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Monday, November 30, 2009

All I Know...

So, I say I’m a writer. What does that mean?

Is it a bestowed or self-proclaimed distinction?

Do I need certification, credentials or a degree to be allowed to use the title writer?

It’s not really like calling myself a doctor or lawyer… those are more objective titles.

Just like art is more subjective as a field of study than science, the term writer is also subjective. It means different things.

You’ve got journalists, play-writes, script-writers, authors, bloggers, technical writers, essayists, speech writers, lyricists, poets, blurbers even… I actually knew a guy once who received an honorary doctorate from a university for writing letters. Yea, normal, dear so-and-so, snail-mail letters.

Still, after choosing a category, several sub-categories exist… journalism can include newspaper, magazines, journals, news media – from feature stories to obituaries, there’s a lot to write about as a journalist.

A similar story plays out under the umbrella of author – published/or not, fiction/non-fiction, genre, target audience.

I don’t know, but I get bogged down in all of this pigeon-holing. I think it’s because I don’t like to be defined by someone else’s matrix, especially if that matrix has anything to do with modern culture.

I’m not saying that definitions don’t exist. I’m all about absolutes.

Where do we get our absolutes, though?

For example, definitions of words in our culture have changed over the years, and words mean different things in different countries. But if definitions keep changing, how do we know what the real definition is? Who has the authority to change the meaning of words? It’s always amazed me how any two persons can communicate, let alone a world full of people.

This is my back door way of saying, no one person can possibly have the authority on everything.


I saw a billboard recently. It said…

“All I know is… everything. –God”

This made me smile for several reasons.

First, uh, yea, it’s so true. And there’s proof. Lifetimes of it.

Next, God is the only one ever Who can claim such a thing.

Also, it reminds me that no human knows everything.

And, it reminds me that I don’t know everything, and that I should keep that in mind when I am talking to someone else even if they’ve forgotten (or never knew) that they don’t know everything.

So when I’m looking for Absolutes, Truth, my Standard, I think I’ll go with the One Who knows everything. I don’t know. Just seems logical to me.

I don’t mean to sound glib or haughty. Honestly, it’s more like a lesson in humility. My point, though, is more along the lines that when it comes to defining myself, I’m going to check into what God says about me, who He says I am.

Because I have accepted that He is the One true God and that Jesus, God’s only Son, died as payment for my sins, God says I am His daughter, a princess, a co-heir with Christ. (Romans 8:16-17)

Wo.

Furthermore, I don’t have to worry about how other humans define me.

Let me tell you, that’s such a freeing little piece of information.

As far as calling myself a writer, I’m going to take Monday’s in December to share why I claim that title. Stay tuned for What I Write Highlights, excerpts from the fiction novels I’m writing.

Happy Monday and, as always, thanks for visiting Dry Ground.

(Photos provided by photobucket.com)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Too Much

Chances are you mumbled those exact words at some point yesterday – i.e. I ate way too much!

Even though it tasted good going down, the consequences of too much can be difficult to endure. Even of a good thing.

After all, they say – Too much of a good thing is never a good thing.

Too much Causes…

Food... Indigestion, weight-gain

TV... Fried brain, wasted time

Medicine... Addiction, immunity (not to disease, but to the drug!)

Standing... Sore feet

Sitting... Sore butt

Talking... Sore throat, annoyed companions

Work... Tired body, broken home

Play... Laziness, irresponsibility

Sleep... Laziness, grogginess

Money... (yes, really) Too-big-for-britches syndrome (very dangerous J )

Caffeine... (yes, really) High blood pressure, headaches

Sunshine... Sun burn, skin cancer, drought

Water... Flood

Fire... Incineration

Of course, the list could go on. So many things that are good can turn deadly if consumed in large quantities… if we experience too much.

Although it doesn’t come naturally and we have to work hard at it, we’re meant to live balanced… disciplined… for our own good.

Makes me tired to think about having to keep tabs on all this!

I’m so thankful, then, that there are some things the Bible tells us we can never have too much of –

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-control

(Gal. 5:22-23)

In fact, the Word says, “There is no law against these things!”

We can never possess too much!

So let’s load up and dish out!

Something your heart and mind can digest while your tummy plays catch-up. J

Have a blessed weekend and, as always, thank you for visiting Dry Ground!

(Photos by photobucket.com)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things


I’m disappointed.

I can’t find a scheduled showing of Sound of Music on TV this Thanksgiving.

Not that I ever actually watched it on Thanksgiving.

But it feels like the end of an era.

Beside the point, but… sigh… still…

Anyway…

One of the songs, that I sang ad nausium when I was a little girl, in the Sound of Music is “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things.” You know… raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

It’s a happy song. Maybe a little silly and frivolous. But it makes a good point.

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, or when I’m feeling sad, it does help to think of a few of my favorite things.

Kinda like… Paul telling us to think of things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. (Phil. 4:8)

Hmmmm…

So here are a few of my favorite things…

THE WORD OF GOD

THE LOVE OF JESUS

MY DANIEL

PRECIOUS FAMILY & FRIENDS

THE ART OF WRITING

A GOOD LAUGH

TOUCHING (but not sappy) LOVE STORIES (seen LADYHAWKE?? OMGuggenheim…)

COLORADO MOUNTAINS, NEBRASKA SKIES, ARIZONA HEAT

FULL BODY MASSAGES

MY CAR, HONDA ELEMENT, a.k.a. PEARL

FRESHLY LAUNDERED BEDSHEETS

ANYTHING THAT GLOWS IN THE DARK

STICKERS (HAD A KILLER COLLECTION IN 6TH GRADE)

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

UNIQUE CHARACTER NAMES

GOLDEN EAGLES

RAINBOWS

BIG DOGS – LIKE ST. BERNARDS & GREAT DANES

PANERA BREAD PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES

GLITTER EYE SHADOW, SEQUENCE, BEDAZZLE GUNS

MORNING GLORIES

OCEAN WAVES

MOVIE SCORES

BUTTERFLIES

SHOOTING STARS

And…

Why not?

