SPOILER ALERT - don't read this if you haven't seen the movie and plan on seeing it!!!
I went to see a movie today with a friend. I had been delighted when I found out that she wanted to see the film too. The previews hadn't made it look like a particularly uplifting movie, in fact I was almost certain tears would flow, but I was intrigued by the concept and my curiosity and an open afternoon finally collided. I was right about the tears, but they didn't flow for the reasons I thought they would.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a movie that takes place one year after September 11, 2001. A boy with a condition that appears to be a mix of Aspberger's Syndrome and Tourette's Syndrom, loses his father on 9/11 ("the worst day")and a year later finds a hidden key in his father's closet and decides to find the lock that matches it in an attempt to keep his connection with his father alive. While the subject matter itself is bound to make your eyes well up, the moment that really broke through my defenses happened an hour and forty-five minutes into the movie, after the boy has solved the mystery and realizes it wasn't even his father's key after all. As he is coming to grips with this crushing disappointment, we find out that throughout his 3+ month quest to find the lock, as he knocked on door after door of stranger after stranger all over New York City, all the while feeling like his mother had emotionally withdrawn from him and didn't care about him, he makes a startling discovery. He listens in awe as his mother tells him that out of her overwhelming love and concern for him, she had secretly gone through the hidden maps and treasures in his room until she figured out his plan. Then she had set out to pave the way for her son and his quest, rather than preventing him from pursuing it. To insure his safety, she had visited every address on the list that he had made and met with the strangers she encountered there to tell them that her precious son would be coming one day, looking for the mystery lock that would match his key. She told them about his disabilities. She told them about the profound loss he had experienced. She begged them to be kind.
The boy was stunned to learn of her actions. He had thought that only his father had been able to understand him in such a deep way, and that now that his dad was gone, he was fated to go through life ashamed and abnormal and misunderstood. The realization that his mother had him figured out brought a sense of security back into his life, stronger than he had previously possessed before "the worst day" happened.
As I think back on this movie and that powerful, sob-filled (mine) moment when the mother's loving care was finally revealed, I can't help but reflect on the Lord and His unfathomable goodness to us, his children. We go through life developing a certain level of assurance in something... a social status, a loving family, a job, a talent or intellectual capacity, a close friend... and one day, inevitably, our assurance is shaken to the core. Either by loss, or betrayal, or a lifting of the blinders that we've worn revealing that the firm foundation we've built our identity and security on is at best shifting sand and at worst a trap door. BUT GOD...
After our brutal awakening, as we grasp for whatever shreds of hope we can find and try to claw our way back to a feeling of assurance in this messed up world, we are prone to feel that our intangible God is cruelly unwilling or sadly unable to help us or to offer the same kind of assurance that our tangible earthly idol always had. So we strike out on our own, looking for a way to get back what we've lost, or a close assimilation of it, or if that doesn't work then something that will numb us and make us forget it ever existed in the first place.
All the while, God is working behind the scenes on our behalf - protecting us, providing for us, and preparing us for the day when we will find ourselves spent, with nothing to show for it. That day, when we feel the most hopeless, the most devastated, the most disappointed and the most forgotten... that will be the day when we will finally be ready to look back and see Him for who He has been all along: The One who knew us best, who had a plan for us from the beginning that could never be thwarted by any earthly loss. The One who is the true source of our assurance, who had granted us that precious family member, friend, talent, job, etc. - for a season - but that it was never meant to become an idol, distracting us from the Gift-Giver Himself. THEN we will rejoice and REVEL in this new assurance, that the God of the universe never left our side and never will and that He understands us and knows us better than we know ourselves. That He can and will meet our every need.
" And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see." I Peter 1:5 (NLT)
"If God is for us, who can be against us?" - Romans 8:31
It’s the twentieth anniversary of the famous “pale blue dot” photo – Earth as seen from Voyager 1 while on the edge of our solar system (approximately 3,762,136,324 miles from home).
Carl Sagan: "Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering... every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds."
