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God + Suffering = ?

c3olormanprayingIf God is God of all, why is there pain? Why suffering?

Our pastor—going through a sermon series in which he addresses questions of the congregation—had the difficult task of tackling those questions yesterday. He made me think harder, pray more, and consider the Word again…which is the best kind of pastor!

He shared a story of being called to another city to baptize a newborn. The baby had been born with severe brain defects and would only live for two days. The situation begs the question, “Why, God? Why create this?”

I have had three miscarriages. Each time, I cried out to God. Aren’t children a blessing? Did I not love Him enough? Was I not “good” enough to be blessed with another child this side of Heaven? I wrestled. My husband wrestled.

There have been other difficulties in life, of course. I am an abuse survivor, as is 1 in 4 women in this country. If you’ve read other writings of mine, you know other tough situations that came and went. I’ve also had the privilege of praying with and walking with some of you through stormy circumstances.

Why does God create that?

I think it’s the wrong question.

God created a perfect world, including humans. Perfect. Without any blemish. Everything in working order. Harmony. Peace.

We broke that.

We chose to use a perfect gift He’d given us, free will, and turn away from Him.

We broke perfection.

We’ve been breaking it for generations.

When I lose a child within my womb, when a friend of mine suffers through vision abnormalities, when I witness the breakdown of my dear father-in-law’s body to Parkinson’s, or when a child is born and dies within two days from defects, I no longer ask, “Why, God?” Instead, I look in a mirror.

I did that.

You did that.

Millions of us did that.

God did not create imperfection. He set out to create perfection and, each time we see otherwise, we see the repercussions of generations and generations of breaking and breaking and breaking and breaking. How dare we lay that at His throne?

This groaning that erupts when we encounter the fallout of our choices and the choices of those who came before us – death, sickness, destruction, war – is a direct response to the groaning of the Holy Spirit within us believers. Just as it pains me to see my child hurt for his choices, it pains God to see us hurt when we use His gift of free will poorly. How much more it must pain Him to see us walking around amidst fires, famine, disease, and carnage – heaps of unholiness wrought for thousands of years by humans He created. Humans today being burned by choices made generations ago.

God desires the perfection He created.

We cry to God, “Fix this! Save us from our own consequences!” We sound like the Israelites in Judges 10, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think is best, but please rescue us now!”

And, sometimes, He does. That very next verse in Judges says, “Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.” The rest of the chapter talks about how He led the Israelites to defeat the people that had been hurting them for 18 years.

Other times, the story He is weaving for all of mankind won’t allow for the miraculous removal of brokenness in the present. In those times, we read and re-read Romans 8:28. We stand on it. We cling to it. We find rest in it. “All things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to His purpose.”

We like to focus on how much God loves us. He does. More than we can comprehend. But when we encounter sickness and death, I believe it is important that we not fall for the twisting trap of satan and ask how a “loving God” creates sickness and death.

I think we must look upon and walk through that experience with the full knowledge that we created it.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Life Lessons

 

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Say, “Yes!”

“So, what do we choose instead?” Hundreds of emails, thousands of comments, lots and lots of texts and FB posts and Tweets – all asking me to point toward what we do about the problem of destructive material in our media.

I have a lot of answers now, and a couple of the bigger ones will be announced shortly.

ImageIn the meantime, I wanted to respond specifically to all of you who said you’d disengaged with media. I want to ask you to engage with one specific product. Earlier this year, DreamWorks purchased Classic Media, which is the parent company of VeggieTales. We are enormous Veggie fans in our house (okay, not so much at the table, but definitely at the TV!). When DreamWorks acquired VT, I got a little nervous. The same company that gave us “Free Birds” (which Eric Metaxas so beautifully discussed for Breakpoint) is going to be the parent of Bob and Larry? The French Peas? Madame Blueberry?

Yep. And that is INCREDIBLE. Those are good values, being acquired by an enormous company, and disseminated to an even more massive audience.

Which is why I’m asking every one of you to download the new VeggieTales app (first one since the DreamWorks acquisition, it was created by Cupcake Digital). Let’s be sure DreamWorks is reminded that there is a loyal audience for Veggie, and what it represents.

