Thursday, October 28, 2010

Overcast Skies

I suppose I am still a little confused right now.  I am writing from Arkansas, but my mind is definitely at the beach.  When I was in Malibu last week, the skies were overcast throughout my stay - a very unusual situation for this time of year.  I found the weather strangely comforting;  in many ways, the "skies" in my personal life are overcast as well.

Let me be very clear from the beginning of this post.  I do not think I am depressed.  I don't have an impending sense of hopelessness or despair.  Rather, I am just dealing with a case of the blues.  I am ready for a change in my life and anxious for the warmth of the sun's excitement again.

If we are honest with ourselves, we all face times of gloominess.  Things don't go the way we had planned.  We find ourselves restless, unsatisfied and discontented in our current situation.  We are not in a dark place, necessarily;  the skies are simply overcast.

Overcast skies are not always a bad thing.  When things are not exactly the way we had hoped, we begin to actively seek the beauty in our lives.  We reminisce on previous times when the sun was shining brightly and we turn our eyes toward the confident hope that the sun will shine once again.  Most importantly, we begin to take stock of our plans and dreams, revising them in preparation of the new dawn, and refocusing the central aspects of our dreams.

It's encouraging in a strange way to spend some time facing overcast skies.  Right now, I'm looking carefully at some things in my life and bringing my dreams before the Master of the Wind and Rain, asking for His input, direction, and blessing.  Instead of focusing on the overcast skies that I'm facing at the moment, I choose to look forward to the promise of sunny days ahead. 

It's time to put away the umbrella, my friend.  It won't rain always!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Recently, I returned home to Malibu for Waves Weekend.  The event combined the activities commonly associated with Homecoming, Family Weekend, and Midnight Madness.  The weekend featured two other events that were very dear to my heart:  the 40th anniversary of the University Church of Christ and a fraternity education session of Psi Upsilon fraternity.

Throughout my time in Malibu, I encountered people who were extremely important to me while I was in school.  Teachers, friends, ministers, and roommates.  I am incredibly blessed that many of these people continue to be active parts of my life through the technology of social networking sites, speaking words of encouragement, affirmation, and challenge to me on a regular basis.

Perhaps the most special reunion of the weekend was one that occurred away from the eyes of others in the quietness of a cool southern California night.  A friendship I treasured during college had disintegrated into nothingness due to my hurtful words among other things.  How exciting to sit with my friend and deal with things that had long been avoided.  What I thought was irreparable began to be restored during the weekend.  I was prepared to lavishly apologize for my many wrongs;  when the time came to meet for the first time, I was greeted with a warm, kind smile and the statement that I had been sorely missed.  You cannot imagine my relief!  I wanted to apologize, but I wasn't looking forward to dealing with the guilt that would follow.  Knowing that I was already forgiven made the apology much easier and the time we shared more enjoyable and special.  I am thrilled to have reconnected with my friend and look forward to the next time our paths cross....I'm just hoping it will be soon rather than later!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Drought is Over!

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about the difficulty I termed "reader's block."  I am happy to report that I was able to find time to return to reading and am once again enjoying the world of fiction.  What book marked my re-entry into reading?  American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.
Sittenfeld makes it clear that his novel is loosely based on the life of First Lady Laura Bush.  Beginning with her childhood, Alice, Sittenfeld's fictional representation of Bush, is seen as a demure girl in a middle-class family.  Tragedy strikes and Alice's world begins to topple.  In the midst of her uncertainty, Alice meets Charlie Blackwell, the son of a wealthy former governor.

American Wife traces Alice's response to her husband's bid for the Governor's Office as well as the Presidency, but these story lines pale in comparison to the examinations of Alice's feelings at the death of her grandmother, her search for acceptance from her in-laws, and her attempts to save her marriage from ruin due to her husband's alcoholism.  Filled with humor, wit, and intelligent writing, Sittenfeld's novel is a charming read for all Americans -- regardless of your political leanings.  The novel does slow a bit in the final segment as political issues relevant to the Bush administration are addressed; by this point in the novel, however, the reader has become invested in Alice's story and plows through the rhetoric.  A worthy read!  My rating:  4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Earlier this week, while sitting in the dining room, I noticed this picture of my mother's mother, Ma-Maw.  (You cannot imagine how long I sat trying to decide how I was going to spell that title.  Finally I decided that since this post will consist of my thoughts and memories, that my chosen spelling will be fine!)  My feelings about my grandmother are both wonderful and painful.  Even as I write now, I am fighting back tears.

Much of the sadness is associated with a level of frustration on all that I missed out on.  My grandmother passed away in February, just a few days before my birthday.  As well as I can recall, I was about to turn six.  My older brother and sister have such wonderful memories of this loving woman. In a way, I guess I'm jealous.  I know the stories, but that's all they are.  Cancer cheated me out of truly knowing Ma-Maw.

It's fairly easy to tell the things that I remember about her, because they are few and far between.  My memories of her home are associated with pictures I have seen; the only vivid images I can recall are those of the family gathering at her house after her death.