RAINDROPS ON ROSES & WHISKERS ON KITTENS.

What are a few of YOUR favorite things?? I’d love to know. Leave a comment!


Happy Thanksgiving! And, as always, THANK YOU for visiting Dry Ground!

(Photos by photobucket.com)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thank God for Moldy Shower Heads

NOTICE – Today’s post is void of all mention of vampires and/or werewolves! If you’d like to read my Twi-blogs, though, look to the right on the sidebar. All the chapters of The Perfect Lover: How Reading a Vampire Book Brought Me Closer to Jesus are there.

This week is, of course, THANKSGIVING, and I find it appropriate and desirable to talk about that… giving thanks.

My Daniel travels for his job. I believe the totals when last checked equaled over 19,000 miles since the beginning of August. That’s new for us, and it’s been an adjustment, but it’s also come with blessings.

Needless to point out, he stays in many different hotels as he traverses the country, usually in the upper echelon of brands. So he experiences nice accommodations with little to complain about if anything.

One time though, while at a hotel chain that we happen to admire and like, he noticed that the showerhead was moldy.

Ew.

Not a catastrophe, but… well… ew.

So as he checked out that morning, and the inevitable “How was your stay?” question landed on his ears, he smiled. “It’s not a big deal, but I thought you should know, the showerhead had mold on it.”

Honestly, he only mentioned it to be helpful, to prevent the next patron from experiencing a moldy showerhead and avoid the possibility of that patron having a more… catastrophic reaction.

About a week later, my Daniel received a phone call from the hotel manager, a courtesy call because of the moldy showerhead situation. Again, he politely answered the manager’s questions and reiterated that he had only mentioned it so they would know about it. The customer service of this chain is commendable, but the call wasn’t at all necessary. We’d forgotten about it. Not even a ripple in our ocean of whitecaps.

The next week, while my Daniel was again on the road, I took my daily walk to the mailboxes up the hill from my apartment door. It was a beautiful, sunny day for Fall and I’d had a productive day of writing. I wasn’t expecting anything from Mr. Postman, I never do. I seldom get snail mail that I actually want. But retrieving the mail is my excuse to crawl out of my hole for a few minutes and get the heart rate going a little – stretch the legs.

A surprise awaited. An envelope, the hotel-chain-with-moldy-showerhead logo stamped in the return address space.

Hmmm. Formal apology letter? That’s thorough. Their customer service department must win national awards.

I opened it.

A gift card to one of our favorite restaurants accompanied the letter.

I said out loud, “Well, thank God for moldy showerheads.”

As I walked down the hill, I started thinking about that.

During November, people who haven’t already jumped into listening to Christmas music (not hatin’ – just sayin’) focus on the reason for the Thanksgiving season. Many Facebook Citizens are posting one thing a day for which they are thankful, a commendable, thoughtful process I probably should be participating in. I’ve noticed, though, the posts are always thanks for something positive. This is a good thing, of course, especially because some of us have a hard time seeing the silver linings of our lives.

But I wondered, as I thanked God for moldy showerheads, how often we thank Him for the things that make us say ew.

Our culture tells us to run from pain/suffering/discomfort and run toward pleasure/happiness/what feels good. On one hand, that’s good advice. I mean, if the stove is on, I don’t place my palm flat on a burner, scald my hand and then thank God for it. That would be silly.

But on the other hand, bad things happen… to all of us. And our first reaction is almost always to complain about it, not give thanks.

What if my Daniel had complained about the moldy showerhead? Made a scene? Dumped hurtful and scathing remarks on the hotel employee at the front desk who’d probably never even been in that room? (I’ve known people who’d have sued for less.)

We probably wouldn’t have gotten our restaurant gift card.

My point, this holiday of all wonderful holidays, is to keep in mind that the ew moments of life, while disappointing and frustrating (and sometimes heartbreaking and devastating), could be a stepping stone God is using to bring us something great. We should be thankful to Him for everything. Yes, everything. (Ps. 118:24, Hab. 3:17-19, Rom. 5:3-4)

By all means, keep praising Him for the positive aspects of life. Just don’t forget to thank Him also for moldy showerheads.

images from photobucket.com

Friday, November 20, 2009

NEW MOON Shines

I must say... I was impressed.

You knew I’d say that, didn’t you?

Here are the top 10 things that impressed me at the New Moon midnight show…

1. The FANS – early, eager, orderly, dutifully decked in Team Edward or Team Jacob garb.

2. The THEATRE – prepared, smart, grade-A facilitation – kudos Regal Pinnacle 18. You’ve both impressed and shocked me. We had our seats 4 ½ hours before show time. No sitting on the lobby floor for us, thank you very much.

3. WAIT-MANAGEMENT – iPhones, paperback novels, conversations in appropriate indoor voices, and a few responsible teenagers even did homework. What do ya know? There is hope for this generation!

4. The GENERATION GAP – not every patron had been born since 1995. The ones who had, though, were *gasp* well behaved. (Wait…what!?) And at 30-something, I was not alone in my age group, nor was I close to being oldest.

5. The GENDER RATIO – Of course, females clearly had the upper hand, but the men made a respectable showing. At about 15% of our 249-seat auditorium, the males I observed did not appear to have been shackled or drugged. Most of them even looked happy to be there.

6. The MovieSCRIPT – The movie is never as good as the book b/c it is impossible to fit everything in, and many times script-writers re-write our fave stories so drastically we don’t recognize them. New Moon’s writers have mastered this delicate art. It was like a Glee mash-up – fit in the important parts, made it sound/look beautiful.

7. The MovieCASTING – Taylor Lautner, who plays Jacob, really had to work hard and work out to keep his part from the first movie. He stepped up, did a great job. He deserved to stay. That boy is ripped! But they didn’t overplay his Michael Phelps abs (and biceps and pecs…) – oh, they played them, just not over played. Also, Martin Sheen as Aro was perfect. There’s no more perfect word than that – perfect.

