Action Hero

Cropped image of woman looking at action movie on tablet

I love a good action adventure flick.  Mission Impossible, The Bourne series, Tom Clancy movies, The Matrix.  I don’t suppose you’d pick me, a 50-something grandmother, for that.  There are a lot of things you wouldn’t pick me for, but that’s another post!  I don’t read much fiction, but I’ve read everything Lee Child has ever written (several times).*  Why the interest in shoot-em-ups, which I share with a predominantly male audience of less-than-literary tastes?  I think there actually is a literary reason.  It’s a simplistic genre, black and white, the good guy wins, the bad guy gets pay-back. You don’t have to think about it much.  But you can.

There is always a struggle in these stories, always oppression, injustice, victimization.  There is someone deceitful who uses underhanded means to destroy other people or take terrible advantage of them.  There is a man or woman of integrity, usually an outsider, someone of unusual power and courage, who decodes a mystery and walks in harm’s way in order to right wrongs, effect justice, protect and serve.  There is also someone who needs saving.

Remind you of another story?  It does me.  I’m the one who needs saving.  I’ll admit it’s not a perfect analogy.  The action-adventure hero is usually flawed, and the victim usually isn’t.  Wrong on both counts.  Nevertheless, I cannot walk through the storyline without being reminded that Satan and his minions use deceit and corruption to victimize humanity however they can, and God sent a man of integrity, an outsider of unusual power and courage, to right wrongs, effect justice, protect and serve.  When Neo rises out of the phone booth at the end of The Matrix, it makes me cry.

Every story of good and evil is in some way a retelling of THE story.  I want it to be my story, too.  I want to live in the narrative, not only in my imagination and not only as the victim.  I’m being remade in the image of my Creator which means that I can be the hero, too, righting wrongs, effecting justice, wielding God’s power to bring help or healing to others in need.  Some people are inspired by Abraham Lincoln or Mohandas Gandhi.  I’m inspired by Jack Reacher.  (Surely he borrowed this tag line from Christ: “I’m not afraid of death.  Death’s afraid of me.”)

Every hero who rescues a kidnapped child or takes down a mafia bigwig is Jesus Christ in disguise.  Look for it the next time a man in your life (or a crazy woman friend like me) picks the movie.  Just when you think you are in for some mindless, meaningless, comic book action, God might show up with the Gospel.  Let Him remind you that goodness is powerful, rescue is real, hope is warranted and there is actually a happy ending to this whole, messy story.

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*Parental Warning: most, though not all, Lee Child books contain some sexual ; they are short and immaterial to the story, that is, easily skipped.  There are also descriptions of violence, largely in the context of hand-to-hand combat.

Putting the Romance Back in Your Spiritual Life

For your Maker is your husband — the LORD Almighty is his name.
Isaiah 54:5a

As a counselor I sometimes tell starry-eyed couples that romantic love isn’t real. Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration because love certainly is a real feeling, but it’s no more illuminating than the world seen through a bottle of Johnny Walker Red. Romantic love has chemical and emotional components which change the way we assess priorities and consequences. In love our maturity level slips backward to that of a teenager. We ignore danger. We glorify the imperfect. We idealize the unknown. We absolutely know we are going to live happily ever after!

Strangely enough, the same dynamic seems to happen when we fall in love with God. How many of us – if we are honest and brave enough to say it – have been disappointed with Him? How many of us would say that it isn’t all going the way we planned, that it’s harder than we thought, that God doesn’t always hold up His end of the bargain?

Of course, there really is no bargain. What we have is a done deal – God agreed to die for our sins, and we agreed to live for His righteousness. That’s it. Savior and Lord. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health… well, you get the idea. It sounds very sweet when you say it in church, looking like a model, holding your best friend’s hand. It seems a bit different in the drudgery of everyday frustrations, the despair of bankruptcy, the challenges of addiction, the weariness of long illness, life lived alongside someone you aren’t even sure you like anymore.

If faithfulness is difficult to maintain with a visible, warm-blooded spouse, it can be even more difficult when your Spouse lives in a Paradise you’ve never actually seen. One thing we can know, however; with a human partner, there is sin on both sides. While we don’t understand a lot of God’s ways, there is no sin in Him. All His acts toward us, even unanswered prayers and unforeseen disasters, are meant for our good (Rom. 8:28). That’s where faith comes in and where faithfulness finds its biggest challenges.

In a marriage there are ways to deal with those challenges other than running away. For example, you might try being a little more honest with your partner, sharing your disconnection or even your anger with them. You might talk to a pastor or a counselor or a trusted friend. You might attempt to rekindle your romance by spending more time with your lover, writing them amorous notes and reading some of theirs, reviewing the history of your relationship or taking up new interests together. You might examine your own sin as you deal with your disappointment. You might work at knowing and loving the person who is, rather than the person you made up in your head when you were ‘under the influence.’

These same remedies are applicable to our relationship with God. Go back and read the last paragraph from that perspective. And then ask yourself, will you love God when He isn’t what you thought He was? When He doesn’t do what you want Him to do? When He doesn’t treat you the way you want to be treated? It’s what you promised when you gave Him your heart. If you’ve lost your first love, then things are getting real. Your Maker is your Husband, and He will never leave you nor forsake you. How will you keep your love alive?


Please reply in the COMMENT section.  I’d love to hear some of your ideas.

Beloved Tabernacle

Panoramic view arava vally Desert , israel.Before King Solomon built a proper temple, the nation of Israel wandered through the desert, worshiping in a tent. But not just any tent – it was, perhaps, the most beautiful and remarkable tent that has ever been constructed by man. It was built without power tools, according to the instructions God gave Moses, and it included a frame of carved acacia wood overlaid with gold, curtains of finely woven linen in intricate designs, utensils of pure gold inlaid with gemstones, and even a water-proof covering of dugong hides. (This probably means it was much more beautiful inside than out, fitting to the point I want to make.) It was large enough for hundreds of people to worship in its enclosures and yet portable enough to be carried by hand. You can read about it in Exodus 36-40.  The Israelites transported this tent through the desert on their wilderness wanderings, setting it up as their central hub when they camped and watching in awe as the visible Spirit of God settled upon it. At all times it was kept according to the rules God established for its purity as His dwelling place. The cost of such a thing would be practically incalculable today, pointing to the great value it had in the sight of God and all His people. It must have been a strange scene, this beautiful, costly, intricate, holy structure being moved around a barren wasteland with the Spirit of God hovering around and within it.

It is, perhaps, even stranger to realize that we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Cor. 6:16, NIV) To belong to the Kingdom of God is always to be a stranger in this fallen world, to wander far from home, following the Spirit’s lead. It also means that you and are the beautiful, costly, intricate, holy home which God has determined to keep in this wilderness. He has constructed your frame and equipped your hands according to His design. Your purity is His purity. Wherever you move, He lives. And if a tent made of perishable materials could be the most treasured heart of God’s interaction with the world, then you are precious beyond measure in His sight.

When the nation of Israel was fully established in the Promised Land, their tent of worship was superseded by an even more glorious temple building. And so it is with us. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. (2 Cor. 5:1, NIV) We long to know that eternal home, but until that day, do not forget the incredible beauty, purpose and value you have in this world by virtue of being the tabernacle of God.

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This post was a collaborative effort with many thanks to Dawn Bradley.

 


 

Learn more about the Tabernacle:

The Tabernacle Place

Beth Moore study of the Tabernacle