I am in awe of animated movies.  It is truly amazing the detail that goes into an animated film these days. The subtle shading, intricate details in the background of scenes that most of us never notice, and the little easter eggs hidden in the film from past films – maybe Woody from ToyStory is subtly found in a toy room scene casually propped in the corner. The hair – oh my goodness. I think Merida’s hair in Brave should be considered a seperate character in the film. 

I’m also impressed with the writers ability to delicately layer in moments of humor that the parents might understand but the kids would not – and vice versa. Then there is the story themselves. They do such a wonderful job of using story to convey such important lessons. Of course, story has always been the best way to get someone to see truth…from the parables in the bible – and even before that, the cavemen’s drawings of their lives, story has been how we best learn since the beginning of time.    Story works so well for teaching because it allows us to put aside our ego and defense.  We can listen to a story about someone else and see how they learn an important lesson and then, having seen the value in that learning, we are more able to apply it to our own life.

All of these things come together in a magical way in the new movie, Inside Out. The movie is described in the trailers as: “Riley is a happy, hockey-loving 11-year-old Midwestern girl, but her world turns upside-down when she is uprooted from her Midwest life to move to San Francisco. Her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness – conflict on how how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.”

From the trailers you know that the movie personifies these emotions and you get to go inside Riley’s head as she processes this major life change to see how her emotions clash and cope together. It’s so well done. At first you see Joy frantically trying to keep everything happy. She is the commander in the Control Center (Brain) and she rallies everyone else to one goal – keep Riley happy! But with such a major life change, Sadness keeps coming in and messing things up. At first Joy is frustrated and continues to try and handle life as she has for so long – you see snippets of memories from Riley’s young life where she is always referred to as happy – asked to be happy – reminded to stay happy. And, she IS happy. But as the movie goes on Sadness begins to remind Joy that she was there in some of those happy moments, too. And therein lies the magic of this story.

In a culture that values happiness over almost all else, it is too easy to think that keeping our kids happy is our goal. As a matter of fact – my birthday wish my whole life has been, “to be happy”. And it worked a lot of the time, but not always. I’ve struggled with depression for a long time, but I avoided acknowledging it thinking I could just make myself ‘be happy’. Sadness is a normal part of life, and that is what Inside Out does such a good job of pointing out. It’s important to let sadness do what it needs to do because most of the time it is sadness that slows us down long enough to know to ask for help. Sadness is what indicates to our tribe that we need them. Sadness serves an important role and without it, we eventually lose out on the ability to experience authentic Joy. As you see in the movie – an attempt to let Joy be in control at all costs, can really lead to some frantic and drastic consequences.

It’s a good lesson that I’m applying to myself – but it is also helping me be a better parent. The other day Elijah got very upset and it had the potential to really turn in to a complete meltdown.  I got down on his level and let him tell me how mad he was and all about why.  Then I asked him how long he thought he needed to let Anger have the control panel.  It took him a second but then he grinned and was able to move on.  Being able to really visualize and name emotions, and to know that they aren’t the boss, is really empowering for a kid. 

It’s going to pop into my head when something has the kids down. Instead of immediately trying to figure out how to get Joy back at the control panel, I’m going to sit down and acknowledge that it might be Sadness’s turn to run things for a bit. I’m going to remind them of the movie and now that they have a more tangible way to think about their emotions, they can allow things to run a natural course and not feel trapped by a temporary emotion.  Best of all, since they got a peek into the mom and dad’s heads,  they know that we all all have all these emotions – joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust – and none are bad. They all deserve to be appreciated and allowed to do what they are made to do.  

I love a good story. I love that a kids movie taught me to be a better mom and to be a better friend to myself. I’m looking forward to having a great way to talk to the kids about emotions – in a way that they can really understand.

Have you seen Inside Out yet? It will be one we scoop up as soon as it is released!  

Post Script for my foster and adoption parent friends:  The movie also highlights how early memories form personality and it logically focuses on the parent/child relationship – so if you have littles who have had some difficult times you might be ready for some harder questions/emotions after the movie.

I shared a viral clip from The Daily Show last week on Facebook and made this comment:

“There’s got to be something real to do. It probably starts with turning off the lying propaganda “news” channels forever, putting down our phones, and instead, let’s begin forming our opinions of this country and other people by spending time with people who think differently than we do. Let’s reprogram ourselves from the 24 hour scream fest that passes as information on TV and relearn how to have intelligent discourse on the issues that impact our daily lives. 

I’m going to start hosting a safe place to do just this starting in the fall. I cannot wait to begin. Please keep this plan in your prayers.”

