Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shining Light on the Twilight Saga

Last night, while at the movie theatre with my husband, we were nearly overcome by the crowd of young teenage girls and adult women (!) who were there to indulge their latest fiction fantasy: the new Twilight movie, New Moon.

"`New Moon' wolfs down $140.7M in opening weekend," boasts the Associated Press headline today.  Twilight is an insanely popular book series by Stephanie Meyer based on a teenage girl, Bella, who falls in love with Edward, a vampire. The second book in the series, New Moon, deals with, not only her vampire sweetheart, but a competing interest, a boy named Jacob who is actually a werewolf.

The intrigue has swept the nation. Last Christmas, I sat with my book in Barnes and Noble in an oversized chair that happened to be in front of the Twilight book table. In the hour I was there, I watched no less than 6 adult women, some with young children in tow, excitedly retrieve their new read from in front of me. Since then, many friends have fallen prey to the phenomenon, and I admit, I am at a loss: not for why they are interested--everyone loves a good read.  I am at a loss as to how, as Christians, we are willing to open ourselves up to what amounts to many aspects of the occult.

Carrol L. Fry, author of Cinema of the Occult: New Age, Satanism, Wicca, and Spiritualism in Film said, "The occult is by nature sensational, and sensationalism sells. Filmmakers have target audiences, but they want to reach a broad spectrum of customers. And you have to remember that a lot of films that adapt occult paths are part of the horror genre, and that audience demands sensationalism."

1. Bitten by darkness

Let's start with vampires.

vampire: 1. a preternatural being, commonly believed to be a reanimated corpse, that is said to suck the blood of sleeping persons at night.  2. (in Eastern European folklore) a corpse, animated by an undeparted soul or demon, that periodically leaves the grave and disturbs the living, until it is exhumed and impaled or burned.

Uplifting, isn't it?  In Scripture, when someone is "animated by a demon", they are referred to as "demon-possessed."  The concept does not just exist in romance novels.  Demon-possession is real and so is the presence of many invisible dark forces.   

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."  Ephesians 6:12-13

Yes, evil powers are real, and they are not here to romance us in a field of wildflowers.

2. The seduction of the dark side - and Stephanie Meyer

I can hear many of you now:  It is just for fun.  A light read.  I don't believe in vampires, werewolves and all the rest. 

Let's take a look at the origins of this "light" story.  

"A housewife named Stephenie Meyer “received” the story of Twilight in a dream on June 2, 2003. The vision she had of a vampire and mortal as lovers compelled her to start writing the story immediately. She says she couldn’t resist the drive to write down her dream (a similar scenario to J.K Rowlings, author of Harry Potter). Meyer gives a summary of that first dream: “I woke up (on that June 2nd) from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately.” Within three months, she had the entire novel written. Within six-months, it had been dreamed, written, and readied for publishing.

Scaringly, Meyer's fictional character Edward took on the "terrifying" form of "real" spirit when it leapt from the pages of her saga and communicated with her in a dream. She says she had an additional dream after Twilight was finished when her vampire character Edward came to visit and speak to her. The Edward who visited her in the night told her she'd got it all wrong because he DID drink human blood, and could not "live" on ONLY animal blood as she wrote in the story. She said, “We had this conversation and he was terrifying.” - Taken from an article by well-known expert on world religions and the occult, Caryl Matrisciana

Chilling, isn't it?  Consider the warning of the Lord to the Israelites before they inherited the Promised Land.
"When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there.  Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so." (Deuteronomy 18:9-14)
3. Symbolism is oh, so important

Another concern with Twilight is the concept of blood.  In the movie, blood is depicted as a magnet for vampires, "the undead".  If bitten, Bella will be lost forever and sentenced to become a vampire, as well; the drawing of blood represents eternal lostness. She even expresses her soul is worth nothing to her if she cannot be with the man vampire she loves.

To Christians, blood is most sacred to us. "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." "Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins."  (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:22)  Apart from his blood, we would be lost forever!  This truth is so real to me; it is our foremost reality as Christians.  And it is just the beautiful antithesis of the picture portrayed in the Twilight saga.

I write primarily for believers.  Many do not know this Jesus who gave his precious blood for us, and I do not fault them for being attracted to these books.  The series is seductive, enticing, and other-worldly.  But to us, who do know Him, may we hold the purity of our faith so dear.  The blood of the Lamb, spilled for us.  The price of our souls that cost Him his life. 

In the name of entertainment, do you open your mind up to dark themes and characters?  Do you subject your emotions to them?  We must be set apart from these things.

2 Kings 9:22 says, "When Joram saw Jehu he asked, "Have you come in peace, Jehu?" "How can there be peace," Jehu replied, "as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bust Your Clutter, Free Your Life

I am on a cleaning spree. Not traditional cleaning with the Windex and Swiffer; I am cleaning OUT our house... and with it, our lives.

Tomorrow I am making my second donation drop in one week to a local charity. Let me clarify.

My second CARLOAD this week.

It is amazing how much stuff we Americans collect that just fills our homes with clutter. We (I) love yard sales, TJ Maxx, estate sales, the mall, and before you know it, your house is full of...stuff. (But it was on sale!, we say.)

"If you love trendy decor, it can be expensive to keep up with what is hot and what’s not! Just when you get all the latest stuff and start feeling all trendy, you open up a new magazine to realize your things are already hopelessly out of style. Or worse, they have fallen apart and it is time to reinvest in what is new. You don’t have to be a slave to trends dictated by someone else." - Melissa Michaels, The Inspired Room

And it doesn't have to be decor. Maybe it is clothes. Or toys. Or souvenirs picked up on vacations through the years. Or documents from the 1990's that are taking over your office.

(yes, that is a George Foreman grill that hasn't been used since college.)

Lately I am coming to realize that the accumulation of things is not only costing money. It is taking up our sacred space in our homes. Our homes are to be our sanctuary from a long hard day out, a place of peace and calm. But our habits of accumulation are defeating the life-giving purpose of those four walls. A cluttered space steals our peace of mind. Just think about it: which is more calming? A clear kitchen counter or one piled high with bills, books, and knickknacks?

A house full of stuff not only saps our peace of mind, but it robs our time. Which would you rather do on your Saturday? Go to the pool with your family or spend the day inside cleaning all your stuff? The more we have, the longer it definitely takes. (Again, compare the time it takes to clean a clear counter top versus one covered with objects.)

I don't consider myself a pack rat, but I am now finding myself on the fast track toward simplifying our home and life. In the evenings, I am going through our house room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer, and pulling out items that we don't use regularly or love. I am either tossing them out or donating them. Some donations have gone to the Salvation Army and others to the local Wellspring store, a ministry who supports women in crisis. {Another benefit to purging the excess: helping those in need!}

I got so excited on Saturday when several of the dresser drawers in our guest room were EMPTY. And the others were no more than half-full. No more drawers that get stuck because there are too many old shirts or picture frames crammed in.

I have listed several benefits above to decluttering our home -- money, time, and peace of mind. But there is higher purpose for streamlining and simplifying our life. I want to be free from concern.

"What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not;
those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep;
those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.
For this world in its present form is passing away.
I would like you to be free from concern."
I Corinthians 7:29-32

Yes, we buy things. We use the things of the world but"as if not engrossed in them." "Engrossed" is a powerful word. It means, "to occupy completely, as the mind or attention; absorb." We live in this world, and therefore we use the physical things of the world - a home, a car or bus, clothing, food, phone, internet, furniture, gifts, television, etc. But we aren't to be ENGROSSED by them, completely absorbed by them. They can't be the focus of our lives!

Paul reminds us in these verses that the time is short. We have one short life here on earth. We must make the most of every day, not for our own pleasure and enjoyment, but for Christ and His kingdom. "This world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever. "{I John 2:17, NLT}

To live this way is to live a life free from concern. To fly above the circumstances, above the noise, above the stuff. To be free of heart and mind to focus on WHAT REALLY MATTERS.

Dean and I have a growing desire to capture each day for this higher purpose. To have time to devote to our friends and our family. To have energy and money to invest in the hurting, the broken, the weak, and the needy. To have quiet in which to hear the Father speaking and guiding us. "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.' " Isaiah 30:21b

I want to be free to hear that voice. Free from the love of things. Free from concern.

Our dear friends April and Matt just moved their family to Hong Kong to reach college students with God's love. The flats in Hong Kong are very small, and in preparation to move, they went through a downsizing process that took months. Many yard sales. Many items sold on Craigslist. Many carloads of donations.

Luke was not a donation :)

As they purged their belongings to the bare minimum, April challenged me to go against the flow of materialism that is prevalent in America. Although she was the one moving to a foreign country, she said, "We are being forced to downsize and keep it simple. It will be harder for you...harder to stay here in America and fight against materialism to put His kingdom first."

She is right. But no matter where we live, whether we have a big house with plenty of room for lots of stuff or reside in a small Hong Kong apartment, we have the same calling. We as Christians MUST put His kingdom first.

"A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." - Luke 12:15

Stuff. A great article.
Becoming Minimalist: "A family of four in the suburbs becomes minimalists and so can you." Read about their story, starting with the first blog entry. Inspiring!
The FlyLady recommends the 27-Fling Boogie among other tips to beat the clutter.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Mind is a Precious Thing to Waste

Real Simple

This post may be unpopular. But the Spirit is burning in my heart, and I feel compelled to speak.

Consider the strength of your mind. Your mind is among the most valuable things you have, for "As a man thinks in his heart, so he is." Our minds set the course of our lives.

Our hearts
follow our minds. And they are the wellspring of our lives. Out of our hearts, we live life in Christ. Out of our hearts, the Spirit flows to others. "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." John 7:38

So what we think on affects our hearts and therefore, our entire being. It affects our ability to be at peace and remain focused. Our capacity to reflect and express Him. Our influence.

We are governed by our thoughts.

"Finally, {sisters}, whatever is true,
whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things." Philippians 4:8

For some time now, I have noticed a trend among our generation and our culture as a whole. And I have been waiting and wondering who in the Church is speaking to this issue...for it is a cancer of the mind.

I haven't heard it addressed, and so I am compelled to challenge both myself and you with this:

We are steeping our minds in filth. And we call it entertainment.

We are mesmerized by the lives of famous people. The same celebrities who deny our God with their lips and pagan lifestyles.

We are addicted to following their lifestyles through magazines, tv, and the internet.

We are filling our mind with the antithesis of all we hold dear. Would we want our children to feast on the same mental diet of promiscuity, sensuality, marital unfaithfulness, arrogance, vanity, greed, lust, homosexuality, bisexuality, rebellion, drugs, perversion, eating disorders, and enslavement to materialism?

Neither does God want his kids.

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?" James 4:4 - 6a

On Sunday our pastor Dr. David Cooper was preaching on Psalm 1. While not specifically naming this celebrity-obsession, he said, "We've been brought in from the kingdom of darkness and bondage to sin. Why go out and 'stand in the way of sinners'? Why go out and study and follow their lifestyles?

They {the media} will market and advertise the world. Do not take a second look at the path and direction of the world."

We have been called out of the world. And we need the fullness of our minds and hearts to live this new life.

Make a clean break. I implore you on behalf of Christ, stop buying "People {Exploited}" magazine in the checkout line. Cancel your subscription to US Weekly. By all means, turn off TMZ and Entertainment Tonight. Don't waste your precious moments visiting celebrity gossip websites. *THEY ARE NOT NEWS.* They are tabloids. Let's stop kidding ourselves, and raise our eyes and minds to the standard for which we have been bought.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Ephesians 4:1

He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5:15

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
James 1:27

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Am I The Only One?

Am I the only woman who finds this attractive??

My Man scrubbing and cleaning our porch.

(do you know how much i hate this chore???)

What a turn on.

I guess it really is the little things for us women ;)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

30's Priorities

I recently turned the big 3-0. My husband has me beat by a good stretch, so he doesn't think 30 is a "big" anything. But I know many of you understand. I am entering a new decade. A new phase of life.

I am no longer living in the decade defined by college and college-ish behaviors. The 20's mark a metamorphasis, a growth from carefree irresponsibility into a handful of responsibilities such as getting a real job, paying real rent or even buying one's own house. The 30's, on the other hand, may be many things, but two things they are not are carefree and irresponsible. For many, they include marriage, children, career advancement, home-buying, community responsibilities, and basically a lot of juggling of new adult responsibilities placed upon young shoulders.

I have turned that corner...

I am pleased to journey into a new season, but this new decade finds me reflective. I am asking,

What are my real priorities?

Beth Moore said recently, "This generation of women has bought the Lie. The lie is that 'You can have it all!'

She speaks to the belief that we women can--and should--be successful at all of these roles:

  • A loving and nurturing wife

  • A devoted and attentive mother

  • An executive, advancing her career

  • A good neighbor

  • A Bible Study leader

  • The Girl Scout Troup leader, the baseball Team Mom

  • A connected friend

  • An efficient home manager
She continued, "You can have a lot, but you CANNOT have it all."

This struck me during the week of my Birthday, and I have been considering its implications for my life. I believe she is right.

I cannot have it all.

I may have a lot--or even most--of these things.

But not all.

Over this next decade, I may be able to close that deal at work by working long hours, but I will not simultaneously be enjoying dinner with the family I love. I may be able to take a child to the ballfield several nights a week, but the house will not likely not be a Martha Stewart showroom. Because we are limited people with limited time, energy, and resources, we will end up trading some things for others. What will I choose? What will you choose?

We cannot have it all.

I am entering my 30's by looking in the mirror and giving myself a firm talking-to...and the permission to not do it all. I am looking in my heart and pondering what will be dropped.

Today, I began writing down my Life Priorities. They are a work in progress, but I will share.

My Life Priorities

1. Engaging Christ and His Kingdom {worshipping, going deeper with Him. supporting his work in the world through missions, our local church, and our community.}

2. Loving my Husband {this one is a favorite, but it will not always be easy. may I always give our marriage the priority it deserves.}

3. Creating our Home {making and keeping it beautiful, warm, smooth, and efficient}

4. Valuing Others {hosting, visiting, giving, celebrating & connecting with family and friends}

5. Choosing Health {providing healthy meals, staying active and fit, taking care of myself}

6. Expressing Creative Gifts {writing and other creative pursuits}

7. Managing Financial Goals {planning and saving for our family}

These top seven priorities may wax and wane within the list, but chances are, if it is not on the above list, it is not of great importance in my life.

Several of you have kindly asked why I have not posted on my blog lately. It is because while blogging and writing are important to me, they are #6 on the list. For the last few months, I have been concentrating on several other items, like #4, Valuing Others: we had several opportunities to host friends and family in our home this spring for meals, holidays, and weekends. I was also busy with #2, Loving my Husband. He also had a milestone birthday, and many of his family members from Florida surprised him to celebrate. These preparations were worthy of my attention for several weeks in April.

I am learning not to carry guilt for letting my blog stay quiet for some time or for dusty baseboards. I would rather have family around our table sharing a meal or on our couch sharing an evening.

I would rather celebrate the special occasions and loved ones in my life to the hilt!

I would rather spend time organizing and keeping our home than on a shopping spree in the city.

These are my priorities.

What are yours?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Sabbath "Experiment"

Hi, friends. I have been thinking a lot about moments and rest and I am still asking, "What is this moment for?" (Please see that post first.) Some of you are, too. I thought I would share some Sabbath thoughts with you so far this year.

I began reading this book during the first week of the year, so the first Sunday of 2009 was the first day of this "experiment." After coming home from church and lunch, I snuggled up on the couch beside my husband who had big plans to watch a football game. There was no laptop on my lap, no projects in my hands, nothing but a Pottery Barn magazine and the Miami Dolphins on tv. After flipping the last glossy page, I looked around the room and thought, "I am bored."

This whole concept of truly slowing down, of guilt-free relaxation, of refusing the long list of to-do's in my planner and in my was, well, foreign.

The night progressed with a simple dinner and playing a fun board game (which never seems to top the list over the ever-present television). We talked on the phone with family, spent quality time together, and had an all-around peaceful day.

Worship. Relaxation. Romance. Family.

And let me note that, for what it's worth, I had the most PRODUCTIVE week, that first full week of the year. I was working out every night (can you imagine?), preparing stress-free meals, and I even got ahead on the laundry. I kept looking around and wondering, What is going on? And, Could it be the Sabbath? I feel so centered...

The second Sunday of January went similarly, and all week I found myself looking forward to the Day where nothing could press in on me, and everything could be enjoyed. Savored. I added in time for reflection. Reading and discussing and praying with Dean.

This past Sunday was not like the others. We had a beautiful weekend with my family- and their new puppy- in town. Someone had a big birthday!,
and we enjoyed the city to the hilt. Sunday was brimming with a special church service, a family brunch, and goodbyes. It was perfect.

But right when I should have taken pause, taken a little nap, or just regrouped and reflected on the joy of the weekend, we changed into jeans and charged over to our friends' house for a football party. (Go, Eagles...poor Eagles).

Let me say, I don't regret spending the Sabbath with our good friends. I am learning that the Sabbath is especially perfect for enjoying God, family, and friends. It is about slowing down to connect. But when the Small Voice (and my husband) pointed out that the time was growing late, the social butterfly in me was not yet ready to flit home. So we stayed.

When we finally got home and straight into bed, I realized that I had pushed my limits. I had not accepted the natural invitation to rest on the day that my body and soul desires it most.

And Monday morning greeted me with a roar. I have felt a bit off-center this week.

Let me say, I am not legalistic as to think that if we don't honor the Sabbath, we will have a bad week. But I am realistic in understanding that if we bypass a moment that is intended for rest, we might just feel run down and weary in the days and moments that follow.

So I write this today as a lesson in obeying...and in cherishing the Sabbath moments in your life.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What is This Moment For?

Happy New Year! After a wonderful and reflective Christmas holiday, I am back and full of new thoughts...

Last year was the year after the Wedding. It was also a year filled with running. I think it started with the adrenaline rush of planning an event as big as a wedding and spilled over into the small tasks of daily living. I began to live for list-making and list-crossing-off. I read tons of motivating productivity blogs, like Simple Mom, Fly Lady, and LifeHacker. I wanted to streamline every process, eliminate waste and clutter in daily life. ..and every closet, car trunk, and cabinet. I tried to plan each minute and coordinate them with my big red planner; efficiency was the ultimate goal.

It was thrilling, I will admit. By the time Christmas rolled around, I had a mostly organized home (it's hard to maintain perfect order) and a well-planned new year, but my heart was speedracing through the Christmas Eve service. For no reason. Here we were, all the way in South Carolina to celebrate the holidays with family, nothing in the world on my plate to stress me, and my heart was pounding so loud and fast during the solo that I looked at Dean to see if he could hear it.

Something was off. For a right-brained person like myself, learning the skills of organization and running an efficient home are worthy goals...these things don't come naturally to me, as to others (My dear friend Kelley is a Professional Organizer!). But shouldn't there be some balance? Shouldn't I know how to work when it's time to work, and play and relax and enjoy life when it is time for those things?

Ecclesiastes 3:1 - "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven."

So I picked up a highly-recommended book, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, by Mark Buchanan.

In it, he describes time this way:

"Embedded in the Greek language were two distinct words for "time." The first word is chronos --familiar to us because it's the root of many of our own words: chronology, chronicle, chronic. It is the time of clock and calendar, time as a gauntlet, time as a forced march. The word derives from one of the gods in the Greek pantheon. Chronos was always consuming, never consummated...Chronos is the presiding deity of the driven....

The second Greek word is kairos. This is time as a gift, as opportunity, as season. It is time pregnant with purpose. In kairos time you ask, not "What time is it?" but "What is this time for?" Kairos is the servant of holy purpose." (page 36)

What is this time for?

When God created us, He designed our moments with a clear purpose in mind for each one.

Imagine asking yourself, not "Do I have time to go to the gym before Lost comes on?" but rather facing the clock, or better, asking the Lord in your heart, "What is this moment for?"

As I have begun this simple practice in my heart, I hear such clear directives. Sometimes, I want to read, and He has told me "this moment is for you to rest. Take a nap." And sometimes, He has nudged me and shown me that this moment is perfect for sweeping the floor.

Each moment has a purpose.

A moment to decorate a home for the holidays.

A moment to bask in the glow.

A moment to entertain friends.

A moment for exercise.

A moment to try a new recipe.

A moment to share with others.

A moment to love.

A moment to come home.

This new year is already one of deeper breaths, of slower steps, of less lists and yet more accomplished. In the days to come, I will share with you my journey of learning to slow down, to listen, and to celebrate the Sabbath.

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