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Compared to Who? A Book Review

QueenmirrorThe evil queen in Disney’s “Snow White” made a soul shattering mistake. She looked in her magic mirror and asked the question: “Who’s the fairest of them all?” When the answer came back that a beautiful girl, Snow White, had usurped her in that role, the queen was consumed by jealousy and thereafter sought to end the life of her chief rival.

Heather Creekmore, in her new book, “Compared to Who?: A Proven Path to Improve Your Body Image,” would agree that comparison is a killer. And self esteem, which is what the queen wanted the mirror to help build in her, is really counter productive. Heather submits, “If we want to see true freedom from our body image struggles, we need to forsake esteeming ourselves and pursue esteeming the king.”

Having struggled with body image from a very young age, Heather, the wife of a pastor and church planter in Dallas, Texas, and mother of four, speaks from a very personal place. Her honesty about her issues throughout the pages of this book speaks to the thousands of women who are bombarded every moment of every day by images of super models and celebrities, Pinterest-, Facebook- and Instagram-perfect women who seem to have everything we could ever need to finally be happy.

Yet fad diets, hours a day of exercise and and an Imelda Marcos-sized wardrobe don’t solve the soul-craving that keeps us disgusted with the way we look even when others might look upon us with envy. So what is the key?

In “Compared to Who?” we are given, as the subtitle suggests, a way out of
our struggles to have the ideal body. It’s the gospel. Pure and simple.

Does that mean it’s an easy task? Just do these 5 things and you’ll never struggle with body image again. No, and thankfully, Heather does not sugar coat (great word picture for a body-image article, isn’t it?) the process.

So what is at the root of our body-image issues? Sin. What do we need to break free? Salvation.

Compared to Who?

And community.

It was just 2 1/2 years ago that I began my weight-loss journey that I talk about in this post. I could not have done it if it wasn’t for the group of women with whom I traveled and continue to travel to this day. A monetary incentive didn’t hurt, but the accountability and encouragement from others was key.

As Heather says in “Compared to Who?”: “My dream is for Christian women to relate to each other differently. Until our friendships move beyond superficial endorsements of our struggles, we battle alone. You may have 1, 849 Facebook friends and as many Twitter and Instagram followers, but until you have one or two women in your life willing to listen to the heart behind your words, offer you grace, and show you how the gospel applies, you walk alone.”

I don’t really struggle badly with body image. I’ve never taken diet pills or tried fad diets, or lived at the gym. I don’t look at fashion magazines or compare myself to celebrities. I needed to lose some weight and ended up almost 30 pounds lighter after our challenge 2 years ago. But I don’t always smile when I look in the mirror. And I have a 14-year-old daughter who needs to see her value in Christ and trust the gospel to tell her the truth about who she is. I’m desperate for her to see Jesus as He really is and therefore see herself through His eyes.

I am thankful for Heather’s words in this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever looked at anyone else—whether their body, their hair, their home, their children—and thought, “I wish I was more like her.”

And the evil queen’s magic mirror? Its mistake was simple. The best answer to the queen’s question about who’s the fairest of them all should have been, “Jesus. He’s the fairest, and He’s all you need.”

 

Heather CreekmoreSee more of what Heather Creekmore has to say at her blog: http://comparedtowho.me/ . Buy your copy of “Compared to Who?” at Amazon  or Christian Book Distributors.

Images from The Disney Wiki and http://www.comparedtowho.me

Redeeming Ruth: A Book Review

Books-Mockup-01Some may think doing hard things isn’t worth it. Some may think one little Ugandan baby with developmental problems is too big a risk for a normal family from Maine. But Meadow Rue Merrill and her family felt differently. The subtitle for this beautifully written book is “Everything Life Takes, Love Restores.” All across the pages, this truth comes through.

What I loved about this powerful story was Meadow’s honesty throughout. She had doubts about adopting this special-needs baby. She didn’t want to trust God with this opportunity. She questioned what seemed plain to her husband, Dana. Honesty about her faith struggles, honesty about her marriage struggles, honesty about her parenting struggles. Everything is there for everyone to read. No holds barred.

