Storing the Truth in Our Hearts


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Connecting With God

In my last Connecting With God post, I talked about memorizing Scripture. That should have been easy for me, since I’d been acting ever since the 6th Grade Talent Show.  Nope.

Memorization was the thorn in my theatrical side, and the cause of a couple of serious on-stage meltdowns. So when, in the fall of 2013, I was offered the talky lead role in an independent film Promises to Keep, I did two things:

  1. Gleefully pumped my fist
  2. Had a panic attack.

Just days before filming began,“Father Abraham” popped into my head. Not the Jewish patriarch but the Sunday School song, famous for its silly hand motions. So I began making up goofy gestures to go with my lines—not to perform on film, godforbid, just to help with the memorization process.

It worked! First day on set, my leading lady, a wonderful actress named Christine Jones, said, “You are so good at memorization!” “Hah!” I snorted. But by the time shooting ended, I’d actually begun to think of myself as a good memorizer! (I knew most people were visual learners, but had never thought to make word memorization visual.

Meanwhile, I was struggling through yet another dry spell when that still small voice whispered, “Ahem, Father Abraham.” Could memorizing and meditating upon Scripture upgrade my spiritual life?

Yes! The Bible is full of statements about the benefits of storing God’s word in our hearts:

  • “Keep these words I am commanding you today in your hearts (memorize them)” (Deuteronomy 6:6).
  • “I have hidden (‘treasured’ or ‘stored’) your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
  • “Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, not merely hearers” (James 1:21-22)

For years I’d savored the complex flavors of God’s word, but had never made it a true meal, the food I lived on! It was time to start hiding God’s word in my heart, implanting it in my mind. And with my memorization issue resolved, I had no reason not to try!

I began reading with an eye for My Verses, passages I felt led to memorize. As new verses made their way into my prayer canon, I began noticing that they weren’t just filling empty space on my mental hard drive, they were displacing falsehoods and deceptions I still unconsciously believed.

Submarines rise to the surface by displacing water with air. Spiritual growth is also a kind of displacement. It is, as Rick Warren observes, “the process of replacing lies with truth.” Filling ourselves with truth enables us to rise above the surface of a lie-polluted world. (Nothing short of God-given truth can accomplish this—man-made platitudes always digress into leaden recitations.)

My spiritual life has been revolutionized! I no longer struggle to maintain meaningful prayer. With this God-given grid in place, I look forward to viewing each day from God’s perspective. I pray My Verses, using them as jumping off points to talk about the day, to pray for others, to hear God’s living word, that still small voice, and reflect upon the written word embedded in my heart!

Could this be a step God is calling you to take?

Next: Build Your House on a Rock!

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Love and Death

862f7392482847abe4d6992e18a4bba6Everything that matters is tied to death. Forgiveness, resolving differences,* healing hurts. When death looms, we suddenly remember the only thing that matters is love. If only death were always with us we would finally learn how to love.

But wait, it is.

At this very moment, each us is dying. Even “in the midst of life, we are in death” (The Book of Common Prayer). It’s almost as if, by creating death, God has said, “Do I have to kill you to get you to love? Then so be it. Now start loving each other before it’s too late.”

*Above is a news photo of a California father and son, long-separated by religious differences, reunited at the time of the son’s death (names withheld for privacy).

Posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

The Pompous Prof

image15I had a particularly pompous college Literature prof who loved to pontificate. Once he’d made a pronouncement, there was simply nothing more to be said.

The class was aching to see him taken down. One day he proclaimed, “All books titled after characters are named for their protagonist (hero). Period.”  He started rattling off examples: “Huckleberry Finn, Anna Karenina, Don Quixote, Oliver Twist…”

Then the class anarchist Stuart quietly muttered, “Moby Dick.” 

The class stood and cheered.

~from How to be Funny

Posted in Culture, Humor, Memoir, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Most Cringe-Inducing Ads Ever?

We live in the Age of Offendability, when the floors of public places seem to be carpeted with eggs. Yet we can all agree (or at least most of us can) that some things are always wrong: racism, sexism, drug abuse, endangerment of children. So it’s shocking to see how often these things have been used to hock products over the years!

Let’s offer:

Scorn where it’s truly deserved, 

Grace where values are new or evolving, and

Laughter where standards have changed with knowledge.

(Click on any image to enlarge it, or to begin slide show)

Posted in Culture, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Best Movies of 2019

Best Dramas

  1. 1917 – A masterpiece. Yes, its epic-yet-intimate single-shot look, accomplished by meticulous planning and execution, is brilliant, but more importantly it engages us at the deepest level. I haven’t been this impacted by the sheer humanity of a film since Schindler’s List.
  2. Parasite This genre-twisting dramedy is utterly fascinating. We don’t know who to trust or what to expect, but we care about each of them. A breakthrough for acclaimed Korean director Bong Joon-ho. Classism sucks!
  3. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – This moving story of forgiving what’s wrong and encouraging what’s right didn’t make the Oscar list, but it should have. It’s a feel-good movie that goes through the darkness to get there. Director Marielle Stiles Heller’s Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood-inspired approach is disarmingly apt.
  4. Dark Waters – Another Oscar oversight. This real-life drama of a lawyer’s years-long struggle to expose the crimes of chemical giant DuPont, is powerfully told and beautifully acted.
  5. Ford v Ferrari – A satisfyingly old-fashioned action drama (except for the profanity), centered on two great performances, and building to a stirring race sequence conclusion.

