Friday, February 25, 2011

Being Mad at God

Today while I was driving from one appointment to another, I heard a radio interview that has really stayed with me.  It featured a lady named Rebecca Alonzo, and she was telling the story of her childhood that is detailed in her new book, The Devil in Pew Number Seven.  Her father was the pastor of a small church in North Carolina when she was a young child, and the thorn in his side was one of the men who attended his church, Mr. Watts.  Mr. Watts had ruled the church and the town with an iron fist until the new pastor came to town, and began a campaign to get rid of him from the very beginning.  When this didn't immediately happen, Mr. Watts began to stalk and harrass the family, to the point of bombing their house several times.

One day, Mr. Watts encouraged a neighbor to attack the pastor and his family, and on Easter Sunday, the neighbor walked in to the family dinner and shot Rebecca's parents.  She was 7 years old.  Her mother died immediately, and her father suffered injuries that ultimately led to his death a few years later.  Rebecca went on to tell what happened after that, with her and her brother going to live with her aunt, the subsequent trial with minimal punishment, and her intense confusion and anger with God.  It was a devastating story.  But then she made this statement, "I got to the point where I realized I needed God MORE than I needed to be mad at God".  Wow.  I know many adults that never come to this realization, and their life circumstances aren't nearly as tragic.  She was a teenager at the time, and has written this book in part to help others who find themselves in the same cycle of fear, anger, and confusion.  Yes--bad things happen, even tragic things.  Believers aren't immune to that.  At all.  And sometimes, just realizing that these things matter to God can make all the difference.  No, they might not change the circumstances, but they can change the outlook.

It's OK to be angry about circumstances, and I think it is even OK to be angry at God.  He understands and can handle it.  But how tragic it is when a person stays in that place, and remains distant from God because of it.

"I got to the point where I realized I needed God MORE than I needed to be mad at God".

You can read more of Rebecca's story at

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gnomeo and Juliet

I took the boys to see the movie Gnomeo and Juliet today.  It wasn't a movie I was particularly looking forward to going to see.  I had read the review at Plugged In Online to make sure there weren't any unwelcome surprises, but it didn't give a very good indication that it would actually be interesting.  But, IT WAS ONE OF THE BEST MOVIES I HAVE SEEN IN A WHILE.  I know, crazy, right?  It was original, funny, well written, good music, and interesting.  It wasn't Oscar material or anything, but I wasn't sitting there counting the minutes until it was over, either.  For people familiar with the original Romeo and Juliet, numerous references were made throughout the movie, adding to the fun of it.  We did not see it in 3-D, because that is just over and above wasted money in my opinion, but did not see too many shots that would have stood out in 3-D mode anyway.

The message of the movie was one that has stayed with me all day:  don't let the hate that other people have take away your love/joy in life.  The premise of the movie is that two different yards of garden gnomes are sworn enemies; one wearing red hats and the other wearing blue hats.  They even have slightly different accents and flowers that they love.  They 'live their lives', in a garden gnome way, isolated and hateful to those who are different.  How many stories throughout history have had this theme?  How many wars have been fought for the same reason?

OK, maybe I am over-thinking the whole thing.  But it was a good movie with a good message.  Plus, we walked out of the theater singing 'Crocodile Rock'.  My kids just can't get away from my childhood music.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fresh eyes - Rich Man, Poor Man

In my effort to discover new and different insights from my Bible readings this year, I came upon these rather obscure verses today from the Old Testament book of Exodus:

"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Whenever you take a census of the people of Israel, each man who is counted must pay a ransom for himself to the Lord' ".

Now, this verse may be one that various people have understood and debated for generations.  I tried to get a google answer about what paying God a ransom was all about, but quit after about 5 minutes of searching.  I do know that was in the middle of God's initial meeting with Moses when he was leading about 2 million people in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land, and was part of God's guidelines for exactly what He expected from His people.  Every male over the age of 20 had to pay a 'ransom' to God for his life, which was half a shekel.  From what I can tell, this goes along with the culture of sacrifice and redemption, and probably provides symbolism to how Jesus later ransomed everyone on the cross.  So, I'm sure it was a big deal.  But it was what I read several verses later that really made me think:

"When this offering is given to the Lord, the rich must not give more than the specified amount, and the poor must not give less".