8. The MovieSPECIAL EFFECTS – Edward’s sparkle did not look like glistening sweat – they amped it up just enough, the wolf-transformations were swwweeeet – but again, not over done, and there’s an awesome fight sequence with the Volturi.

9. The MovieTENSION BREAKERS – Direct novel quotes as well as added lines with just the right flavor in just the right spots drew just the right laughter. Charlie Swan continues to be a favorite of mine in that category.

10. The MovieTHE ENDING – I’M NOT GIVING IT AWAY, OF COURSE! WHAT KIND OF FAN DO YOU THINK I AM??? J

11. BONUSThe MovieTHE SCORE (by Alexandre Desplat)– SO amazing. Can’t wait to buy it. Comes out today, Fri. the 20th, but apparently WalMart doesn’t get it on to the shelves by 2:30am. What gives?

If you are a Twi-fan, you will love New Moon. If you are not, I couldn’t say. I wouldn’t claim industry awards or expect considerate critics – but who cares about them anyway? Not when we’re talking about such a fan-driven story. If the fans are happy, then New Moon succeeds.

The fans are happy.

(click for beginning of The Light in the Darkness: How Reading a Vampire Book Taught Me More About Faith - the New Moon section)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Perfect Lover: How Reading a Vampire Book Brought Me Closer to Jesus - Extras


Several aspects of the Twilight Saga story sparkle with other Biblical parallels outside that of Edward reflecting the love of Jesus. Here are a few of the gems I’ve escavated. I could write chapters about every point, but for now, I’ll have to sum up. Please, employ your imaginations with me!

#1 - Bella’s time without Edward in New Moon was her personal wilderness. She’s faced with a heartbreaking tragedy. Without the light in her life, she grasps for coping mechanisms. She hibernates for a while as she grieves. She lashes out recklessly without concern for herself. She clings to the knowledge of his existence (NM, pg. 116) and his voice in her head left over from their close relationship. She befriends Jacob in a way she never meant to, using him to fill the void in her life (NM, pg. 218). That results in complications later. And yet, the experience strengthens her (NM, pg. 118), equips her to face and conquer future clashes with the Volturi, revenge-bent Victoria, and other dangerous situations. Her strength not only benefits her, but saves others. She also finds out that Edward never stopped loving her, something she discovers that she knew all along (NM, pg. 527).

We all experience a wilderness in our lifetime. We face heartbreaking tragedies. We go through the grieving process, which includes hibernating and rebelling. We cling to the last scrap of hope we have, which is God exists. We may not feel His presence, He may seem silent, but at least He exists. Still, in our loneliness, we often seek to fill the void with offers from the world, using it to cope, but putting ourselves in bondage. And yet, by the grace of our Perfect Lover, the experience strengthens us, equips us to handle other hardships life tosses at us. It also helps us help others. We find out that God never stopped loving us during those dark times, He never forsook us. (see Footprints poem) And unlike Edward, God never actually leaves. He's promised that He never will. (Duet. 31:8)

#2 - The Volturi represent the Pharisees. We are introduced to the vampire ruling class in chapter 22 of New Moon. In the traditional Italian town in which they dwell, they are revered and respected because the humans who live there remain unaware of their true nature. Everything about them is disguised – white washed (NM, pg. 485). Yet Bella just experienced the harrowing presence of powerful vampire princes with a healthy bloodlust and the authority to destroy her. They have few rules, but those are enforced with the utmost precision and most lethal of punishments. Exposing them meant death, no questions asked, no second chances. Bella, a human, knowing about them, equaled exposure in their eyes. Alice assures them Bella is set to become a vampire herself, vying for delay of sentencing. They agree, but one of them says, “Were I you, I would not delay too long. We do not offer second chances.” (NM, pg. 481) Later, in Breaking Dawn, the Volturi threaten more judgment for similar circumstances. The Cullens have trouble building a defense because all potential witnesses are either afraid of or deceived by the Volturi’s authority and laws. The witnesses must be persuaded that Carlisle’s life of compassion and grace can overcome the Volturi’s law.

Jesus had similar issues with the Pharisees. They had become powerful authorities claiming to represent God. They governed by the Law alone, allowing no second chances. Judgment was often lethal… as in Jesus’ case. Jesus’ ministry delivered the New Covenant of His grace to those who believed and became witnesses.

#3 - Dr. Cullen is the picture of compassion and service. I love the conversation Bella and Carlisle have as he patches up her arm after the birthday party incident in chapter 2 of New Moon. Carlisle says, “Hmmm… What I enjoy the most is when my… enhanced abilities let me save someone who would otherwise have been lost. It’s pleasant knowing that, thanks to what I can do, some people’s lives are better because I exist. Even the sense of smell is a useful diagnostic tool at times.” (NM, pg. 34) Remember, the odor of blood pains him, yet he uses that ability to prevent others from being lost. Compassion in action. Boy, I’d love to expound on that! Suffice it to suggest, read that section keeping in mind how Christians should serve each other and those in need. It’s such an apt challenge.

#4 - The issue of spiritual gifts runs throughout the saga, each vampire possessing a special skill or ability available to use for good or evil. That gift is born into them as humans but enhances with the supernatural nature of their transformations into immortals.

We are born with God-given talents and skills, giftings we can use to help others or serve ourselves. When we decide to follow Jesus and receive His gift of eternal life, the Holy Spirit enhances our natural gifts and gives us abilities to carry out His will.

