“Old Fashioned”: A Movie Review

old-fashionedI have read a lot of blog posts recently about the blockbuster movie “50 Shades of Grey.” I never read the books, I don’t plan on seeing the movie. I have read a lot fewer posts on the movie “Old Fashioned.” In fact, I’ve only read one, and what that one writer had to say was that most “Christian” movies are “painfully” bad.

I have to disagree.

Whereas I agree with some of points the writer was making (you can read the post here), I thought that “Old Fashioned” did more than just give us a treacly story that spouts Christian doctrine to an audience in need of salvation (my words, not the author’s). The blog post author calls it a “response” to “50 Shades,” but I disagree. I think it stands on its own without apology.

“Old Fashioned” is the story of Clay and Amber, 2 diametrically opposed 20-somethings both fighting their own demons. Clay seems to be trying to prove something by setting relational standards for himself that others find odd and restricting. He refuses to be alone with a woman who is not his wife; he doesn’t believe in dating; he won’t kiss his future wife on the lips until they’re standing before the preacher. Some might think that’s how moral, God-fearing young men should act, but for Clay, his convictions don’t seem to have their root in a relationship with God, but rather a desire to excise his personal demons.

Amber, on the other hand, is a fun-loving young woman who keeps a big jar on top of her refrigerator into which she puts all her cash. Why? Because as soon as it’s full, she knows she has enough for gas money to leave again. She’s lived in 14 states in just a few years. Some might call her a free spirit. But she’s really just someone deathly afraid of forming lasting bonds that will some day cause her great pain.

Is “Old Fashioned” a poorly made movie? Is the overtly Christian message offensive? Looking beyond the obvious to catch the underlying themes is what discerning movie goers and readers really want, and I think what’s below the surface in “Old Fashioned” would satisfy any who are willing to look. Could the movie just be written off as a sanitized version of a titillating rival? It could, but I think that does it a grave disservice. Is the acting top tier? Probably not. I didn’t recognize any of the names.  But I cried, and I laughed, and I loved the way the movie made me feel throughout. From the feisty old aunt to the misogynistic friend to the flower shop owner who just wants to find love, the characters in the movie are believable.

I’m no film critic, but I know what I like, and “Old Fashioned” fits the bill. Even my husband, who is more of the action-adventure-the-more-explosions-the-better type of guy, liked it. So that’s got to tell you something.

Five Near-Birthday Observations

Birthday-Cake-With-Candles-10I’m 2 days away from my 53rd birthday. And I’m OK with that.

I’m sitting on my back porch this late December morning, in 70+ degree weather, remembering the gathering of 50 friends I had around me for my 50th. It’s hard to believe it’s been 3 years. Wow. Time does fly; it’s not just an old adage.

My eldest turned 18 2 days ago, and I’m OK with that, too. It doesn’t make him a different person. It doesn’t make me less his mom. His journey to manhood keeps going.

And my journey continues as well. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way of my 53 years.

1. People come and go from our lives all the time.

It’s a smaller world now than it used to be. We have text messaging that puts us in touch with people instantly. We have Facebook, which gives us a glimpse into their lives. But sometimes, we just have to let people go and be thankful that we got to spend a little time with them anyway.

2. Age doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to friendships.

I have friends who are in their 80s, I have friends who are in their 20s. Since I had my kids a bit later in life, the majority of moms I hang out with are a lot younger than I. I may not be as hip as they, but they keep me feeling younger than I really am.

3. Faith is not a feeling.

I am going through a highly annoying health issue right now associated with menopause, and it has caused me a lot of stress and anxiety. But one thing I have said over and over is that I would rather have Jesus and this issue than no issue and no Jesus. No issue with Jesus would be ideal, but if that never happens, can I be content? If I don’t feel like God is even listening, does that mean He’s not? If God’s character was based on my perception, than He wouldn’t be much of a God. He’s a lot bigger than how I feel.

4. I really and truly am not in control.

There’s a saying: “Man makes his plans and God laughs.” I think God does a lot of chuckling when He’s listening to me. I like to have things planned out. We take a trip, I like to know where we’re stopping along the way. I want to know where my kids are and what they’re doing. I want to be in the know for anything that’s going on around me. But you know what? That’s not how God wants me to live my life. He is in control and if things don’t go the way I think they should, that’s because He’s got something better in mind. Boy, that’s good head knowledge; now if I could just put it into practice.

