The Endless Quest of Tidying Up

I like many others have gotten drawn into the new show on Netflix called, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.  I devoured the eight part series and became inspired to clean out some of my closets and drawers.  This new reality show walks different people through the process of tidying up their spaces in their homes.  Marie Kondo, a petite Japanese woman, bouncily comes into people’s homes and gives people valuable strategies used to declutter and tidy their homes.  Marie is an adorable human.  She is cheerful, fun, encouraging, and respectful to her clients.  I love how she treats people with dignity.  She is never shaming and always finds a way to empower her clients and affirm things she loves about their home.

For many years (especially since having four children) I have been on a quest to declutter and organize the spaces in my home.  I have learned that professional organizers add a lot of value to my life.  I have gleaned many tips over the years, one being the value of “finding a home” for every item in your house.  I am always looking for new tips and ways to be inspired to be more orderly and tidy.  fullsizeoutput_b3

After watching Tidying Up, and then listening to her book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, I gained some helpful strategies.  One tip that has been helpful is how to fold things and then place things vertically in your drawer so that you can see all your items in one glance.  The other tip that I love is going through items one by one and asking the question, “does this item spark joy?”  If not, then let it go!  It is empowering to let things go, yet it can be so difficult at the same time.  I am the first to confess my love of things.  I love shopping.  I love buying.  I love finding fun treasures at garage sales. I have bought into the lie of our culture that buying one more thing will make you happy.  I have to constantly fight against this lie.

The more things we have, the less we value anything.  One of the things Marie teaches is that when we only keep the things we love, we will value them more and treat them with more respect.  I love this philosophy.  It affirms the truth that being surrounded by things we love and value adds meaning to our lives.  However, I also walked away from Marie’s show and book with the knowledge that Marie is subtly inviting her viewers and readers into a spirituality that does not line up with my Christian beliefs.  When Marie walks into a home she kneels down and has a moment of quiet meditation on behalf of the house.  In essence, she prays to the house.  She also advises her clients to thank each item for its purpose and use before letting it go.  She treats inanimate objects as if they each have a soul. Allison Herman on the internet site, “The Ringer,” described Marie as “a Mary Poppins of inanimate objects instead of human children.”  

As I read more about Marie, I learned that she has a spiritual background of Shintoism.  Shintoism believes that the entire world is thought to be a conduit for energy and every material object holds its own special meaning.  The Shinto Shrine, a place where Marie volunteered her time when she was younger, is a place where the spirit world and the physical world intermingle. Marie also refers to Animism.  Animists believe that everything has a spirit and a spirit exists in the elements.  After learning more about Shintoism, it helped illuminate more of the spirituals element behind Marie’s philosophy. She says, “the work of carefully considering each object I own to see whether it sparks joy inside me is like conversing with myself through the medium of my possessions.”  She also says, “each step helps people forge a deeper connection with their stuff and by extension themselves.”

I cannot affirm or embrace the elements of Shintoism in Marie’s principles because of my Christian worldview. As a Christian I believe that the only ones with souls are human beings.  I believe that God has created us in His image.  I believe the only thing we should worship is Jesus Christ.  He is the giver of all good gifts.  He created order and light out of the darkness.   In spite of our spiritual differences, there are a lot of truths that Marie teaches that I do affirm and ones that honor God. I honor the principle of treating my home with respect and giving thanks to God for the gift that it brings me and my family.

Before letting an item go I can be thankful for the use that it gave me.  Instead of thanking the object, I can have an attitude of thanks for the object.  For example, my oldest son gave me a mug that says, “Mom Rocks” when he was around nine years old. img_0479.jpgIt gave me joy when he gave it to me, but I have been holding onto it all these years out of sentiment.  It was sitting at the bottom of my bathroom closet because I didn’t know where to put it. With Marie’s guidance, I can now be empowered to give the mug away, knowing that the mug has served its purpose.  I am thankful for the use the mug served for the time I had it.  It may seem like a minor nuance between thanking the object and being thankful for the object, but I think it is an important one.  As I let things go, it does have a spiritual effect.  I have less guilt and more thankfulness to God for all that He has given me.  I am thankful for what Marie has inspired in me.  I am thankful for how she is imparting certain wisdom and truth based on her years and years of experience.  I am thankful for the drive and inspiration I now have to go clean out one more closet!