#5 – Here’s the sticky one for all you Team Jacob members out there. Jacob represents the world – darkness. His name is Jacob Black. He’s always referred to as darkness, in Bella’s dreams and in Alice’s visions. Jacob’s story is entitled New Moon, which is the absence of the moon, the darkest a night can get. Becoming friends with the world inhibits a sold-out commitment to the Perfect Lover. Bella struggles to commit herself solely to the love of her life because of her ties to Jacob. She clings to the things in the darkness that she believes helped her through the wilderness. She wants both, but being friends with the world is to be enemies with God. (James 4:4) Jacob's actions start off innocent enough, but decline as things don't go his way. To win her for himself, Jacob immaturely persuades Bella to remember all the times Edward (seemingly) failed her, but Edward waits with incredible patience (although it does pain him) for her to make a final decision. (Eclipse, pg. 266) Jacob acts selfishly when it comes to Bella, and in an uncomely manner when it comes to Edward. He also retaliates to wounds she inflicts, like when he gets her in trouble with Charlie about the motorcycles. (NM, pg. 553) Jacob appeals to her physically. He knows it and flaunts it. (E, pg. 215) The world will do anything to get you to notice it, to distract you from true love.

Just like Edward is not a complete analogy of Christ, Jacob is not a complete analogy of the world. He has good qualities. He does good things for Bella. In Breaking Dawn, Jacob steps into his calling when he defies Sam’s Alpha authority and accepts his birthright. (BD, pg. 209) That is a powerful scene in and of itself, not having anything to do with the Jacob=world analogy.

#6 - When Bella finally becomes a vampire, her transformation is an intense, grisly, beautiful, and powerful picture of a soul’s metamorphosis. It’s like the Refiner’s Fire, the suffering and cost that goes into becoming that porcelain vessel refined in a kiln’s flames. (BD, pgs. 348-406) This may be my favorite passage in the entire series. After you read it, read Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest, Feb. 6th. (click to read). The comparisons give me goose bumps!

Other aspects of the saga I appreciate…

The romance is pro-marriage. (T, pg. 311; E, pg. 276, 453-56; BD, pg. 16, 50, 83, 93, 478)

The themes are pro-life. (T, pg. 187, 306-07, 343; NM, pg. 428; E, pg. 317; BD, pg. 1-2, 127, 130-38, 189-90, 234, 325-327)

The characters face challenging circumstances that cause them to suffer, yet they overcome instead of retreat into an “everything in life should be easy” point of view.

Each of the Cullens is at a different place on the “vegetarian” lifestyle path. They hold each other accountable. They forgive if one of them slips. They rely on relationships.

I could go on and on… and yet, I know that at some point I should stop. J

I read an interview with the three main actors of the movie, New Moon, Kristen Stewart (Bella), Robert Pattinson (Edward) and Taylor Lautner (Jacob). They were discussing the fan attention Rob gets when he’s recognized in public. Kristen spoke up, saying, “You’re not just any famous person. Edward Cullen is such an icon. When you see people on the street, it’s not just that they feel like they know you. It’s like they need you. You can complete a very personal aspect of their lives.” (Entertainment Weekly, 11-20-09, pg. 32)

Unknowingly, she hit the nail on the head.

Let’s take every opportunity to share with all those fans who think they need Edward Cullen that the real One and Only who can complete that personal aspect of their lives is the Perfect Lover, Jesus Christ.

Friday, I’ll share my thoughts on watching New Moon, arriving in theatres that day. Sold out midnight show… should be an experience! See you then!

(click for next chapter: New Moon movie review)

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Perfect Lover: How Reading a Vampire Book Brought Me Closer to Jesus - An Intimate Relationship with the Perfect Lover

(click for previous chapter: Absolute Provision)

For three weeks, I’ve been sharing how reading a vampire book has brought me closer to Jesus, examining the hero attributes found in most fairy tales but are particularly pronounced in the Twilight Saga.

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE: absolute abandon by someone who forgives every sin, overlooks and/or makes up for every weakness or shortcoming and doesn’t hold a grudge, doesn’t condemn mistakes. This kind of love always involves peril, sacrifice and choice.

UNYIELDING COMMITMENT: a covenant (or promise or treaty or oath) requiring trust as well as trustworthiness. Both parties have a role and a responsibility to fulfill.

TIMELY RESCUE: ultimate action for safety and security long-term, saving from death. The damsel is in helpless distress and the hero is her only chance of salvation.

SACRIFICIAL PROTECTION: Something larger, stronger and more powerful than ourselves plucking us out of harm that comes our way or the messes we get into ourselves.

ABSOLUTE PROVISION: a natural outflow of a relationship in which the giver is more important and sought after than the gift.

Twilight’s Edward displays all of these hero attributes in such a powerful way that he’s become a worldwide heart throb and romantic icon, a modern day Prince Charming. His character has touched a deep, secret place imprinted into our souls that cries out for a Perfect Lover. Everyone, whether they know it or not, crave being the Bella to someone’s Edward in some shape or form. Life, after all, is based on relationships.

The missing link, however, is the awareness that a mere human was never meant to fulfill that desire – not to the extent that Edward did for Bella. But then again, Edward was no mere human. He had been human, but now was something more.

No one here on earth can claim that – that something more part.

But Jesus can.

Jesus’ love, however, is far greater.

He started out as the something more and made a conscious decision to accept human flesh as a permanent garment. I used to think that once He gave His life on the cross and defeated Hell and death, He went home to the Father in the same way He’d come down. Imagine my amazement to learn – the decision to put on humanity was an eternal decision. He will always be both – all God and all man. That impressed on me a whole new understanding of His sacrifice.

We do have human lovers as examples, true, and there should be a degree of reflection of the supernatural relationship we experience with Jesus. It is 'fair' in a sense for women to expect the hero stuff because we were designed to want it, to be cherished and sought and won. And Paul does tell husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. (Eph. 5:25-28)

The problem arises when women expect men, fallen and imperfect, to fulfill the Perfect Lover’s role when we are supposed to rely solely on Jesus for that.

It's a fine line. A circle of expectations in the proper order is a good thing. Getting them out of whack is bad.

We're drawn to Edward because of his masterful demonstration of hero characteristics, but we are out of order when we worship Edward or expect real men to be Edward especially when he doesn't represent real men at all, but the Perfect Lover. On the flip side, we don't worship Jesus for the hero He is because we don't realize or grasp He is the epitome of those hero characteristics.

