overcome it. And as Christians we don’t back down from a fight–for greater is He is who is in us than he who is in the world.

Never forget that; Christ is greater.

The following comes from Grace Hill Media, a company whose mission is to connect Hollywood and the faith community by marketing movies that uplift, inspire, and transform. Of those, this week I have partnered with Grace Hill to highlight The Conjuring 2. At first blush, scary movies and Christianity may not seem to go together, but I don’t think that’s true. Let’s peel back the skin, shall we?

At it’s heart, Christianity is a religion of blood sacrifice: Jesus was brutally tortured, and suffered a hideous death at the hands of sinful men. And that’s a horror story if there ever was one. In fact, the Bible pulls no punches in its depiction of evil. Billy Graham once said that one of things which makes it God’s Word is that shows us (humanity) as we are. So all of human depravity is on display. Likewise, I think we do the world a disservice when we go soft on the depiction of evil in our media. I think there’s a distinction, and a vast difference, between movies like the Friday the 13th series, for instance, and films like The Conjuring. In the one, the audience is all but made to root for the killer, Jason Voorhees; in the other, evil is shown for what it is. Moreover, that evil cannot overcome good, that is to say God. In one, evil is reveled in, celebrated; in the other, it is exposed. Is that not what we as believers are called to do? Bring light into dark places?

Beyond that, in the words of director Scott Derrickson, “horror is the genre of non-denial,” e.g., it brings us face-to-face with that which we fear the most: the unknown, death, etc. The monsters are metaphor for our fears, and movies (books, too) give a safe space to vicariously face our fears. Usually, it is in horror that the veil is rent asunder–there is no denying the supernatural. Evil is a force that is real, but we can resist. Good can, and does, triumph.

I understand that others may come to a different conclusion; I respect that. But please don’t slag on my enjoyment of things that go bump in the night. With that I’ll leave you, and turn you over to Grace Hill’s parent’s guide:

 

With THE CONJURING 2 in theaters this Friday, it’s only natural to think about scary movies. For some of us, the thoughts are about avoiding them at all costs, but for others there’s excitement at thinking about getting a good scare from our theater seats.

 

But what about our kids? Especially at younger ages, they can be truly disturbed if they happen to see something onscreen that frightens them. It may not even be a well-made supernatural horror film like THE CONJURING 2 – certainly not for pre-teens – but could be something they see in one of their favorite cartoons that raises fears.

 

What can you do as a parent when this happens to your son or daughter? Here are a few tips from the experts at Focus on the Family:

 

  • The first thing you need to do is sit down with your child and give them the chance to discuss the film openly. Ask them what they saw, what they thought about it, and how it made them feel. Whatever you do, don’t make light of their fears or dismiss their feelings as silly or immature.

 

  • Once their emotions have been aired, assure your son or daughter that this was only a story, just like the imaginary tales they may have seen in picture story books. Bad things weren’t happening to real people – they were actors playing a pretend game, like they and their friends do.

 

  • Reassure your child that you, as their parent, are dedicated to protecting them. Let them know that it is one of your most important jobs – ensuring they feel safe and are safe. Reinforce that message with plenty of hugs.

 

  • If you are a Christian family, you can explain that God has promised to be with them at all times, even in the midst of danger. Open up the Bible and show them the passages where God promises never to leave us or forsake us (Genesis 28:15; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5). Pray with them about the scary movie and their fears, and encourage them to pray on their own when they become frightened at night. If it seems appropriate, you can also practice some coping techniques with them, like deep breathing relaxation exercises or visualizing a happy place.

 

  • One last thought: it is definitely not a good idea for you to sleep in your child’s room or to let them sleep in your bed. That will only reinforce the behavior you’re trying to eliminate, encouraging them to act helpless and dependent. So whatever happens, make it clear that you will not be sleeping with them. Instead, find some other way to make them feel secure, like turning on a nightlight for a while or letting them take a special stuffed animal to bed.

 

Come to think of it, if you go see THE CONJURING 2 and you’re still a little scared even after the credits roll, feel free to take your favorite stuffed animal to bed with you, too.