Archives For Faith

So.

It’s been quiet around here.

Well, it’s been a year. Heck, it’s been a couple of years. Life has a way of taking the wind out of your sails when you’re not looking.

Lots of things have happened; I turned 50. I’m parent to both a legal adult and a teenager. One whom I’m obliged to interact with in strictly an advisory capacity. And the other of whom wishes that were so.

I’ll leave you to figure out which is which (though the teen is oftentimes the more mature of the two).

In all seriousness, it’s been a journey of endeavoring to find a path forwards when my waistline isn’t the only thing in my life to go all pear-shaped.

Things have happened. Heavy things. Things I’m not sure I’m even ready to process yet. I mean how can I when my health is not great, my wife’s health is even worse than mine, and work is demanding more and more everyday…

Infirmity has a way of contracting one’s world till it seems as small as Hamlet’s nutshell. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the bandwidth (or the energy) to even begin to muster any outrage over the political climate in the U.S. (for instance). Life is more an unremitting treadmill of exhaustion and obligation.

It’s not that it’s a bad life, per se; I live in the wealthiest county in the world. I have a good family, a nice house… It’s just the weariness. The bone weariness. Nobody told me that one of life’s cruel jokes is that it demands more and more while taking health, energy, vitality at an ever-increasing rate as the years roll by.

Life seemingly takes more and more without truly giving anything back. It’s oftentime dry as sawdust, tedious… Repetitious. And I can’t fall apart; I’m the (as the saying goes) sole breadwinner for my family. It’s on my shoulders. It’s not that fun robbing Peter to pay Paul, keeping the bills paid, keeping a roof over our heads when more and more seems to be going out the door every day. Again, I’m not so much complaining as stating a fact (I know I live the most prosperous nation in the world, that I live what many would term a comfortable, middle class life; I get it). I guess it’s just getting harder and harder to get by on one income these days. Listen; I want to hustle, to bring home more green. I just don’t know how with: sleep apnea, thyroid disease, and my wife’s health challenges that take so much time and energy to address. I’m doing good to get up and go to the job I have… Seriously, I don’t measure my coffee in cups anymore; it’s pints. It’s either amazing, or distressing, how much caffeine I can imbibe in a given day and still be absolutely dragging myself in the door when I get home…

One day bleeds into the next, into the next, into the next. It’s hard to muster the energy to be excited about much of anything when I’m wondering what I’ll need to do to get some sleep. How much Melatonin will work for me? How about Valerian Root? Chamomille tea? I’m bone weary just sitting here typing this out.

Have you been there?

How did you break out of your rut?

Have you ever felt like the walking dead?

My ecclesial history began with Protestantism; to wit, as a lad I having Jewish friends, Catholic friends, having Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on the door, asked my mom what religion are we?

Her reply? “We’re Protestants.” That apparently was to be the end of the matter, as no further explanation was forthcoming. I had no idea at all (at that age) what a Protestant was, or what were in fact protesting.

I guess we were protesting the whole thing, because the only church we ever darkened the doors of as a family was my grandma’s. And that only when we annually traveled to visit her. That, aside from maybe a VBS (“Vacation Bible School”) or two was the sum total of my church experience growing up.

Quite frankly what piqued my interest in church was the cute girl at the drugstore who invited me. We spent countless hours together talking about life, the universe, and everything. We visited:

Assemblies of God

Charismatic

Vineyard

& Nazarene

Churches

As I had no prior experience, or theological instruction, upon which to draw I had no preconceived notions about what church was. And darn if some of it didn’t stick! I prayed the sinner’s prayer, and promptly went to a party to get drunk.

I didn’t have a fat clue of what a Christian was, or how they comported themselves. I don’t know how much praying I did, but I did carry around a Bible given to me by my grandma; it was a large, white KJV (King James Version) affair. At the time, I didn’t know it was a family Bible, and was meant more for a coffee table than for constant, conspicuous carrying around.

As I awakened to the the message of the Gospel, it seemed the next step was to get baptized. I mean that’s what believers do, right? Get dunked/sprinkled/submersed/wet…

So I did on a warm September evening some four months after “accepting Christ.” I really didn’t grok at the time that it was some kind of big deal to be baptized, as my then-girlfriend’s family indicated that they wished they’d been there.

I didn’t know it was some kind of symbolic affair significant of anything other than basic obedience to one of Jesus’s commands. Afterwards, I didn’t feel anything other than wet.

Somehow, after being baptized at an Assemblies of God church, we ended up attending a Charismatic fellowship. It wasn’t until much later that I knew it was weird. And by weird I mean I had a fun experience being prayed over by a group white shirt wearing, yellow pit stained elders who wanted me to “recieve the initial evidence of the indwelling.”

