Friday, November 30, 2012

Rise of the Guardians

Much more than just another holiday movie, Rise of the Guardians paints a beautiful, entertaining, symbolic picture of faith verses fear that impressed me very much.
The focal character of the story is Jack Frost. He awakes from what he can only explain as ‘darkness’ sporting special abilities given him by the moon. But Mr. Moon will not verbalize his intentions or Jack’s purpose. So, for 300 years, he causes mischief, but not all the bad kind. He has an uncanny way of helping kids smile.
One day, due to some sinister doings of the Boogy Man himself, Pitch Black, Jack is called on to become a Guardian, joining a team of like legends including – Santa Claus (they call him ‘North’), the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy. Jack is unconvinced that he has anything in common with such company, and is still a bit miffed at the Man in the Moon for telling the Guardians about his purpose instead of just telling him. However, he sticks around long enough to discover more about himself and his calling in life than he could ever imagined or hoped for.
While the story is not groundbreaking or completely original, two things stand out and make this film masterful. First, clever characterization of well-known and well-loved holiday icons brings them to life in a whole new way. I mean, who can resist an Easter bunny voiced by Hugh Jackman, more jack rabbit than Peter Cottontail, who has serious ninja moves with those magic boomerangs? Oh yeah… that’s what I’m talking about!
The second thing is its animation, especially seen as intended in digital. Crisp, sparkling, perfection. It is dazzling to watch, to experience.
What I like most, though, is the message. Faith eclipses fear – simple as that, but demonstrated in a clear, tangible, magical way. And before you get too hung up on the ‘magical’ part or the concern that this story glorifies secular representations of a couple sacred holidays, I see the band of Guardians more as characters each representing an aspect or trait of the One True God. Taken as a whole, taken symbolically, the Truth is present. Vivid, even.
So… truly a film the whole family can enjoy, I suggest you make a date to see Rise of the Guardians.
Happy Weekending, Dry Ground friends! Be blessed!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Oldie but a Goodie

The Road Not Taken – by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.

(photo by yours truly)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Musing I Hope’s Not Confusing

I love that God created us with so many different personalities and expressions thereof. And that our relationships with Him are so individual and personalized. And that our standing with Him does not depend on us having a certain personality or the diversity of our personalities, but depends completely on His character and love and unchanging holiness.
Let’s take the subject of Thanksgiving, since we are coming off the annual weekend of gratitude. How do you express thanks to God? Are you loud and demonstrative? Or reserved yet sincere? Does thanks come in the form of tears perhaps? Or shouts? Or maybe just a smile of true contentment?
Here are two historical occurrences, recorded in the Bible, about two different but equally thankful people whom Jesus touched in a profound way.
First is the story of the tenth leper found in Luke chapter 17. (CLICK to read the whole story) Basically, ten lepers were standing on the side of the road, far enough away to comply with the laws of the day concerning those suffering from this highly contagious and debilitating disease. All ten were calling out to Jesus as He passed, begging for mercy. Jesus healed them and they went on their way rejoicing. Of the ten, only one went back to Jesus after being cleared by the priest (the official ‘proof’ or seal of being healed) and demonstrated his thankfulness by falling at Jesus’ feet and shouting in a loud voice His praises to God. If we had any concept of the magnitude of his healing, we could understand why this man made such an outward show of his thanks.
Second story is of the woman with the alabaster jar found in Luke 7. (CLICK to read the whole story) Though still a public display, this woman, who had led a sinful life, anointed Jesus feet and head with very expensive oil then shed tears of gratitude over Him and dried them away with her own hair. Overcome by the love Jesus had shown her in forgiving a life she had always known was unforgivable, her heartfelt demonstration of thanks involved tears, not shouts.
I believe both of these people were equally thankful. Their expressions, though different, showed the depths of their gratitude, the sincerity of their changed hearts. Neither expression impressed Jesus more or less. Each touched Him on the individual basis of His relationship with them.
I guess what I’m trying to say is people are different and God is holy. There’s one true God who is the same yesterday, today and forever. He doesn’t change. But we are all different, as designed by this one true God, and our expressions of love and thanks will be as unique as our own fingerprints and heartbeats. We get mixed up sometimes, placing ourselves in the center, having everyone else, including God, revolve around us and how we see things. This not only skews our perspective of God and temps us to mold Him into our image (totally backwards) but also puts us at odds with people.
I am not trying erase right and wrong here. The opposite actually. I’m trying to say that God has right and wrong in His possession. We have the freedom to celebrate Him and commune with Him on an individual, intimate basis.
When we grasp this, we might just start to love people as God wishes we would.
Happy Monday, Dry Ground friends! Be blessed!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The Bible uses the words ‘thank,’ ‘thanks,’ ‘thanksgiving,’ and ‘praise’ hundreds of times. Why do you think that is?
Well, the easy answer is that it is because God wants us to be thankful – all the time no matter what.
That’s true.
But from a human perspective, that seems as unobtainable as the command that we be ‘perfect’ as Christ is perfect.
Funny thing I learned – that’s true too.
The unobtainable part. It is impossible to be perfect without Jesus, which is the point. I wonder why humanity’s quest from the beginning of time has been to be perfect alone?
That’s a different subject. My question is why does the Bible implore us so much to be thankful? Is it just another bar set too high that we wave up at from flat on our backs?
Nope. I don’t think so.
God tells us to thank and praise in all things because He knows that life is going to hit us hard, throw up roadblocks, demolish our house of cards. He knows. And so… He lovingly and mercifully equips us to combat the blues that accompany the hard knocks of life. In telling us to thank and praise in all things, He’s telling us how to survive and be victorious over the rough patches, the sad moments, even the unthinkably catastrophic.
Because we are humans with limited perspective and intense emotions, giving thanks is often the very last thing we think of doing or want to do. It is hard to give thanks. I can think of some situations different people I know are going through, and boy oh boy, giving thanks is definitely not on the agenda if I were them.
However, God’s Word tells us to do it because it works. Thanksgiving, gratitude, and praise are the only remedy for a broken heart. How intimately loving of the Father to give us such a tool.
While it is lovely to gather with family and friends during the Thanksgiving Holiday, eat, lounge, play, nap, and list off the things you are thankful for, resolve to maintain an attitude of gratitude all year long. It is the best way to ensure life, and life more abundant.
Happy Thanksgiving, Dry Ground friends!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Breaking Dawn part 2 Movie Review