Being drawn to Edward, or any other romantic hero for that matter, is not bad, as long as we understand why we are drawn and to make the transition from fictional representations to reality… to Jesus Christ.

Two nuggets of awesomeness (yes, I just made that up) stand out as I seek to sum this up.

First nugget - choice is the main ingredient of unconditional love.

Throughout their relationship, Edward leaves Bella’s freedom to choose in tact despite his power and ability to take it away. He limits himself to keep from lording over her. He makes a choice to let her live and then furthermore to keep her alive. Then he gives her a choice, to be friends or not to be friends. Back and forth, they exchange opportunities to choose to serve each other. This is the definition of a relationship built on unconditional love.

Unconditional love ends when choice is removed.

The Truth is God has given us the gift of free will. He has never taken away our freedom of choice when it comes to loving Him. God chose to love/serve us by dying in our place. Our choice is to accept that Love or not. When we choose to accept Him, we gain all the benefits of a relationship with Him. When we choose not to accept Him, we miss out on communion with our Perfect Lover. He still and always loves us. But our choice affects our path.

If Bella had chosen to stay away from Edward at any point during the story, he would not have stopped loving her, but the other benefits of being in a relationship with him would have stopped too. But she did accept him, and from that point on she got the privilege to know him. At the same time, he got the privilege to know her. A relationship formed.

Second nugget – the love of the Perfect Lover frees us to love others.

There are two types of relationships – that which we have with our Perfect Lover, Jesus, and those we have with other humans. They are reflections of each other.

Accepting and knowing we are secure in an intimate relationship with the Perfect Lover, complete with the full benefit package of love, commitment, protection, provision, fills the vacancy in our souls, so we don’t search for human replicas, force unrealistic expectations or accept less than we ought out of desperation or fear. If we fill up with the Real Thing, we’ll overflow with the right things (Gal. 5:22-23). That will always result in love for others, paving the road to happier and healthier human relationships.

That’s what it means to be Christ-like. (Matt. 22:37-39)

I learned something in Sunday School recently. In the Gospels, there are only a handful of times it says that Jesus had to do something (click for word study - had to means must needs to), such as be lifted up on the cross to die. One of those occurrences happened when Jesus traveled from the Jordan River to Galilee by way of Samaria. If you look at a map, Samaria is not exactly on the way from His point A to point B. So why did He take the detour? The Scripture says He had to go to Samaria (Jn. 4:1-26).

The beautiful answer is… He went there to meet the Samaritan woman at the well. Yes, the had to probably had a little to do with Him obeying His Father’s will. But I believe that the had to also applied to the state of His heart, His love for that one woman, the yearning necessity to offer her Living Water personally.

I quiver to think that He felt that way when He found me – that He just had to.

A Lion declaring unconditional love and pledging unyielding commitment to a lamb - what an awesome thing.

I hope you’ve been able to see how reading a vampire book has brought me closer to Jesus.

We’ve got two more days of Twi-blogs! Wednesday the 18th, I’ll highlight a few of the other Biblical analogies I drew from reading the Twilight Saga, including what Jacob represents, who the Volturi really are, and other interesting tidbits.

Friday the 20th, I’ll review the movie version of New Moon opening in theatres that day. I’ve already got my tickets for the 12:01 am show. J

See you then!

(click for next chapter: Extras)

(Post photos from http://photobucket.com/)

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Perfect Lover: How Reading a Vampire Book Brought Me Closer to Jesus - Absolute Provision


Ironically, absolute provision is not about the Gift - it’s all about the Giver.

We all need things. We all want things. No mater what anyone says, we all need a little money now and again, and some of us want a lot of it.

As George Bailey says, in It’s a Wonderful Life after Clarence the Angel tells him they don’t use money in Heaven, “Well, it comes in pretty handy down here, Bub!” Indeed.

In our culture, we’re either programmed to provide for ourselves or to allow others to provide for us. Neither way, however, results in absolute provision. A bond must exist, one measured in fathoms – the deeper the relationship, the greater the provision.

There’s a natural progression to a romantic relationship in this regard based on the level of affection – friends “go Dutch” – a dating couple exchange gifts of affection yet it’s inappropriate to join bank accounts at this stage – after the ultimate commitment (betrothal/marriage) come the ultimate gifts… physical, financial, tangible, mental/emotional, etc..

But, it’s not fair to ask for the white picket fence from someone you just want to be friends with. The greater the intimacy, the greater the gifts/provision. (Every provision is a gift on some level.)

Today, we misunderstand the art of giving. It’s become a trade – if someone gets me something worth $50, I feel I ought to give that person something of similar value. That’s not gift-giving – that’s an obligation and/or entitlement.

We’ve all heard, - it’s not the gift, but the thought that counts. There’s some truth in that – but only if the thought is sincere and truly born of the heart.

We’ve also heard – giving is better than receiving. Well, that all depends on how you look at it. What they forgot to tell us is that both are important.

The gift does not depend on the deservedness of the giftee or the greatness of the giver. Receiving is as great an art as giving. Great people can be crappy givers. The lowliest of rascals can be the most gracious receivers.

It comes down to intent and thankfulness.

Edward possesses all the characteristics of a great giver –honorable intent, desire born of love, unlimited resources.

The Cullens are loaded financially – spending money is of no consequence to Edward even though he doesn’t do it ostentatiously. So, resources are not a problem.

Desire isn’t lacking – he desperately (though quietly) wants to provide for her – car, college, birthday presents. It’s the one thing he can do that doesn’t cause him any pain!

He’s clear on intent because his only motivation springs from unconditional love and unyielding commitment – he has no plans to use giving to lord over or manipulate her.

So what’s stopping him?

Bella is – the givee. She’s a horrible receiver.

This causes conflict and stalls the progress of their relationship.