The clip from The Daily Show was part of Jon Stewarts commentary on the horrific history of racism that culminated, in one young life, as a murderous rampage last week. We have all been horrified by the act. The viciousness of the attack, the location (in a church), and the obvious innocence of the victims made this situation a much safer place to shake our heads and collectively cluck our tongues over the horror of it all. But even in this situation there are the arguments over systemic racism vs personal racism. There are points and counterpoints made in various social media forums. There is comparison over how a white murderer is treated compared to a black man selling cigarettes illegally and how a white murderer acts when arrested vs a black man. There is hostility. Over the bodies of innocent men and women we continue our verbal puffing up and defense. It breaks my heart.

My heart breaks not just for the injustice that is all around us piling up until we cannot even see one another, but it breaks for the unwillingness or inability for people to just talk to one another. When did we lose our ability to see another person’s pain? When did we become a people who would prefer to be right over kind? When did our opinion on ‘issues’ tip the scale and become more important than one another? Why are we letting this happen? How can you yell that we are this way because ‘they’ have taken God out of our schools when I cannot find God in the hearts of our people? When did what our institutions are doing become more important than what our hearts were doing? 

Conspiracy theories about the government have become multi million dollar endeavors as they help people prepare for an inevitable culture/civil war. The news media churns the blood in the water every minute – every single minute – of every day. The talking heads talk about how race issues and/or marriage issues will be the death of this once great country. Hour after hour of propaganda can be found tailored to meet you right wherever your preconceived opinions have landed – and you never need think about the ‘issue’ again. You can hear everything you believe delivered to you 24/7 in various formats that assure you that you are smarter than the average person. You can sign in to your preferred website or news station and hear a thousand stories in a week that support your beliefs.

And your opposite – the man or woman who is killing this great country by believing the polar opposite of what you believe? They can do the exact same thing. They have their own media stations and news outlets and internet sites supporting their beliefs and assuring them that they are the ones who ‘get it’.

I fear this is going to end badly. Race issues are at a boiling point – and it doesn’t matter if you believe in white privilege or not. Poverty levels are at an all time high and the wealth divide is staggering – and it doesn’t matter if you think people need to pull themselves up by bootstraps that they do not posess. We have a problem and it is not going to be solved by getting more people into a particular political affiliation. There is not a man or woman alive who could lead us out of this in our current state. Putting prayer back in schools is not going to help – trust me, our children are praying in school. The Supreme Court deciding on ‘your side’ of marriage equality is not going to help and it does not matter which side that is. There is nothing that will happen at a macro level that will make a bit of difference because the problems are rooted in our daily interactions with one another. We need to re-learn how to have thoughtful and kind discourse about important things.

And, so, that is what I’m going to try to move forward. I have made a commitment to do what I can, even when I know it is just a tear drop in the ocean. So this fall I’ll begin hosting “Safe Places for Hard Conversations”. I’m still working out the where and when but I’m excited by the idea. We will provide a safe place to come and ask the questions that are so hard to ask in mixed company. How does a Christian hold the Bible as inerrant and also claim to be an ally for the LGBT community? How can a Christian hold onto their interpretations and beliefs and still show love to someone they disagree with? What is white privilege? How do we impact the wealth divide? Why are people rioting – what good does that serve?  

The goal isn’t to answer these questions – that is a heart issue for people to work out. But, we will share a variety of viewpoints that are presented in a loving and kind manner. We will be safe. We will stop shouting and begin listening. We will get a lot of things wrong and we will change things as we learn. We will forever try. Because my tears and my fears have to go somewhere and the ocean seems as good a place as any.

  

John 15:5 (NIV
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

I’ve been thinking about the evolution of the Christian faith as is told in the Bible, and also as it has played out since the bible. I wrote a couple weeks ago about the bible passage where Abraham is asked to kill his son, and how a new viewpoint had helped to transform my understanding of that story.   I thought I would take tonight to just work through a few other ideas I’d been working through.

I think God created this whole thing – probably with quite a bang 🙂 – a VERY long time ago. I think that the Bible is the story of God and His creation. I also believe all things happen at the very earliest point possible. By that I mean that God started talking to people who were at a point where they could take the leap to trust in Him – the minute they got there.  

I think the Old testament is violent because people were barbaric back then. I think that their understanding of God was incorrect and I believe that they thought He asked them to do things that were partly what He asked of them, but partly their barbaric appreciation of how the world works. (We still insert our wrong interpretations today, but our barbarism is less overt these days…)

I believe this because I see how we have evolved and when religions do claim to have divine direction to kill those who are different we revile and vilify them….even though our religion once made quite similar directives. Nonetheless, God knew that despite misunderstandings and misinterpretations – the journey could begin. He also knew then that one day he would send Jesus to further clarify the true meaning of all things. 

And He did. Jesus came into the world at the earliest possible moment in time to deliver a very complex and incomprehensible message to a people who were just on the cusp of the ability to grasp it. So much so on the cusp, that He was only able to communicate for three years before being murdered. But He knew that was enough – He knew that people had moved beyond their old understandings enough that they could embrace and protect a bit more truth. So despite the short amount of time that He would be with us and in spite of the tragic end, He furthered the story.