Go to your app store and search for “It’s a Very Merry Larry Christmas”. If you wanna go all out, get the DVD, too, “Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas”. It even features Si Robertson from Duck Commander.

[Full disclosure: Glass Road was hired to help get the word out about the app. Even fuller disclosure: I'd have been talking about this and buying it anyway.]

We can’t just be a people of “no” – we have to say, “YES!” as loudly as possible when good media is created. And this is good, folks! Uber-high quality app that my two kiddos have pronounced, “The coolest ever!” Any of us who have watched VeggieTales DVDs can speak to their high production value. This is a brand that sets the bar.

I love it when we have excellently produced, thought-provoking, high-quality, entertaining media to choose. If you know of other NEW media (we all love the classics, but I’m asking for NEW), let me know in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

LOL…or not

On a recent trip to Nashville, I had the ridiculously fun opportunity to catch up with Jessica Dotta - and, boy, were we in for a thought-provoking experience.

(Jessica was the first person I hired into Glass Road, over 8 years ago. She worked at GR for about a year, then took a position to help another ministry grow. I hired her back when GR expanded and she brought her indefatigable spirit and staunch work ethic to bear. A year later, this brave soul decided to focus full time on her writing. Now, my incredibly talented friend is a published novelist with Tyndale whose first release is going gangbusters.)

It’s been over a year since we talked and I was excited to hear about Jessica’s book release, share with her about the big announcements coming up in my world (yes, the announcements are coming!), and just enjoy each other’s company again. We met at my hotel for breakfast.

As we laughed and shared stories and fell into that camaraderie that is forged in the trenches and always picks up right where it left off, the minutes flew by. I think I’d just told her about the strange looks I garner at the gym because I laugh out loud while watching “Friends” and running (I go to the quietest gym on the planet – it’s eerie) when a gentleman with thinning gray hair, round glasses, loose cardigan and slacks pulled up a bit too high, approached our table.

old2-man-cardiganHe stood there a moment, cleared his throat, and said, “Ladies, I had to come over here.” I prepared to be asked to quiet down (we were loud). The man clasped his hands in front of him. He looked toward the floor. He shook his head slightly and shrugged. He seemed to be trying to get control of his emotions and I wondered if Jess’s storytelling brain was going at mach speed with mine to envision a tale that would necessitate this poor older man being in such a state. We’d been discussing our faith pretty openly, too, so maybe he needed prayer? Jesus? A glass of water?

He raised his head and looked at each of us. “I had to come over and tell you how much we have enjoyed listening to you laugh. It’s just so good to hear girls your age laughing and talking like you’re doing.”

Relief at him being okay and us not being reprimanded for our volume flooded through me and I saw a grin on Jess’s face that probably mirrored mine. The man went back to his seat and Jess and I continued catching up.

A2rrrrggghhhAnother 10-15 minutes passed and here came another older gentleman. Again, he stood at the end of our table. This one appeared a bit more gruff…serious look on his face but a twinkle in his eye. Mr. No Nonsense. We ceased our chatter and looked toward him.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, ladies, but I wanted to tell you that I’ve loved listening to you two laugh. To hear your happiness in the room. It’s good to hear laughter again.”

As he went away, that last word echoed in my soul. I turned toward Jess. “Hey, he’s right. When did the laughter die?

2012-10-11 21.50.43That was three days ago and I’ve since had 14 hours of driving alone in the car to ruminate. I checked with friends of several generations and they echoed the idea – we don’t hear laughter like we did a few years ago. When we do hear it, it’s canned on TV. We walk into restaurants and there isn’t a hum of happy people talking. We walk down streets and see people, but don’t hear joy. A pall has settled on us.

Now, here’s the thing: in the second (maybe third – my memory ain’t what she used to be) year of “Grey’s Anatomy” (this was when “Private Practice” came on after it), I remember Meredith and Christina asking each other if they were happy. In the “Private Practice” episode afterward, the same question arose. I remember wondering why they seemed to be valuing “happiness” as the ultimate life goal…and assuming they’d find it primarily in whomever they slept with.

happy-faceWe hear it everywhere now. Parents just want their children to “be happy”. Spouses leave their spouses because they “just want to be happy” or “deserve some happiness”. Ads and therapists alike hound us women to get manis, pedis, massages, and facials so that we can take care of our “happiness” because, if we don’t, we can’t make anyone else happy.