Sadly, it is a fact of life in most cultures and social institutions that the rich (however that is defined) have more power, prestige, and position than the poor do.  This is unfortunately true in many churches as well.  But what this verse was saying to me is that the value God places on an individual life is the same for each and every person.  He does not want anyone to buy His approval, nor does He accept someone getting away with devaluing their lives just because they don't have as much to offer using the world's economy. Maybe that ransom was about providing a visible reminder to everyone involved that in His eyes, each person has equal worth, regardless of the number of sheep, goats, camels--or clothes, savings accounts, job titles--that a person has.

I don't think the New Testament focuses on this idea of paying God a specific amount for a ransom.  However, the idea of equal worth and importance was a message that was at the very heart of what Jesus believed and taught.  In Jesus's culture, women, non-Jews, disabled, poor, sick, children, and certain professions were second class citizens at best.  Yet, these were the very people that Jesus spent the most time with.  He met people where they were, and loved them regardless of their social standing.  And I'm pretty sure that this is still the way He works and thinks of people today.

How comforting is that?                                             (taken from Exodus 30:12, 15)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dirty Girls--Outlive Your Life

My church is doing a sermon series entitled "Outlive Your Life".  I've written about this a couple of times, focusing on how this might possibly look for someone who lives on a very limited budget or is in general overwhelmed by going big with the whole thing.  I couldn't help but think about this idea yesterday, when I was able to spend a little time with someone who is outliving her life on the other end of spectrum--all out and big time.

I met Crystal several years ago during our brief stint in Kansas.  She was on staff at the same church my husband was working at, and he was always very impressed with the content and quality of the work she did there as a graphic artist.  In the past couple of years, Crystal has publicly acknowledged a long term addiction to pornography, which led to other sexual behaviors including masturbation.  She began leading recovery groups and workshops, and realized that there were very few resources available for women who were addicted to pornagraphy.  That eventually led to Crystal becoming the founder and director of a ministry called 'Dirty Girls Ministries', named in part from the idea that this is such a shame-based addiction, and so many of the women/girls feel dirty and broken from it.  She has even written a book about her story of addiction and healing that is set to come out in April.  I am so envious of this!  I have always wanted to write a book, but Crystal actually made it happen, while continuing her full time job at her church.

OK, cool story, but how is Crystal living her life in such a big way?  Well, in a total act of big faith, Crystal has resigned from her church job to devote herself to Dirty Girls Ministries full time.  This means no guaranteed income, no benefits, no structure or 'security' in her job, but she is convinced that God has called her to this and has big plans for her and her ministry.  This led to how I got to see her yesterday.  A local university flew Crystal in to be the speaker at their weekly Chapel service, based on an article the university president had read in a recent New York Times article about her.  She was able to talk and share some of her story, and she was brilliant.  She said she was nervous, but I couldn't tell.  What I do know is that she spoke truth to about 800 students about freedom that is found in Christ, regardless of the struggle or backstory each listener brought into the service yesterday.  Crystal doesn't know what tomorrow holds in regards to money or influence or interviews, but she has a firm conviction and knowledge about WHO holds tomorrow.  And because of that, she is ouliving her life more than just about anyone I know. 

You should check out her website and her Facebook page as well, especially if you or someone you know is struggling with pornography/sexual addictions.  It really is one of the best resources out there right now.  Is this not your particular area of struggle?  Check it out anyway, and really consider giving financially to her ministry, which is officially a non-profit organization.  This would be a small way to outlive your life by helping Crystal outlive hers.  Either way, God wins.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Judy, Judy, Judy...

Yesterday I was listening to a radio interview with a lady named Judy whose mother had recently died after a lengthy illness.  The mother told Judy just before she died that she was leaving Judy her collection of personal journals, but that Judy could not look at them until after she actually died.  Judy was shocked and excited.  She had never known that her mother had kept journals, and could hardly wait to see what her mother had to say.  What had her life been like?  What did she think about current events?  What did she think of her family?  Judy had been trying to find out this info from her mother for years, but her mother was a very private person that did not easily open up about anything.  In fact, most of Judy's adult life had been spent trying to gain her mother's approval and get her to open up about ANYTHING.  Reading her mother's journals would provide at least some closure and insight into a woman that Judy barely knew.

