Archive for November, 2009

It’s A Wonderful Life is really a matter of perspective

November 30, 2009

Remember George Bailey, his wife Mary, Uncle Billy and Clarence the angel?  Is “It’s a Wonderful Life” part of your holiday tradition?

This year, as I was again entranced with George Bailey and his restoration of hope, I watched the show as if for the first time.  The actors at Taproot Theatre did a fabulous job!

Joe Landry’s adaptation of the movie takes place as a live radio play.

Remember your grandparents talking about sitting around the radio at night and listening to radio serial plays?

Remember the episode of Frasier where they tried to do a live radio play?  Everyone got mad at Frasier for being a control freak and Roz went to the dentist so “multiple murderers” came out “mubpubu murberbers”?

This is just as fun.

Wonderful Life features some top rate actors – Grant Goodeve and Mark Lund, but surprisingly, it was the support actors that made this play shine.  Jesse Noehelfer was delightful in her parts as Violet and Mrs. Bailey, but her best part was Zuzu, the Bailey daughter.  Alex Robertson nearly stole the show as Mr. Martini.  He also did a fabulous job as Clarence and one of the Bailey children.  Eric Riedmann not only played Harry Bailey, but did the sound effects throughout the play, from marching shoes to car doors slamming.  Candace Vance always brings an energy to the stage, and this play does not disappoint.  Bravo!

Do you want to see this play?  You’ll have to hurry.  Taproot is temporarily using  North Seattle Community College’s Stage One theatre, which has 60 fewer seats than their usual theatre, so you better sign up quick.  On December 2 & 9 they also have a special dinner theatre.  Check out their website for details.

 

Advertisements

No Idea: Entrusting Your Journey to a God Who Knows by Greg Garrett

November 29, 2009

Greg Garrett is a depression sufferer, a theologian, a writing teacher and a writer.

No Idea: Entrusting Your Journey to a God Who Knows is a book of a journey.

Greg begins with his journey through depression to his current place, and then meanders along to discuss God and his existence.

Truthfully, I had a lot of trouble with this book.  I’ve been trying to read it for weeks now.  I’ve at times found it a very helpful companion to my conversation.  It brought me the word ‘cerebral’ to describe my approach to life.

It is also a book I think is almost impossible to get though.  I have about 40 pages left, and I’ve finally given up.  Although Greg is hard to get through, it isn’t just because of his approach, it is because he is smart.  I have found Greg Garrett to be somewhat like a very depressed C.S. Lewis.  I think he really does put an interesting and theological spin on things, but for the most part, he is just depressive.  The hardest part of the book was the first part, which read something like the outline of someone’s fourth step.  It was just too much personal information outside of a confessional, close friendship or counseling relationship.

There is one group of people that I think might get a lot out of this book:  Those with mood disorders – but not until Spring or Summer (providing that SAD is part of your makeup).  Greg fully admits his mood disorder, and discusses in detail how he has worked with it.  I think it might be like going to a group session and listening to someone else talk about their issues.

Sorry, I rarely give a negative review, but I have to do so for this one.  I’d like to read some of Greg’s other work however, because I did find him to have a very sharp mind and believe that he would be very engaging outside the realm of the emotional.

Perfection is overrated

November 28, 2009

We have perfected the banana.

Now it is facing extinction.

Big Mike was the preferred banana until the early 1960s when it was all but wiped out by a fungus called Panama disease, a relative of the Dutch Elm disease.

In lue of going without bananas, the industry switched to the Cavendish banana.

Wherever you go in the world, the Cavendish banana looks the same.  It has been perfected.  But a new version of the Panama disease is now threatening the Cavendish crops.  Soon, we may have to face eating our average of 26.2 pounds of bananas per year from a different species of banana.

Perfection is overrated.  We thought we’d fixed the banana problem, and here it goes again.  Life seems to be that way as well.

Every time we find that we have managed to determine that:

  • We are not in control
  • God is in control
  • We ask Him to fix things instead of trying to do it ourselves

Every time we find we are able to forgive ourselves and accept forgiveness, forgive others, and forgive God,  life changes.  A new situation, a new blight hits us in the face.

So if we aren’t trying to be perfect, what is it all about?

It’s about the Journey.

Paul, talked about this journey to the Philippians:  (I am) confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Have you ever felt like there was “rot” in your life, things that you just couldn’t overcome?

