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God’s Not Dead

I went with my daughters and a bunch of friends from their youth group to see “God’s Not Dead” last night. The trailer gives a really good introduction of the plot, so I’ll give you a sec to check that out first.

I confess I didn’t have very high hopes of enjoying the movie. Let’s face it: Christian movies are often a big ‘whine and cheese’ party. Cheesy plot lines, whining characters, and everyone gets saved in the end. I expected this movie to fit that pattern, but I also expected the message to be valuable, so off we went.

The movie quickly introduced us to a lot of seemingly unconnected characters, which was a bit confusing, but not in a baffling Tolstoy kind of way. I quite enjoyed how those pieces gradually fell into place. The main character, a college freshman, was believably portrayed as reticent and uncertain – which made his sudden eloquence during his arguments a bit far-fetched. But the argument itself (both sides of it) was intellectually stimulating. I also appreciate the variety of characters who were fighting in different ways to discover and/or defend their faith.

There was still some cheese, though. Some of the acting was questionable (although I was impressed that a lot of it was great). All the non-Christians were villains, which doesn’t accurately represent reality. And yeah, almost everyone gets saved in the end. (Almost. I won’t completely spoil it for you.)

Is it a worthwhile movie? Let me first say that I am mildly in favour of supporting Christian movies for the sake of demonstrating demand for wholesome programming; however, I wouldn’t personally endorse a sucky Christian movie simply to make more $11 statements to Hollywood. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that “God’s Not Dead” doesn’t suck!

I do think it is worth seeing. The atheism vs. theism arguments presented therein are fascinating (although I’m the world’s worst debater, so don’t bother trying to engage me in that kind of discussion). The challenge to stand up for what you believe in is applicable beyond the scope of Christian faith. And although no one’s winning an Oscar here, I do think there was enough decent character development to generate some thought-provoking discussion.

And I was right about the message being valuable. God’s not dead!

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in God, movie reviews

 

On Parenting: The Truth Behind Everyone Else’s Warnings

This post is inspired by a young couple at our church who just birthed the most beautiful baby in the history of humankind. Apparently they heard that all babies are beautiful and they just went ahead and popped out a baby who was beautiful already. What they should have been told is that all babies become beautiful over their first few days or weeks, but they’re actually born kind of squidgy-looking. Because of that incomplete information, this lovely couple from church has already gotten it wrong. Such a shame.

There is hope, though. I’m here to enlighten them (and you) on the underlying truths of what parenting is really like.

You may have heard that parenting is exhausting. And you may assume that refers to babies waking up frequently through the night. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

  • Toddlers wet the bed. (Word of advice: keep a sleeping bag in your linen closet, even if you store the rest of your camping gear in the basement. You can have that kid back in bed in two minutes if you don’t have to wrangle with fitted sheets at three in the morning.)
  • Kids pick their nose – and when they wake up with blood on their face and hands and pillow case, they may scream like something has just been amputated. (Word of advice: you don’t have to scrub the pillow case right then and there. Throw it in the corner until the sun comes up and then just pour some hydrogen peroxide on it and let it soak for a bit.)
  • Teenagers who join sports teams will have practices at unreasonable times, like 7 in the morning. And you will have to drive them there. And they get snarky if you’re still wearing your fluffy bathrobe. (Word of advice: don’t let your kids join sports teams.)
  • Those same teenagers also like to participate in social activities that keep them out until other unreasonable times, like 10 at night. And you will have to pick them up. And they get snarky if you’re wearing your fluffy bathrobe. (Word of advice: if your teenagers know that you’re going to be wearing your fluffy bathrobe when you pick them up, they will be ready and waiting at the door of said social activity when you pull up. You won’t have to go in looking for them. Rather, you won’t have to do it twice.)
  • Throughout your parenting career, you will have multiple opportunities to stay up late into the night making 28 cupcakes decorated like cornucopias for a grade one class, and Medieval-style bread for a history project, and a traditional Spanish dessert for grade nine international food day – all because your children will forget to mention these dire necessities until bedtime the night before they are due.

You may have heard that your body will never be the same after birthing a baby. And you may assume that you will have stretch marks and your hips will be wider. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

  • Your hair will change. Whether you cut it all short because your baby keeps pulling it, or you grow it long so you can always have it in a ponytail, you will almost never have time to make it cute. And on those rare occasions when you have 60 extra seconds to blow dry, your work will promptly be undone by someone’s boogers, banana mush, or vomit.
  • Remember that gorgeous, red dress that you wore to all your friends’ weddings before you had kids? And you kept it after you had kids because it has a bit of a flare at the waist so it would still camouflage those widened hips? You may eventually lose all the baby weight and go put that dress on and then you will discover that your hips weren’t the only thing that widened to accommodate babies. Rib cages widen. Whatever your go-to naughty words are when you have an infuriating shock, you will use them when you see that weird extra bulge between bust and belly. Nobody wants a weird extra bulge there. Stupid red dress.