Her main rationalization turns out to be a massive inferiority complex, although she puts a nice spin on it. Edward didn’t seem to understand why I objected to him spending money on me… But how could I let him give me things when I had nothing to reciprocate with? He, for some unfathomable reason, wanted to be with me. Anything he gave me on top of that just threw us more out of balance. (NM, pg. 13)

Perfectly justified in her own understanding, she outright refuses the one hero attribute she’s capable of resisting. She blocks his desire to give and thus robs his joy.

To Bella’s credit, she doesn’t hurt him intentionally. If she realized what she was doing, she’d probably be mortified since her every waking breath depends on him. But she’s so self-depreciating, she believes the misconceptions about herself, Edward and their relationship. She just couldn’t grasp how her actions could deprive amazing, perfect, divine Edward of anything.

That’s not her only problem, though, because there is something that she wants – essentially, the white picket fence on the basis of their current relationship status.

And for Edward, it’s not an acceptable trade off.

She wants to become like him, a vampire, which basically freezes her life in time and space. She’d never age or change or die. She could be forever young with her love. Thing is, she wants Edward to change her – to be the one to give her that eternal life.

For reasons too complex to go into here, Edward does not desire this outcome for her. It’s not that he doesn’t love her or want her around for eternity, but he has a few personal issues with his state of being that take him outside of the analogy I’m trying to draw here. That’s not important to the point. The point is, he agrees to her request…

On one condition! He’ll change her, but only if she marries him first. (NM, pg. 539)

It’s not a condition of his love. He loves her unconditionally and that won’t change no matter what she does/decides.

But the gift she asked for went beyond the level of intimacy they had attained. She’s not even accepting the gifts appropriate to their current relationship status, why should he grant her something so entirely significant without a deeper level of intimacy?

I love this because it's a beacon in our modern world. Today, intimacy is cheap. Access to greater, more sacred gifts is granted so easily, without thought to their value, without care of true commitment, love, or intimacy.

Bella grew up believing marriage stood for bondage (that’s a sum up, but it’s the gist). She didn’t know that committing herself solely before giving herself wholly could possibly turn out to be a good thing. But Edward knew. And he didn’t want her to miss it. So he withheld something she wanted, a big, ultimate thing she wanted, to encourage her to take the plunge into a greater existence – not just the living eternally part, but the deeper, intimate relationship of husband/wife part.

It was about the giver, not the gift. Bella needed to realize that first.

What a poignant and maybe surprising perspective of our Perfect Lover, Jesus.

For starters, Jehovah Jireh (Gen. 22:8), which means Provider, is loaded! Resources are definitely not an issue. And I think that’s easy enough to grasp.

But do we believe God desires to provide for us, and that His intentions are a natural overflow of love? (Isa. 64:4; Jn. 10:10)

Maybe it’s not that you don’t think God is great enough to give. Maybe you’re a resistant receiver.

Maybe you’re self-depreciating like Bella, and you resist the provision God wishes to bestow out of false humility, feelings of unworthiness or self-righteousness.

Maybe you want the ultimate gift of eternal life, but are unwilling to dive into an intimate relationship with Jesus – to follow His commands, read His word, walk with Him daily.

Maybe you’re willing and trying, but depending too much on your own understanding, worrying, fearing, disobeying, not trusting His promises.

Maybe your focus is too much on the gift, and not enough on the Giver.

Jesus’ love letter to us says, “Seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matt. 6:33) He’s saying – Look here! Focus on me. Love me. Have relationship with me. Don’t you think that out of that intimate communion, I won’t provide everything you need because I love you?

Some of us don’t know because so much about love is learned through experiences and so many of our human experiences are bad, harmful even. But Jesus also says, “You parents – if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? If they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So, if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matt. 7:9-11) The comparison here is parents, but it can also be applied to lovers.

There are so many more Bible verses begging for us to hear our Perfect Lover’s giving heart I can’t write them all here. But I’ll reference a few and encourage you to look into them. Also, study the Old Testament characters (Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Hannah, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Job… just to scratch the surface!) and look how God provided for them - because He did – every time.

1 Kings chs. 17-19 – Ps. 37:25Ps. 50:10Ps. 121Psalm 144Jer. 29:11Matt. 6:25-34 - Matt. 7:7-122 Cor. 9:8Eph. 3:20-21 - Phil. 4:19Heb. 4:162 Pet. 1:3

There are so many out there desperate for some sort of provision– financial, physical, emotional – and are at the end of their ropes. You may feel like your Perfect Lover can’t hear or doesn’t care (perhaps like Bella when Edward went away for a while in NM).

Don’t give up! Hold fast! He does hear and He does care, and He wants us to trust that He will be our absolute provider. Seek Him first, tend the relationship between the two of you, and He will take care of all the rest.

I’d say I promise, but the better and more accurate thing to say is -

He promised.

(click for next chapter: An Intimate Relationship with the Perfect Lover)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Perfect Lover: How Reading a Vampire Book Brought Me Closer to Jesus - Sacrificial Protection



To start, I must give a heartfelt shout out of thanks to all of the VETERANS out there – speaking of sacrificial protection!
Thank you for making life as we know it possible.
GOD BLESS YOU & YOUR FAMILIES!


The rockin’ new band, Abandon (click here for their site), has a song with this line: This world is crazy and it’s not the safest place to be.

Now, that’s putting it plainly.

Pretty much on a daily basis, we need Something larger, stronger and more powerful than ourselves to pluck us out of the harm that comes our way…or the messes we get ourselves into.

In Twilight, Bella is portrayed as a clumsy girl, getting herself into precarious predicaments without even trying. She slips and stumbles, faints and falters. Edward tells her, “Ordinary people seem to make it through the day without so many catastrophes.” (Twilight, pg. 174) From relatively minor incidents such as on blood typing day in Biology class when he comes to her rescue with gentlemanly instincts learned from over a century of practice,

to more perilous situations like the appearance of the non-vegetarian vamps on the baseball field when he prepares to fight for her safety, Edward offers himself as a shield between Bella and a dangerous world.

My favorite example of this comes at the end of New Moon, which I didn’t want to mention yet, but it’s such a poignant picture I can’t wait to share.