Some days it seems that just as you get one Panama Disease destroyed another one crops up.

You have a Creator who loves you.  He knows you down to your molecules, and He loves you.

More than that, He has a purpose for you.  Not a purpose like a cog in a wheel, but a purpose that will fit exactly with your personality, limitations and abilities.  Nothing about you surprises God, yet He has a purpose for your life.

Your purpose isn’t to be perfect.  He is the one who does the perfecting.  We just let Him do it.

We are powerless, God is Powerful, We let Him do it.

Talking to Myself and Finding a New Perspective

November 21, 2009

What do you do in times of trouble?  When the world seems to have spun off its access, and you aren’t sure what comes next?  In times of conflict or stress, we all have one of two tendencies:  fight or flight.

Those who flee will tend to run away – sometimes physically, but most often emotionally.  We will do everything that we can to get rid of the feelings of stress – eat, escape into a book or TV, ignoring the problem…the list is long.

Those who fight on the other hand, seem to do well with adrenaline – they might use their words, lose their temper, move great mountains to get things done.  One of the less obvious ways of fighting is to be a ‘figurer outer’.  We will tend to analyze the problem from morning to night, anticipating every possible solution, hoping we can make it go away!

The really creative people are those who manage to combine the two stress responses.  When they face a stress that is just too great, they might stir up trouble in another area of their life in order to be able to channel the adrenaline into something they feel they can conquer.  Or they might start a new project, giving themselves a productive outlet for all that pent up energy.  (I can really do a lot of cleaning when I’m avoiding something!)

Fight and flight are built into our makeup, and have their purpose.  But when we are driven by feelings, and don’t respond out of love, neither of these is healthy for us, or our relationships.  When we are in stress, we have to find a firm rock to stand on in the midst of it.  That rock is Jesus.

How do you handle stress?  How do you really turn things over to Jesus?

Not very long ago, I got to that point where I needed to again assess – am I just complaining, or am I really expecting God to work?

I have discovered over the years that sometimes I get to the point where I pray for other people, but fail to pray for myself.  I need to sit myself down and determined to talk to God about things every day – not just about other people’s things, but about my stuff.

After a year of job rejections, statistics tell us that as many as 8% of the population have just given up.  There is always more than one way to look at a situation.  I believe this time in history is a chance for us to restore our foundations and get ready for our next time of building.  Every time of rebuilding has to be preceded by a time of demolition, cleanup and restoration of the foundational structures.  Sometimes you wonder if you are going to get squished under the rubble.  This is a time to find encouragement and a new perspective.

David learned to encourage himself towards God in times like this:

Psalms 42:11

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Psalms 27:13-14

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Galatians 3 – Who are you looking at?

November 19, 2009

When I was little, the adults in my life tried to help me.  One sentence that stuck in my head is “Normal people act this way, or normal people do this.”

My poor first grade teacher reached the end of her rope and decided to use it on me.  “Kimmy, you need help remembering to stay in your seat,” she said.  “This will help.”  She then placed a gigantic jump rope across my lap.  I could barely move let alone wiggle out of my chair.  Eventually, the big jump rope disappeared, and Miss Hayes used even more drastic measures – she tied me to my chair.

One thing was for sure.  The way people acted was important, and I couldn’t figure out the formula.  (I have no idea how my parents survived.)

The Galatians were much like a kid who doesn’t have the ‘formula’.  Paul taught them about grace and listening to the Spirit, a non-formulaic way of knowing God.  Then Paul left.

Soon enough, along came some people who wanted to help them look like ‘normal’ Christians.  Here, let us help you.  These are the rules to being a Christian.  First you have to look this way, abide by Jewish rules – then you can experience real grace. The Galatians wanted a full experience.  They were willing to do whatever it took.

The problem was that the people who brought in the Jewish law brought in a covenant that taught people to look at themselves as different.  Where were they looking?  At themselves.  Where did God want them to look?  At Him.  The reason Jesus died on the cross was to fulfill the old covenant so that people would be free to look at God and let Him do the work on the inside of their hearts.

New behavior now comes out of new focus and regeneration, not outward training.