You may have heard about ‘baby brain’. And you may assume that this refers to putting the milk away in the cupboard and putting the cereal away in the fridge. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

  • At some point, many years from now, you will be in the middle of writing a parenting blog and during your potty break you will have a brilliant idea for your next point but by the time you get all the way back to your computer, you will have forgotten it so completely that you will stare open-mouthed at the ceiling for several minutes wondering if aliens invaded your body and cleared your brain’s browser history. And then you will wonder if it wasn’t aliens, but actually Kathy Griffin. And then you will wonder if Kathy Griffin is an alien herself. But all of that is hypothetical. What was I talking about?

You may have heard that kids say the darnedest things. And you may assume that kids say those things in private or when they are young and cute. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

  • There will come a day, I promise you, when you are at the mall or the grocery store and your sweet cherub makes a very loud and incredibly inappropriate comment about someone’s weight. If that someone is you instead of the stranger ahead of you in the check-out line, believe me: you are blessed among mothers.
  • You may one day tell your teenaged daughter that you have entered a contest to win a free smile make-over from the local orthodontist office. And for the briefest of seconds, her incredulous “Why?!?!” will make her your favourite child. And then more words will come out of her face: “But you’re almost forty!”

You may have heard that parenting is hard. You may assume that refers to getting your picky eater to eat peas that have touched mashed potatoes. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

  • No matter how prepared and open and honest you are with your kids, at least one of them will ask you a sex question that makes you gasp and choke on your own spit. And they’ll probably ask you in front of your in-laws or your pastor.
  • You will find yourself wondering about the legality of things that have never before crossed your mind, such as “Will I be arrested for helping my kids film a French horror movie in a cemetery?”
  • You will use your go-to naughty words again because your kids will develop uniquely bizarre habits like not screwing the salad dressing lid on all the way.

You may have heard about how fiercely you will love your kids. You may assume that refers to wanting to watch them sleep and being hurt when they stop kissing you in front of their friends. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

You’ll have to discover that whole truth for yourself. Because I can blab on and on about some topics, but how much you’ll love your kids – that’s one I just can’t put into words.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Family, Humour, parenting

 

How About Some Cancer PREVENTION Awareness?

I’m confused about why “cancer awareness” campaigns are still a thing. Movember, pink ribbons, Facebook status games, no-make-up selfies, and now dudes waxing their nether-regions. (Dudes – stop.) I don’t get it. Sure, some of you donate to various cancer societies in connection with these campaigns, and if that helps you feel like you’re doing something beneficial, I won’t discourage that (at least not in this post). But how does your moustache help anyone? What does your make-up-free face have to do with cancer? If the Facebook games are supposed to spread awareness, why are they secret?

These campaigns are not effective. And more to the point, they are not necessary. Do you actually know anyone who is yet unaware of cancer? No, I’m sure you do not. But do you know anyone who has fought cancer or is fighting it right now? I’m sure you do.

I’m proposing we switch to cancer prevention awareness. And I’ll kick it off with a ridiculously awkward selfie so yours, by comparison, will be ridiculously easy. (If I were a hashtagging person, I would tag this as firsttimeusingcameratimer and onlynakedpictureofmeevereverever).

Image

Here’s me applying aluminum-free deodorant.  I make it myself – it’s super easy, super cheap, it works beautifully and it doesn’t stain my black clothes. (Here’s the recipe.)

Now it’s your turn. Post a photo of yourself making a healthy choice and explain why that choice helps you prevent cancer. Need some ideas?

  • Post a photo of yourself having a delicious homemade smoothie for breakfast.
  • Post a photo of yourself drinking water instead of pop.
  • Post a photo of yourself filling your grocery cart with fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Post a photo of yourself playing outside with your kids.
  • Post a photo of yourself wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

Until cancer itself is no longer a thing, we should all be working hard to prevent it. So let’s stop the nad-waxing (Seriously, dudes - please stop that right now) and start conversations that will actually make a difference.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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They’ll Know We Are Christians By How Much We Love to Hate

Church: simmer down now. This World Vision fiasco is out of control.

I’m going to keep this short. My take on the subject is simple. We cannot keep going like this.

