Observing a Life

genieWe’ve been hit with some pretty big celebrity deaths during the past five years, and they seem to hit closer and closer to home.

We still download Michael Jackson’s music while we watch Heath Ledger’s memorable portrayal of the Joker on our Macs and iPads that were of Steve Jobs’ genius design.

dead poetsBut most of us found ourselves rummaging through our old DVDs and VHS tapes yesterday, still trying to get over the shock of Robin Williams’ sudden passing.

No one would have guessed he’d be next.

I was at a restaurant when I saw the breaking news pop up on the TV monitor. There was no shortage of gasps. Throughout the rest of the evening I talked with friends and coworkers about his death, and what shocked me was the wide variety of responses I heard.

One guy said, “Just think of the movie marathons that’ll happen this week.”

When CNN erroneously reported that Mr. Williams had died of a heart attack, another guy said, “I’m more than half that age. That could be me soon.”

My best friend texted me an adage from one of our favorites, Hook: “To die will be an hook_robin-williams_spielbergawfully big adventure.”

Shockingly, someone said, “Good riddance.” When I asked for clarity, he said he never thought Robin Williams was funny. That was a first.

One girl started crying.

Another guy said, “I always thought he’d out himself; he just seemed too happy on the outside.”

And someone else, out of anger and hurt, said, “What did Robin Williams have to be upset about?”

jackNo matter what your thoughts are, there is likely not a person in America who hasn’t seen a movie with him in it, or voiced by him. I mean, who hasn’t already thought of Genie’s “Never Had a Friend Like Me” since the news hit?

But his death, in particular his suicide, kind of jolts me. The guy who said, “What did Robin Williams have to be upset about?” got me thinking, as each celebrity suicide does. You remember Tony Scott, the Top Gun director who jumped off a bridge a few years back? People asked the same thing of him.

I don’t know these people, but I know that they had a whole lot of the one thing we’re all Mrs-Doubtfire-robin-williams-33200263-1024-768after. We’re all after that one thing that we think will obliterate all of our problems. I find myself thinking, quite often, how I would love to be rich. Filthy, stinking, rich. Not to buy things, really, but to set it aside in savings.

Go out to eat wherever I want. Take my wife to Hawaii and Tahiti, just for the fun of it, as often as we’d like. Not have to work. Not sweat when I write the check for the mortgage. Get whatever we want at the grocery store each week. Open up an orphanage.

You know, little things like that.

We think money will afford us all these things (no pun intended). But clearly there was something else Robin Williams was after. And I’m not saying suicide is reserved for the rich and famous. Poor people are prone to it, good people, bad people, lonely people, popular people. But we have this idea that if we just have enough money, we’d be exempt from depression and sadness and bad hair days and week-long laundry piles.

patchadams-1024x576But depression can sneak in and grab anyone. Even Christians.

I am reminded today that we ought not to struggle and fight and work for the things of this world, for it is all temporary and fleeting. But to struggle for what comes after this world, the promise that there is a Kingdom for those who believe in Jesus Christ where all tears will be wiped away, and there will be no more dying or sadness or struggle ever again.

I am grateful for the life of Robin Williams, the inspiration behind so many iconic movie characters, the source of so many jokes, and the heart behind countless movie scenes that have touched us deeply. And though I’m deeply upset by his death, I’m glad that it causes us all to stop and think about what we’re clawing after, what we’re striving for, and remind us to do a maintenance check on our hearts and motives to see that we’re heading in a direction that is healthy and life-giving.

I’ll leave you with a statement from President Barack Obama that I found quite touching.

“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.”

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What Your Next Bible Study Book Should Be…

disruptive-messiah-coverweb

I don’t read very many Christian books, mostly because I don’t like 50 different people resaying the same things, so I’m very selective with my Christian reading list. But every so often I’ll pick one up that really stands out on its own.

The one I recently ran across is by a new author, Ken Ruggles from Southern California, who writes about a Messiah who doesn’t come to give peace, nor offer comfort, nor sit idly by as a mere observer. He writes, instead, about the Jesus of the Bible who comes as a disturber – a Disruptive Messiah, if you will.

Ruggles walks his readers through thirteen separate instances of Jesus’ life, beginning with His birth and ending with His entry into Jerusalem. Ruggles’ vast knowledge of the mid-Eastern landscape and culture, particularly in regards to biblical times, aids his readers in having a clearer understanding of the background surrounding the particular stories he calls to attention.