(CLICK HERE for the previous chapter of How Reading a Vampire Book Gave Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit)
The theatrical conclusion to the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn 2, comes in a gift-wrapped box with a tidy bow. But that’s just a disguise for the jack-in-the-box surprise. The result signs, seals and delivers an exciting finale for not only die-hard Twi-fans but also movie-goers in general, providing much more action and better effects than anyone expected.
Perhaps the reason this film works has something to do with the camaraderie of the cast. It looked like a family reunion – just not of all the obscure, awkward relatives. Here we have all the beautiful people, used to each other, fond of each other, and aware that this is the last one. They have proven all that’s needed, relaxing them into better versions of themselves. It’s much easier to watch and it presents the story in a purer way. Of course, it helps that the new additions are cut from the same cloth.
Fans of the book will see key scenes, including Bella’s arm wrestling match with Emmett. The pace has a Goldilocks doing the tango feel – sometimes too slow (too much standing around), sometimes too fast (skipping or condensing elements that would have been nice to see), but much of the time just right (covering all the bases perfectly).
The ‘twist’ everyone is talking about isn’t really what I’d call a twist. I hope I’m not spoiling anything to define it more as an ‘interpretation.’ And it works. Gasps sound collectively across the theatre, the intended reaction I’m sure, and I must admit I admire its cleverness. Not only for its shock value, but because it translated a story that occurs chiefly in Bella’s head into the visible world of action.
I had a few favorite moments. Carter Burwell returns to score, adding familiar melodies that lace each of the movies together to embody the true sense of the word ‘saga.’ Billy Burke, who plays Bella’s father Charlie Swan, has little screen time, but his moments are classic Charlie and add well-timed smiles. I love how they did the final scene during which, as those who read the book know, Edward reads Bella’s mind for the first time. It serves as a surprisingly non-cheesy recap of the entire saga, leaving the audience with the appropriate warm-fuzzy, lovey feeling. And then the credits impressed me as they showed picture and name of all the cast members in each of the five films. I thought that was classy.
Well, that’s a wrap! Thanks for taking this journey with me, Dry Ground friends. It has truly meant a lot to me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

As surprising as it may be to you, Dry Ground friends, there are a few things I consider more valuable than catching the first showing of a Twilight movie. *smile* See, we've been battling a bug in our household for the past week. It is so close to being gone, that I did not want to jeopardize health and consequently an event scheduled for Sunday that I'm very much looking forward to. Therefore, I did not stay up all night to watch Breaking Dawn 2 last night. I will see it soon, though, and I expect an review to be posted here by Monday morning.