People – people who claim to be Christ-followers themselves – are uttering actual sentences like, “There is no such thing as a gay Christ-follower.” What? What?!?! What Gospel supports that? Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came to rescue us. While we were yet sinners, He died for us. How dare we point a finger at someone whom we deem more sinful than us and say that they are not worthy of claiming Jesus’ offer of salvation?

The world is watching and listening and reading, and when they hear such hateful, hypocritical crap, they are laughing – at best. At worst, they are swearing to never have anything to do with this religion for the rest of their lives.

This is a defining issue of our generation. Not because the LGBT community is more prominent than it has been throughout every preceding generation, but because today’s technology facilitates swift, violent, and public (although often anonymous) attacks on the LGBT community. We cannot keep going like this.

What would Jesus do if He was here in the flesh today? Matthew 26:52-53 springs to mind. How did Jesus respond when Peter cut off the arresting officer’s ear? He didn’t say, “Phew! Thanks, Peter. It’s a good thing you were here to stick up for me otherwise I totally would’ve been screwed.” No! He reprimanded Peter for his violent, hateful reaction. “Put your sword away. Anyone who lives by fighting will die by fighting. Don’t you know that I could ask my Father, and right away he would send me more than twelve armies of angels?” And then He heals the officer’s ear!

Do you get the contrast there? Peter is one of Jesus’ closest followers. He’s been by Jesus’ side all through His years of ministry. He’s clung to Jesus’ teaching and professed his devotion and love. And yet, when Peter responds with violence towards someone whom he perceives as a threat to Jesus’ authority, Jesus shuts him down. Jesus (with all authority on heaven and earth) doesn’t need Peter to jump in and save the day. Instead, Jesus turns and heals the guy who is about to lead Him off to His death.

Let’s back up one chapter to Matthew 25. Here Jesus gives a very clear defining standard for who will be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Verse 24 says, “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me.’” If Jesus was speaking these words today, He might add, “When I was gay, you were my friend.”

Sweet merciful heavens, I am not suggesting that Jesus was gay. I am proclaiming that He is heartbroken over how we treat marginalized people and we will be held accountable for it. He says as much a couple of verses later. The way we treat “the least of these”, is the same as treating Jesus Himself like that.

One of today’s “least of these” is the LGBT community. Not because of their sexual orientation, but because of how we have vilified them. We, the church, have made them the least. Shame on us.

I am not offering an opinion on World Vision’s decision. The circular arguments make my head hurt. I can’t imagine how overwhelming and crushing it is for those who are closely connected to WV and are now navigating through the hurricane of those discussions. This is where I stand: regardless of our personal opinion of how someone else’s sin stacks up against our own, we are not proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ when we continue to spew hateful, hypocritical condemnation.

Jesus’ authority is not threatened by World Vision’s policy change. So put your sword away.

I’m not going to leave this post open for comments (if I can figure out the technology of such restrictions). Not because I’m afraid of continuing the discussion, but simply because I refuse to be party to the backlash and fallout that is erupting on every single article and post that has addressed this issue over the past couple of days. We can’t keep going like this.

 
 

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Systems Analysis

A couple of years ago, in a rare and bizarre coincidence, my husband and I were both randomly selected for the more intensive security screening at an international airport in the States. We were immediately whisked out of line and escorted to a confined area away from all the other passengers (lest we abuse any nano-second of freedom by subtly emptying our body cavities of firearms and explosives and secretly passing said hazards to someone else in line).

The inconvenience of this random screening wasn’t a big deal. We recognized that these precautions were actually for our benefit, and we appreciated the security measures that afforded us the luxury of travelling in safety. The invasiveness of the procedure wasn’t outrageous either. We got to choose between the x-ray cameras or the intimate pat-down. My pat-down was conducted by a female officer who was very professional and polite and we chatted amicably through the whole process.

The system was there for our protection, we appreciated it, and by and large, it worked well. Except for one notable failure: four of the other passengers from whom we were immediately whisked away were our children, aged 12, 12, 10 and 4.

In the interest of national security, we were not allowed to approach them, touch them, reassure them, or answer their questions as we were pulled aside and they were carried away with the flow of the crowd. The best I could do was to holler, “Stay together and catch up with the Campbells!” Thank God we were travelling with another family who had passed through security shortly before us!

In that moment, my family was wronged by a flaw in the system. Our children should have been allowed to stay where we could see them. Or an extra security person should have been summoned to accompany them. Or we could have at least been offered a supervised moment to give them some further instructions before they were engulfed into the bowels of an international airport.