Carl Sagan describes this so eloquently and hits the nail on the head at how inconsequential we people and our grand ideas and notions are in comparison to the vast universe. AND YET - Today I am reminded to think about the God who created that universe, and yet loves me "this speck upon that blue dot" so much that he knows how many hairs are on my head. UNFATHOMABLE. INDESCRIBABLE. I stand in AWE.
Genesis 1:16-17 - "God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good."
Psalm 19:1-3 - "The heavens are telling the glory of God, their expanse declares the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, and night after night they tell us what they know. There is no place where there is speech where their voices are not heard." (paraphrase)
Matthew 10:30 - "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." - Jesus of Nazareth, The Christ
This blog post was inspired by: http://blog.jmlynch.org/2010/02/13/pale-blue-dot/
As a little girl, I was taught to say "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me." I was taught to write thank you notes to those who had shown me kindness in some way. I was told these things were considered good manners and that I should always "remember my manners."
As a mother, I try to pass on these same good manners to my son. To me, however (as I am sure it was to my parents), it is far more important that he has a gracious and grateful heart than that he always says or does the right thing at the right time. I want him to overflow with kindness and gratitude and thoughtfulness from a heart that appreciates the people in his life and the God who made not only him but also those around him. This, however, cannot be taught... only caught. We cannot teach our children's hearts. We can only teach their minds and guide their behavior. Their hearts are their very own... to pursue peace or to harbor anger, to develop selfless love or to pursue selfish desires, to extend mercy or to hold a grudge. Only God and His Holy Spirit can penetrate the heart. Any parent who has found themselves forcing a child to apologize to someone they have wronged knows this first hand. He may have said the words, "I'm sorry," but his heart knows no repentance.
I am, without a doubt, an advocate for insisting on the correct behavior even if the heart is not following suit, but I also think that we need to return to the heart issues again and again when the heat of the moment has passed. Not because we can change a child's heart, but because we have to reiterate time and time again that which is most important. We have to be careful to make sure our children do not get the idea from us that saying and doing the right thing all of the time is the most important thing. We must always, ultimately, show them that the motivations of their hearts reign supreme in God's eyes.
I don't want my son to grow up with a firm grasp on saying and doing the right thing, but with a heart that is lagging behind. This means that I have to get a grip on my own motivations and model what I desire for him. In her book, Kisses from Katie, Katie Davis writes about a time when she went to a restaurant on a Sunday afternoon in the Ugandan village where she lives and a 15yr old boy, John, was standing outside the restaurant waiting for her. He had cut his foot on a bottle and was waiting for her to come to her usual Sunday lunch spot so that she could help him clean and bandage it and hopefully prevent infection. Here is what she says, "As I handed him the antibiotic and explained how to take it, I kind of wanted him to say thank you. But as I looked in his eyes I knew why he hadn't thanked me: because this was expected. He knew I would bandage his wound and give him medicine because that is what I do. His trust was much better than a thank you."
If all that is important to us is saying and doing the right things, then we cannot serve others wholeheartedly. Our spirits' will inevitably stumble when our brothers and sisters in the world do not "behave appropriately." We will grow resentful and bitter because, "After all I do, she can't offer a simple 'thank you.'" If the only reason we are doing the right thing is because "it is the right thing to do" and we feel a sense of obligation to do it, and not because we realize we are "poor, wretched, blind and needy," and have been saved by the most extraordinary grace that we now have the privilege to pass on to others, then we will inevitably get hung up when we don't get the appreciation we deserve for our "sacrifice." Tragically, we will never realize the deeper gifts that God has for us, like Katie did.
Dear God, Please soften our children's hearts as well as our own, and help us to model for them attitudes and motivations that will not only serve them well throughout their lives, but that will enable them to serve others well too.
My idea of fun as a married, 37 year old mother of one:
- Playing board games with my family and/or friends and laughing out loud together
- Being taken by surprise by God's goodness, love, justice, power, creation, etc.
- Being surprised (in good ways) by my husband
- Planning a trip to a new place (I sometimes enjoy the planning more than the actual trip...classic introvert, I suppose)
- Going to the movies by myself (am I weird?)
