Tag Archives: Jesus

Experiencing the Black and White

black and white

I recently wrote a post about 50 Shades of Grey (you know, like 5156872154 other bloggers. Between that and my American Sniper post, well, you’re welcome, movie industry).  I wrote about the things I wished people would do before seeing the movie, hopefully giving rise to some serious consideration on the part of the reader to avoid the movie (and the books) altogether.

I read a lot of posts similar to mine, asking women in particular to stay away from the movie.

And I read a lot of posts on the opposing side, stating that it was just “love story” and those of us avoiding the movie just needed to get over it and accept it.

And one theme seemed to ring true throughout several of the posts I read that supported the 50 Shades franchise– that my “religion” hindered me from making sound judgement of the whole ordeal.

In fact, it was even suggested that “religious” people were incapable of making sound judgement against the 50 Shades franchise because we hadn’t experienced it.

In essence, the world is not black and white, but instead several shades of grey…maybe more than 50.

From these bloggers I read that if I want to truly understand the people around me, I have to make myself willing to experience and test everything in order to be able to accurately identify the black and the white and all shades of grey in between– in order to be able to identify the harmful from the harmless.

I have to experience sin in order to be able to identify it.

In order to know that the 50 Shades books are filth that will destroy relationships and a morally-based view of sex and love, I need to read them.

Let’s apply that logic to other things.

In order to know that an affair would destroy my marriage, do I need to have one?

In order to know that stealing isn’t okay, should I take what isn’t mine?

In order to know that abusing my children will hurt them, do I need to hit them?

In order to know that murder is wrong, should I kill someone?

It would appear that based on this logic, it’s the outcome of the action that decides whether or not the action is morally reprehensible.

See, people like me, the “religious” types, believe that it’s the heart motivation to commit the action, not the outcome, that labels whether or not the thing is sin.

Sin is a word that most people don’t like nowadays. We live in a world based off of instant gratification and the idea that we must do whatever makes us happy–we want to feel good all the time. It’s all about how we feel. And we want to feel good All. The. Time. We want to do whatever it takes to make us happy, even if that means what we’re doing might be harmful in the long run, or even the short term.

As long as it makes us feel good. Sex. Drugs. Abortion. Taking what isn’t ours. Demanding what we don’t deserve. Hurting others as long as we’re not hurting ourselves. The list goes on and on.

Here’s the thing, friends– I can recognize sin by the motivation behind it. The motivation behind 50 Shades of Grey is nothing more than lust. It’s not a love story; it’s a lust story. I don’t need to read it to know that.

The root of all of this sin is simple: pride. We believe we’re better than we are. We believe that we can live outside of the black and white–somewhere in those shades of grey.

But this world IS black and white.

We’re stained, dirty, dark; covered in the muck of this world. Myself included. I’m no better than anyone else, whether I consider myself “religious” or not. Although I try daily to emulate my Christ, I’m not perfect and I never will be.

He, on the other hand, is perfection in radiant white, spotless, blameless–wholly complete and unchanging– and without pride.

The world in its broken state is the darkness, while He, the Savior of the world, is the Light.

No matter how good we try to be, no matter how much we want to think we are better than someone or something else, no matter how much we excuse our lifestyles or choices, no matter how many nice things we do, nothing we do will ever be good enough.

And that’s where the beauty of His cleansing grace comes in.

snowHe washed away all of our stains with his blood– he cleaned all the black and all of the shades of grey. He made us white as snow through his sacrifice. Praise Him and hallelujah!

The only thing we need to experience is the beauty of his mercy and grace– the only thing we need to accept is the forgiveness of our sins. 

We don’t have to experience sin in order to know it’s wrong. But we do need to experience Christ– and when we do, we’ll know just how right he is.

This is my prayer for you today, friends: that you will experience him and find that living in His light is so much more fulfilling than any shade of darkness could ever be.

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Whether You Have A Valentine or Not

celebrate valentine

I love love.

It’s the basis of the stories I write. There’s nothing I adore more than a swoon-worthy story about a man and woman falling in love.

So, you’d think I’d love Valentine’s Day, right?

Truth is, I don’t. I think it’s a semi-ridiculous holiday that’s commercialized and doesn’t really celebrate anything except spending money. It can be fun, sure, but it seems rather silly to me to feel obligated to celebrate something on one day that should be celebrated every single day.

And another truth is that not everyone has a Valentine.

There are those who are single because they are still waiting for Mister or Miss Right.

There are those who are single because they’ve chosen to be.

There are those who are in relationships that are anything but loving.

Not everyone has someone who loves them the way that God intended love to be.

Yet, we can still focus on love and let it warm our hearts and our souls.

If we’re supposed to celebrate love today, let’s celebrate LOVE. The kind that breaks down barriers and goes beyond cards and teddy bears and chocolates. Let’s celebrate the love that binds people. And let’s celebrate the ultimate Love.

Let’s celebrate the love that allows a man to escort his niece to a father-daughter dance because her father can’t attend.

Let’s celebrate the love that has a little boy deliver flowers to his favorite aunt at work.

Let’s celebrate the love of a woman being there for a friend who is going through a tough time.

Let’s celebrate the love of a solider putting his life on the line to save the life of a fallen comrade.

Let’s celebrate the love of an adult caring for his aging parents.

Let’s celebrate the love of a teacher who goes above and beyond for her students.

Let’s celebrate the love of a grown son who is helping his own father turn his life around.

Let’s celebrate the love of those who are willing to open their homes to children in need of a safe place to sleep.

Let’s celebrate the love of families serving overseas to save lives and bring the Gospel to the lost and hurting.

Let’s celebrate love.