In that moment, I could have fought back. I would have had reasonable cause to kick up a fuss. I could have made the news and gotten all of North America on my side.

I didn’t. I met our most immediate need by calling out to them, while still making it clear that I was complying with security. I did what I had to do to make the procedure go as smoothly as possible so I could catch up with my kids as quickly as possible.

It all worked out just fine. (Eventually. After the scissors were confiscated from my daughter’s pencil case. And there was a small situation regarding a card game in my carry-on that one security officer thought was a can of tuna, which while perfectly legal, was suspicious to him and resulted in a loud, confusing confrontation. But that’s another story.) We were cleared, reunited with our kids and friends, and the rest of our trip was uneventful.

I am currently in the middle of navigating another system that has me a bit baffled. Again, I know it’s there for our protection – and that includes me. The people who implemented and maintain this system have good intentions. It’s just tricky to comply when it doesn’t fully make sense to me and my personal needs.

I have recently stumbled into the world of entrepreneurship and launched my own line of essential oils and products. Health Canada (the counterpart to the FDA) has strict rules about what I can and cannot claim in web or print materials. I cannot ascribe in writing any medicinal properties or benefits to alternative health care products. I can describe my products in terms of “wellness” and “balance”, but I cannot claim that they will heal or correct medical ailments.

For example, I am legally not allowed to state that product x relieves headaches. That would be a medical claim. I can, however, state that product x may promote stability in cranial pressure. See the difference there?

Given the context of this specific example, it’s not too difficult to discern what product x is for. However, facing a whole page of product descriptions, one would be hard-pressed to be able to translate all the gobbledy-gook in order to figure out what I’m actually selling. Not to mention the fact that I can only fit so many words on a label. “This alternative health care product is a proprietary blend of essential oils which may be used internally to restore the delicate balance of yeasts and bacteria in your girly bits” takes up way more space than “Yeast Infection Remedy”. But I can’t just say “Yeast Infection Remedy”. A yeast infection is a medical ailment and a remedy is what cures it. That’s illegal.

So that’s another system. Rules that aren’t easy or convenient or self-explanatory. But it’s a system that is for my own good, so I’m working to make sure I comply with it.

There’s one more system that I’d like to draw your attention to. It’s for our good – our very best, in fact – but sometimes it’s hard to navigate. Sometimes it’s frustrating. It feels so constrictive and confusing and archaic.

It’s the way of life that God outlines for us in His Word. The Bible sets a high standard for us, forbidding all kinds of things that today’s culture condones. Promiscuity, immodesty, witchcraft, abortion, foul language… The list goes on. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of tasty morsels that we feel we have a right to pursue.

But friends, those restrictions aren’t in place so our annoyance can be entertainment for a dictator God. They’re there to provide a safe framework in which we can enjoy life more fully, more abundantly, more intimately with each other and with a loving, Creator God.

The difference between God’s system and airport security or Health Canada is that the One who created and maintains God’s system is perfect. He doesn’t have to upgrade or amend His system. He doesn’t need to write new policies. He isn’t derailed by cultural shifts or terrorist attacks or any other kind of interruption. His system doesn’t fail.

Instead of futilely searching for flaws and flaunting our rights and fabricating excuses, our time is better spent learning how we can best function within the perfect system. If something seems like an inconvenience or an outdated rule, figure out why it’s worth conforming to.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go rename my products that may encourage restful sleep and may promote healthy digestion and may stimulate cell regeneration.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Family, God, Personal Growth

 

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“Son of God” Movie

I wasn’t going to bother doing a formal review of “Son of God”. A lot of it simply didn’t appeal to me, but I didn’t think that was reason enough to publicly slam it. Plus, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what really bothered me about it – until late last night.

We had already retired for the evening, when it finally hit me. My husband may or may not have already been sleeping, which may or may not have affected his appreciation for my amazing revelation. Nevertheless, he mumbled his agreement and I decided to write this post after all.

I’ll start with some positive points, because there were quite a few.

I really enjoy books and movies that flesh out historical events and tangibly remind us of the situations, relationships, and emotions that real people endured. Often when we read the Bible, we don’t stop to think about the climate, or the geography, or the political situation, or the family history in which a particular story is set. Those details add great depth to our understanding of what the characters’ lives were like and how that impacts the message of the story. “Son of God” did a great job of capturing the political climate and the reality of life for the Jewish people under Roman rule.