Community Through Nerf Wars

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I recently watched the documentary Thunderdome (which is accessible right now through Amazon Prime). This documentary was produced by Rob Lehr and Dan Parris, who are two guys that my husband and I enjoyed knowing from our time in St. Louis. This made the documentary especially enjoyable to watch. Thunderdome is a documentation of Rob’s journey of trying to overcome the post traumatic stress of surviving a plane crash in Africa, while filming another documentary called Give A Damn. After returning home from the crash, Rob shuts down and goes into survival mode through playing video games. After some time passes, his friends encourage him to try to come out of himself.

He becomes inspired to do something more with his life and begins creating a nerf war stage in his own home. He paints and he creates. It brought him back to life. He takes a risk to come out of his own depression by inviting others into his home to play nerf guns. The community that was built was inspiring. The testimonies of those being interviewed in the film show that the nerf community that Rob helped build was a place for outcasts to feel welcome, a place where those who had no purpose gained purpose and a place for those that were alone and isolated found a family and a place of belonging. This kind of community is what we were made for. It is what the church is supposed to be. It makes people come alive to more of who they are meant to be. It is where true friendship is made. It is where people can know and feel that they are loved. While watching the film, I found myself wishing I was a part of this group and that I was participating in the kind of fun they were having. It was delightful to watch.

I also loved Rob’s authenticity as he shares with the viewers some of his deep struggles. He shares that he is an atheist. He believes that there is no life after this one, which in turn produces a deep fear in him of dying. His fear was so deep that he feared going to sleep sometimes. I love that Rob had the courage to share these fears. I also love seeing how he faced his fears in many powerful ways. After his plane crash, which nearly killed him, he went into the flames of the plane to save his friend Dan. After Dan was out he tried to go in again to save the pilot, but was pulled back by two men for his protection. For someone who is afraid to die I was amazed by Rob’s reflexive courage in these moments. He didn’t run away to protect himself, but he faced dying to save others. This kind of courage and strength inspired me deeply. The other moment where Rob faces his own mortality was in a human versus zombie nerf war. He was outnumbered by the zombies and as a “human”, he was sure to die. Rather than running away and hiding, he faced his death bravely in the field, attacking as many zombies as he could in the process. This was a symbolic picture of how the game that he created became much more than a game. It became a place where he could face down his own demons. He faced his fears and realized that there was life and living on the other side. And he helps others join in on the same process.

Another thing that hit a deep cord with me was the way this documentary addresses the dangers of video games. Several guys give testimonies of how playing video games became hard core addictions, to the point where they became totally isolated and that is all they thought about. As a mom of three boys and two of them being teengaers, I daily see how video games (currently Fortnight) are so well done and fun, that it is all they want to do. And as mentioned in the film, even the guys being interviewed grew up in a time where they played video games with their friends in the same room. In today’s world my sons play with their friends online. Relationships are becoming more and more detached. Thunderdome was another reminder for the need for community and friendships where you can hang out face-to-face. We are all becoming way too comfortable relating to each other from a distance, which means we miss out on true community. Thunderdome seems like such a relevant film for today’s world and the messages are ones that hit home with me and I think will inspire others.

Why Has Our Sexuality Become Grey?

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The Fifty Shades Freed movie is the third movie in the Fifty Shades of Grey series. This movie was released in the theaters on Valentine’s weekend, but recently got released on DVD and Netflix. Because this is the culturally romantic movie of the season, I thought it would be a good time to help analyze what is being sexually promoted in our culture and how it sets us up to be hungry for it.