In the beginning of Galatians 3, Paul asks five major questions:

  • Who has bewitched you?
  • Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?
  • After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
  • Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing?
  • Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

He is asking:  Are you crazy?  Don’t you remember why you have the Spirit to begin with?  This isn’t just another religion.  You have come so far and it hasn’t been easy – why have you fallen to trying to do it on your own?

Here are my questions today:

  • When someone comes to Christ, do we rejoice in their freedom, or do we give them a month or two and then start trying to show them how to be a ‘real’ Christian?
  • Do we focus on outward things, or do we teach people how to focus on God and let Him do the work?
  • It is so much harder to teach people to listen to Jesus and do what He says than it is to teach them how to conform to a standard.  It is easier to get people ‘cleaned up’ and then teach them to follow Jesus than it is to teach them to follow Jesus in their broken down, falling apart lives that are usually filled with other people who don’t know Him.
  • When excellent leadership teaches us to ‘duplicate ourselves’, are we trying to duplicate our ability to spend hours on our face in carpet-eating prayers because we haven’t got a clue, or are we trying to duplicate our put-together selves that we got as a result?

How to find new direction

November 18, 2009

Elijah was at the end of himself. He had no where to go. He had just done more than was imaginable. He had shown the entire nation of Israel how to follow God. He slew 450 prophets of Baal. Then Jezebel turned her full wrath on him.

If you read 1 Kings 18 and 19 carefully you will discover a few things:

  • God didn’t ask Elijah to take on the Baal prophets.
  • Elijah knew what it would take to turn Israel to God and stepped up to the task.
  • Elijah knew Obadiah personally, yet had turned so myopic that he still thought he was the only prophet left.
  • Elijah eventually even sent his servant away.

Elijah appears to have been very cerebral and had the ability to isolate inside his own head.  However, in his isolation, when he was at the end of himself, he knew how to find new direction.

Elijah ran.  He didn’t run away, he ran to the mountain of God.  At the mountain of the Lord, God engaged Elijah in a discussion.  I don’t know about you, but when I go to God for direction, I really wish he would give me a 1, 2, 3 approach.  God cares so much more for us than this.  God engaged Elijah in conversation.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” God asked. Not once, but twice.  In between the two questions, God gave Elijah an object lesson.  “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” God says.

What do you expect when you pray for God to show up in your life?  A mighty wind whipped through the mountain.  Then an earthquake shook the ground.  Finally, a firestorm swept away the rubble.  I think a lot of time we expect mighty moves of God that shake our world and clean it up.  But God wasn’t in any of the devastation.  They were mighty precursors to His presence.

When God showed up, it was in the form of another soft, gentle conversation.  “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah had lost his focus, but he knew where to turn.  Then God helped him narrow his focus.  The wind, earthquake and fire helped him determine the answer to God’s repeated question – what do you want from God?

Once Elijah’s body was rested and his heart was focused, then gave him his new direction.

  • Here’s your new tasks for Israel
  • Here’s your new tasks for Judah
  • And by the way, you aren’t alone, I’m the one in charge

Many of us have found this is the time in life to refocus our lives.  Here are the steps:

  1. Run to God
  2. Wait on Him
  3. Ride the Storms
  4. He will Answer, He will help you refocus and He will give you new direction
  5. Wait for Him time, and be ready for His answer to come suddenly

Faith Path by Mark Mittelberg

November 17, 2009

Faith Path is an eight-week small group study by Mark Mittelberg.  Mark Mittelberg is one of the best evangelism writers in the Christian church today.

This new DVD study is an opportunity to watch him teach in a small group setting.  Have you ever felt like you wanted to share Christ, but somehow a conversation on religion seems as foreign as… well, a foreign language?

In Faith Path, Mark journeys through six different ‘faith paths’ – different ways of looking at the world.  Then, in group conversation with a workbook, you are able to discuss how to best approach people from these world views and encourage them on their faith journey in a language that they might understand.

This is a great evangelism curriculum.  I appreciated that the dvd portion was only 10 minutes, yet I felt there was the possibility for so much more.   The workbook is terrific, giving absolutely perfect balance to a bible study session.  Mark Mittelberg is an incredible writer and knows how to help people move from one point to the next.  With 9-12 questions per session, Mark leads us into the thought processes of other world views and helps us to think creatively as we figure out how to organically introduce Christ into someone’s life.  I would suggest it for a small or larger group mixed adult setting.

If you’d like to buy this study, you can find it on Amazon.com.