In the meantime, and I wanted a chance to share this anyway so in my POV it works out just right, listen to this Mercy Me song from their latest album. Keeping in mind the Twilight Saga and the blog posts here about it and the real story we're invited to live with our Perfect Lover Jesus, I felt strongly that this song summed it up perfectly. "Just when I I'd seen it all, new mercy breaks the dawn...with my eyes open wide..." Well, you'll hear, and the lyrics are included. I hope you enjoy. And then listen again and take it to heart.

Happy Weekending, DG Friends! Be blessed!
(photo by

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How Reading a Vampire Book Showed Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit - Made New

(CLICK HERE for previous chapter.)
Up to this point, the Breaking Dawn story has been wrought with pain and suffering. While reading, you wonder if the beloved and the lover will ever have peace, a happily ever after, the dawning of a day that leave all storms behind. In such a story, I have garnered a picture of the Holy Spirit, and thus perhaps also given the impression that pain and suffering is all you get when you allow Him into your life.

Because in that darkest hour, when the unbearable fire rages on and you experience a misery that is beyond comprehension or explanation, you cry out to a God you used to think was Great and Good. And yet here you burn. Unmercifully. At that moment, where is the evidence that God is Love, that He cares, that His Word – like when He says all things work together for your good – is true? What proof can you point to, in that agonizing moment, that God isn’t dead, or if He isn’t that he hasn’t abandoned you? That, in His sovereignty, He’s allowed this fiery ordeal, this heinous trial, this catastrophic calamity and yet still desires for you to Praise Him? How can you trust a God like that?
I can answer that by pointing to the Breaking Dawn story.
Consider Edward’s motives for injecting his searing, painful, fiery venom into Bella’s veins. #1 - to save her life. #2 - something she willingly desired, to transform her into his likeness. So it is with our Perfect Lover Jesus.
You see, Bella wakes up from this death. And when she does, she’s perfect, whole, improved, transformed. In a manner of speaking, she’s ‘sanctified.’ Her old self has been burnt up and all that remains is her new, indestructible, immortal self.
The first thing she says is, “Everything was so clear.” What she means is that every sense has improved a million percent. She hears everything all at once but distinctly, near and far. She smells fragrances in the air including the essences of her family members surrounding her. She tastes everything she smells which just enhances its impact. She feels every fiber and texture to its individual cell, its precise temperature. And she sees every detail down to the dust motes floating in shafts of sunshine. Although she marvels at the fact that there is so much to look at, she knows that “Edward’s face was the most important thing…” Here’s how she describes it:
The greater part of my senses and my mind were still focused on Edward’s face. I had never seen it before this second. … I may as well have been blind. For the first time, with the dimming shadows and limiting weakness of humanity taken off my eyes, I saw his face. I gasped… I needed better words.” (BD, pg. 390)
It reminded me of… 1 Corinthians 13:12 – “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” This verse talks about the moment we wake up in Heaven, having passed through literal death into the eternal life He’s promised, and being able to see clearly. Without the encumbrances of this fallen world and our sinful selves, we’ll be able to see our Perfect Lover as He’s always been – perfect in love. And like Bella, our first words to Him will undoubtedly be – I love You.
But the hope of Heaven is not the only hope we have. We also awaken in this life to newness within the process of sanctification. From each trial we face, we emerge stronger, wiser, connected on a deeper level with our Perfect Lover, equipped with gifts to benefit the fellowship of believers and witness to the lost. While the pain of our experiences never fully subsides, perhaps like Bella’s scorching bloodlust thirst that constantly burns in her throat, our new selves are improved and capable of much more than we ever thought possible. While we still face barriers and resistance, like Bella having to defend her family and the Truth of Renesmee to the Volturi, we are better equipped to stand in the power of our Perfect Lover having been filled with His Holy Spirit. Without having experienced the fire, we would be defenseless against life’s oppositions, just as Bella would have been in the battle at the end of Breaking Dawn without having first been transformed into a vampire – if she hadn’t become ‘like’ her perfect lover.
The dual illustration in this story allows us a perspective on our process of sanctification that begins the moment we accept our Perfect Lover’s hand in covenant union and lasts into and throughout eternity. It’s the picture of the reality we experience as we are transformed from mortal to immortal, destructible to indestructible, sin-full to purified by holy fire – all because of the perfect love our Perfect Lover has for us.
Let me conclude with this – please take the time to read it because it says it all:
“There are also bodies in the heavens and bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies. The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory.
It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.
The Scriptures tell us, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person.’ But the last Adam – that is, Christ – is a life-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made form the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.
What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” 1 Corinthians 15:40-58
Well, one thing remains – review of the final Twilight Saga movie – Breaking Dawn part 2, which I hope to have here on Friday. See you then! Be blessed, Dry Ground friends!
CLICK HERE for my review of the movie!
(photos by