I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and carries in it the true nature of God and his full intent. I also believe that we probably understand about as much of it as we do of the brain. You’ve probably heard the rumor that we only use 10 percent of our brain, that is actually not true. We use 100% of our brain everyday. What is true is that 10 percent of our brain is made up of neurons whose function we believe we understand fairly well, and 90% is made up of glial cells whose function is only recently beginning to be understood. So we use all of it – we just don’t understand 90% of it. I think that could be said of the Bible as well.

I like to imagine what it would be like if Jesus were to come now – not in some military victory, or rapture-like hollywood movie -but just come to teach for another three years (or would we let Him teach and grow old? I’d like to think we would, I’m not so sure though.)  

In any case – I wonder what parables and analogies would He use with a people whose understanding of so much has evolved.

With our understanding of networks via the internet and the fact that we can connect with people that we have never met, perhaps He would explain that the Spirit in us is like a network that we plug into that has access to all God is, was, and ever will be.    

Perhaps He would explain that He is the vine and we are the branches by saying that we are all connected just like the computer networks we rely on and God can be like a master program that gives each of us unique direction according to the purpose we are best suited for.  

He might explain that each piece of the body is needed by saying every line of code is needed and just like a bad piece of code in one piece of the network can bring the whole network down – one person who is not healthy can bring all the good work to a grinding halt.  

Perhaps He would say to go after that one sheep by saying that just because you have a bad piece of code it doesn’t mean you can just abandon it – the program needs all of the code to function – so go find where the error is and help correct it.   

Maybe He would say that His message is that we are all part of one big powerful, elegant, and beautiful program and when we all realize it there will be nothing beyond our reach collectively.  

Or, perhaps He would be a ludite… and just stick with the sheep.

Before I begin – a little release:

I miss writing so very much. There is a lot of things in my life that I really enjoy doing, but I don’t do them, and I miss them terribly. I’ve been trying to figure out why that might be. Some of it is just the phase of life I find myself in with two small kids that take a lot of energy and attention. A demanding job also takes a lot of attention. I have a lot of causes or passions that I divvy my time between when I do find time, and I have hobbies that fuel me. But lately I’ve found that while my time often goes to good things, I never give enough to any one thing. I am going to have to prioritize my interests and my relationships if I want to continue to move forward and grow.

So here I am – prioritizing my writing. There are a thousand things I need to be doing but there is only one thing I should be doing – and I’m doing it.

Now back to this surprising God…

A few months back I was listening to a podcast by a person I really admire and respect and he told the story of Abraham and Isaac in a way that I had never heard – and it changed who I thought of when I thought of God. I wanted to share it here with you.

For those of you unfamiliar, the story of Abraham in Genesis 22  is one of those clobber sections of the bible that people will use to prove the cruelty of God. The story goes that God tested Abraham by telling him to take his son, whom he loved, and sacrifice him on the mountain. Thankfully just before the sacrifice takes place God stops him and provides a ram instead.

I’ve never liked this story – it always seemed out of character. It seemed unnecessarily cruel. It was one of those parts of the bible that I had to set aside in order to preserve my faith. After all, what kind of God would do that?

The surprising twist comes when you start asking – why is this story included in the bible? What did this story mean when it was first told. In an ancient time and culture – how did they hear this story?

The first hint that my reaction is not their reaction comes with how Abraham responds when he believes he has been asked to kill a son that he had longed for and waited for. Does he beg for an alternative? Does he refuse? No, he gets up the next day, wakes his precious son, packs up, and heads out. WHAT? Who would do that? Why would he do that?  

Well, because it was not unusual back then, to be asked to sacrifice to your God. There were many different cultures in that time that practiced child sacrifice – and while certainly not welcomed – it was not unheard of. Abraham was hearing the voice of God and that voice asked him to do a hard thing – but not an unheard of thing (like it would be now).    

The story continues and Abraham and Isaac arrive at the location of the sacrifice and Abraham binds his son and puts him on the altar. Again, this illustrates how vastly different things were then – Isaac is a young man and Abraham is very old. Isaac must have consented to some extent – because, even he knew, this is what happens sometimes when one hears from the gods…

The story concludes dramatically at the last moment, God intervenes and stops him and provides a ram for the sacrifice. He says the test has been passed and Abraham has proved himself faithful.

And that is exactly how I had always read the story – focused on the beginning and glossing over the end that I felt was a given. My mind would fixate on the fact that God asked Abraham to do this horrific thing and get stuck there. I couldn’t get past it. Yes, in the end, he didn’t make him – but why ask it in the first place? What kind of God am I following?  

