Andyouinvitedmein’s Weblog

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I can’t believe it has been 2-1/2 years since I last wrote anything. I’m back and will be writing again soon.

Things have certainly changed for me and in the world since I last wrote.

I need to run…take care and see you soon.

I’ve read several reviews about Left Behind and they have been negative with cheap shots tossed at the quality, story line and disaster elements. Ironically several of these came from traditional Christian news outlets like Christianity Today. Last night I took my daughter and her boyfriend, whom we are trying to win to the Lord. Here is my question: what movie did the CT reviewer see?

First, I have to say that my husband is a stylist for television and movies. In our 30 years together I’ve learned to look for bad hair, continuity issues and, simply said, anything that I might find to critique, I would. Left Behind had very little to criticize.

The story was actually better told than the original book. It held to the basics, but has more impact. While the end landing was a bit over the edge, it was no different than any super hit like 21 Jump Street when the two heroes magically escape a shoot out. In reality they would be dead, and in reality the plane landing would have been different. In reality any part of any Hangover movie is just absurd, but entertaining in a perverted way.

The movie did not look low budget or any such nonsense. It was of good quality. Who complains about the grain of the film when we watch old Chaplin movies? And the group from Albany, Georgia who do the fantastic films like Courageous…who needs film quality when the message is quality. Just sayin’, dude reviewer, get a life.

Character development was good. The continuity of the script and editing are better than some big budget films. I was an extra in Steve Martin’s A Simple Twist of Fate where the editing crew must have had too Slurpees before they started. In Left Behind there were some issues such as the sunlight in NYC went on a little too long and it should have gotten dark quicker. These are minor.

The movie isn’t a Bible beater, but a subtle message of “you better get right with God.” The puzzle pieces of The Rapture came together in logical fashion just as they might in real life. Nothing too fantastic or magical.

Speaking of real life. On September 23 my youngest daughter had a very bad wreck. The day before her boyfriend was saying he didn’t believe in God. The morning of the wreck I texted both of them a message: you don’t know the day or the hour… . In the wreck my daughter suffered temporary, short term memory loss and a bad eye injury. Her boyfriend had a tiny cut, and he was on the side of the car where the most damage occurred. The car stopped a foot short of a log that would have impaled the car and killed them. And still he questions God.

The verse at the end of the movie was that we do not know the day nor the hour. And we don’t. There might not be a rapture, but certainly there might be an attack from an enemy outside the US. There’s Ebola. There’s unrest in the US. This is the season of tornadoes and hurricanes. And there are those car wrecks that can happen anytime, and without warning.

I took away from this movie the message that we can give excuses all day long, but at the end of the day we need “to recognize,” as my students used to say. We need to recognize that Jesus is Lord and one day we will have to give an accounting. We can pull every “but if God is so good” card and still we must give an accounting at the end of our journey. And what will you say? One of my favorite explanations is found in the old Carman video that can be found in YouTube. Check out Witches Invitation. And on that day you can either call on all your excuses or simply say: I’m saved by the Blood of Jesus and my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

I don’t know Randall Arthur in the flesh, but I believe I know his heart inside and out because of his books, especially the newest called Forgotten Road. I want to introduce you to a man who has the heart of God in his pen.

We all have our approach to the gospel. I’m from a Charismatic background, but I applaud my Church of Christ and Catholic relatives and their faith. When it comes down to our connection to God it’s the work of the Cross. It’s all about grace. Grace separates us from all other religions. We are forgiven because we trusted Jesus and believed He is the only son of God who died for our sins.

It wasn’t Jesus who started all the rules: long hair, short hair, no makeup, freedom to wear makeup, no dancing, no movies, G-movies only, etc. I can speak with authority on this because at one time I was a rigid conservative.

Enter Jason Faircloth.

I came across the book Wisdom Hunter in the early 1990’s. I was already writing my book, and felt a kindred writing spirit (which Mr. Arthur knows nothing about). God was already pressing upon me the importance of grace. I heard that Mr. Arthur also lost his job as a missionary when he wrote the book because the story hit a little too close to that denomination.

Jason Faircloth is one of those mega-church preachers who had long been able to move people in a legalistic fashion according to what he thought God wanted. And, it is assumed by one of Faircloth’s prayers, that he lets God know when it is time to do things. However, God doesn’t move when his daughter runs away and marries. On her way to the hospital to have her baby, the unthinkable happens and she dies. Soon after his wife dies and he spends years looking for his granddaughter. During this time Jason comes to know what grace is all about. The story is a simple parable that should have a place on your bookshelf.

Faircloth is in several other novels, including the newest one called Forgotten Road. Many times a week I think of the ending when the main character is willing to exchange a death sentence with someone who has done evil toward him; are we able to do the same? I’m not giving away the story, but this is grace: when we give all we have to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Grace is a difficult road. Capturing a true picture of grace is something Randall Arthur does well. When you finish one of his books, you feel refreshed and filled with the true power that comes with being a follower of Jesus.

Did you go or did you boycott? Someone brought me a biscuit, but I didn’t go myself. I wasn’t boycotting either. Twenty years ago I boycotted K-Mart, and didn’t think much about it. Today I’m looking at the hard cold facts.

My facts probably differ from yours. I’m a conservative Christian and I love my friends in the gay community. They have loved and supported me in more ways than I can list. I love my conservative brothers and sisters. Without the conservative Gospel I would never have known Jesus like I know Him!