I would like to propose that as a culture we are moving away from a biblical definition of marriage and sex and as time goes on, it is moving further and further away from what God intended. Our culture has an “anything goes” mentality when it comes to love and sexuality. It has become a downward spiral. Let me explain how I see this happening. When the Twilight series came out, most of my friends loved the books and movies. Because of this, I decided to read the books. While I was thoroughly entertained by the books, my spirit felt disturbed and not at peace. I knew that women were being seduced by Edward Cullen. I read the books carefully and tried to figure out why so many women were falling in love with Edward. What was it about Edward that was so enticing to so many women? While he seemed so sweet and romantic, I felt that he had a dangerous control over Bella. He was too powerful of a figure in her life. He had power over her. This power and control tainted the love that seemed so sweet. Yet, most people didn’t see this element of power and control because it was seemingly subtle. I find it no coincidence that the story of Fifty Shades of Grey was originally posted on a Twilight fan fiction website. Christian, the main character in Fifty Shades of Grey is Edward on steroids. He is enticing yet dangerous. He wants to introduce sexual bondage to the girl who loses her virginity to him.

While I felt led to read the Twilight series and engage them, I felt led not to read the Fifty Shades of Grey books or see the movies. Some may think this gives me less of a voice in speaking about this series, but I disagree. If the Bible is our guidepost, then we need to see the warning signs of material that goes against the Word of God. The concepts that are being promoted sexually and the things that even Christian women are finding so exciting and stimulating are antithetical to what God intends for us in terms of our sexuality.

Sex is being turned into something to be used for power and control instead of a beautiful means of connection and intimacy. The true God given beauty of what intimacy and romance are meant for has been turned into a contract. Christian, the main character in Fifty Shades of Grey says, “I don’t want romance, I want a sexual contract.” The sex that is glorified in our culture and through the Fifty Shades of Grey series is that sex should have an element of power, control and lust. These are things that distort the true purpose of God’s design and intent for sex. God created sex as a beautiful means to bond as husband and wife. It is meant to be a true form of intimacy and connection.

 

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The message of power and control during sex is being propagated through the avenue of pornography. Pornography is telling us that real sexual passion and excitement isn’t found within the holy context of marriage, but in heated affairs, where no rules apply. Pornography has introduced us to BDSM (bondage, discipline/domination, submission/sadism, and masochism). These terms refer to deriving pleasure in a sexual context. The terms bondage and domination refer to playing with various power roles in the sexual context. It is interesting and disturbing to me to see the progression of media’s influence. Now it is somewhat commonplace for a sexual scene in a movie to sometimes reference the influence of BDSM. For example, I was watching an enjoyable movie called, Love Rosie which had a scene that had Rosie, the main character handcuffed to the bed while having sex. When her daughter comes in and sees her, her partner can’t unlock her from the bed post, so she has to take her daughter to school with the bed post in tow. While the movie cleverly adds humor in regards to this issue, it also subtly normalizes sexual bondage. We are receiving the message that sex is more fulfilling and stimulating if there is an element of power and control. The message tells us that true sexual enticement must involve having the power and control while having sex or losing the power and control during sex and being “submissive.” This is a harmful and damaging message.

Sex and sexuality are being hijacked by the enemy. Sex was God’s idea. He created it for our pleasure as married men and women. Something that was made to be pure like snow has become muddied and blackened. Sex is something made to be beautiful and has become something that is shame inducing and harmful. In the book by Ron Welch, Controlling Marriage, Ron proposes that, “transformational marriage prioritizes your spouse over yourself. Your needs become secondary to those of the person with whom you have chosen to share your life with.” I would like to take the quote a step further and say that transformational sex in marriage prioritizes the sexual needs of your spouse. It is in selfless sex that both people will experience truly erotic sex. This involves selflessness, vulnerability and mutual submission. In contrast, the lies of pornographic sex and bondage tell us that sex is all about you. It is all about your needs and your satisfaction and you don’t need to consider the way you are treating your spouse or partner. Dominance, power, control and even abuse are enticing and essential to fulfill this kind of “erotic” sex.