I have an image in my head of her in my home, looking out the front window.  Mom was either home from a recent surgery or was on her way home.  That's where the memory stops.

Looking at her picture and hearing the stories are tough.  How I long to have a memory of her voice, her laugh.  Sadly, that memory is not to be for me.  My experiences with a grandmother (Big Mother) was one in which I was always trying to perform, to prove that I was worthy of love.  Sadly, that's what I associate with grandparents.

I regret not knowing my grandmother but know it's not something I can change.  All I have are a couple of faint memories, photographs, and stories.  They are not nearly enough, but I hold onto them, knowing that one day soon we will be reunited in Heaven.  After seeing Christ and all the beauty of that place, I plan to find Ma-Maw and sit by the Crystal Sea for a nice long chat -- just me and her.  It's long overdue and we have so much to catch up on.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Week of Movies

Last week, I made a choice to take some time for myself and do some things I enjoy.  The result was seeing three films over a period of seven days:  Legend of the Guardians, What If, and Social Network.  Rather than doing three separate reviews, I thought I'd just lump them all together here.

I had high hopes for Legend of the Guardians which were quickly crushed.  The animation was beautiful; the music was nice.  The story itself was boring and uninspiring.  I watched moviegoers young and old leave the movie after devoting an hour to the film.  At that point, I considered leaving as well; I decided that the comfortable chair and some mindless activity was a better use of my time than leaving.

I have heard from many that the book the film is based on is great.  All I know is that the film did not inspire me to grab the book!  I went to see Legend in order to be informed about the film in case I was asked about it by parents in my church.  There are definitely some teachable moments -- discussions about believing in what you can't see permeate the film.  However, the undertones of Eastern mysticism and New Age ideologies keep me from recommending this film for children.  All things considered, the best part of this movie outing was the previews.  Mega-Mind and Nutcracker 3D both look promising.  My rating:  2 out of 5 stars.

Am I the only one who was completely unaware of What If?  This film features Kevin Sorbo and John Ratzenberger in a movie that explores how different life would be if we were given a second chance to follow God's will rather than our own.  Without being overly preachy, the film presents sound theology in an entertaining and believable story line.  I would recommend this film for youth groups as well as adults;  there are great possibilities for discussions of a spiritual nature.  The film has been out for almost a month, so it may not be in theaters much longer.  Definitely worth the effort to see if possible.  My rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars.

The last film of the week was Social Network.  I had mixed feelings about this story of the roller-coaster development of Facebook.  As I watched the process that lead to the creation of the website, I was fascinated.  About halfway through the movie, Justin Timberlake's character enters the scene and becomes more central than I would have liked.  Honestly I found his performance far superior to those of the young actors in the leading roles.  As we move back and forth between legal depositions and flashbacks, I found the plot to be predictable.  Was I looking for a scandal?  Maybe...I really don't know.  I did find the ending to be a bit of a letdown.  I would probably suggest my friends see the film because of the fact that Facebook has had such a tremendous impact on our generation, but not because of the movie's entertainment value.  My rating:  3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Daniel Week 4

Chapter 4 of my study of Daniel has been intense.  This week focused on King Nebuchadnezzar's second dream and his season of senility. The overall theme of the week might best be summed up this way:  "The choice is yours -- humble yourself or be humbled by God."  It's not a lesson that sounds inspiring to study for a week, but I have been blessed and challenged as I've explored the passage.

As I looked at the discipline God sent to Nebuchadnezzar, I was initially excited.  I saw King Neb's sinfulness and thought "This is going to be great!  Let's revel for a while in watching God root out some wickedness!"  As I continued the study, I quickly had to come to terms with my own sinfulness; the lesson to be learned was not for someone else, but for me.

First, I was encouraged by observing that repentance was a way to avoid God's chastisement.  In Daniel 4:27, Daniel tells the King that there may be a way to avoid the coming disaster:  "Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed."  Isn't it a relief to know that God's desire is not to destroy us?  He wants to bring us to repentance that results in restored fellowship with Him.  Needless to say, Nebuchadnezzar refused to repent and suffered the consequences.

Even when we are disciplined, God's hope is to restore us and not to destroy us.  In the dream God sent the King, the tree was cut down and stripped of its leaves and fruit.  In the midst of all the devastation, notice the glimmer of hope:  "But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field." (Daniel 4:15)  Daniel later points out the significance of this statement to the King.  "The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules."  (Daniel 4:26)  In the midst of discipline, God includes a loving plan for full restoration.

Do you remember the last time you received correction from God?  I certainly do.  Believe me, it's not a memory I like to dwell on.  When I do think back on it, I see how God protected me from total destruction, allowing the painful pruning of only what was sinful in my life.  As soon as I renounced my sinfulness and declared His Lordship, the loving process of restoration began.  As a result of this week's study, my view of this time of Godly correction has changed.  No longer do I remember God's anger and wrath;  rather, I see His discipline as an example of His eternal faithfulness to work all things for my ultimate good!  What a tough lesson it was to learn, but I'm so glad I did.