Good grief, even pet stores are telling us to buy all kinds of toys and treats to make the darn dog happy. (Ours is good if I scratch his ears just-so, which is free, so he gets it a lot.)

Yet, despite all this attention on chasing happiness, it appears that we’ve become a people who smile and laugh less.

I’m pretty sure that’s because we’re worshiping at the altar of self and, ultimately, we make for pretty crappy gods. We’re way too fickle to be masters of the universe.

Today’s “happy” means managing to stay within my calorie allotment. Tomorrow’s is a donut … or two.

I’d love to hear if you’re experiencing this in your neck of the woods. Do you hear people laughing, see them smiling, as much as you did ten years ago? If not, why not?

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Hope Springs…from a Public School Principal

Y’all are not going to believe this. Well, some of you may.

RechpicA dear friend of mine, Alan Stewart, is a longtime pastor in the Mayberry-esque East Tennessee town of Soddy-Daisy. His church has become known in recent years for its crazy-effective Vacation Bible School programs, which Alan wrote and based on the public domain characters from those incredible children’s tales written by Christians – Beauty and the Beast, Wizard of Oz, The Little Mermaid, and Peter Pan – after realizing several years of other VBS programs had been entertaining, but not effective.

Alan and the church are a go-to resource when the town needs, well, anything. Food, shelter, counsel, money, a listening ear, an answer to a troubling situation. They are what the church is supposed to be, at least in so much as I’ve known them the past few years.

Alan was asked by Sale Creek Middle and High School, a local school, to speak at their 9/11 Tribute last month. He diligently prepared a speech and delivered it on September 11. You can read it by clicking Address for Sale Creek Middle and High School.

A couple of weeks later, one of the Department of Education’s attorneys received a letter from the National Freedom From Religion Foundation. I could describe it, but it’s so much better to let them speak for themselves – see the letter by clicking FFRF Letter.

Alan – and I’ve gotta say this is one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy working with him – read the letter carefully and spent some time praying and thinking about it before memorializing a reaction. He then crafted a response. Again, it’s WAY better to let a letter speak for itself. Click Rechoboth Response to read it.(You really should read it…if only to smile. Widely.)

Now we get to the part that has me grinning and shaking my head…and entertaining hope for our country.

salecreekmhThe two letters have become the talk of the school, and the town. (Small towns are both comforting and frustrating that way.)  The students are asking questions, wondering if Alan did, indeed, trample all over some constitutional right and if they should be offended or if the NFFR folks are trampling on Alan’s rights…and they should be offended.

The principal – and I am serious that we have to send this principal about forty-thousand “atta-boys” for even thinking of this, much less doing it – assigned the students the task of researching the issue and writing a paper espousing who is right and who is wrong (constitutionally speaking).

This PUBLIC SCHOOL PRINCIPAL basically said to the students, “You’re going to research, learn, think about what you’ve learned, and form an educated opinion. I will not tell you what to think.”

To Principal Tobin Davidson: I have endured quite a bit of chiding and snide looks since putting my son in a public school. I’m told he’ll be indoctrinated by Common Core and robbed of his ability to think for himself. Stripped of his right to pray. Treated harshly for being a Christian. That may well be in some schools (which is a whole ‘nother blog post).

You, however, have given me hope today.

You have renewed my faith that education can be applied at the local level, in creative ways, in public schools, to produce independently-thinking citizens grounded in Constitutional knowledge.

I’ve read the speech. I’ve read the letters. I’ve read the Constitution. I’m excited and hopeful I’ll get to read the students’ papers. THIS, friends, is why we have public education – to produce a citizenry educated in the formation and guiding principles of this country, to think about those principles, and apply them.

Bravo, Alan Stewart, for shepherding a church that is a true resource and voice of sound wisdom to the hard questions.  And bravo, Principal Davidson. Thank you for the hope, sir.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Miley, the Preacher

I didn’t watch the VMAs this year.

I’ve watched in years past but, honestly, I’ve become one of those people who doesn’t recognize half the acts and is wondering why the unrecognizable half has replaced acts I know and love. I also haven’t finished vomiting since seeing Nicki Minaj’s disgusting perversion of catholic rituals and symbols in her act during the 2012 Grammys, so music shows aren’t high on my “must watch” list.