Monday, November 12, 2012

How Reading a Vampire Book Showed Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit - ...and Then Comes Death in the Land of the Living

CLICK HERE for previous chapter.
1 Peter 4:12-13 – Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

 If you’ve never experienced a ‘fiery ordeal’ (I call it ‘death in the land of the living’), it will be difficult to comprehend this section. More than a wilderness experience, more than a simple test of faith or commitment, this purification process is like metamorphosis. A complete and forever change resulting in becoming ‘like’ the Perfect Lover.  
Bella has just delivered Renesmee, quite unconventionally, leaving her split open, broken and dying. Edward, however, has injected his venom – a.k.a. Agent Change and, might I add, a physical part of himself that is also the essence or ‘spirit’ of what makes him who he is– into Bella’s heart. He also has administered a massive dose of morphine in hopes that the fire of his venom making the change will not agonize her as much as is expected.
But, as we find out, that just makes matters worse because it paralyzes and forces her to suffer everything without an outlet, completely silent and still. Note, in the case of Agent Change, any attempt to lessen pain usually makes it worse.
Anyway, at this point in the story, we switch back to Bella’s perspective. So, even though her family only sees an unmoving and unresponsive Bella lying on a hospital bed, we get a first hand look at how she is feeling during this process transforming her from human to vampire, from mortal to immortal, to become ‘like’ her perfect lover.
Her first thoughts – “The pain was bewildering.”
Though she tries to divorce herself from it, she describes reality as feeling like, “…being sawed in half, hit by a bus, punched by a prize-fighter, trampled by bulls, and submerged in acid… all at the same time.” (BD, p369) While attempting to make sense of what she calls ‘torture,’ she can’t remember the importance of enduring it.
Oh… but right at that moment, she visualizes an image of Renesmee. The gift of life she fought for. The thought doesn’t ease her suffering, but the memory gives her hope.
Still, misery rages on. To her, it feels like blackness, a crushing weight, a fire so hot that ripping her heart out seemed preferable – anything to stop the pain. She lamented the immobilizing morphine, because “If I couldn’t scream, how could I tell them to kill me? All I wanted was to die.” (BD, p377) This continues for what to Bella seems like eternity. The only change comes when agony increases, doubled she says.
Oh… but right at that moment, she feels “some broken connection had been healed – knitted together by the scorching fingers in the flame.” (BD p378) She might not realize it just then, but her mortal injuries (i.e. broken spine) have just been mended. Painful as it is, the process is leading her toward restored, whole life.
However, all she feels is continuous, raging fire searing her insides.
Oh… but then she makes a discovery – she feels stronger. This is how she describes it:
Though the fire had not decreased one tiny degree – in fact I began to develop a new capacity for experiencing it, new sensitivity to appreciate, separately, each blistering tongue of flame that licked through my veins – I discovered that I could think around it… I could remember the reason why I’d committed to enduring this unendurable agony. I could remember that, though it felt impossible now, there was something that might be worth the torture… This happened just in time to hold on…”  (BD, p378)
The change is significant, because, she says, “…it felt like I’d gone from being tied to the stake as I burned, to gripping that stake to hold myself in the fire.” Though more difficult than anything she’d experienced, and more painful than anything she’d ever faced – even evil vampire James breaking her leg with his bare hands back in book one – Bella finds determination to complete the process, to desire any and all pain necessary to accomplish becoming ‘like’ her perfect lover.