(The above examples all came from people I know.)

Let’s celebrate the ultimate love– the love of God for all of humanity. He loves us so much that he was willing to send his son to die on a cross for our salvation.

hands reachingYou might be in a place where you, too, think Valentine’s Day is ridiculous.

Perhaps you’re waiting for your forever Valentine. This season of waiting can be very challenging and some of you may even question whether or not you’ll ever find someone to love you unconditionally.

Whether or not your true love will ever come in human form, the blessing of your life is that today, right now, you can celebrate a True Love in a form that is greater than can ever be demonstrated by humankind. God’s love for us is overwhelming. It’s unconditional and it’s real. It is a reason to celebrate!

My prayer for all of you, friends, is that you will celebrate today, even on this silly, commercialized holiday, whether you have a Valentine or not. Celebrate demonstrations of love all over the world–celebrate the Ultimate Demonstration of Love.

Celebrate how love changes the world, one life at a time.

Share with me: What act of love have you seen demonstrated lately that really touched your heart?

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Why I Almost Walked Out of American Sniper

American Sniper

You might have clicked on this post expecting to find some anti-American, leftist liberal rant on the military and how America is a bully, based on the title I posted. But you’re not going to find that here. Ever.

And it’s pretty rare for me to post a movie review, and this isn’t really that, either.

But I did almost walk out of this movie. Twice, actually.

But before we get to that, let me tell you the reasons why I think you (and everyone else) should see this movie. In the process of doing that, I think I can better explain why I almost walked out.

You need to see this movie because, as everyone who sees it will agree, Chris Kyle (the American Navy SEAL & sniper whom the movie depicts) did some amazing stuff for America.

Hero? Yes. Expert skills? Definitely. And the fact that he survived some incredible horrors of war only to be taken from this earth in such an unexplainable way (no spoiler alert– this was news in 2013), well, it’s one of those great mysteries. He served his country bravely and to honor his memory, you need to know his story. You need to know that he was willing, like so many, to give his life in service to protect you; protect me.

Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.

Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.

You need to see this movie because you need to give a face to all those soldiers you are grateful for and realize the horrors they face.

They fight and die every single day. All over the world. They are willing to give what many are not– their lives. We thank them, we honor them, we post statuses about how grateful we are on Facebook, but do we really realize what they are going/have gone through? This movie gives you a glimpse of the realities of war. Other movies have done it, but for some reason, this movie makes you feel like you’re in it. It puts you there, and I promise, that gratitude you felt for our soldiers and sailors before this movie will only be multiplied after. Perhaps you’ll even decide you want to do more to honor our brave and our fallen. Perhaps you’ll finally understand what war PTSD is and why it is a very, very real thing. Perhaps you’ll honor the memory of not only Chris Kyle, but all of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for these United States.

You need to see this movie because you live in a bubble.

Stated plainly, we complain about dumb things most of the time. We live in comfort and freedom, and for the most part, we’re blessed beyond measure. We complain about bad hair days and people who get on our nerves and when we run out of coffee or get cut off in traffic and the fact that we hate Mondays. And yet we have the opportunity to live in peace. Meanwhile, all over the globe, children are born into war zones and suffer unimaginable torment at the hands of Evil.

This is why I almost left during the movie. As a Social Studies teacher and a student of the world, I’m well aware of the atrocities committed throughout the world historically and in present day. But I’ve only read about them. I’ve only heard about them. I’ve never had to witness them with my own eyes. Sure, American Sniper is a movie and it’s a dramatization of events, but it’s realistic. It’s horrible. And it truly shows how Evil is alive and working in our world.

Not only was I sobbing at various points throughout this movie, I found myself praying, “Come, Jesus. Come.” I almost couldn’t take it– this realistic depiction of evil. I don’t want to believe that people are capable of doing such horrible things to each other, but they are. Oh, they are.

The bubble around me popped. You can’t watch a movie like this, see the horrible things that man is willing to do to another man (or woman or child), not just in the name of a god or of an organization, but in the name of hatred, and go back to your cushy life and pretend the horror doesn’t exist.

Our soldiers face this evil every day on the battlefield and they persevere. They press on. They fight it and try to protect freedom because that’s one of our basic rights as humans. And they make split-second decisions that we pray we never, ever have to make. This is why we are grateful– because they have to make the decisions and carry out the actions we never, ever want to have to face.

Our nation and our world face this evil– those who torture and murder and kill for no good reason at all. It manifests itself in many ways, but people all over the world are suffering.

This world so desperately needs love. It so desperately needs joy. People so desperately need rescuing. They so desperately need the Savior.

American Sniper is not a “Christian” movie. While there are mentions of God, it’s not a theological movie in any sense. But if you can walk away from it and not be moved just by seeing how good we’ve got it and how horrendous daily life is for others across the globe, I fear your heart is too far gone.

When the movie ended, our theater was silent. People filed out without speaking. The weight was heavy. I cried my way to the car.

This is an emotional film, packed with violence, foul language, and the realization that we have so, so much to be grateful for, and so, so much work to do in the world combating Evil, not just on the other side of the globe, but within our own neighborhoods; within our own hearts.

See this movie. Honor the memory of Chris Kyle. Honor the memory of every fallen soldier who has ever stared Evil in the eye and said, “bring it.” Honor those who have stared Evil in the eye and lived to tell– those still haunted by their memories.

See this movie so that you can get out of your bubble and realize just how good you’ve got it and how much work there is to do.

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**Sorry, y’all– had to turn off the comments. I have hundreds yet to moderate and I can’t keep up! Thanks again for reading and sharing! Means the world to me that you are one of the two million readers (so far) of this post! 🙂

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