But, another year, another act. Several have sent me links to Miley Cyrus’s – well, I’d call it an act, but that implies there was some talent shared and I try to avoid overstatement. (See it in The Blaze story HERE – but do not have young eyes or ears in the room.)

While the blatant display of pseudo-sexuality wasn’t new or original, I did find something different about Ms. Cyrus’s performance. Did anyone catch how succinctly she represented the screed of Hollywood?

Doin’ whatever we want, this is our house, this is our room, and we won’t stop.

Can’t you see we own the night?

…Its our party, we can do what we want to

Its our house, we can love who we want to

Its my mouth, I can say what I want to 

This child (did anyone notice that she was using TEDDY BEARS as fellow dancers?) displayed complete adherence to the “principles” with which she is surrounded each day. Whatever I want, I get. Whatever I think, I do. I, I, I. Me, me, me. I decide. I rule. You don’t matter. It’s all about me.

And, physically, she demonstrated exactly where she has been taught her worth is based: her physicality (I would say “sexuality” but what she displayed had as much to do with a true representation of sex as smashing an apple against a wall shares the fruit’s exquisite taste).

Why scream at Ms. Cyrus? Why expect her to act any differently than the religion of the industry that raised her up? What if we took the road less traveled here? Rather than heap coals on the individual, what if we speak with respect for her underlying identity as a human? Rather than shun or gossip about the teen girls who come to church dressed in short skirts and too much makeup, what if we went out of our way to be kind? Maybe in being kind, we can befriend, and in befriending, we can exchange care for each other – a care that, eventually, transmits the Truths of value, beauty, respect, decency.

If we do that, then might we eliminate the need to explain that fondling another woman’s husband, baring your body, and simulating fake sex are inappropriate and debasing to everyone, everywhere? (Including actual talented artists and writers who help us understand aspects of sexuality with forethought, consideration, and care. Read Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee for an example or Thin Places: A Memoir by Mary DeMuth.)

Rail against the industry, sure. Require it to adhere to standards of basic decency in distribution. To take its privilege to communicate on a mass level seriously and with maturity. Absolutely.

But, when it comes to naming specific individuals – especially young ones like Ms. Cyrus – befriending the person seems to me much more in line with efficacy and love.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Industry Reflections

 

Not a Boycott – Ideology Trumps Dollars

megaphoneboyBeck – a brilliant media leader – told me to organize a rally at Disney during our interview Wednesday. Tons of commenters here on the blog and elsewhere have echoed his instruction. The refrain goes something like, “They don’t care what you believe. They care about dollars. Hit them where it hurts: their pocketbook.”

But ya know what?

That’s not true.

This is not a conversation about capitalism. It is a conversation about ideology. Not because I wish it to be or am defining it that way, but because the ones in power have made it that way.

TV money is harder to track than film money – at least, for a consumer. So, let’s take a look at the film money for just a second.

Do you know which movies make the most money in this country? The ones rated G and PG. Do you know which ones make the least? Those rated R. This is not new. It’s been this way for at least ten years.

John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, called for more “family titles” at CinemaCon earlier this year. He said, “If exhibitors could make one recommendation to our studio partners, it would be make more family titles and fewer R-rated movies. Only two R-rated movies made the top twenty last year, even though more R-rated movies were distributed than any other rating category.” (full story here)

So, we already are showing Hollywood with our dollars what we want and have been for a while. It hasn’t changed the content. Why?

Well, I’m reading an interesting book by Ben Shapiro, Primetime Propaganda, that brings the conversation back to television production. In this book, Shapiro (whom I’ve never met and know nothing about other than what is in this book) shares actual conversations he had with studio heads, television writers, producers, and actors. And what they shared with him – according to him, because his Jewish last name and Harvard ball cap communicated “liberal” – was that there is a purposeful push of a liberal agenda/mindset through our television shows.

Not because it makes more money, but because it accomplishes an ideological purpose.

That’s why I don’t see efficacy in jumping on a bandwagon of, “Let’s have a rally. Let’s boycott.” I don’t see it making an actual difference because dollars are not what is driving film and television production and distribution. The dollar is not king here. Worldview drives production. (Also why I’m grateful Beck has bought studios!)

