Monday, December 29, 2008

Christians...Actors?!

Question: “I was wondering, is drama okay for a Christian? That is, can a Christian be an actor?”

Answer: Thank you so much for your question! You were wondering if it was all right for a Christian to participate in drama, or work as an actor. The answer is yes! Definitely! BUT (and I guess there always has to be one of those!), there are some certain standards we, as Christians, must uphold.

First of all, we are commanded to be IN the world, but not OF the world (John 15:19, John 17:14-16). 1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

As Christians, there are certain lines we can never cross. God’s Spirit cannot coexist alongside sin, so if we are introducing sin into our hearts and lives, and the Spirit of Christ is living in us, we are going to feel that inner tension of our consciences kicking in and rebuking us. We will feel guilt like no tomorrow if we are truly listening to the Spirit’s prompting about these issues. And on that note, when we accept Christ into our hearts, He gives us His Spirit to live in us and work through us as we grow in Him. He also gives us a conscience. This gift of conscience is a very important, very wonderful gift! But we need to maintain it carefully. If we begin to lower our standards of what is or is not acceptable to watch or participate in, our conscience begins to get numbed. And ultimately, if we ignore our consciences, eventually they will really numb down and we will grow more comfortable with sin and evil every day.

Did you know that if you place a frog in a saucepan of water and leave it to boil, the water will grow hotter and hotter, but the frog won’t try to jump out? The water temperature rises so gradually that the frog doesn’t notice a thing until it is too late. This ‘frog in hot water’ analogy can be applied to our consciences. The more we ‘steep’ ourselves in the things our conscience rebukes us about, the more tolerant we eventually become of evil. So, when the moral danger level is high, we don’t even notice because we’ve become so accepting of sinfulness!

However, if you listen to the prompting of the Spirit from the beginning, your conscience is strengthened. Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Do not quench the Spirit,” or (in other translations), “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.” When you repeatedly ignore your conscience, you are putting out the Spirit’s fire.

This does not necessarily keep us from participating in drama or working as an actor, however. With movies (or the occupation of acting) there are some questions you must ask yourself... are these scenes you’re participating in honoring to God? Or are they violent or full of foul language and sensual images? What attitude or worldview does it portray? It’s not so much that the ‘act’ of acting that is objectionable, but rather the fact that so many movies and shows premiering these days are full of things that would probably fall under this admonition from Romans 16:19b: “Be innocent about what is evil.”

The more we give in, the more it all becomes a slippery slope – one that is best avoided at all costs. We want to cringe when evil things are before our eyes, not become slowly insensitive to all of it. We are called to live a life separate of all these things that lead to hate, rebellion, lasciviousness, vulgarity, and other sinful patterns.

There is a verse in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” That can give aspiring actors something to think about. Our bodies are wonderful gifts from God. But that’s the bottom line. They belong to Him. They’re just given to us on a loan. So, by all means we must honor God with our bodies like 1 Corinthians says! Not just because it’s commanded for us as Christians, but because we love the Lord and want to please Him with our lives. In every area.

Above all, just remember that we are called to represent Christ. We obey His commands as an overflow of our love for Him. Bottom line.

Thanks again for your question -- may God bless you as you seek to follow Him!!

“Finally, brothers, 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)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hurry Up and Slow Down!

Christmas Eve - 2008

Happy Christmas Eve to everyone! I was thinking how ironic it is that we spend so much time looking forward to Christmas, and then it goes by so fast! The ‘Countdown to Christmas’ begins unseasonably early every year, too. (Decorations in October? Even before Halloween?!)

And then...the big day arrives, and after the buzz and excitement of opening gifts is past, we’re thinking of our travel back home or the wrapping paper that needs to be discarded of somehow, or about New Year’s and our resolutions and whether or not we’ll be able to keep them. We’re always living with our minds set on the future! (Sometimes even trying to live IN the future!) Isn’t that kind of ironic? No matter what we’ve looked forward to, when we’re there, we’re thinking about the next thing!

In October, we got the chance to see Sarah Palin speak at a campaign rally. It was something we’d really anticipated, and we stood pressed up again the platform for close to three hours (or was it more?), waiting for her to come out. Then, when she finally did, I found myself wondering how long her speech would last, how long it would take us to find our way out of the crowded arena, if we could find our vehicle once we did, how long it would take to get out of traffic, if we could find a place to get something to eat on the trip home, and what time we would end up getting to bed that night. (And not because I have ADHD either! I don’t!)

It just truly amazes me how we are rarely ‘in’ the present. So many things I’ve not enjoyed, simply because I was already dreaming about what came next. On my daily schedule, I printed out Matthew 6:34 that says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself!” I’ve learned that even if we’re not wringing our hands and worrying about tomorrow, per se...it still is lessening our enthusiasm and effectiveness for TODAY because we’re dwelling on the next thing TOO much. We don’t need to worry about it! Any of these things! ...“About what you will eat or drink, or what you will put on for clothes”... When we refuse to be in the present, we end up being pretty ineffective in the future too.

Why can’t we slow down enough to enjoy the present...to its fullest? I wonder what our lives would be like if we did. Maybe there’s a way I can find out! Maybe I’ll try it this Christmas. Oh wait...that’s not until tomorrow, is it! :-)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Exceptional in the Ordinary

Someone recently sent me this quote by Oswald Chambers. And I think it is something we all need to reflect on more than we do! Every day, every minute, we rely on the 'supernatural grace of God' to accept the 'drudgery' of being a disciple (yes, drudgery!). Think about it. Not every Christian is called to outwardly exceptional things...but we are called to be exceptional in the ordinary things. But how often do we really see it that way?

“Impulse is a trait in natural life, but Our Lord always ignores it, because it hinders the development of the life of a disciple. Watch how the Spirit of God checks impulse, His checks bring a rush of self-conscious foolishness which makes us instantly want to vindicate ourselves. Impulse is all right in a child, but it is disastrous in a man or woman; an impulsive man is always a petted man. Impulse has to be trained into intuition by discipline.

“Discipleship is built entirely on the supernatural grace of God. Walking on the water is easy to impulsive pluck, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is a different thing. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he followed Him afar off on the land. We do not need the grace of God to stand crises: human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.”

Monday, October 20, 2008

What Kind of Friend Are You?

"Friendship can take different turns--it can run like a river, quietly and sustainingly through life; it can erupt like a geyser, forcefully, and intermittently at times; or it can explode like a meteor, altering the atmosphere so that nothing ever looks, feels, or functions the same again."

--Ansel Adams (1902-1984)--

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jeromy & Jennifer are Coming Home

When you listen to an album, sometimes the words sound great, but the artist just lacks the conviction or experience to make it sound heart-genuine. Not so with Jeromy & Jennifer’s new album, Coming Home. And it’s not just an album. It’s a journey. A journey from suffering to faith. From intense questioning to endurance and trust.

Jeromy & Jennifer have been through a lot over the past two years. From living in Africa for several months, to the birth of a new baby, an MS diagnosis and the disbanding of FFH, they’ve run the gamut of suffering, trust, and God’s enduring faithfulness. Life is different for them now. But, more importantly, they’re different. They’ve grown, they’ve learned, they’ve dealt with the hard issues and found peace in the midst of pain.

Coming Home doesn’t deal tritely with the object of suffering either. From the first verse of “Where Do I Go From Here”, “You brought me this far/Was it only to see me beg?/Was it only to get me to my knees/and then walk away?” to the chorus of “What it Feels Like”, which says, “This may not be the road I would choose for me/But it still feels right somehow/And I have never felt you as close to me/As I do right now/So this is what it feels like to be led”, this album gets right down to the tough issues with gut-level honesty. But it also never hides the theme of God’s faithfulness and grace through it all.

The star of the entire album, however, is probably the title track, “I’m Coming Home”. It has a folksy sound to it, and a great hook—all carried off Jennifer’s hallmark vocals. The lyrics go from frustration with the pointless competition and approval-seeking in the ‘System’, to a longing for something different and the relief of finally stepping back to see it all for what it is— ultimately realizing that ‘Home’ is a better place to be – at the feet of the Father, “Where I hear ‘Child, you are loved’/And I hear ‘Child, you are forgiven’/I hear ‘Child, I am so proud of what you’ve become’.”...

Through these various life experiences and the album that came out of it all, I think Jeromy & Jennifer truly have found Home. And I know they’re more than welcome there.

_____________
Songs of particular note:
I’m Coming Home
What it Feels Like (to be Led)
Stop the Bleeding
Where Do I Go From Here


Available on iTunes or at www.JeromyandJennifer.com

Friday, October 3, 2008

"I'm not God, I'm a Girl"

All Right Here
Sara Groves

It's every loss and every love
It's every blessing from above
Here I am, all added up
Oh, it's all right here

It's what I know, and what I'm guessing
Half truths, and full confessions
It's why I choose to learn my lessons
Oh, it's all right here

And I'm not God, I'm a girl - I confess
That I don't have a sea of forgetfulness
No, it's all right here
It makes me stronger, it makes me wince
Makes me think twice when I pick my friends
Oh, it's all right here
It's all right here

It's caution and curiosity
And it's all the things I never see
Welling up inside of me
Oh, it's all right here

It's what is best, and what is worse
It's how I see the universe
It's in every line and every verse
Oh, it's all right here

Every heart has so much history
It's my favorite place to start
Sit down a while and share your narative with me
I'm not afraid of who you are

I'm all here, and you're all there
Some of this is unique, and some of it we share
Add it up and start from there
Well, it's all right here

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Kabobs, Anyone?

It was one of those afternoons you’re not sure are ever going to end. Or forget. There I stood by the table, a big bowl of raw, cubed chicken on one side, a bowl of chunked pineapple on the other, helping some of our small campers make kabobs. Maraschino cherry juice was running down both of my arms onto my elbows and my gloved fingers were sweating into the latex. It was almost 100 degrees in the house and yet we were packed shoulder to shoulder around the small table, so close that more than one person at the table was getting prodded with kabob sticks.

Welcome to day camp in Philly! We had 15 girls that week – every morning we picked them up and brought them to the Bible Clubhouse for a long, hot day packed with every activity imaginable. One day it was a trip to the city pool, then a picnic lunch on the bleachers nearby. Another day it was a cross-meadow tour of a historical site through tall, tick-infested grass. A hike through a shady spot of woods. A special trip out for ice cream cones. A day spent reading one-on-one by a river (never mind the rain!).

But now, the kabobs were being made for our end-of-the-week luau celebration at the Clubhouse. Part of the day’s activities included cooking and decorating for the dinner. Then, the girls were allowed to invite their moms to come eat with them so afterwards they could be treated to a performance of the songs and verses each girl memorized that week at camp. This was supposed to be followed by the awards ceremony.

Only one minor glitch. None of the moms showed up. Not even one. So after a few hurried phone calls, a few ladies who volunteered for the umbrella ministry offered to come to be ‘moms’ for the evening. My heart hurt so badly for those girls that night.

Thinking back on it now, I remember a good half an hour I spent on my hands and knees under that table before the luau, with a bottle of disinfectant spray and a pile of rags, trying to get raw chicken and sticky, pink fruit juice off the wood floor. I didn’t think I would ever get that place clean! I remember also thinking that if I didn’t get the table surface completely disinfected from the raw chicken, everyone was going to die from salmonella. It strikes me as ironic in retrospect that, as I worried about the girls getting food poisoning, I should have found a little helper somewhere and spent some quality time together with her as I cleaned.

Some things, I guess, are only learned in retrospect. I wonder what the girls remember from that night.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Creation's Applause

It was windy today. It was supposed to be 70 degrees, but you know how it is when there’s a strong wind...it always feels several degrees colder. I washed my hair in the morning, then took a brisk walk down the lane... the wind snatched onto every bit of my hair and threw it over my face and around my shoulders as I walked. It was a beautiful feeling! I could throw my head back and see the endless blue sky through cracks in the overhanging tree branches. The branches formed a kind of arch over the lane and the brittle limbs were all rattling and rustling in the breeze as I passed underneath. When I thought about it, it sounded like a whole arena of people clapping. That’s it, I thought, God’s creations are applauding Him! He’s told us that if no one else praises Him, even the rocks will cry out in adoration – so why couldn’t the trees be clapping for their Creator?

The Lord is evident in all of Creation. The Psalms tell us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament shows His handiwork”... He has painted evidence of His love and power and infinite wisdom into every blade of grass, every upturned flower bud, every wispy white cloud. I can hardly comprehend it, yet it’s right there before my eyes: endless rolling meadows, hazy purple mountains, and towering green trees, all pointing upwards into the incomprehensible blue sky.

It’s more than I can fathom. But if I could fathom it, it would steal this wonder I feel – and how could I bear to lose that!

Monday, March 3, 2008

For the Dreamers

I love to daydream and I’ll admit it’s a pleasant diversion from reality, but sometimes I get so set on a dream that when it slips away, I fail to see it was only a castle in the sky—a mere desire—and not a true conjecture of the future. Have you been there too?

In her book, A Path Through Suffering, Elisabeth Elliot gives her famous ‘open hands’ illustration, saying that open hands demonstrate the posture of surrender – a willingness to hand over what God wants to take and a willingness to receive whatever he chooses to place back in them. Clenched fists, closed tightly over our precious, hoarded dreams, don’t demonstrate an attitude of open surrender! I think we set too much store in our dreams. A good majority of us probably even cry when our treasured dreams turn to nightmares and slide out of our grasp. I know I certainly have!

Lately I’ve been taking even more comfort in the power of prayer and its gradual effect on my way of thinking. There was one dream in particular that I’d been treasuring for many months. At least once a day and sometimes more often, I would present my dream to the Lord and ask Him to reveal my motives for wanting it—then, I asked Him to close the doors that needed to be closed and only open the ones He wanted me to walk through. Lastly, I begged for the ultimate decision to be clear and easy. Every day, I dragged this burden to the throne of grace, until I got a long-awaited phone call. Let me say, I have never heard a door slam so loudly—I almost jumped! And not only did the door slam, the key turned decisively in the lock. Don’t you love those clear paths?!

I’ll admit I cried. I walked blindly through my room, seeing nothing, only saying “thank you, Lord” because I got exactly what I asked for—an easy decision. The sorrow wasn’t any less, but the length of mourning definitely was! Sorrow can’t last if we pray “Thy will be done” and really mean it. That simple prayer may not change our desires right away, but it will definitely adjust our outlook on the situation and ease the pain of the ‘acceptance stage’.

So, fellow dreamers, dream on and relish the pleasure, but remember to hold your dreams in open hands—wide open—ready and accepting of God’s plan, which is ultimately the perfect dream.