Come to find out – I missed the whole point of the story. The fact that God asked him to sacrifice his son? Not unheard of. The fact that Abraham said ok and just packed up and headed out? Expected. The fact that Isaac willingly went and submitted? Not unusual. Had I been telling you this story in ancient times it would be a yawn fest so far – yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s what all the god’s do. So what? Why are you telling me about this?

So I’m stuck on the part of the story that isn’t really all that interesting back then….I gloss over the end because in my time and in my culture? Of course God sent a ram – surely God would send a ram! I mean after all – I get to read this story after Abraham fathered the Jewish nation, after King David, after Jesus. I get to hear this story after the end game of Christ’s return had happened…I already know about Grace and Mercy and Love your neighbor. The ram is expected.  

But back then – everyone is snoozing wondering why the old man is going on and on about yet another god asking for sacrifices, but suddenly his voice changes and his excitement finally gets their attention, “And then, just as I reached out to take the knife and slay Isaac I heard my name called out two times and I said, ‘Here I am.’ and you will not believe this – He stopped me! He told me to not lay a hand on my precious boy! My God – you guys – my God provided his own sacrifice!” WHAT?!?! Now everyone is awake – what kind of god is this that provides for his people? Abraham had been talking about this God being different, and this? Well, this proved it. Everyone else’s god’s just took and demanded and had to be appeased. All the other gods were insatiable and their favor felt more like chance than divine intervention. All the other gods were takers…but Abraham is talking about a God who provides.

You guys, My God is the God who provides.  

This story that I read with my western modern mind is nothing like what I thought it was. This story that I had heard since I was very young – and hated – it is a beautiful story. This story that seemed steeped in cruelty, it actually a story of care and love. It’s a story of provision.

And He reconciled another piece of His story into the fabric of my life.    

It isn’t just this one story either – although this one makes so much more sense now. But this re-hearing – this new understanding – it’s a reminder that He is consistent and true and lovely. It’s a beautiful reminder that the things that jar me and don’t ring true – are the things I misunderstand. It’s a call to hang in and dig deeper. To continue to seek and search. Because, well….because my God?  My God is the God who provides.  
  

Happy Mother’s Day to every woman out there – you are all mothering someone or something into being.  
We women are created with a nurturing and creative heart.  We are created in the image of God, and it is only together, men and women, that we fully contain the very essence of God’s character.  Women have always been revered for the gentle and caring qualities, but we also carry a fiercely protective character.  These characteristics are, hopefully, most apparent in our relationship to our children, but a woman does not need children to ignite these qualities.  She is created in the image of God as she is knit in her own mother’s womb and she will carry that image throughout her life in all of her relationships.

It is a fact that where women are educated and respected cultures thrive, because one cannot only acknowledge half of the image of God and expect to inherit the full kingdom of peace and joy.  Be it educating women in other countries, or acknowledging a woman’s ability to contribute here at home – in our churches, our schools, and our positions of leadership corporately – we honor God when we honor the women in our midst. 

Therefore – Happy Mother’s Day – to all women young and old.  The qualities that we celebrate today are qualities we all share in this incredible bond of womanhood.

___________________

Happy Mother’s Day to the women in my life.  Wanda, Linda, Debbie, Nita – God has seen fit to place incredible women beside my mother to lead me, teach me, and carry me when life is difficult.  I’m so thankful for each of you.

And then there is you Mom, the very first gift God gave me.  You are one of the kindest women I know.  Your ability to see someones unspoken need and then quietly fulfill it has been a lesson that I’ve been watching my entire life.  You are a constant learner and that is indescribable in it’s impact on my life and the lives of my children.  I am so thankful that you have always pursued your interests and developed new ones.  It was an unspoken lesson in curiosity and self care that I cherish.  I love your ability to laugh at yourself and your incredible witty humor that is both funny and kind.  You are a doer and your love is an active love that is demonstrated in the projects and activities that you so thoughtfully plan – first for your little ones and now for our little ones.   

Thank you for your unconditional love that held me up in the most challenging times of my life.  Knowing that you were always rooting for me was the one thing that led me to today.  It was your love, mom, that carried me through the hard times.  Even when I didn’t share with you or tried to protect you from my bad choices – it was still your love that saved me.  I know that women are created in the image of God because I have better understood God’s love for me because of your love for me.

I know now, as a mother, that it is a lifetime of ‘should haves’ and ‘could haves’, but I also know that you need not carry a moment of regret.  Our God is a god of unity and completion and all things have led us to this moment which is steeped in a deep and abiding love and respect for one another.  I would not risk this time by changing one moment, not one decision.  God has held us in the palm of his hand and he has redeemed all things for this moment.  The days are long mom, but the years are short, and every long moment that passed in the blink of an eye was worth it.  I could not love you more.   

Happy Mother’s Day.

  
 

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