The other significant difference is now that she has regained some of her senses, allowing her to reach a little outside herself for the first time since the process began, she hears Edward next to her. She realizes and is comforted by the fact that he is present and has been the whole time. His love has never wavered, and he’s been watching over her during each agonizing second.
I get so emotional at this point in the story because I know exactly how Bella feels. No, I’ve never had vampire venom coursing through my veins, but I have experienced fiery ordeals that left me identifying too closely with her. From the intensity to the never-ending duration, I’ve experienced that overwhelming load and darkness and searing pain that left me wishing for death, begging for anything short of ripping out my heart for relief. Not physical pain, I am so thankful to report (though some people do suffer physical maladies as part of their refining). But emotional, mental, spiritual – oh, yea, I’ve felt the flames. And just when I thought trouble was about to stop, or should stop, that I deserved for it to stop, hardship intensified, doubled in weight, felt like despair was about to crush my spirit if not my entire life.
During those fiery ordeals, the last thing I wanted to remember was 1 Peter 4. In fact, I am surprised to be feeling so forlorn and attacked. I’m not rejoicing for being singled out for trials I didn’t request or initiate. And I’m certainly not looking forward to nor am I interested at all in sharing in God’s glory. At the time, in the midst of misery, all I want is rescue from suffering. Adding insult to injury, I felt isolated, alone, forgotten, paralyzed, like no one understood what I was going through, nor did they care. I know now, of course, that’s not necessarily true, but in the heat of agony, I doubted everything and everyone. Including my Perfect Lover.
However, I experienced occasional moments of respite – anything from a kind word from the Taco Bell cashier to a surprise letter in the mail with a restaurant gift card tucked in – evidence of mercy like Bella remembering Renesmee, urging me along with glimpses of hope. Then, in the midst of the flames, I’d learn something – inspired from a sermon or a book or a movie - that healed wounds from my past, like the venom mending Bella’s spine. And after a long, long while, I learned I had a much deeper capacity for pain than I ever imagined. I realized I possessed God’s strength to weather these storms, even find bits of joy, like Bella discovered capacity to cope as well as appreciation for the fire.
Like Bella, each of these mercies happened for me ‘just in time to hold on.’ Just in time not to give up. Just in time to know God hadn’t abandoned me. He’d been watching over me every second, ensuring I survive the process.
No one boasts about suffering. The pain is indeed too bewildering to conjure up pride. And yet, the Bible tells us, “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame [or in NLV – hope does not disappoint us], because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:2-5)
Please tell me you are seeing this! No matter how many times I visit this, I get goose bumps. Whew. There’s a purpose to this painful process and we can cling to His hope of eternal life because His Spirit does the work in us. According to Romans 8:18, the result promises to be worth the wait and the agony.
Okay, but when does the pain end?
Well, the end is imminent (closer than we can comprehend when we are in the midst of it), but here’s another heads up – Bella heard her family saying things like ‘It’s almost over,’ and ‘Soon,’ but instead of receding pain as she neared the process’s end, the pain intensifies to an almost unbearable degree.
Well, they don’t say “It’s darkest before the dawn” for nothing. Get it? Breaking Dawn. Yea. You get it.
See you Wednesday for more How Reading a Vampire Book Showed Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit. Only four more days until the movie opens! Do you have your midnight tickets yet?
CLICK HERE for the next chapter!