But what shines so clearly through as well is the non-stop love and care and advocacy Meadow and her family heaped upon this little girl, and the heart that they bring to the issue of special-needs kids in the poorest of countries in the world. If their family could help, so can yours.

The story comes to life through Meadow’s recounting of her trip back to Uganda with Ruth to complete the adoption process. My palms sweated and my heart raced as they encountered trial, after trial, after trial, but saw God’s provision in every instance. Tears flowed when hearts were prompted to raise money that was needed in just a couple of days. Emotional and heart breaking and heart warming all at the same time, Redeeming Ruth shows us the heart of God through the hands of His people.

Losing a child is an unspeakable tragedy, yet Meadow speaks of the place this tragedy had in her life, in her faith, in her family. Raw emotion, unconditional love, shaken faith. And redemption. God brought that to this little family in Maine through a deaf, disabled baby from Uganda. And He can bring it to you, if you will open your hearts.

You can find Redeeming Ruth starting May 1 at Amazon.com, and Christianbook.com and watch the book trailer here.

Beauty and the Beast: A Movie Review

beauty and the beast“Can anyone really be happy if they’re not free?”

Yes, I did take out my phone during the movie so that I could jot down this quote from Disney’s live action “Beauty and the Beast.” My 14-year-old daughter and I finally got to see this amazing movie with some friends on Friday night. I had read the hype. I had seen the posts about the gay kissing scene. I couldn’t believe all that was being said in such scorn.

Fake news doing its best to cast dispersions wherever it can.

A father’s love for his daughter (Maurice, played very well by Kevin Kline, and Belle, portrayed beautifully by Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” fame) and a daughter’s love for her father take a very close backseat to the love story of Belle and the beast in this grand tale. What was added to the original animated movie and what was left out did not take away from the pleasure.

I went into this movie with an open mind, wanting to watch it critically, yet not wanting to jump to any early conclusions. I soon found myself caught up in the fun of the old songs brought to new life and the way computer generated imagery brought to life the household objects in the beast’s castle.

Gaston (Luke Evans) was as dastardly in this film as he was heroic in The Hobbit: “Battle beauty and the beast castof the Five Armies.” The mob mentality of the citizens on the hunt for the beast reminded me sadly of how easily people are swayed by one charismatic person’s twist of the facts. Does the beast have claws? Yes. Does he have big, sharp teeth? Yes. Use those things to scare people and a mob is born.

Though the timeline is vague, it appears to be a few days later when Belle has become friends with the beast. He takes a chance and addresses the idea of someone like her ever having affection for someone like him. When she suggests, “Why not?” he is encouraged and asks, “So you could be happy here?” That’s when Belle says what I’ve quoted above: “Can anyone really be happy if they’re not free?”

When Belle discovers that her father is in danger, the beast immediately says that she must go. He’s willing to give her up, though at this point he loves her, because he knows it’s the right thing to do. Through her act of caring for him after the wolf attack even though she was very afraid, and his letting her go, though it would condemn him to beasthood forever, sacrificial love is shown.

Love grows not from boasting and blustering about how wonderful we are and how much the other person needs us, but by the acts of kindness that help the other person see how valuable they are, despite appearances. Belle tends the beast when he’s injured, even though he had raged at her just moments before. The beast gives Belle access to the most wonderful library (definitely her love language) she has ever seen. Small acts; huge results.

Courage, hope, service to another, sacrifice, freedom. These are all themes brought out and examined all from within the package of a well-loved story and grand musical numbers that will continue to stand the test of time.

Love that is required and devotion that is paid for is not real. Only when we give those things freely can we be truly happy.

 

images from (1) movies.disney.co.uk and (2) IMDb

We Are At War: A Movie Review of “War Room”

War RoomI learned very early on in my marriage that my husband is not my enemy. We definitely have an enemy, but it is not each other. The movie “War Room” makes that very clear.