You can read The Disruptive Messiah on your own, but I think it would best be discovered as a small group discussion guide as each chapter is conveniently bookended with thoughtful questions for reflection.

Ken Ruggles isn’t the pastor of a church, nor some high-profile missionary, which is to his credit because he is able to relate to his readers on their level and meet them where they’re at. It is his many years of study and teaching and traveling to the Promised Land that affords him the credibility to teach us about Jesus from a unique perspective.

So grab a copy for yourself and talk to your Bible study leaders about making The Disruptive Messiah your next discussion guide.

Order your copy here.

Hugs

Shel Silversteen penned a poem called “Hug-O-War.” You’d probably remember it if I started it off for you:

I will not play tug-o-war.mar15

I’d rather play hug-o-war.

Where everyone hugs

Instead of tugs,

Where everyone giggles

and rolls on the rug…

I don’t do hugs. They’re just not my thing.

dtv-tommyboyKids hug parents. Girls hug puppies. Heavy-set people give bear hugs. Women hug women. Tommy Boy hugs.

But I, Andrew, do not hug. I’ll shake your hand, or even better, I’ll high-five or fist-bump you. (“Knucks!”) But the best of all is a head nod. “Hey. What’s up?”

“Nothing. You?”

“Not much. See ya.”

“See ya.”

But there’s a problem with all of this. I don’t like hugs, but

I’m married.

And my spouse is a woman.

And women hug.

My wife likes hugs.

The first time Sarabeth and I hung out together as a couple, we could have hugged when I said good night.handshake

But we didn’t. I shook her hand. No joke.

But here’s the thing. Sarabeth knows me and my needs. She knows that I need affirmation and compliments. And she doesn’t give out compliments freely. But she gives them generously to me because she knows I need them.

So it’s only fair that I hug her more than once a week.

Because I love her.

What does your spouse love? What do they need every day?

My wife needs hugs.

10 Movies About Adoption No. 2: Punky Brewster

Screen-Shot-2014-04-05-at-15.55.02No, this isn’t a movie, but you probably remember this show from the ’80s, about an orphaned girl with mismatched socks and her dog Brandon who were adopted by the old, grouchy, set-in-his-ways Henry Warnimont.

Punky Brewster’s mom ditched her in a grocery store. The eight-year-old was suddenly and unexpectadly abandoned with no one but her dog to comfort her. She and Brandon find themselves living in an empty apartment when the landlord, Henry, finds them occupying the space.

After a series of mishaps, Henry decides to make Punky his foster daughter. At the end of two seasons Henry then proceeds to adopt Punky Brewster to maker her his daughter forever.

True, it’s no Office or Big Bang Theory. Humor-wise it’s proabably closer to Full House than Home Improvement, but it does embody the themes that we are living out in our household with Baby A. being our foster daughter. And it’s a show I plan on using as a tool to help educate our little girl about the journey her mom and me are on in trying to secure her officially as our daughter.

I’m taking the time to point this show out because in an emotional 5-part strand of episodes, entitled “Changes,” in season 2, the show walks viewers through the process of moving from foster care to adoption.

If you haven’t lived out the process, it can be difficult separating foster care from adoption and foster-to-adopt from adoption and all the terms can get kind of jumbled and confusing. You can Youtube “Punky Brewster – Changes” and a list of the five episodes will come up.

If you have an adopted child, sometimes it can be comforting to know that they’re not alone and that there’s nothing wrong or weird about being adopted. Punky never shows resentment toward her foster dad or spends her time hashing out the what-could-have-beens in her life – not that there’s not an appropriate time to do that – but instead, she looks toward the future with hope and optimism with her new father and she recognizes that he loves her just as if she were his biological daughter.

After all, even though Baby A. wasn’t born to us, it’s impossible not to see her as one of our own. And hopefully she’ll always feel that way toward us.

10 Movies About Adoption No. 1: 101 Dalmatians

101dalmatians2lgIt’s very likely that we will be adopting our foster daughter soon, unless something unexpected comes up. So Sarabeth and I are now shifting our focus from Baby A. being in our house for a short time to her being our permanent daughter. And that means that one day, we’ll be explaining to her that she was adopted.

One way for big ideas like that to make a little more sense are through stories. Jesus told parables to make big ideas relatable, or somewhat understandable, and I plan to do the same for Baby A. when she’s older. One story I plan on sharing with her is 101 Dalmatians.