It took Judy about a month after her mother's funeral to finally face the task of looking into the journals.  She waited until she was alone in the house, and found the journals hidden in the back of her mom's closet exactly where her mom had said they would be.  There were 3 shelves full, each on covered with some type of fabric.  It was easy to tell which ones were the older ones, because they were dusty and more faded.  Not knowing exactly where to start, Judy carefully chose one covered in red gingham and opened it slowly.  The first page was empty.  So was the second page.  And so was every page after that.  She looked through every single journal, and each one was empty.  Judy was devastated, and can not figure out what her mom was trying to say to her, and why she even kept the books if she never wrote in them.

I am fascinated by this story, and have been trying to figure it out myself, not having the benefit of knowing anyone involved.  Did she not think she had anything to say?  Did she not think anything was important enough?  Did she realize she had all kinds of stuff to say, but never got around to it?  Was she just too tired?  Maybe she didn't think anyone else would care.  Maybe she just kept putting it off until it was too late.  I don't know, but it is such a sad, sad story to me.  Poor Judy.  I guess she will spend the rest of her life wondering what it all meant, and never knowing how much she meant to her mother.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book review - Chazown

Product Details                                         
Written by:  Craig Groeschel     
Multnomah Publishers
235 pages, paperback

When I was in high school, I saw a movie called Vision Quest, starring Matthew Modine with a cameo singing performance by the newly famous Madonna.  It was not a particularly well made or memorable movie to be sure, but it was my first introduction to the concept of going on a quest to define goals and outcomes for one's life.  I later learned that these vision quests are an integral part of many cultures, particularly for the boys/men.  Since they tend to involve going off alone into the woods and killing a wild animal with just an arrowhead or some long sticks, I've never particularly related to the whole vision quest thing on a personal level.

Then I chose to review Chazown (pronounced Kwah-ZONE), by Craig Groeschel.  Chazown is a Hebrew word that embodies not just a vision, but the focus, energy, and creativity that are released as a person defines and pursues their God-given, God-ordained purpose and direction for their individual lives.  Basically, each person needs to think:  what is my purpose on this earth, and what has God designed me uniquely to do?  I have heard and read about similar concepts before, but never in such a concise, practical book. 

Groeschel breaks down a plan for specifically defining/refining individual components of a vision and plan in very short (2 page) segments.  Once the reader identifies their core values, spiritual gifts and past experiences, then naming their Chazown is the focus.  This is refined by examining the areas of relationships with God and people, finances, health/fitness, and work.  Writing goals, defining concerns and scripture study permeate this whole process.

This was such an interesting book.  It was a good reminder of how every person has a place and a job that is uniquely designed for them.  Chazown is a great resource for anyone wanting to explore their own vision quest, either individually or in a group setting.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from Multnomah Publishers for review purposes.  No other compensation was received.

Pharoah, Pharoah--Ooh, Ooh--Let My People Go

For the past 11 days, protesters have flooded the streets throughout Egypt in an attempt to get their leader, Mr. Mubarak, to step down.  To be honest, I don't know much about Mr. Mubarak or how he leads.  This is what I've gathered from various news sources:

--He has been the leader there for 30 years.

--Apparently he is elected each cycle, but probably totally rigs the ballot boxes.

--He runs the police services with an iron fist and is considered by many to be a dictator.

--He is considered an American ally because he allows military training and keeps some type of control over Islamic radicals.

--He says he won't step down until his term ends in September because the void would be too volatile.

I honestly don't know the political ramifications of all of this.  I do know that I have been intrigued by how it is all playing out.  Mubarak cut off all internet and cell phone service for several days when it became apparent to the Egyptian citizens were using Facebook and twitter to organize protests.  He is presently blaming outside media sources for blowing all of the protests out of proportion.  Media outlets and reporters are being targeted and beaten (severely) for simply reporting on the issues.  Yet still the people go out and risk bodily injury and imprisonment for the hope of something different.  They really believe they can make a difference.

Time will tell how all of this plays out and what it means on the world stage.  In the meantime I will keep watching and praying for God's guidance and safety in this area of the world where He has done some of His mightiest works in the past.