This movie is an unapologetic Christian film focused on a young couple with a young daughter who are caught up in the troubles of this world. He is a successful pharmaceutical salesman and she is a rising realtor. And their marriage is in trouble.

I’ve spent just a little bit of time perusing some reviews, and it’s evident that if you don’t understand spiritual things, you absolutely won’t understand the power of prayer and what affect God can have in a person’s life and marriage. The intention of the Kendrick brothers (writer and co-directors) was definitely not to say that abused women should stay with their abusers, as some have suggested. It’s a story of redemption and prayer and God’s work in our daily lives.

Yes, Tony was not a good husband. He had a wandering eye, a problem with business ethics and a distant relationship with his young daughter. But he was not a physical abuser and deserved to be given a chance to repent and reform. Truth is, God changes lives. It happens all the time.

I’ve mentioned that I’m not the most discerning of movie goers, but I really, really liked this movie. When we walked out, I said to David, “Did we just go to church?” People were praising God, saying “hallelujah!” and cheering all through out this God-honoring film. There was truth, there was laughter, there were tears. There were people of faith understanding that prayer is powerful and it is a battle.

The premise, of course, is that we are waging war everyday against our real enemy, Satan. Once Elizabeth started praying for her husband, Tony, things started to change. One scene I loved, and that I think should be repeated in every household in the world, was when Elizabeth finally decided to get serious about her relationship with God and walked her house kicking Satan out of every room, proclaiming that he had no place there because Jesus was now in charge. That brought down the house!

Scoff at the scene of Miss Clara thwarting a mugging by rebuking the thief in Jesus’ name? There are stories on record of that actually happening.

Think Tony had no redeeming qualities and that Elizabeth should have just dumped him and moved on? Yeah, that’s what a lot of people do nowadays. But thanks be to God that no one is beyond hope.

Instead of bemoaning her situation, Elizabeth accepted Miss Clara’s challenge to pray that God would change things. This is not an uncommon occurrence for people of faith. But the Bible says that God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). What seems utterly ridiculous to those who think they know is exactly what God uses to accomplish His purposes.

Go see “War Room.” Give God a chance to show His power. Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Cinderella: A Movie Review

 

 My 12-year-old daughter and I went to see “Cinderella” the other day. I’m not a huge Disney princess fan, but I like the idea of the live-action movies. I must say, I loved this one. As Morgan and I ate lunch afterward and talked about it, I wondered aloud, “Is there anything about this movie that I didn’t like?”

First of all I need to admit that I’m not a really discerning movie watcher. I don’t analyze lighting, the musical score, costumes, etc. If I like the story and feel it was well acted, that’s good enough for me. Here are 4 things I really enjoyed about this new movie.

1. Good dad models. First we have Ella’s dad. He loved her and her mother beyond the moon. Yes, he was gone a lot with his job as a merchant, but when he was home, he was all there. He wasn’t afraid to tell Ella that he loved her, and he wasn’t afraid to show her he cared. 

Then there’s the king. In this movie, the prince is called “Kit,” as he says that’s what his dad calls him when he’s not peaved with him. The king is kind, thoughtful, and also isn’t afraid to tell his son that he loves him. The respect and love between them is evident and sweet.

2. The fact that you don’t have to have a dark soul to be interesting. Ella is faced with monumental grief when he mom dies (not a spoiler: everyone knows Cinderella has an evil stepmother) and yet her focus is rarely on herself. When she’s grieving her banishment from the ball and her mistreatment by her “family,” an old hag asks her for bread and milk. Without hesitation, Ella provides it. She genuinely cannot understand why her stepmother is so evil. Ella is sweet, caring and kind. Which leads to the 3rd thing I liked:

3. The running theme of having courage and being kind. Before she died, Ella’s mother said to her, “Have courage and be kind. Promise me!” And Ella never forgets those words. She lives them out her whole life. Again after being banished from the ball by her stepmother, Ella runs to the garden and cries out to her mother, apologizing because she’s tried to be courageous, but feels that she has let her mother down, because she just has no courage. But she does. To stay kind in the midst of mistreatment takes courage. Bitterness is easy.