Whether we read the excellent book by Dottie Smith or watch the movie, I’ll share with her that she is like one of the 84 orphaned dalmatian puppies who were on death row. (Except she wasn’t on death row.) But they had no parents. They were lost and alone in a cruel, cold world.

But when Pongo and Perdita were brought to the DeVille Mansion, they hardly had a second thought about taking their 15 biological puppies, along with the 84 others, with them back home.

Just like when we met Baby A. in the hospital, we had no reservations about taking her home to live with us as one of our own.

And to take it a step further, all of us were on death row once, in a cold, dark cell (and many still are), where Satan was feeding us luscious treats and tempting sins to fatten us up, readying us for the slaughter. Until Jesus Christ broke in and rescued us by His death on the cross. He extended His hand for all of us to come home with Him, but only a few of us went with Him, and those few became God’s children through adoption.

The purpose of this series is to point out the adoption themes in some of our most cherished stories so that we can share them with our kids to better help them understand the concept of adoption and the beauty of its life-altering power.

I’ll hope you’ll check back for nine other movies that can be used as a wonderful tool to help explain adoption to our kids.

Let’s Talk Dinos!

tyrannosaurus-dinosaurLast night I talked poor Sarabeth’s ear off about all the exciting dinosaur movies coming out next year.

The world of movies as we knew it changed forever in 1993 when Steven Spielberg released Jurassic Park. 

I’ll never forget the first time I heard the words “Jurassic Park.”

I was in the third grade, and my teacher, Mrs. Smart, I believe, must have read the book and must have heard about it being filmed from an evening news clip. She had just read us a story and proceeded to tell the class about the movie centered around a theme park with dinosaurs.

Collectively, I don’t think we were very bright, or we were all just deaf, because we didn’t hear her say the word “movie.” So we ambushed her with a load of questions like,

“When does it open?”jurassic park logo

“Will the dinosaurs move?

“Will it be next to Disneyland?”

And for about ten minutes, Mrs. Smart did her best to explain to us that it was a movie about a theme park.

In our seven- and eight-year-old minds, we couldn’t comprehend why anyone would watch a movie about a theme park when we could just go. 

Well, the next summer, I lost count the amount of times I went to see Jurassic Park with my buddies. And each time, I prayed the dinosaurs wouldn’t escape, but deeper still, I prayed that they would so I could experience that spine-tingling chill the movie still gives us all to this day.

man in boxYou’ll even see where Jurassic Park played a role in inspiring certain scenes in my book The Man in the Box. 

There’s no further agenda to this post except to express my excitement for all the dino fun we’re in for in the next 11 months, starting with a Toy Story television special about dinosaurs airing sometimes this holiday season.

 

And then next Father’s Day, we’ll be graced with Jurassic World, the fourth installment in the sharp-toothed franchise.

And later next year, Pixar is giving us an all new animated feature about …dinosaurs, calledRossGellerFriends413 The Good Dinosaur. 

I think I missed my calling as a paleontologist.

 

 

The-Good-Dinosaur-Logo

 

 

Shiny Pennies

us-pennyYou probably do it too.

The cashier says, “That’ll be $16.18.” You dig through your wallet or purse and you pull out a twenty, a dime, a nickel, and three pennies. But as you’re digging through your pennies, you see that you have three dingy, rusty ones, and one brand new, perfectly shiny one, minted in 2012.

Which three do you use to pay for your food?

The three old rusty ones, of course. It’s better to hold onto the shiny one. It’s prettier.

It’s shinier.

That’s what we do with the Gospel, isn’t it? Let’s be honest for a minute.

We want to fit in with our coworkers, so we throw in a few dirty jokes to get their approval. That’s a pretty dingy part of our character we’re spending on them, holding back the best part of us – the Christian part of us.

The part of us that’s supposed to be like Jesus Christ.

We’re slow to show forgiveness to our spouses. We’re a little rusty on being slow to anger, so that’s what they get from us. A rusty, sour attitude. Again, we’re holding back the beauty of forgiveness, keeping it deep in our pocket for our own sake.

Modesty, forgiveness, kindness, love – these are all aspects of the Gospel that we often decide to keep from others, day in, day out. All the while, we offer them the same thing everyone else gives – the worst part of who we are. Anger, selfishness, an unforgiving spirit…

So as you interact with your coworkers and loved ones this week, think about whether you’re giving them dirty, rusty pennies, or the bright shiny ones that everyone likes.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. -Matthew 5:16

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