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Women are suffering as a result of being controlled and abused in relationships with men. As a Christian counselor, much of my work involves helping repair and instill hope in the areas of sexual brokenness and damage to my clients. Many have been sexually used, manipulated and abused. I work with wives whose husbands are addicted to pornography, as well as women who are addicted to pornography. I work with those who have had affairs and those whose husbands have had affairs. I work every day with the fall out and damage of the sexual fantasies and myths that our sexual culture has created. We are being lied to and we are all suffering as a result. Our sexual lives within our marriages are suffering, our marriages are suffering. Yet, many don’t know that there is a battle going on and that Satan, our enemy wants to steal, kill and destroy true intimacy within our marriages.

One of my former clients was formerly married to a man that she had known for years. He was her biggest crush. He was charming, handsome and seductive. When he wanted to marry her she felt like the luckiest girl on earth, like she had won the jackpot. It wasn’t long after getting married that she quickly realized that her fantasy was becoming a nightmare. This man was controlling, power hungry and abusive. He would expect sex with her almost as a demand. It was her duty as the “submissive wife” to give him sex whenever he desired it. She would wake up with him on top of her having sex. I asked her if she would give me a quote for this article and this is what she said, “The glorification of the movies/books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series is horrifying to me. I was married to a man who took advantage of my desire to be his biblically submissive wife. He assumed that it was his place and privilege as my husband to use, abuse and control me in every aspect of our marriage. The verbal, financial, emotional, physical and sexual abuse escalated with every incident. This relationship was extremely damaging to my identity, my self esteem, my life. I no longer felt valuable. I had no idea what it was like to be loved. I have a really hard time trusting anyone, especially men. It has been three years since that marriage ended in divorce. I’m still working on healing and learning who I am in Christ through prayer, reading the Bible and receiving professional counseling.” As you see from this woman’s statement, women are being harmed and damaged when sex is mixed with power and control, especially any kind of bondage.

Our culture has set us up to be sexually vulnerable. We need to fight to see the truth about God’s design and true intention for sexuality. We need to fight against the lies of pornography and the lies that women should lose control sexually. We who are married need to fight to have passionate, erotic sex that is not defiled or dirty, but holy and pleasing to God. This article is a call for us to be on guard against the cultural lies that are bombarding us every day. Let us not become lukewarm and grey but let us allow our hearts to be grieved and fight to be alive and pure sexually.

Loving Vincent, an Enduring Brotherly Love

I have always been drawn to the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. I love his use of color and his thick brush strokes. In college one of my wall decorations was a framed poster of the painting Cafe Terrace at Night. He takes ordinary beauty and makes it extraordinary, almost whimsical. As with many artists and creative types, he had an ability to touch beauty in a unique way. Unfortunately, the risk it took for Van Gogh to do this came at a cost to him personally.

I have a new appreciation for some of his personal struggles after watching the film Loving Vincent. In a way the film is a tribute to the letters he wrote to his younger brother Theo and to the strength of their relationship. He always signed his letters, Your Loving Vincent. It was a saving grace that he had such a strong connection to this brother, because otherwise he wasn’t connected very deeply to anyone. He had a tragic story. He was the oldest child born to a Dutch pastor. He was born one year (almost to the day) after his mother had a stillborn baby. He was even named the same name as the baby that died, which feels like a sick joke. He likely felt he could never measure up as a son after such a deep loss and hole filled the hearts of his parents.

Loving Vincent is a creative film made with over 65,000 frames and over 1,000 canvases of hand painted oil drawings that give tribute to Van Gogh’s paintings. It is the first fully oil painted film. The film is a narrative that occurs one year after his death.  The film promotes the idea that even though he said he shot himself in an act of suicide, it was likely that he was shot by a 16 year old bully by a gun that might have misfired. Many facts point away from the likelihood that he killed himself. He had just written an upbeat letter to his brother. He was ordering more supplies for his paintings and those around him said he had a calm and upbeat demeanor. His bullet wound was in his lower abdomen. It is unlikely that if he were trying to kill himself that he would have shot himself in a place so awkward. It is also unlikely that he would have walked the mile home from the field (that he was supposedly at) to make it back to the room that he was renting. Who would go to that much trouble to make it home if they were trying to kill themselves?