Friday, November 9, 2012

How Reading a Vampire Book Showed Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit - ...Then Comes Dying...

CLICK HERE for previous chapter.
Edward and Bella experience a few isolated moments of joy during her pregnancy, such as the first time Edward – using his mind-reading gift – ‘hears’ his child’s thoughts from Bella’s womb. But the trauma quotient skyrockets a little earlier than they planned. And of course, under the worst possible circumstances.

Simple math tallies the odds that stack up against them.
On the plus side, Bella has stabilized thanks to Jacob. Though disgusted by the entire circumstance, he can’t leave because of a powerful attraction he still has to his best friend (we find out why soon) and because he defected from his werewolf pack since they are bent on killing Bella and whatever it is she carries. Still, he jokingly guesses the reason, and thus the remedy, behind Bella’s starvation. I’ll spare the gory details, but since the baby is half-vampire, you can figure it out. As a result, everyone breathes easier. (Except the vampires who, in fact, don’t breathe. But you get my drift and hopefully my little attempt at vampire humor.)
But that’s where the positive column ends. Since the crisis began, the vampires had been sequestered to the house, not only by worry over Bella but also because of the angry werewolves surrounding the house bent on destroying anything that comes out of it. This prevented the vampires from hunting, and thus they were getting dangerously thirsty. When Bella stabilizes, three of them, including the only doctor among them, decide it wise to make a run for it so that when Bella’s time does come Dr. Cullen is physically prepared – a.k.a. not distracted (in a vampirely sense) by all the blood inevitable to childbirth.
Of course, it is when they are gone that Bella drops the cup from which she is drinking, reflexively jerks to catch it, and… S*N*A*P … the awkward motion shifts her living burden so violently that her spine breaks.Well, you can imagine what a critical set of events that induces.
And It Is Messy.
Panic launches Edward, Jacob, Rosalie, and Alice into immediate action. Bella is whisked into the pre-prepared delivery room. She shivers with convulsions, more bones crack, and she vomits blood. (Like I said… meeeesssssy.) The baby must be delivered within minutes or risk suffocation, but the embryo sack is supernaturally thick and impervious to normal medical tools. Edward wants to inject morphine into Bella to spare her the excruciating pain, but time doesn’t permit. Rosalie looses focus for half a second and almost goes full-blown vampire on Bella (which would have killed her) but Jacob stops her with one tackle. Bella wavers in and out of consciousness, frantic about her child’s life.
Chaos. Laced with panic and pain. And blood. Lots and lots of blood.
Just in time, and again I’ll spare some of the details, Edward delivers his daughter. Renesmee.
After regaining control, Rosalie appears and takes charge of the newborn, then leaves the room. Edward’s attention turns back to Bella – his beloved, his young bride, mother of his child – who now lie broken and lifeless, torn apart, drained of a significant amount of blood. He can hear her heart… barely… beating. Her eyes stare vacantly past his, unfocused, blank.
This part of the story is told from Jacob’s perspective. The horrific scene he’s just witnessed does not compute with him, especially since he’s certain now that Bella will die. He’s hopeless, angry, and void of understanding – what was all the suffering for?
I’ve likened Jacob to the World before, and just like Jacob, the World questions us when we make decisions to protect the life our Perfect Lover has promised only to suffer gravely for doing so. The world’s perspective urges ease, comfort, path of least resistance, and anything at all that offers ‘happiness.’ From where they sit (outside the relationship with our Perfect Lover), suffering for love or life or principle is senseless, counter-productive and worthless. All they see is death.
Sometimes, as Christians, our circumstances cause such intense suffering, we are tempted to agree with them.
Been there?
Christians are neither impervious nor exempt from hardships. Being in a relationship with Jesus does not magically bubble us off from #1 – the fact that we are still flawed humans, and #2 – the world is still fallen, sinful and therefore full of the consequences of such. In fact, we can expect more than average hardships because #1 – the world does not understand us or in many cases hates us, so they persecute us, #2 – we are called to live by a holy standard that requires separation from the world’s philosophies and behaviors (Rom. 6), and #3 – the sanctification process is in nature a transformation from unholy to holy - like purifying silver or gold, it requires refining fire to accomplish, and that’s guaranteed to hurt. Just ask Job. (Job 1:6-12)
Imagine a seed. After being planted, it must die before it sprouts, grows and produces fruit. Forget the fertilizer, time, rains, and pruning a plant also must endure to develop life, it all starts with dying. (1 Cor. 15:36, 37; Jn 12:24-26)
So it is in the sanctification process. Dying to the old self. (Eph. 4: 22-24)
But remember the goal, what we’ve wanted all along – to become ‘like’ Him, our Perfect Lover. To experience life in Him, eternally, immortally.
Brokenness is the perfect, and I might even wager only, circumstance under which Agent Change operates because it is the only circumstance we are willing to accept the process of sanctification. The process that saves our lives.
That’s where Bella is post-delivery – the perfect moment for the change agent to be introduced not only to transform her into his likeness but to save her life. Edward doesn’t hesitate. He has a massive syringe ready, and stabs it directly into her heart.
Jacob, amidst the horror, asks, “What’s that?”
Edward responds, “My venom.”
Hope to see you Monday for the continuation of How Reading a Vampire Book Showed Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit. Have a good weekend, Dry Ground friends!
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Reading a Vampire Book Showed Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit - First Comes Brokenness...