The only way to change what is getting made is to change who is making and distributing it, or change the ideology of those currently making and distributing it.

That is a Herculean task, which is an understatement. But it’s not insurmountable. It can be done. If you want to vote with dollars, then put your money behind the production and distribution of quality shows and films. Be proactive in this, not reactive. Don’t be content with tossing your TV and never darkening the door of a theatre.

If you don’t have access to production and distribution individuals, or aren’t sure how to get started, go over to the SON site. The whole reason we started that was to equip and encourage individuals producing and distributing good content for the mainstream audience. To be very transparent, while I serve as the co-chair of SON, I do not draw a salary from it. It’s a non-profit, and a young one at that. Every dollar over there goes to support the audience we’re serving: writers and creators of quality, mainstream, commercially-viable entertainment. I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve listened to who are frustrated beyond belief because their (very good) script or novel gets tossed out for having a person of faith in it or not including a sex scene or an element that pushes the chosen mindset.

If we’re determined to stop doing something, how about we stop our inactivity? Our disengagement? Let’s be a people of committed action – not against, but for. Let’s be for the content we want and support it. Can we do that?

(If you are a part of an organization that supports the creation and distribution of good, mainstream media content, let me know. It’s going to take ALL of us to turn this ship.)

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2013 in Industry Reflections

 

Update to Morning Sex Ad

I went to church this morning with a whirlwind swirling inside. My husband – still on his business trip – is as calm and stabilizing a force to my frenetic pace as the magnetic pointer in a shaken compass.

So, when my quiet little blog here had well over 40,000 people stop by for a read about the soft porn ad that played during Good Morning America last week - burning an image into my son’s 8-year-old brain that will never go away – I really, really wanted my husband home. To talk. To think out loud. To process and react. Pretty sure we’ve used up the minutes on our cell plan at this point. (And thanks, Apple, for the wonder of FaceTime!)

CommentersI’ve read the vast majority of comments y’all left on the blog, my FB, Todd Starnes’ FB, Joe Pags’ Twitter, and on other FB and Twitter feeds. Thanks to everyone who echoed the outrage and offered encouragement and empathy. Reading your words planted my feet even more firmly in this particular piece of ground.

There are entirely too many of us to just let this roll.

In the aftermath, a few things have happened:

  • I filed an official complaint with the FCC (and learned how backed up they are in handling complaints)
  • I talked with the General Manager of my local ABC affiliate, WZVN
  • The GM confirmed the ad aired 8:26-8:27AM EST
  • Another individual checked his feed in Reston, Virginia and confirmed it aired in that timeslot in his market, too
  • The GM believes – and the presence of the ad in the Virginia market indicates – that this ad aired from the national feed provided by ABC
  • This means that the soft porn ad was not just seen in my local SW FL market, but all across the nation

I’m grappling with the next best step and wondering, “Why was that scene SHOT in the first place?” Yes, it’s for a primetime show and, yes, primetime and premium channel standards are bottom of the barrel when it comes to including sex and violence – but full on, both partners naked, sex? On a major network like ABC (not a premium channel like HBO)?

Why are we all just turning it off instead of demanding THEY knock it off?

I was floored by how many commenters said they got rid of their TV, canceled their subscription, etc. With all due respect – WHAT? Television is one of – if not the – most powerful, effective forms of media for transmitting our beliefs, our cultural norms, what we deem entertaining and encouraging as a society. I’m trying desperately to understand the merits of just removing ourselves from it. Of disengaging completely. When we do that, we cede the territory…and it becomes what it has become, which is what our children inherit.

If we don’t engage, what changes?

After the past few days of this, I’m pretty tired. Some of those comments were downright mean. And, the clients at Glass Road still need their work done and our efforts at SON are ongoing to equip and encourage creators of television, films, and books and did I mention we just moved and I’m still battling back the boxes? The To Do list right now, frankly, freaks me out. Y’all probably have a ton going on, too.

But we can’t let this go. We can’t relegate it to the bin of, “stuff we can’t do anything about” and move on like it didn’t happen, can we? 

How do we justify seeing evil and walking away?

 
238 Comments

Posted by on August 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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