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So the unanswered question then is why would he have covered for this bully? It is likely that he suffered tremendously and there was a part of him that felt relieved that he had a ticket to die. Maybe he was tired of fighting the voices of the bullies who told him he was crazy, stupid and strange. He may have struggled with Bipolar Disorder. I have observed that people who struggle with Bipolar Disorder have the ability to feel and display profound beauty which is a taste of heaven, yet they can feel deep despair and hopelessness, which is a taste of the suffering of hell.  His paintings reflect this taste of beauty. His tremendous suffering and emotional turmoil point to the hell he endured.

The film walks us through his challenges. It was likely that he wanted to please his father who was a pastor. He briefly became a pastor but was fired after only a year. After he was fired he decided to pursue his art. While he thrived as a painter personally, he wasn’t “successful” based on the fact that he wasn’t receiving much income, nor was he receiving much recognition. He was relying on his brother Theo to help him financially. This must have weighed on him. During his lifetime he only sold a handful of his paintings. His artwork started becoming recognized right around the time of his death. He was only 37. He probably died feeling like a failure. He was lonely. He offered four marriage proposals to women he cared for and was turned down each time.  He settled by turning to prostitutes and the bottle.

One of the most striking things that the film pointed out was how often Van Gogh was bullied by people in his community.  Bullying recklessly tries to tear down and destroy the dignity of another human being and is driven out of a desire for power. The bully tries to instill fear in others and destroy their sense of self in an effort to make themselves feel more valuable.

Bullying is more of a problem than ever in today’s world. It is all too common to read stories of people, especially young teens who kill themselves after enduring the terror of bullying and feeling hopeless and trapped. As a counselor I hear stories all too often of the damaging effect of bullying on many of my clients. In fact, with one of my clients it is the very thing we are currently processing. We are grieving all the hurtful comments she endured beginning in third grade and lasting through high school. Those words still cut deep even though she is an older woman now. This is what she said about the ramifications of bullying in her life. “Bullying ate away at my self confidence. I didn’t have any confidence. It tore away at my soul and made me believe all the lies I was being told. The sad part is that it became a normal part of life and wore me down to the point where I anticipated bullying from the general public. It was a fear I lived with all the time.”See the source image

We can all relate to moments of being torn down or being made to feel small and insignificant by others.  We all struggle with loneliness and feeling disconnected from others. This life is but a shadow of how things are meant to be. As we meet fellow sojourners it is essential that we show love and kindness to each other. We need to show grace to the person next to us. We are all a reflection of God’s holiness and beauty. We need to strive to be Theo’s in other people’s lives. I believe that if there hadn’t been a Theo there might not have been a Van Gogh as we know him. Theo was the voice and heart of support to Vincent.  We can be the ones who believe in and support the creative endeavors of others,  help fight the negative voices that we all have to fight against, and help be a light in the darkness to others. We should strive to be the ones who tell others: Your life matters. Your talents need to be used. You are worth it. Your life matters. You have unique value. You are special. God is pleased by you. You reflect a holy creator. You are making a difference.

The inspirational poet Maya Angelou encourages us to, “be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” I’m inspired by the relationship between Theo and Vincent and how their brotherly love changed each of their lives.  Millions of people have been encouraged and inspired by Van Gogh’s art because of the power of this brotherly love. I believe Van Gogh’s beautiful artwork and its legacy is a testimony to how he allowed the power of love and beauty to surpass the power of the darkness.

Tangled Up

After having three boys, I had a daughter named Kaylie. One of the things I looked forward to about having a daughter is watching the Disney princess movies together. One day Kaylie and I had an afternoon together and we decided to watch the movie Tangled, which is a story about Rapunzel. I watched Tangled many years ago, before I had children. I had forgotten how stinking scary the character of Mother Gothel is. Here is how the story goes: Rapunzel, was a sweet baby girl born to the king and queen. She was stolen as a baby by a vain, evil woman named Mother Gothel so she can steal Rapunzel’s magical flower which has the power to keep her young and beautiful. Mother Gothel raises Rapunzel in isolation, trapped in a tower, as her own daughter. Rapunzel was never allowed to leave the tower and experience life outside of her “Mother.” Mother Gothel scared Kaylie so much that she won’t ever watch Tangled again. My conclusion about a lot of “princess” movies is that many times they have scarier characters than most of the movies I watched with my boys.

The story of Rapunzel and her Mother Gothel really resonated with many of the real life stories I have heard as a counselor from my clients. If I had to put a diagnosis on Mother Gothel, I would say that she is a sociopath with borderline personality disorder qualities. She is in some ways such an accurate description of real life evil.

Let me explain the connection. The root of a sociopath is selfishness and an utter lack of empathy for others. They are looking out for the needs of themselves first and foremost. Mother Gothel was willing to rob Rapunzel of her home, her parents, and her true identity because of the power that she would gain to remain young and beautiful. She treated Rapunzel as a slave and any praise she gave her was about how well she was meeting her needs. Sociopaths live in their own reality. She convinced herself and Rapunzel that she was actually a safe person, that Rapunzel needed her and couldn’t live without her and most importantly that she was keeping her safe from all that could hurt her in the world outside. She instilled fear in Rapunzel’s heart. She had total control over Rapunzel and treated her like a puppet to a puppet master. Mother Gothel had an inflated view or “grandiose” view of herself. She viewed herself at the top of the totem pole and saw everyone else as beneath her in worth and value.

Rapunzel grew up not knowing that she had a true value outside of being used for the needs of Mother Gothel. Her reality was that in comparison to her “Mother”, she was less beautiful, less talented, and all around less valuable. She was taught to focus on the beauty and value of her “Mother” while never knowing or being praised for who she truly was. The truth is that she was the daughter of a king. She was dearly loved unconditionally by her parents. She was thought about continuously. She was seen as beautiful. She finally gained the courage to venture into life outside of the tower. It was then that she finally saw a reality outside of the distorted truth of her “Mother.” She found her love for adventure and her need for true love. She began to discover who she really was and what she was made for. She found her true home, her true parents and her true purpose. While all of Mother Gothel’s lies, manipulation, deceit and selfishness did have the power to lie to Rapunzel and make her feel small, it did not have the power to change what was true. She had to get out from underneath her control and oppression in order to help her see what was true outside of it.

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Many of my clients have been bound up in lies about themselves because of these kind of toxic mothers. Their mothers didn’t nurture, delight in or build up their daughters. Instead these mothers tore down, used, abused, manipulated, and hurt their daughters. These women grow up believing that they are not valuable or lovable. One of my clients realized late in life that her now deceased mother was in fact a sociopath. She had this to say about her experience,

My mother was a Sociopath. I did not realize who she really was until later in life. I have also realized she took away my childhood and a great many years of my life.  She made me believe that it was my job to make her happy and to serve her like a servant. However I did not get paid nor did I get time off. It was a lifetime prison term with no parole. She made me feel nonhuman. I was raised by a robot that appeared to be a caring mother to outsiders. She walked over my feelings. She did not console me when I needed it. I did not get hugs and kisses.”

For my client and others like her with toxic mothers, it takes a lot of work to undo the reality that they lived with for a good portion of their life.  It takes courage also to face the pain and damage of how they were treated, especially by the person who was supposed to be safe and nourishing.

The truth is that each one of these ladies are unconditionally loved by their true king, Jesus Christ.  Jesus is their true, ultimate parent and place of belonging. He sees them as valuable and lovely and delights in each one. As these women begin to see their identity and worth through the eyes of their true parent, the King, they can begin to know their true value and worth. They can begin to know that they are dearly loved. 💗

The Greatest Showman, a Message of Empowerment

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The Greatest Showman is a movie that chronicles the true story of  P. T. Barnum. I love watching movies based on true stories. This movie celebrates Barnum’s innovation and courage to create the most famous circus of all time.  This movie was so inspiring and beautiful. The singing and dancing were phenomenal.  But what  really inspired me were the messages of this movie and how they touched my heart.

I love how the movie celebrates the value of marriage and family.  Barnum married his childhood sweetheart. While he came from a poor background, his wife Charity Hallett came from a very wealthy background.  He set out to make a “good life” for Charity. His mission and drive to become successful, partly for her and their children, almost became the thing that drove them apart.  He wanted to prove that he was worthy of Charity, yet it was clear that Charity loved him just as he was, apart from all wealth or success. Yet, deep in his soul he struggled to believe he measured up.  I love the message from Charity that his identity did not come from his success. She saw his heart, his creativity, his love for life. This is a beautiful love story. The movie conveys that he was tempted by a woman, Jenny Lind, whom he helped promote.  She was a beautiful singer. They travelled together and spent a lot of time alone together. His temptation for her almost ruined his marriage. Fortunately, he did not give in to temptation and instead chose his wife and family. Unlike a lot of movies that celebrate affairs, I appreciated that this movie celebrated marriage.  Although it seems that the movie took artistic license in this part of the movie, Barnum resisting temptation was a refreshing change from most Hollywood movies.

I also love how this movie celebrates following your God given desires and pursuing your talents.  Barnum clearly had a unique imagination. In his attempts to create and become innovative he faced a lot of rejection and persecution.  His museum burned down, and that easily could have shut him down, but he made the brave choice to keep persevering. It is so easy in the face of rejection and hardship to give up and Barnum’s endurace despite all of that was really inspiring. These themes were conveyed through the beautiful song, “A Million Dreams.”

Here are some of the lyrics:

“I close my eyes and I can see the world that’s waiting up for me.  That I call my own. Through the dark, through the door. Through where no one’s been before. But it feels like home.  They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy.  They can say, they can say that I’ve lost my mind.  I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy.  We can live in a world that we design.  Cause every night I lie in bed.  The brightest colors fill my heard.  A million dreams are keeping me awake. I think of what the world could be.  A vision of the one I see.  A million dreams is all it’s gonna take.  A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make.”

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My favorite message in the movie was how Barnum celebrated and united people who felt marginalized.  He saw people who were rejected and dismissed by most of society as people who had something to offer.  He used their gifts in his show and he brought these people together into what became a pseudo family. While Barnum’s motives for using the marginalized people in his shows was probably not completely pure, his actions later in life back up the fact that he saw all people as made in God’s image.  While serving a term in legislature, he spoke before the legislature and spoke against slavery and African-American sufferage. He said, “A human soul, that God has created and died for is not to be trifled with.” One of my favorite songs in the movie is called “This is Me.”  This song empowers those who are ostracized by society for being different.  It is such a powerful song.  Here are the lyrics:

“I am not a stranger to the dark.    “Hide away,” they say.     “Cause we don’t want your broken parts.”  “I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars.   “Run away,” they say.    “No one’ll love you as you are.”     But I won’t let them break me down to dust.   I know that there’s a place for us.    For we are glorious.   When the sharpest words wanna cut me down.    I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.    I am brave, I am bruised.   I am who I am meant to be, this is me.   Look out cause here I come.   And I’m marching on to the beat I drum.   I’m not scared to be seen.   I make no apologies, this is me.   Another round of bullets hit my skin.   Well, fire away cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in.   We are bursting through the barricades and reaching for the sun.   We are warriors.   Yeah, that’s what we’ve become.   I know that I deserve your love.   There’s nothing that I’m not worthy of.”