5. Last but not least, there is no hope for this world apart from Jesus.

A day does not go by that we don’t hear about some terrible tragedy or another. People dying, evil dictators torturing their detractors, planes mysteriously disappearing from thin air. Evil seems to be rampant and taking over the world. And there is no hope for it aside from Jesus. You can’t legislate morality and you can’t expect anything to get better if people’s hearts remain unregenerate. Protests, laws, micro-management are not going to help. Only Jesus.

So, 53 years are almost in the books. There are many more lessons to be learned.  What are some of the truisms you’ve learned on your journey?

 

Image from november2013calendar.org

The Gift or the Giver?

What if on Christmas morning that gift that you’ve been longing for is under the tree? What would it be for you? The latest technology? The keys to a new car? That outfit you’ve been admiring in the store window?

What if, when you opened that gift, you said thank you to the giver, but then didn’t acknowledge him the rest of the day? What if, in the days and weeks to follow, whenever you talked to him, you just asked him for more stuff? You wouldn’t have much of a relationship with him, would you?

What if, instead of a gift under the tree, you found that person simply wanting to spend time with you? Would you be satisfied? Would it be enough simply to be with him? After all, you have let him into your life. You’ve told him you love him. If he never gives you the things that you want, but is always there by your side to listen, love and care for you, would that be enough?

I think that’s how I’ve been treating God lately. There are so many needs; not just my own. I have friends who have great concerns that I have promised to pray for. I have one nagging health issue that I really want to go away. So that’s what I’m asking for. But I’m not asking God to simply be with me, to enfold me in His arms and to keep me safe from the attacks of the enemy that would tell me God must not really love me if He keeps letting me experience this trial.

What do I really want, the Giver or the gifts He might give? Do I want heaven because of what it means to be there? No more tears, no more pain, streets of gold. Or do I long for heaven because it means perfect communion with God?

Today I am singing along: “All I want for Christmas is You.” Won’t you join me?

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photo credit: thedigestonline.com

The Advent

104_0443 - Version 2I have been absent for awhile. I have no excuse. Sometimes I think I just get in a writer’s funk. I don’t feel like I have anything to say that anyone wants to hear. So I stop talking. Discouragement comes easily as I look at stats and wonder if my words mean anything to anybody. The thought runs through my head, “Is anybody out there?”

For 400 years, the people of Israel thought God was silent. There had been no prophets speaking His words. Thing was, though they couldn’t—or wouldn’t—hear Him, He was still at work. The stage was being set for the ultimate Word that would be shared with the world.

If you’re like me, when you’re reading your Bible, you skip over all those names in the geneologies, but they represent the behind-the-scenes work that was being done in preparation for the Word becoming flesh. Adam to David to Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Word of God who came and dwelt among us.

When I’m silent, it doesn’t mean I have nothing to say, it means that I’m not taking the time to think and listen and write. Most of the time when I’m silent, it means I’m too busy.

When God is silent, it’s like the darkness before the dawn. There is movement, we just can’t see it. Or maybe we could if we studied the sky in the east. Maybe the problem is we’re just not looking in the right place. We’re not quiet enough to hear.

Stop. Listen. Do you hear the sounds of His coming?

He’s coming.

Facing Election Season

vote-for-me-noteI always liked to go to my mailbox every day when I was younger to see what treasures the mail carrier would bring. The novelty has worn off a bit as bills and junk mail dominate now. Lately, I’m completely tired of the political ads that show up every single day leading up to an election. In Florida, we’re facing a gubernatorial election next weekend. Who will lead our state? We’ll know in a week. What concerns me more, where all politics are concerned is this: Who is telling the truth?

I don’t know these people; I don’t live with them day in and day out. I don’t see the little decisions they make. I only see what is shown to the public and what is reported by the press. And Lord knows I can’t trust the media.

So, short of traveling to the home of every candidate, what can we do to position ourselves to vote for the most qualified person, since all most people get is the inundation of political ads?

1. Pray

2. Pray some more

3. Do your own research. Which organizations support this person? By whom are they endorsed? What bills have they supported? Go to rallies or town hall meetings. If the candidate has a get together, go. We recently had a school board election in Orange County and a man we didn’t know who works with our organization was running against the incumbent whom we had worked with on several different occasions. Instead of just trusting that the man known by many of our friends would be the better candidate, we invited him to our home to speak with a group we included that evening to hear what he had to say.