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner

November 16, 2009

Tally is a 16 year old girl who has never lived in the same place for more than a few months.  When her father dropped her off to ‘get to know her grandmother’ while he went treasure hunting in Europe, her life took a weird turn.

She came home one afternoon to find her grandmother dead, and social services moved her in with her all-too-ordinary cousins.

What is life like behind the white picket fence?  Tally discovers that behind the ‘nice normal life’ of her aunt and uncle’s home is a mystery that could destroy her cousin, Chase, if the truth doesn’t come out.  With the help of two holocaust survivors, Tally and Chase learn their family story and Chase’s own scary history.

Have you ever wished you could live a ‘normal’ life?  I loved this book for many reasons – they boil down to this:  Susan Meissner writes with a very high level of emotional maturity.  She really gets people and all the mess we can create for ourselves when we are trying so hard to be ‘normal’.

I found part of the plot resolution to be terribly convenient, but I think it is outweighed by the depth of value created by the honest level that Susan writes – particularly when it pertains to the teens in the story.  This was a great read.

I have one copy of this book to give away.  I’d like to create a little conversation on my blog, so here’s the deal – share one thing you consider ‘white picket fence normal’ that you would love to add to your life.

Here’s mine:  I’d love to have a clean sink and no dirty dishes every day, instead of dishes in the sink almost all the time.  On November 23, I’ll pick one person at random from the respondents.

Want to buy the book?  You can buy it here:  Random House or Amazon.com

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Transforming the Valley of Grief by Tom Mason

November 15, 2009

image001(6)“When my wife died and the valley of grief was thrust upon me, I looked long and hard for books on grieving written from a Christian male perspective. I wanted to know what I, as a Christian man confronted—no, overwhelmed—by grief could expect as a process. I found several excellent books about grief, but no real manual that would be like a trail for me to follow through the valley. So in writing this book, my aim is to help grieving men all I can by sharing what I believe to be common male experiences along the way.” – Tom Mason

 

(From the press release)

 

Transforming the Valley of Grief follows Mason’s own journey from the moment the tsunami of grief crashed into his life, through the peaceful, solitary moments meeting God in the wilderness, in the times where unexpected memories triggered flash floods of emotion and to the moment when the valley opened up and he was able to fully embrace his changed life. The book includes many specific, practical tips for both grieving men and those who love them and want to support them through the valley. Each chapter concludes with a “notes to self” section with positive suggestions for men to try at different points in their journey of grief and a “notes to others” section. At the back of the book there is a collection of discussion questions perfect for use in a grief support group.

This book is informative and helpful.  I’m not a man, I haven’t lost a spouse, but I have experienced grief – and this book helped.  Tom has done a terrific job of writing a book for men who grieve and those who walk with them.

If you know someone who has lost a spouse, buy the book and read it. It will help you be a better friend. Are you in the valley of grief? You will find this book a great companion.

You can find this book at Amazon.com


When a leader disappoints

November 13, 2009

Right in the middle of this letter of confrontation, Paul describes how he confronted Peter.

Have you ever been tempted to not live up to your ideals?  Have you ever been disappointed by a leader who didn’t live out what they preached?

This passage is terrific for two reasons. First, we will see the temptations of a leader, and second, we will see the incredibly gracious way that Paul confronts Peter.

Temptation of a Leader

  • “before certain men came from James” – Sometimes get our brain on backwards and begin to perform for all of the voices in our lives instead of the ‘audience of One’ (God).  We view ourselves in light of how others ‘might’ see us.  We place others’ opinions in place of God so that we no longer see ourselves the way He sees us.
  • “he was afraid” – we act on others opinions instead of discerning the Word.
  • When you are in a position of leadership, people will follow you – no matter where you lead.  Make sure you are going where God wants people to go.

How Paul Confronted Peter

  1. He reminded Peter of his allegiance to the gospel
  2. He led with a question, comparing Peter’s actions to the gospel

It looks something like:  “You don’t eat wheat.  Why are you eating a scone?”  (yes, that was me on Tuesday.)  Direct, but not “you are such a hypocrite!  I can’t believe you could do this to me!… ”

There is definitely a difference in these two approaches.  Leaders are people and many times they disappoint us.  God give us the grace to hold them with the respect and honor we would want ourselves and confront them in a way that brings correction instead of destruction.