This song and these words are so amazingly powerful.  As a counselor I meet with clients every week that have been beaten down because of the wounding of their story.  So many things can make all of us feel unworthy and shameful. I see this happen through stories of sexual abuse and trauma.  Abuse and trauma make us feel marginalized and less than human. I see women who don’t feel like they are beautiful enough or skinny enough.  I see men and women who struggle with their sexual identity. I see people who feel damaged because of their sexual promiscuity. The goal with every person I meet is to help them know that they are valuable.  That they are lovable, worthy of love. My goal is to help them feel empowered in the essence of who God made them. They are worthy as human beings because they are made in the image of God and by a God that loves them.  This is the message of the song This is Me and of this movie.

As this movie portrays, we all have unique gifts and talents.  We all have something unique to offer the world. I hope that if you see this movie, it inspires you to feel worthy and lovable.  I hope it inspires you not to hide or live in shame. I know it did for me.

Come out of hiding and show yourself worthy. “There is a world that is waiting up for you.”

Love in the Face of Hate

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A difficult concept for me to sometimes understand is what it looks like to “love my enemy.”  It is a command of Jesus to his followers that doesn’t come naturally to me. I think I naturally want to protect myself from my enemies rather than love them.

We live in a culture today that is many times filled with hatred for those we oppose. When we think of the recent election, it doesn’t take long to see that many of us had hatred for our opponent, whether Republican or Democrat.  It is in our nature to defend our views and beliefs to the point where we are barely treating those opposed to us as human beings, let alone people made in God’s image.  As a culture today, we are quick to dismiss those who are different than us and we become threatened by it. I can easily go to that place myself.

I recently watched a movie called Ruby Bridges with my family. This movie showed me a tangible example of what it looks like to love your enemies in the face of hatred.  This example helped the message sink a little deeper into my soul. The movie Ruby Bridges was made by Disney in 1998. This film is about the true story of Ruby Bridges. Ruby was the first black girl to attend an all white school in 1960 in New Orleans. Ruby was six years old.  She and her mother were escorted by four federal marshalls to school for a whole year. The movie shows the very first day she was escorted by herself to school. White people were yelling, cussing, spitting and treating this little girl in a way that was less than human. They were even threatening to kill her.

A psychologist was hired to observe how this horrible trauma would affect this young girl. He continued to be astounded by her “normal” behavior at school. She was happy go lucky and always ready to play. This behavior didn’t make sense. He asked her what she felt towards the people who were treating her this way and she told him that she prayed for them every morning. The psychologist said, “Ruby, why would you pray for them?” She responded by saying, “well, don’t you think they need prayer!” He asked what she prayed and she said she prayed, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” The man was then speechless and humbled and amazed at the character of this young girl.

The only possible way to explain how this happened is to know that Ruby was filled with the comfort and protection of the Holy Spirit. The way she responded to such a traumatic, hellish experience was supernatural. It reminds me of the verse in Exodus 14:14 that says, “the Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still” as well as the verse Joshua 1:9 that says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

This little girl’s prayer was the prayer of Jesus on the cross. As Jesus was literally being killed on the cross, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they are doing.” It is a reminder that Jesus is pure love. There is no hatred in him. This stands in such opposition to what my heart often  feels.  My inclination in the face of opposition is to want to lash out, and give back what I am getting. Jesus points to another way.

As we honor Good Friday, I am reminded how I always wanted to call this day Bad Friday. The bad is that Jesus had to die in such a horrific, tragic way. The good is that out of Jesus’ love for us he chose to provide a way out of sin and death. The bad for Ruby is that she had to endure such pain and suffering and injustice. The good for Ruby was that she didn’t let evil win out. And, because of her love and forgiveness, light shone into the darkness. Ruby helped change history.

In a day and age where it is hard to find people to look up to, it is nice to know about people like Ruby.  She is now one of my heroes. I am humbled by her courage and dependence on Christ. Ruby’s courageous testimony helps point the way for the rest of us. Through seeing a real life example of love at work in the middle of a hateful environment, especially in one so young, I understand a little better what it means to love your enemy.  This unworldly approach of loving your enemy really does open the way for transformation, healing, justice, and peace, reflecting the very heart of God.