- Double dates with great friends
- Watching Big Bang Theory with my husband (when it isn't totally inappropriate)
- Reading a fantastic book
- Researching something that interests me
- Hearing my son giggle uncontrollably
I decided to sit down and make this list today because of a particularly interesting encounter we had last night... It went something like this:
Last night at around 8:40pm, my husband and I were settled into the living room in our home, just wrapping up a conversation with a friend who had come over. We'd been sitting and talking with him for about an hour. He got up to leave and we said our goodbyes and not two minutes later there was a loud knock at the door. I assumed that it was our friend who had forgotten something or needed something. I went to the door and was shocked to open it and not see anyone there. I stood there for a second, perplexed, then I leaned my head out the door to see if someone was hiding, playing a trick. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the night, I noticed that SOMEONE WAS LYING FACE DOWN ON OUR LAWN. At first I thought, "Oh no, our friend fell on his way out to his car!" Then I remembered, someone KNOCKED on our door. How could he have fallen down and then knocked???? Then I realized that whoever was lying on the lawn was dressed differently than our friend had been.... "What are you doing?" I asked tentatively. From the opposite side of the front yard I heard the matter-of-fact reply, "Planking." I turned and looked in the direction of the reply and noticed three other people lying face down in the yard!!! What in the world?!?! Then the laughing began and they all got up and came in the house. Five college students, who we know and love. They came in, completely drenched and muddy... did I fail to mention it was cold and raining outside?!?!?! They took off their shoes and muddy, wet outer layers and we made hot chocolate and pulled out folding chairs for them to sit on and a hair dryer for them to attempt to dry off with. Then we sat and chatted for an hour about what in the world they were up to... They had been outside our house for about an hour "planking" (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=planking) and taking pictures of themselves. They planked on our stairs, against our bushes, on top of our bushes, against the walls, behind the car, on top of the car, YOU NAME IT, they planked on it. Jason and I recalled how at one point in our chat with our friend, the dogs had started barking, Jason assumed it was because of the "lightning" outside (which we realized was actually their camera flash going off). The dogs knew something was up, even if we were oblivious! Anyway, after they dried off and warmed up a bit, they headed off for the night, on to other pursuits.
After they left, Jason and I laughed and remembered back to our college days when we would have answered the question - "What's your idea of fun?" much differently than we do now. :) Although, now I need to add something new to my list:
- Being surprised by the zany antics of students who we LOVE to minister to and share life with. :)
I am in the middle of reading a book written by a 22 year old young woman. The title is "Kisses From Katie," and it is written by Katie Davis. Katie is from Brentwood, TN. She was homecoming queen in high school and graduated at the top of her class.
For the past 4 years, Katie has lived on her own in Uganda. Not exactly the normal life path for a young lady with a privileged upbringing and the grades, money and good looks that often lead to doors of opportunity and success in our country. But wait... her story is even more abnormal than that. I said that Katie lived alone, and I meant that in the sense that she does not live with her parents or a roommate, but she actually does live with 14 other people. Fourteen little girls, to be exact. Fourteen adopted (or in the process of being adopted) DAUGHTERS!
I'm not going to tell Katie's whole story here because she does an AMAZING job of telling her own story in her book and in her blog and in video clips that are online and I would highly recommend you check out each and every one (links are below), but what I do want to do is share with you some of the quotes that I've read so far in her book that have been ringing in my ears and flashing before my eyes ever since:
"Sometimes working in a Third World country makes me feel like I am emptying the ocean with an eyedropper, and just when I have about a half a cup full of water, it rains. I just keep filling up my little eyedropper, keep filling it up and emptying my ocean one drop at a time. I'm not here to eliminate poverty, to eradicate disease, to put a stop to people abandoning babies. I'm just here to love."
"I hadn't come to Uganda with a degree in education; I wasn't a nurse; and I certainly didn't consider myself a missionary. I had absolutely no idea what was involved in running a ministry and frankly did not possess the business knowledge or organizational skills required to do so. I was in no way qualified, but I was available.. I have learned that something happens when one makes herself available to God: He starts moving in ways no one could imagine."
Katie's Blog: http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/
Katie's Book: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1451612060/simonsayscom
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!