Thursday, December 20, 2012

Les Miser-sob

When going to the movies, what's better - the actual movie or all the movie trailers? Or all the stuff in between? Like maybe those Jordan Knight Old Navy commercials. For me, it's a toss-up. But throw in Jeff's strong, pillow-sized arm, the chocolate stashed somewhere in my purse, and the recent James Bond movie... combined with nobody eating popcorn around me... and Molly is all set.

But a few weeks ago, a couple movie trailers caught me off-guard. It wasn't so much that they were rough-and-tumble or caca-poopoo-peepee in nature, but that they were those things with the promise of "Christmas."

You know how it is with movie trailers, the voiceover guy pipes-in and describes each movie. Well this time, he said things like, "This Christmas... estranged by the only life he knows, a coffin-dragging gunslinger enters a town caught between two feuding factions."

Hmmm... guns, blood, coffins. And what are factions? Merry Christmas?

And then for the next trailer, "This Christmas... from the ones who brought you Knocked Up and The Hangover, so-and-so (fill in blank with B-actor) finally finds true love."

Oh, I see. Merry Christmas! (I think?)

But then the skies parted and a dove flitted-and-floated as sunbeams and waterfalls captivated the whole world, and here entered, before my very eyes... the Les Miserables trailer. More like Les Miser-sob, for I could not get through the trailer without crying.  

Here's the scoop: You've Hugh Jackman for the ladies. You've got Anne Hathaway for the guys (solely on the basis of her fine acting). And then the movie begins with this amazingly kind Bishop who forgives the sins of a thief, sending him on his way to hopefully make an honest man out of himself.

And that's just the beginning. There's so much more to the story: love, redemption, forgiveness, justice, mercy, compassion, hope. And probably British accents. All the things that are at the core of our very  soul. You will cry tears, I tell you. Or at least you'll get that old Hollywood misty-eyed glow.

Seems to me, humans are super cool. This unique ability we all have to feel deeply is no accident - it's the direct result of being created in the image of God. And I was quickly reminded of my God-created status while just sitting there, watching a two-minute Les Miserables movie trailer.

So this Christmas, the voiceover in my mind will not only be joy-to-the-world in nature, but also extremely pitchy as I sing the classic lyrics from Les Miserables: "I dreamed a dream in time gone by - when hope was high and life worth living."


Monday, December 17, 2012

"Blest" Friends

Life would be blah without friends. So it seems everywhere I've landed, God has provided big-time in the friendship department. Even the kooky ones were heaven-sent. And ever since I read Julie Ann Barnhill's Scandalous Grace, I am convinced that friendships are indeed God's "lily pads of grace." Although a bit deep and wordy, she writes:

"...they have saved me from the scorched places, expanded my oft protracted sense of self, and brought me across the swamp of fear and doubt...for it is through those girlfriends, who have often acted toward me as instruments of God's love and mercy, that I have been able to taste, touch, and feel more of God's scandalous grace."

Scorching places, oft-protractions, swamps? Too dramatic for my tastes. But the point is, whether a friend has been life-long or short-term, an encourager or secret-keeper, a shopping pal or Kindle Fire* book-sharer, a fellow coffee drinker (with cream, please) or ventee to my venting, God has used each one to direct me toward, as Barnhill puts it, "the next divinely-appointed woman in my life."

But what to make of the "cautionary" friends? The ones who've kept me in-the-know about the latest skin rash outbreaks? Or how Diet Coke kills? Or what about the ones who've sent me into a panic because after all these years of cutting my twelve-year-old's chicken, they've warned that I have not prepared him for dining with his future in-laws on that Alaskan cruise 14 years from now? 

On the other hand, what about the just-pick-it-up-and-eat-it friends? You know, the fun ones. The ones who casually say things like, "Sit at our table, Molly! We need more brains over here," or, "Well, Molly looks like she has small feet - have her try them on," or, "Pass it to Molly - she'll eat it." (Oh wait, that's...not a good example. True, but not proud.)

Every type is needed, right? So in the name of friendship - and in light of the Christmas season - I love reading about how Mary sought her cousin Elizabeth's friendship the moment she received the exciting, yet scary, news of being chosen to birth Jesus, the Son of God (Luke 1:26-56).

It was in the midst of such overwhelming knowledge where God met the personal needs of this young pregnant girl. She needed a friend - and pronto! Both Mary and Elizabeth were peculiarly and questionably pregnant. And how so-like-God it is for him to find another woman who can do more than just relate to the pregnancy (and when things get really-really-real down there), but also offer years of wisdom and faith to set the stage for much-needed encouragement and heart-to-heart chats.

It all reminds me of how our God is a God who sees, and on that day, he noticed two women who needed one another. Ah, with such assurance like this, I know I can hop right smack-dab into the middle of every friendship lily pad God faithfully places in Molly's pond. Ribbit!

*A little Christmas wish hint, El Jefe. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas with Pluto

I can always count on a certain radio station (which shall remain nameless) to play the same Christmas songs over and over, year after year. But it's not like anyone's putting a gun to my head. They're not all bad - the songs have become more of a seasonal expectation now. And my two favorites being George Michael's "Last Christmas" and Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You."

So as Mariah Carey sang her heart out in my car today, I explained to my youngest child that she was kind of a big thing when I was in high school. And much to my dismay, my daughter said, "Cool. Is she still alive?"

Wow, where did that come from? Am I really at that age where famous singers from "my day" may or may not be alive? Fine. I'll take it. Because the older I get, the more confidence I exude and uninhibited I become. Free to be me, that's what it is.

Take our most recent day at Disneyland, for example. My daughter, the same one who thinks it's perfectly natural for "my aged" people to start dying-off, wanted Pluto's autograph. But what to have him write it on? I wasn't ready for this, but Pluto was. He was just standing there. It was surprising how available he was.

So off I go, searching into the chaos that is my purse. You could practically hear the Flight of the Bumblebee tune in the background while I go digging. (And it's possible my trying-hard-to-look-for-something tongue was sticking out.) What's Molly going to find? A sock, a bag of almonds, a lipstick cap - and a pen cap. Oh, there's the pen!

Frantic that Pluto was about to move-on to a more prepared family, I pulled out an old ATM bank statement - aka: versateller statement. (Am I right or am I right?) Of course, it was crumpled. But once I smoothed it out on my leg, I said, "Here you go, PLUTO. Sign the back of this!"

Realizing how unconventional and "Frankie Heck" my display was, I felt a little judged by onlookers. "Oh dear, that poor woman has no filter." So I quickly called myself out and made a joke of it, telling Pluto to resist peeking at the other side and stuff. And Pluto did his whole hands-on-his-head-moving-back-and-forth thing. As in, "I can't believe I turned down a job at The Gap for this."

I went from carefree and confident to "oh my gosh, everyone thinks I live in a van down by the river" in 2.4 seconds. Good thing God didn't make fun of me. Or if he had, it'd be more of a laugh-with-me-not-at-me sort of thing. He knows I don't live down by the river - and wouldn't look down on me if I did.

And that's the thing: God doesn't look down on me. John 3:17 says, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." Such a Christmassy verse, for it shows that Jesus came into the world to extend grace and mercy to us. What a confidence builder, too, despite my unsophisticated autograph-getting tactics.