After a long separation (which Edward instigated at great sacrifice to himself and for her protection, incidentally), Edward and Bella are reunited but find themselves in immediate danger, in the dungeons of the Voltari, the vampires’ ruling class who are not at all like the Cullens in their “vegetarian” eating habits. They have the authority to punish and the capacity to inflict pain. Aro, one of the vampire princes, commands Jane, one of his most powerful followers, to try her special ability on Bella, a trick that makes the victim feel like they are in excruciating pain without actually causing physical pain.

Edward doesn’t hesitate. In fact, he jumps the gun since he can read their minds, and throws himself in between Jane and Bella, taking on every bit of the agony himself. This scene is packed full of other analogies, but I don’t want to get too far down a rabbit trail. Right now, the point is, he took on the pain meant for her so that she would not have to go through it. (New Moon, pg. 474-75)

His aim is to do this every time suffering threatens her, but she ends up experiencing pain nevertheless. Either she makes a decision preventing it or the circumstances in her physical world come between them. For example, if Bella had trusted Edward when he said, “Bella, don’t you dare waste time worrying about me. Your only concern is keeping yourself safe and – please, please – trying not to be reckless,” (T, pg. 398) she wouldn’t have tried to handle the James-situation on her own, expose herself to danger, trust a deceitful phone call. But she didn’t trust the right voice and she did get in trouble. And although she suffered, physically and emotionally, Edward still pursued and protected her.

During the course of the Twilight Saga, Edward saves Bella over and over and over… and over. Although I know some who find that infuriating and irritating, I think it wonderful and telling on many levels. First, it says a lot about Edward that he continues to rescue her with patience, long-suffering, tenderness. Second, it says a lot about humans – we are in constant need of rescuing. We just don’t like to admit it sometimes.

Other times, we are starkly aware of it.

Can you name a time in your life when something tragic should have happened but you were spared?

Oh, I can.

Have you glimpsed the world of close calls and somehow known a shield protected you?

I have.

Satan prowls around like a lion, seeking to destroy us. (1 Peter 5:8) His attacks come in spiritual as well as physical and emotional forms. Without God’s covering, we are vulnerable to his attacks and left defenseless to fight back. We need His protection.

Jesus does this and more for us. His Word is full of promises designed to protect us if only we’d trust Him enough to follow His instructions. When we take matters into our own hands, we suffer consequences. But He doesn’t leave us there. He’s there to protect us from that point on, help us through the pain. (Psalm 34)

Let’s take King David as an example. The Bible says he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) David and God shared an intimate, holy, close, honest, love relationship. David trusted God enough to slay Goliath the Giant and lead a mighty band of men through great battles on his way to the throne of Israel.

However, David suffered… a lot. Just to get to the palace, he endured the world’s deluge of danger - accusations, battles, death threats, just to name a few. The Psalms, though, are packed full of David’s testimony that throughout it all, God protected him, pursued him, gave him success in battle, rescued him from his enemies. Once he got the hang of being king, though, he strayed from his Love for a time, which led to specific and devastating sins. Does Bathsheba ring a bell? (2 Sam. 11)

Yet, through all of that, God pursued and protected David. Because of David’s repentance and God’s grace, their relationship survived and thrived. God still recorded in His Word that David was a man after His heart.

Jesus offered the ultimate sacrificial protection when He threw Himself under the weight of our sin. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8) When Satan threatened us with unbearable torment – even death - Jesus took it all on Himself, suffering greatly in the process.

I get the shivers when I read about Edward protecting Bella, especially when he’s writhing on the floor under Jane’s powers, because I see Jesus and the amazing sacrifice He’s endured to protect me.

Our God, our Perfect Lover, is so kind. He even hovers near by in case we faint in Biology class.

(click for next chapter: Absolute Provision)

Photos used in Dry Ground posts courtesy of Photobucket.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Perfect Lover: How Reading a Vampire Book Brought Me Closer to Jesus - Timely Rescue


How many of you get chills when Edward uses his hand to stop the van from crushing Bella? (Twilight, pg. 56) Do you catch your breath when his shiny, silver Volvo screeches around the corner at exactly the right moment to prevent the Port Angeles thugs from acting on their vile thoughts? (T, pg. 161) Does your heart skip a beat when Edward saves Bella, not only from James killing her, but from his venom as well, sucking out the poison from her blood at great sacrifice and suffering to himself? (T, pg. 455-56)

These timely rescues thrill us because Bella’s life is on the line. If Edward hadn’t intervened, she’d have been done for… and the story would have ended. But we’re on the edge of our seat nonetheless just in case Stephanie Meyer is into killing off main characters. We’re breathless with anticipation because we’ve invested, and more importantly, we’ve identified with Bella… the human.

If we found ourselves in an eminently life-threatening, uncontrollable circumstance, what in the world would we do?

Have you found yourself in an eminently life-threatening, uncontrollable circumstance? An accident, like the van? The result of personal decisions landing you in scary situations, like the thugs in Port Angeles? The victim of a world dominated by an enemy plotting to do you harm, like James?

For us non-fictional characters, our safety is in jeopardy in two dimensions. The world of time and space, what happens to us on a daily basis, is dangerous. Each of us has experienced a selection of different physical and emotional scrapes and bruises resulting from our participation in life. To keep those to a minimum, we need the hero attribute sacrificial protection, which I talk about next post.

But one danger, the one in the eternal dimension, we all face without exception. A timely rescue is necessary for our safety and security after life on earth is over. But we need it to show up now in response to the threat actively working to keep us from ever forming a relationship with our Love.

Part of the threat is the devil, but it’s not just an outside attack. The enemy’s job is to convince us that what really causes our plight doesn’t exist. (Gen. 3:4) In our society today, his quest has become easier and easier because no one wants to admit that the deadly circumstance we all face – the basic human malady – is our sin. (Rom. 3:23) We are in peril because we are fallen human beings who do wrong. Sin produces death. And there’s nothing we can do about it. We are not good, smart or strong enough to avoid or beat it.