Translation: they we’re praying for me to receive the gift of tongues, or in more formal parlance, glossolalia. They, being Charismatic, made it a doctrinal certainty that speaking in tongues was the evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; in other words, the practice tongues were to make me a living proof text of God’s work in my life…

The result? I mean I was willing, wanting whatever God has for me. So, sure. I was young, naive, and having no religious background thought why not?

When it didn’t happen, as these four grown men, sweaty-faced, their voices rising in ecstatic fervor, lapsing in and out of their Heavenly Languages, as they circled my seated form, finally (and flatly) stated: “Don’t worry, brother; it’ll happen. Just start muttering.”

Just. Start. Muttering.

I’m not sure that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote of the gift of tongues. Although I suppose I have been muttering to God ever since…

Through

Highs and lows

Successes and failures

Jobs lost and found

Health issues

Death, and new life.

And I’m thankful He’s never yet despised the bleating of this wayward sheep.

Taking the challenge out of life also largely takes the fun out of it as well. Don’t get me wrong here; I’m most thankful for an indoor job, and the ability to provide for my family it affords me. I’m saying that if we aren’t on guard against it that it’s altogether too easy to wake up one day as Miss Havisham (from Great Expectations), wondering why life seems to be something that happens to someone else (just not, you know, us).

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The Man Who Invented Christmas tells of the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri (MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY), the film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.

Watch the trailer here:

The Man Who Invented Christmas — official trailer

The following post comes courtesy of Grace Hill Media in sunny Southern California. As the genre, and responsible parenting/consumption of media are near to my heart, it was a no-brainer to feature their byline here.

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Lessons For Christians From Horror Movies

The popularity of horror films continue to grow, especially among teens and young adults, who flock to movie theaters on opening weekend.  This Friday, August 11, for example, the movie “Annabelle: Creation,” about a possessed doll hits theaters nationwide.  It seems difficult to believe that any movie created to frighten and give us nightmares might have a meaningful spiritual lesson for Christians.  And yet, anyone who has been brave enough to watch “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” written by Scott Derrickson, a Christian filmmaker, knows full well that horror movies can serve us with cautionary messages and, might just inspire the audience to head to their nearest church pew.
To be clear, not all horror films are the same. The genre has different versions.  
There’s no takeaway from “slasher” or disturbing “torture” movies meant to provide nothing but shock.  However, there are horror movies that depict spiritual warfare (which we know to be real) and the battle between good and evil. These supernatural films, oftentimes written and produced by Christians and based on real-life events, are filled with lessons about something we as people of faith have stopped discussing in an increasingly distracted secular world – that evil is real.

Here are a few other lessons from supernatural horror films:
1) Exorcisms are also real.  Although incredibly rare, people can get possessed by evil.  “The Exorcist” is based on a real-life possession of a young boy, and “Annabelle: Creation” is about a possessed girl.  

2) God will always defeat evil. No matter how powerful the enemy may be, God will always come out on top.  In the Bible, one of the most powerful miracles that Jesus performed was The Miracle of the Gadarene Swine in which Jesus cast unclean spirits out of a man.  In real-life and in all supernatural films that have a faith message including “The Conjuring” and “The Rite,” evil will always be vanquished.

3) Ouija Boards are a big no.  Perhaps one of the strongest and most valuable lessons to come from supernatural horror movies (which just as true in real life) is that those who become plagued or possessed by evil may have inadvertently invited those spirits or demon to come into their lives.  This is done through certain “gateways” that many priests and Christian leaders warn us about.  Christians, especially Christian parents must teach kids and teens to stay away from Ouija boards, tarot cards, fortune telling, or any sort divination.  These are all means in which evil can take hold of our lives.  In the second “Conjuring” movie the character becomes possessed after playing with a Ouija board.  This was based on a true person and event.
 
4) Prayer is the most powerful thing in the world.  Prayers protect and deliver us from evil.  In horror movies, those who are plagued by evil must often turn to a person of great faith or priest to help them.  That Christian leader is always portrayed as someone who believes prayer to be of utmost importance and is shown onscreen praying to God throughout the film.

5) Faith is the most important thing in the world.  Believing in God and being baptized in the Christian community protects and strengthens us.  It is a natural defense again evil.  In times of weakness, we must lean on our faith and turn to God.  The upcoming movie, “Annabelle: Creation,” is a cautionary tale that depicts what happens when one turns away from God and succumbs to temptation during a period of grief and weakness as opposed to leaning on God for grace and healing.  

All movies, including horror movies tell stories.  In the last century, before we had television and films, parents told stories and tales that were meant to alarm and even frighten children and youth from a certain place or course of action.

Now these stories, meant to be lessons, are brought to life onscreen, complete with sound effects and make-up.  They are terrifying and they should be – evil is something to stay away from.  But for Christians, there is a stronger message, one that should always comfort and strengthen us – that we have a savior and that he will always come to protect and fight for those of us in need.