The movie also gave a more realistic portrayal of Jesus’ miracles and relationships than what some of us may remember from Sunday School flannelgraph interpretations. That’s helpful when trying to picture how things actually happened. What did it look like when Jesus multiplied a small lunch and fed 5000 people with it? What did it look like when Peter was walking on the water and then his sudden fear overwhelmed his faith? These portrayals in the movie were very well-done and thought-provoking.

My favourite aspect of the movie was the realistic depiction of the crucifixion. It is critically beneficial to be reminded of the enormity of Jesus’ sacrifice and that His agony wasn’t limited to the relatively brief time on the cross. To see Him humbly endure the beatings, the crown of thorns, the weight of the cross – it was gut-wrenching.

There were a few things that annoyed me, from a personal preference perspective. I thought it was over-acted and some of the cinematography was cheesy. More so, the dramatic pauses in all of Jesus’ lines and the aura of mystery infused in all of His conversations, while intended to amplify the intensity of the whole movie, actually detracted from the intensity of the crucifixion. There wasn’t enough build-up of drama to really highlight what should have been the most climactic scene.

Here’s what bothered me the most, what jolted me fully awake last night: the movie completely missed the whole Gospel message! For believers who already understand why Jesus died, it’s easy to apply that knowledge to the movie and focus on renewing our understanding of the magnitude of His sacrifice. But the movie itself did not explain the problem of sin and the need for atonement through a perfect sacrifice. “Son of God” doesn’t come right out and tell us that God became flesh for the sole purpose of rescuing humanity from the clutches of hell by taking our death penalty upon Himself.

That’s kind of a major point to omit!

Overall, it’s a worthwhile movie. But if you are a believer and you have a chance to discuss the film with people who didn’t grow up in a Bible-teaching church, make sure you bring the conversation around to the question of why Jesus did what He did.  If you leave that up to what was shown on-screen, they will walk away thinking it was all about political tensions and fulfilling ancient prophecies. And that means they will have completely missed the true Son of God.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in God, movie reviews

 

Winter of the Soul

I try not to be a complainy kind of person. “Do your best with what you’ve got” is my anthem. An attitude of gratitude, and all that jazz. When the silver lining wants to play hide-and-seek, I can find it in less time than it took for Adele Dazeem to get a Twitter handle.

I especially try not to complain about the weather. First, because it is out of my control and whining won’t fix it. And second, because I know there are so many people who have suffered absolutely catastrophic weather; I dare not compare the cold to their tragedies.

That said…this winter. Oh, this winter. The profanities are welling up within me! I am so near the point of eruption that I fear for myself and everyone around me. This bone-chilling, joy-sucking, mind-numbing, psycho-stabbing cold… When will it end?!?! Why, oh why, won’t it end?!?!

This winter sucks buffalo chips and I am so over it. I want to be Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry: “I had enough so I said ‘when’.”

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.

This indefinite wait for warmth is an apt analogy for those times in life when you are so very desperate for the pain to be over – or, what some might call “the winter of the soul”. It can be absolutely excruciating to feel like you’re at your breaking point and know that you still have to get up and face the next day and it probably won’t be any better than yesterday was. Or the day before that. Or the day before that.

And sometimes when we’ve gone through all the healthy, normal and expected responses (grief, prayer, counseling, anger, Bible studies and other self-help materials, carefully constructed cheer, more anger, more anger, more anger), we find ourselves at the end of our reactionary capabilities. We have no emotional energy left to expend, and yet the life crisis is still going strong. We are empty. Numb.

What then?

I was at a conference recently, and the keynote speaker said he was angry. Actually, his wife told him he was angry, and that took him aback. Yes, he realized, he was angry. All the time.  At everything and everybody. He wanted to kill people. The conference audience laughed at that. I think they laughed because they thought he was joking. I laughed because I knew he wasn’t.

What he said next went right into my soul – yes, even into the winter of my soul. “We need to grieve. When we don’t grieve, we harden our hearts. When we harden our hearts, we refuse the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

Friends, I do not have an answer that will make the winter melt. I don’t have a secret formula to make everything okay. But there is comfort in the pain. Comfort is one of God’s names, one of the attributes that makes Him Who He is. He is more than Creator, more than Redeemer, more than Holy, more than Judge…He meets us in the very deepest pain.

Whether you are already numb or still in the anger-hurling stage, it is okay to let yourself grieve. Grieve the loss of whatever it is your life crisis has taken from you. Grieve the brokenness of this world. Grieve the unknowns of tomorrow.

And be comforted.

That doesn’t mean you suddenly enjoy the winter (metaphorical or literal). It means your grief is valid and you are not alone in it.

You are not alone.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Adoption, Personal Growth

 

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