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Bella begins to reconsider her desire to become a vampire during her honeymoon. Maybe not the whole idea, but certainly the timing. She’s enjoying her ‘human’ experiences with her new husband far too much to think about the suffering she knows accompanies the transformation from human to vampire. It’s much easier to be with her Perfect Lover than to even think about becoming like him.
Like any other anticipation of discomfort, if we can find ways to delay it, we will. But in times of smooth sailing, we rarely have the capacity to choose such a transformation, especially if it in any way involves pain. Therefore, we first must be broken.
That opportunity crops up pretty quickly for the newlyweds. Edward and Bella enjoy precious little bliss after their wedding and into the honeymoon before crisis strikes. The unthinkable occurs, something none of the Cullens and certainly not Bella ever believed possible. Bella finds out that she is pregnant with her husband’s – a.ka. Edward the Vampire’s - child.
I must take two short rabbit holes before continuing – sort of ‘on the record’ thoughts. First, at this point in the story, I was disappointed in Edward for the first time. I totally get his protective nature over Bella and the horrors of what this creature could do to his new beloved bride, however his lack of concern for the child’s life irritated me. I guess, however, since I have worked in a crisis pregnancy center and have seen first hand – this isn’t an altogether unheard of response from a baby’s daddy. Oh, and the movie version (Breaking Dawn part 1) during which Edward is yelling at Bella about it! Ha! Sorry, but that was a screenwriter oops if you ask me. No matter what Edward is feeling, he’d NEVER yell at Bella like that. Sure, he apologized, but, eh… I digress. What I must make clear is that this part of the analogous Edward has nothing whatsoever to do with our Perfect Lover Jesus. He’s always and every time for life no matter what you have to do to fight for it. He’s the one who put it there in the first place – He’s the life-giver. And He knows/sees the bigger picture, which in Bella’s case leads her down the path of becoming like her beloved.
Second rabbit trail, and on a similar note, Bella’s fierce defense of her unborn child is admirable. The overtones make for a decided and pointed pro-life message that is refreshing and needed in today’s culture.
Alrighty then, moving on!
For those of you who don’t know the story, discovering the pregnancy cuts the honeymoon short and they rush home so the whole family, and particularly Dr. Cullen, can determine what exactly Bella carries. Their concern is that if the child is more vampire, he or she would not have the willpower to be a ‘veggie’ vampire like the Cullens, and therefore be an uncontrollable monster instead of cute little half-breed baby. In deciding what should be done, the majority vote is to destroy ‘it’ as soon as possible because of the catastrophic ‘what if’s. Bella, along with her new advocate buddy Rosalie, ward off the well-intentioned (which now that they are home from the honeymoon also includes best friend/werewolf Jacob) with fierce determination, set on carrying the child to term.
Despite the fears of what he or she could become once born, the immediate problem is as superhuman as the child is in at least half of its DNA, the baby grows at an exponential rate that wrecks havoc on Bella’s mortal body. In short, it is (unintentionally) killing her from the inside out. Besides breaking Bella’s ribs with every turn, the baby also drains Bella of all and any nutrients, starving her. Mere weeks from the discovery, Bella has become a hollowed out shell, living purely on the purpose to ensure her child lives.
Far from the paradise she envisioned when she wed her Perfect Lover, Bella’s unyielding commitment to life ironically leaves her broken.
Do you know how she feels?
The Bible never ever tells us that accepting our Perfect Lover Jesus will result in a perfect life. First of all, what does ‘perfect life’ even mean? But that’s neither here nor there. The point is, the Bible actually tells us to expect troubles. Sounds like a raw deal when you put it that way, eh?
But what we forget sometimes is that in marrying our Perfect Lover Jesus, we’re set on the path to birth life. And just like a normal human pregnancy, pain precedes that birth. We don’t get the life without the pain.
How determined are we to hold on to the life our Perfect Lover Jesus offers? Even if it is just the promise, before we can hold anything in our hands?
Do well-intentioned nay-sayers sway your determination? Are you ready to give up over a few broken bones? Will starvation convince you to throw in the towel?
Or do we do what Bella did – focus so completely on the outcome of life – that we accept any suffering necessary to make it reality?
Even if it means our death?
Keep your eye on the prize, Dry Ground friends! See you Friday for more How Reading a Vampire Book Showed Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit!
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Monday, November 5, 2012

How Reading a Vampire Book Showed Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit - Agent Change