We are truly the fairy tale’s damsel in distress, helpless Bella, in desperate need of a timely rescue – the Hero showing up before it’s too late.

We need… saved.

It’s not just a plot line in a fairy tale. It is a condition of our reality.

John 3:16 – It’s become a joke… the guy at the NFL game or in a spoofy beer commercial, holding up a sign with this reference. It’s the one verse we all had to memorize in vacation Bible school, if you got to experience that. It’s been read and reread for a couple thousand years now, and our medial brains have started to skim over the words with automatic apathy.

But the Truth is still as powerful, as sharp, as penetrating in those Words as when they were recorded. Read that verse out loud and receive it as a Lover’s sweet utterance of devotion. It is the key to the timely rescue Jesus provided for us when our life was on the line. (Rom. 5:8)

Think of it this way…

Imagine Jesus stopping the van with his hand…

Jesus in the shiny Volvo…

Jesus cleansing your blood through His sufferings.

We all have venom in our blood called sin, and if it weren’t for Jesus, we’d die from the poison. His appearance in our lives is timely and essential for us. His actions on our behalf were not as easy as we like to believe or choose to remember. Excruciating is more like it. (John 19)

In Twilight, depicted well in the book but even better in the movie (for once), Edward saves Bella from James’ venom by sucking it out of her blood, like first aide for a rattlesnake bite. Remember that just the smell of Bella’s blood causes Edward great anguish. So even thinking about tasting it would require colossal self-control at the same time inducing severe suffering to abstain from giving into his scorching thirst. He makes a deliberate choice, knowing full well that it was going to hurt… a lot.

Edward’s expression is tortured even as he saves his love because he is doing it at a high cost to himself. He cleanses her blood, taking it on himself, suffering in the process, but giving her life.

I’m so moved by this scene because as I watch (or read) it, I picture the parallel of what Jesus did for me.

Our response should be like Bella’s in the hospital: I’m alive because of You.

With that in mind, try reading John 3:16 just one more time.

(click for next chapter: Sacrificial Protection)

Photos used in Dry Ground posts courtesy of Photobucket.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Perfect Lover: How Reading a Vampire Book Brought Me Closer to Jesus - Unyielding Commitment

(click for previous chapter: Unconditional Love, part 2)


Unconditional love is founded in suffering, a cost, like the seeds of a tree are planted in dirt and must die before sprouting. But like that tree, unconditional love bears amazing, delectable fruit evident in how Edward treats Bella, reflecting how Jesus treats us. The other hero attributes are the fruits from the tree of unconditional love, and the first one to bloom is unyielding commitment.

Another word for it is covenant. According to Merriam-Webster, that’s a “usually formal, solemn and binding agreement.” A covenant (or promise or treaty or oath) requires trust as well as trustworthiness. Both parties have a role and a responsibility to fulfill.

This happens in the meadow for Edward and Bella. First, she trusts him enough to go alone with him without telling anyone else about it. She exercises an act of faith. She continues to trust him even as they drive to the secret destination he has in mind. He says, “Now we drive until the pavement ends.” (Twilight, pg. 254) And she does, no questions asked. As they hike through the woods, off the beaten path, he leads but goes at her pace. When they get close enough and the destination is clear, he lets her lead. All acts of trust and faith.

The meadow represents a sort of holy of holies, a sacred, private, intimate place of revelation in which Edward shares his secrets with Bella. While they are there, they commune on a level they have not yet experienced together. And it is in the meadow that Edward makes a promise … never to hurt her. The meadow is their sanctuary. A seal is placed over their relationship that binds them together almost supernaturally.

In the Old Testament, God reaches down from Heaven to form a covenant with Abraham. (Gen. 15) detailing extensive responsibilities for each party. This covenant was motivated by love and fulfilled by faith.

Later, when the Israelites built a tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, the most sacred dwelling place of The Ark of the Covenant, was an intimate yet dangerous place. Only one special person, the high priest, was allowed in the special inner sanctum on one special day of the year. (Do you get the part about it being special?) The high priest wore a robe with bells on the hem (Ex.28:33-34) and a rope around his ankle so that the other priests could pull his body out if something happened to him since they were not permitted to go into the Holy of Holies for any reason. (click here for more info.)

The meeting consisted of God and one person.

Wo.

In the New Testament, Jesus’ death on the cross produced entry into the inner sanctum for you and me. In fact, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the world ripped apart, a physical and symbolic message from God Almighty. (Matt. 27:50-51) Still, the meeting between us and God is one-on-one, even more intimate, actually, because we can experience it for ourselves, not through a surrogate or high priest.

We could have made the analogy if we just had the Old Testament. But with the New Covenant because of what Jesus did for us…

I’ll say it again. Wo.

Jesus draws us to His meadow, His holy of holies, an intimate place, because He wants to reveal more of who He is, a desire born out of a love relationship. He asks us to trust Him, place our faith in Him, follow His lead, go to the sacred place with Him. It’s an “off the path” journey that is sometimes difficult and exhausting, but it leads to an incredible, breath-taking, magnificent, beautiful meadow where He shows us His glory (think: skin shimmering like diamonds in sunlight).

At the end of meadow scene in which Edward promises Bella never to hurt her, the infamous line occurs: “So the lion fell in love with the lamb.” (Twilight, pg. 274)

Interesting choice of words.

In the Bible, Jesus is referred to as the Lion of Judah, and we humans are often compared to lambs. Not masochistic or stupid, as expressed in our fairy tale (okay, maybe the lambs are still stupid, just not for loving the lion), but the other characteristics can certainly be applied.

A Lion pledging unyielding commitment to a lamb is an awesome thing.

Have a good weekend. Tune in Monday, though, because we're not done! Read How Reading a Vampire Book Brought Me Closer to Jesus and showed me a thing or two about timely rescue.

See you then!

(click for next chapter: Timely Rescue)