4. Humor keeps the spirit light. I admit it, I cried at least 4 times during this movie. But I also laughed. The magic was lighthearted and the computer animation of the mice turned horses and the lizards who become footmen and the goose who becomes the coachman who doesn’t know how to drive served a humorous purpose that made this story of the poor cinder girl easier to bear.

There is no bad language; there is no sex —just 1 kiss between Kit and Ella after they marry; there is no violence (unless you count a cat chasing a mouse and crashing into a cabinet in the pursuit). 

I will be purchasing this movie when it comes out on BluRay so that we can enjoy it again and again. I recommend it for audiences of any age, even though a mother and father dying might be hard on the littlest of kids. Well done, Disney.

“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.

“Noah” Drips With Gnosticism (a guest post)

 

My husband went with his team from work to see “Noah” last week. They wanted to form their own opinions of this movie and not rely on others. His team works with The JESUS Film Project, making the different language translations of Jesus, a biblically Jesus filmaccurate accounting of the life of Christ (read all about it here) The following is what he thought.

The “epic” new movie “Noah” drips with Gnosticism—not to be confused with Agnosticism, although there’s some of that in there, too. Both the protagonist and the antagonist yell at The Creator, “Why won’t you speak to me?” Don’t confuse their Creator with the One spoken of in the Bible either. In fact, other than the names of a few characters, a big boat, and lots of paired animals—this movie has nothing to do with your Grandma’s Sunday School lesson on the biblical Noah.

I admit, after seeing previews for this six months ago, I was hopeful that it would be refreshing to see a movie with great special effects on the flood story. That was until I heard the writer/director was an atheist. Then I was disappointedly thinking, “Great. Whose bright idea was that, distribute a film based WAY loosely, barely, on a biblical story made by an atheist?

Some have called this film boring, others incoherent: “The CG was lame, the acting was terrible, the script was worse.” And these aren’t Christians whining about it—they’re from reviewers on IMDB.

But I digress—back to Gnosticism. Down throughout man’s history, those who feel let down by the True God who really is, re-make him into someone He is not. The being this movie refers to as The Creator is none other than the demiurge of Gnosticism—the craftsman who fashioned matter into the world they knew. This demiurge, it was taught, is a capricious, distant, limited downright mean god-like being. (For a more thorough look at Gnosticism in “Noah”, see this article here.)

gnostic snakeThis is what saddened me most about this movie: It doesn’t give the true picture of who God really is. Like any other human, I’ve had my share of unmet expectations of God. And yet, I still know Him to be loving, wise, patient and powerful, infinitely so. It would have been so cool to have an epic movie tell of how God opened His heart in grace to us all, and wanted us to open our hearts to Him in faith. That’s how it really was in the Garden of Eden: God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. They enjoyed relationship with their heavenly Father. Yes, He is holy, and cannot overlook sin. That’s what the flood was really about. But the real Noah was a pre-type of Christ, who saw to it that sin’s penalty was paid and renewal is possible.

In addition to the bewildering characters nobody could like, all worshiping an evil deity, more Gnostic themes are prevalent throughout this disappointing movie: everything material is bad—only the spiritual is good; rainbows fashioned after the circular, monistic “One”; a snakeskin talisman used in blessing rituals.

Bottom-line Gnosticism: They choose to “know” a god who is different than and less than the benevolent, compassionate, unconditionally loving, True God. Why? Maybe so they can feel better for raging at him.

The movie was a big waste: of the money spent making and promoting it, of the money anyone would pay to sit through it, of my time enduring it. My friend, who fell asleep during it, said it was like a pot-LSD-induced screenplay. Paramount Pictures is even back pedaling by adding an “explanatory message” (read: disclaimer) to their marketing materials telling us “the biblical story of Noah can be found in Genesis.” (See that story from the L.A. Times.)Thanks, Paramount. That’s where anyone should go for biblical truth—the Bible!

Did you see the movie, “Noah”? Tell me what you thought.