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Defining the Holy Spirit can be tricky even though the amount of information available to us is actually quite vast. I believe the first step in understanding the Holy Spirit is asking the correct question. And that question is notWhat is the Holy Spirit?’ but rather ‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’
What infers inanimate, non-living, a thing just like any other thing.
But Who starts us off with the fact of personality, a living being, an active thought-producing person involved in anything and everything God and Jesus are part of – I mean, the Holy Spirit is a member of the Trinity – in fact making the Trinity a triune relationship of three lives – not just two lives and a ‘what.’
What we get hung up on is the Holy Spirit’s abilities that far outdo anything we as humans can even think of doing. But just because He’s never been human doesn’t mean He isn’t a personality, a living being. A spirit, yes, but also a Who.
Since, however, He’s never worn human flesh like Jesus does, our frame of reference becomes less concrete. We must use similes and metaphors and parables and illustrations in order to glimpse even part of the Holy Spirit’s scope in our lives.
Here are a few examples I’ve heard over the years –
* For a child, explaining might be as simple as saying the Holy Spirit is our conscious. Perhaps a good place to start, but He’s much much deeper than that!
* How about The Force in the Star Wars epic? Not a complete analogy, and probably not what its author intended, but it has a few traits, right?
* In the book, The Shack, William P. Young describes his Holy Spirit character as a gardener, tending to the garden of hearts, weeding and planting and growing and pruning and producing fruit in our lives. That one comes in handy for me quite often.
* I heard a sermon once that likened the Holy Spirit to an engagement ring, a seal or proof of contract/covenant between betrothed lovers. Several verses in Scripture back this up, like 2 Corinthians 5:5, Acts 15:8 and Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30. 
* This one has always made sense to me – the Holy Spirit is like the wind. Unseen except through its effects, can be a gentle breeze or a fierce and destructive gale, either way powerful to the Nth degree.
I could go on, citing the Scriptures that tell us exactly who He is and what we can know about Him – for example, He was present at Creation, obviously as part of the Trinity, but He was essential in the immaculate conception of Jesus in Mary. Mysterious, not really scientifically explained, but immense in results that are proven facts! The Bible also calls Him Fire, Comforter, Gift, Advocate, Greater One than Jesus (in Jesus’ own words), Teacher, Filler, Truth, Testifier, Promise, Enabler, Guide, Encourager, Guard, Informer (as in giver of prophetic words), and… Sanctifier.
The thread that ties all these analogies together, or at least makes them similar to each other, is that, in a nutshell, the Holy Spirit is the sole (and soul) Agent of Change. No one can get from mortal human to immortal human without Him and the Change He accomplishes.
This brings us to the subject at hand.
In the Twilight Saga, our hero is Edward Cullen – vampire. When he was 17 and still human, he became a victim of the Spanish flu epidemic that killed his parents. Dr. Cullen, already a centuries-old vampire, found Edward nearly dead and ‘saved’ him by making him into a vampire.
So, how does that happen? Vampire venom is injected into the veins, transforming the entire circulatory system – specifically the heart and blood. This transformation, though painful, includes benefits of enhanced senses, super abilities, and oh yea – immortality. The venom has changed what was mortal into the eternal.
The venom is key, the Agent of Change, the difference between Edward’s immortal existence and his true love’s, Bella’s, fragile, human, mortal one. She is determined to become ‘like’ him, as we are when we decide to follow our Perfect Lover Jesus’ desire that we be transformed into His image. It’s just that when she accepts his hand, as we do when we accept Jesus as our Savior, Bella is not fully aware of how difficult her sanctifying process will be. She anticipated suffering, as we should (1 Peter 4:12-13).
But she didn’t foresee that she’d have to die first. Did you?
I hope you’ll keep following me through How Reading a Vampire Book Showed Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit. Have a wonderful day, Dry Ground friends!
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Friday, November 2, 2012

How Reading a Vampire Book Showed Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit – Intro

 Three years ago, I started this series of spiritual applications gleaned from the Twilight Saga as an investigation into the phenomenon of females all over the world, young and old, wishing on a star that Edward Cullen existed for real. I determined that, like all Prince Charmings throughout the history of story, Edward displayed characteristics similar to that of our Perfect Lover, Jesus – unconditional love, unyielding commitment, timely rescue, sacrificial protection, absolute provision and an intimate relationship with the perfect lover. The desire to experience these characteristics is planted in our DNA by our Creator, and Jesus fulfills every one. But we are all attracted to representations of this love, especially in the tangible setting of storytelling, which brings experience into a more obtainable realm – even when we’re talking fantasy worlds such as the kind in which vampires (even the sparkling kind) exist.

But the Twilight Saga explores an entire relationship of this kind, and it’s not all romance and roses. Difficulties arise that foster faith-building and reveal the true nature of commitment and expose the variable of free will. The journey, like life, is wrought with ups and downs, threats and thrills, peace and angst – each mile teaching something about the supernatural reality of having a relationship with the Perfect Lover.
When we get to Breaking Dawn, the dynamic changes because Bella has (finally) made the decision to give her hand to Edward in marriage. She’s reached the point of surrender – the good kind – that launches her on the amazing voyage of life with her Perfect Love.
Yet, when she makes this decision, she is still human. Although she wanted to become like Edward as soon as possible, Edward requested first she give herself wholly to Him in the bonds of holy matrimony. Not that he doubted her sincerity or love, but as an official covenant physically and spiritually joining two hearts into one. Because only after she willingly became his bride could he bestow upon her the benefits of such a relationship.
Edward and Bella’s wedding, to me, represents salvation. It’s the initial, covenant-making decision to trust Jesus, the Perfect Lover, with your whole life – come what may. You come to this relationship with free will and as is – still human and still a sinner. Not until that covenant is made between you and the Perfect Lover does the sin wash away. It’s within the covenant relationship that the benefit of the remission of sins is applied.
The awesome part is, that’s just the beginning.
Salvation marks a new journey, a new birth into a whole new world, and is characterized by the process that makes us ‘like’ Jesus. It’s called sanctification. The benefits of a covenant relationship with Jesus depend on the transformation power of His Holy Spirit, the only avenue on which becoming like Him is possible.
That’s what Breaking Dawn is about. It’s a new beginning, starting with Bella’s willing acceptance of Edward’s hand, leading her on the path that will make her like him.
I hope you will join me on this look into How Reading a Vampire Book Showed Me a Picture of the Holy Spirit. Stay turned, Dry Ground friends!
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