Therein lies the issue. Is this boycott from Jesus or is this a politically motivated boycott (girlcott, chickencott or whatever)? What would Jesus do? He’d probably go to Chick-Fil-A and buy enough for all his gay friends and eat dinner at their home. He’d love beyond reason…grace…and…

And where does the boycott work in bringing people to Him? Loving when it’s difficult is called grace. When we become Christians we give up our old man, and are supposed to be Him where we go.

So when the flying chicken biscuit wrappers fly to the ground what will be left to dwell on? A huge business day and someone shouting from their side of the fence saying “we won this one.”

Is that Jesus?

Several days ago I took a minute away from a maximum-crazy day at work, and decided to check the local news. I saw a picture of a woman who looked like a good acquaintance from church…a bigger than life personality who entered our lives a year ago. This woman and her husband had been charged with a bigger than life crime and the trial began the day I was perusing the news. As details have rolled across my computer screen this week I’ve wanted to vomit. I’ve never had a reaction quite like this; however, I’ve never been around people who are regular John & Jane Q. Christians who’ve done something so terrible.

Before Tuesday I’d use expressions like exuberant, hard working and radiating with genuine concern for people to describe them. Watching them on the news I can only say: fragile. In hearing details of the crime my adjectives would be ghastly, inhuman and want to ask: “what the hell were you thinking—why didn’t you get help?”

Now this could be a situation where the media has worked overtime on hype. Or it could be a situation where it is a series of unfortunate circumstances that implicates the wrong people. However, it appears to be a situation where people are just plain guilty. From what I’ve read the defense lawyers haven’t arrived in the courtroom yet. Their only defense has been improper Mirandizing and the blame game. There isn’t a one-armed man in the wings on this one—I really wish there was.

Yet, the minute I read the first story, I immediately knew what God wanted me to do, and it was simply: give grace. Right now I’m sort of at Grace 101 with this. I love them, but my mind can’t wrap itself around the events for which they are charged. That makes grace all that more difficult…that is what makes it grace.

I’ve also learned something from this. When we’re in a place and see someone who’s bruised…ask about it. Don’t keep notes and hope one day to tell someone. Keep asking about the bruises and don’t stop. But don’t just ask about bruises: offer your help. Bruises on children or adults. Ask about it again and spend time to help relieve pressure. Help prevent another tragedy. Back in 1987 I had decided to report my neighbor for verbal abuse against her young children. I could hear her through our paper-thin walls. God whispered to me: help her.

I doubt if I will address this issue again, but if you should be reminded of this blog, and then pray for my friends. Pray for a big Jesus to wash away big tears and big regrets and open big doors.

In thinking about the Penn State mess I wondered if I would have enough courage to buck the system and be a whistle blower. Would you? It takes courage to swim against the established tide. JoePa was a force who didn’t want trouble, and to come against him didn’t happen. And because of that no one was a voice for those boys. As hindsight we can look back and say “oh yes”, but really??? Would you lose your job for someone?

Would you dare lose your standing in the community to stand up for someone…would you be like Jesus and love even though you might be called a sinner and be ridiculed? I think doing that would be radical for Jesus.

That’s grace and that’s hard.

Yesterday, I read an article about Anne Rice. It said she’s leaving Christianity. Actually I don’t read her books and her position on anything doesn’t matter, but this caught my attention. I figured she was more of a gal who considered herself a Christian because she was born to parents who were not a part of another religion. What surprised me was her statement: 

“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me,” Rice wrote. “But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”

Rice isn’t the only one who stated this. I’ve read that Ghandi was seeking Jesus, and actually loved Jesus, but when he went to a church he was turned away.

Wow…what a testimony to a picture of ourselves as conservative Christians. As a group we can look in the mirror and ugly stares back. Christ is difficult to emulate: He lent a hand and support to a woman caught in adultery; he told a story of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and in each of these stories the theme was going against cultural and traditional religious rules to give of ourselves–just as he had practiced before them with the adulterous woman.

Few Christians show this side–most days I don’t, I’m sure. Our churches try to demonstrate Christ through the rules, and if you break one of those rules (written or assumed) then you’re considered to be “out of fellowship”. Where I live those rules mean to be Republican, don’t drink, cuss or smoke, and so-on. Some denominations say no instrumental music, others say no hair cutting, then others suggest you have no faith if you get sick, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. These rules actually drive people away from Jesus, because they make ‘him’ look like a  man with a check list waiting to condemn people to hell.

I read that Sandra Bullock didn’t want to play a Christian lady in The Blind Side, and said no three times. In the end she was totally pulled to Leigh Anne Tuohy because Leigh Anne gave sacrifically. She was born in a home of privilege that practiced segregation. For Leigh Anne and Sean to embrace the plight of Michael Oher was sacrificial on all levels. Now we have a beautiful success story, but I’m sure seven years ago the road was very difficult.

Beginning today make the word “Christian” mean more than a fried chicken eating, self-righteous pew warmer. Rules and finger-pointing is much easier than show grace and self-sacrifice. Jesus said if he was lifted up then he would draw all men to him. Instead of picketing Planned Parenthood, bring the workers some coffee then ask the next person coming for an abortion if they want to live with you for the next few months as you will take care of all their needs. Instead of trying to find the President’s birth certificate, spend that hour praying for him. Find a single parent or widow and help them around the house.  Be willing to have your motives questioned by your fellow church members–be willing to be kicked out of your comfortable church because you spoke up or acted like Jesus. The road isn’t always easy being a Christ follower, but the rewards will be eternal.