It takes effort to be involved, but when I look around and see all the horrible choices some of the leaders in our country have made, I see the necessity. Political correctness is running amuck, common sense is anything but common, corruption is rampant. Change is necessary, but only if it’s in the right direction.

4. Believe that God is in control. Romans 13 says that all authority has been established by God and there is no authority that God did not establish. He is ultimately in charge and He’s got this.

Now get out there and vote!

 

image from: http://www.littlestuff.co.uk

Fire Ants in the Rose Garden

IMG_2441I love roses. Not the artificially perfumed hothouse roses you find in the florist shops; the honest-to-goodness home-grown kind I find in my own garden. One thing I don’t love is the weeds. And the fire ants. Welcome to Florida.

The other day I was dead-heading my roses—a necessity if you want to keep blooms on them all year long—happily trimming along, enjoying the beauty and the fragrance when OUCH! I felt a sharp stinging on my foot. What the . . .! For something 1 millionth my size, that little fire ant sure packs a punch, especially if he’s invited several of his pals over to join him.

I’m not allergic to fire ant bites, thank the Lord, but I have a friend whose son is. When he inadvertently stepped on a hill, he nearly had to go to the hospital. Some quick administration of Benadryl averted a disaster.

But the itching and pain can still cause a lot of discomfort, even for the non-allergic. But mostly, I just hate the fact that my beautiful garden is a haven for the heartless beasts.

But isn’t that just like life?

You’re going along nicely, appreciating the beauty around you, being thankful for the beautiful creation, happy with your friends and family. Suddenly WHAM! something hits you broadside. Maybe a child suddenly becomes sick. Maybe a parent passes away. Maybe a pipe bursts in your house and causes a major flood.

Like those little fire ants in my rose bed, the sorrows and pains and grief of this world can distract me from the beauty. But my roses are still beautiful and fragrant.

And God is still good.

Just watch where you’re stepping.

Why I’m Choosing To Do The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

alsa_logoI’m not really one to jump on a bandwagon. Unless it has to do with chocolate. So when my friend Alyson nominated me to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, I hesitated. I didn’t want to do it just to do it. Because everyone else is doing it. I’ve watched the heart-wrenching video from Peter Frates. I know what it’s about. And I usually don’t give to organizations like that because my funds are so limited.

But raising awareness is good. Maybe not as good as raising money. But maybe if I make someone who has more money than I aware of something, they’ll be led to give. I changed my profile picture on Facebook to the Arabic “noon” to raise awareness of and show solidarity for the Christians in Iraq and the atrocities being perpetrated against them.

But did I want to jump on this bandwagon?

And then I remembered Anni.

I met Anni at a bridal shower for my friend Faith. I sat with her at the table and asked her to tell me her story. Anni is a beautiful, outgoing, faith-filled woman whose father has ALS. Anni is his caretaker. She has put her life on hold to honor him with her service. I was so impressed by Anni’s selfless attitude. She has a really hard life. But she has some really good friends. And she loves her dad.

Chances are, her dad is not going to be around a whole lot longer. Anni needs help with meals, with getting out of the house every once in awhile, with shopping, with housework. She can’t do it herself.

One thing that Anni said to me is that, though she appreciates beyond words the meals and supplies others bring for them, she can’t stand the term “beggars can’t be choosers.” She considers herself a beggar because she needs to ask for help. She wishes people would realize that she doesn’t like to have to ask, and she’d do it herself if she knew that wouldn’t kill her in the process. She’d like for people to ask her, “What can I make for you for dinner tonight? What do you really love that you haven’t had for awhile?” Why should she not get to choose just because she’s had to ask?

So, I’m doing it for Anni. I’m going to have my son pour a bucket of ice water over my head and post it on Facebook and Instagram because that’s what Pete Frates wants me to do. Though I have no funds to contribute, I hope I am raising the awareness of someone who does. You can give at this website.

Look around you. Is there someone who is taking care of a loved one who is terminally ill? Are they bearing the burden alone? Ask them what they need. Be there for them. They are there for someone else.

Like Anni.

Here’s me, being doused.