Best Comedies

  1. Jojo Rabbit – Like Parasite, Jojo breaks rules, as do all of writer-director Taita Waitiki’s films. Yes, it’s quirky and funny, dancing along the edges of insensitivity (never quite falling in), but it’s also unexpectedly touching. My favorite comedy, and one of my favorite films, of the year.
  2. Knives Out – This neo-traditional whodunnit is well plotted, and full of delightfully eccentric characters and laughs. The mystery is fun if not brilliant, and the ending is satisfying. Is there a sequel in the works? Duh!
  3. Toy Story 4 – We didn’t think another conclusion was needed but, hey, we got to spend a little more time with the Toys we love! And it lays the groundwork for Toy Story: The Next Generation. Hmm…
  4. The Upside – I was dubious about this remake of the French film The Intouchables, but Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston give hilarious and tender life to this solid American version.

Best Action Movies

  1. Joker – We’re loath to take the journey with a protagonist who’s moving inexorably toward violence and insanity—and yet we do. Joaquin Phoenix squeezes poignance from Joker’s final efforts to remain human. And along the way, writer-director Todd Phillips indicts the society that has pushed him here.
  2. Captain Marvel – Unlike many of my peers, I tend to prefer superhero “origin” stories to their action-heavy follow-ups. No Wonder Woman wannabe, the Captain (Brie Larson) has a will and style of her own. A satisfying start from filmmaking duo Anna Boden and Ryan K. Fleck.
  3. Shazam – I was a major Chuck fan, so I’m delighted to see it’s talented star Zachary Levi nail the lead in a hit movie! Shazam is a bit too long and a little uneven, but all-in-all it’s a great launch for this sweetly down-to-earth superhero.
  4. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Rise had so many loose ends to tie up! As a result, there was no way it was going to be “a fresh new take.” Still, it brings a satisfying conclusion to the Gen 3 character arcs. And, yes, I got choked up when Rey came “home” to Tatooine. Coming soon: Star Wars: A Fresh New Take?

Honorable Mentions

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – See it for the first 2/3rds, and for Leo and Brad. I’m just so tired of Tarantino’s obsession with revenge fantasies. I thought Once might be different, but in the end, well, forget it Jake, it’s Tarantino.
  • The Irishman – Yes, there’s a shattered loyalty theme, but unlike Joker, Scorsese’s violent mob characters are content with being sociopaths. Nothing really changes.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home – One of the better S-M re-re-re-reboots. And Tom Holland is adorable.
  • Judy – Two words: Renée Zellweger. Solid film, great acting.
  • Bombshell – See this docudrama, too, for its acting, especially Charlize Theron.
  • Marriage Story – A thoughtful and sadly real story about people who don’t know how to make marriage work. Neither, I suspect, do the filmmakers.
  • Avengers: Endgame – I’ll miss these guys, even as I anticipate what’s next!
Posted in Humor, Movies, Popular Culture & Entertainment | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Grace Places

JustPurSueIt_WomenOfTheWorld

“A woman who reverences the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” ~Proverbs 31:30-31

My Featured Bloggers this week are two women who will help you grow spiritually and upgrade your stake in humanity. They’re also members of the same writers group as me. Which means that, unlike the many bloggers I’ve come to consider friends, I get to enjoy their friendship in person! (Note: This is an update of a post from several years back, before I started regularly featuring bloggers on Wednesdays.)

untitled9712a4ee0731e689ca5ab49cce5620cdColleen Scheid and Nancy Ruegg are two of the wisest, most creative, and most authentic women I know. Which is to say that they live what they give. It’s not surprising, therefore, that their blog sites are grace places, places to grow closer to–and more like–God. What they’re not particularly good at is self-promotion. Too few people have discovered them. Let’s change that!

Colleen Scheid: Writing, Acting, Living the Grace of God

Nancy Ruegg: From the Inside Out

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Religion/Faith, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

An Ode to February

30 days hath September

April, June, and November.

All the rest have 31.

Except for February, it

has 28, then, boom, it’s done!

Oh, wait, and leap years—who knows why?—

on those years Feb slips one more by.

Or maybe it’s more like this:

Let’s throw a party! We’ll call it 2020!

Awesome! Who shall we invite?

Oh, you know, all the cool months.

What about what’s-his-name, you know, February?

Who?

The short guy.

Oh, yeah. We’ll squeeze him in. Do you have any extra days laying around?

I think so.

Great. Give it to him. He could use a date.

Tall woman and short man embracing

 

Posted in Culture, Humor, Poetry, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments