Far Too Easily Pleased

Some of you may have already read this article from MSNBC; but if not, I strongly urge you to do so. Here’s an excerpt:

Stacie Crimm didn’t get to share much time with her infant daughter, Dottie Mae – she’d made the ultimate sacrifice to give the little girl life.

Crimm, a 41-year-old single mother, received the grim diagnosis of terminal head and neck cancer just months after her little girl was conceived. She opted to skip chemotherapy to protect her growing fetus.

Crimm survived long enough for the baby to be delivered. But shortly after holding her daughter for the first time, the Oklahoma woman slipped into a coma and died.

It’s a beautiful, beautiful story. Here’s a woman who (as far as I know) was not a Christian, and yet she demonstrated the essence of John 15:13 far better than many believers do. As Challies said, “Greater love hath no mom than this…”

But there’s something disappointing and troubling about this story, too: you probably noticed it yourself, toward the end:

[Crimm] didn’t have many special instructions on how she wanted her daughter to be raised, but she did have big plans for her little girl.

“She said, ‘I hope this little girl grows up beautiful so we can put her in pageants,'” Phillips told Lauer.

Really? I thought. That’s it? That’s all you want for your daughter? How sad.

Not surprisingly, I’m reminded of something C.S. Lewis once wrote: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

As Christians, we, too, live because Someone died for us. Because Christ died for us. The life we now live is not ours to wile away on paltry earthly pursuits. Jesus didn’t die so we could have our “best life now”; He didn’t die so we could chase our wildest dreams; He didn’t die so we could win beauty pageants or write a New York Times bestseller or make it to the Oscars.

No, He died that He might call us to something bigger, better, grander, and far more magnificent than any of these things. He died that we might be sons of God – that we might love Him and glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we
should be called the sons of God…” (1 John 3:1)

Clueless

“As I see it – and as poll after poll proves – too many people who regard themselves as Christians are utterly clueless about the most fundamental truths. They don’t understand what God says about the human condition. They don’t know what God meant to do when He made man, what happened to us to wreck us up, or what we really need. Cherished traditional notions they have in abundance; biblical truth in all its raw, intrusive, and transforming power, they lack.”

– Dan Phillips, The World-Tilting Gospel (Introduction, p. 20)

One More Time

Edward Zwick’s The Last Samurai (2003) is not one of my favorite films. It’s not a bad movie per se – just not a great one. That said, it does have its moments and there are scenes from it which I can and do appreciate very much. The clip below is one of those scenes:


Famed author and poet Oliver Goldsmith once said, “Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall.”

I think that the above scene is a fair illustration of that.

Tom Cruise’s character, Nathan Algren, is beaten down multiple times – and he keeps getting up. Given the option of staying on the ground, he chooses to rise. One. More. Time. Ultimately, his opponent has to take the sword away from him altogether. And later on in the film, we see that Algren’s show of perseverance wasn’t for nought: it earns him the respect of those around him. Those who once held him in contempt.

It’s a lesson worth remembering – one which is, I think, all too frequently forgotten. Every worthwhile pursuit requires courage and perseverence on the part of the pursuer – the will to get up out of the mud and keep going no matter how much it hurts, no matter how many times you’ve been hit.

Christianity is no different.

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” He persevered, despite countless obstacles and tribulations, and what did he get for it? “… an exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4:17)

Is not that a glorious recompense?

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” (Rom. 5:3-4)

Flotsam & Jetsam (10/20)

Book Giveaway – Becky Pliego is hosting a special giveaway over at her blog. Check it out pronto… it ends tomorrow, October 21st!

Movieology: Courageous – I believe this is one of the best reviews of the Kendrick Bros. new film that I’ve come across so far. “I was a little afraid of watching this movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve probably seen most every Christian movie that has ever made it into somewhat general distribution, but honestly, I haven’t been impressed with much about any of them… So, I wondered… what can the Kendrick brothers do now that they have some money to work with?”

Reel Quick – Click here to read my review of Sam Raimi’s Darkman (1990) – a moody and morally-twisted superhero film where the “hero” is the villain.

Vulgata Non Grata – This piece from Truthinator is positively hilarious.

Learning From and Questioning the Seeker Church – Kevin DeYoung writes, “What can we learn from the seeker church? Where might we be too quick to criticize? And where must we register deep disagreement? These are important questions. And to get at them, I want to explore the new book by James Emery White, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary: 25 Lessons for Successful Ministry in Your Church… Rather than give a full review of the book, I though I would simply list a number of good point and then highlight some concerns.

There Are No Egalitarians When a Mouse Gets Loose – Bingo.

The Foundation for Christian Fellowship – An excellent post by Michael Wright.

Masculinity 1 – From the Man Against World blog: “This blog exists because I and the other writers see many ways in which we ourselves and Christian men in general are confused about identity. The identity of a man who is living for Christ must be firmly cemented in his soul. To solidify “Christian man in the 21st century” as an identity, we need to define masculinity in a way that glorifies Christ and flows from His Word, and that is powerful and relevant to today’s saints.”

The True Path to Greatness – Amazing, isn’t it? How often we need to be reminded of simple truths such as this?

“Understanding is knowing what to do next; wisdom is knowing what to
do next; virtue is actually doing it.” ~ Trystan Gylberd

Herein Lies Wackiness

Yes, wackiness. And not just any wackiness. Theological wackiness.

John Elderidge has published a new book entitled Beautiful Outlaw; and judging from the excerpts that blogger Tim Challies shared, it smells like a stinker. A big stinker. See for yourself:

I have had similar encounters with Jesus in healing prayer. Last year, as a wise old sage was praying with me through some of the painful memories of my life, I was immediately reminded of the time in middle school when my first girlfriend broke my heart. These wounds can linger for a lifetime if you let them—the first cut is the deepest, and all that. We asked Jesus to take me back to the memory. I saw us, the girl and me; it was that fateful summer day. We were in the living room, just as it happened. Then I saw Jesus enter the room. He was quite stern with her, and it surprised me. That mattered to you? I wondered. Very much, he said.

Then Jesus turned to me. I felt his love. I realized I could let the whole thing go. It was so healing. To understand that Jesus is angry about what happened to you is very, very important in understanding his personality but also in your relationship with him and for your healing. What I love about these encounters is that every time—every time—Jesus is so true to his real personality. Sometimes fierce, sometimes gentle, always generous, and often very playful.

My son was having a tough freshman year at college. So many students there are bound under the religious fog. It was a lonely fall, filled with misunderstanding. One afternoon, just after a classmate said something particularly hurtful to him, Blaine returned to his room and slumped onto his bed, about as low as a young man can get. He looked over to his desk, and “saw” Jesus sitting there, in his desk chair, a smile on his face. He was wearing a pirate hat. Then he disappeared. A whiff of the Emmaus road.

But wait, there’s more:

I was going to call this book Jesus of a Thousand Hearts, because of the way he continually breaks into my life. He “speaks” to me through hearts. I’ll find stones in the shape of hearts in rivers where I’m fishing. I’ve seen them almost step-by-step up a mountainside when on a grueling climb. Praying in the morning I’ll look out the window and passing by will be a heart-shaped cloud. Dinner rolls, seashells, stains on my jeans. I’ve won the lottery when it comes to hearts from Jesus. But I am ashamed to admit that last summer, I grew a little impatient with them. I was going through a trying time and seeking God for the answer to many questions. Often, he would simply give me a heart in reply. I’d be walking down the sidewalk, and there in the cement see a heart-shaped hole, made by a bubble when they poured the sidewalk.

I actually grew a little dismissive of them. I didn’t want hearts—I wanted answers.

So, Jesus stopped giving these treasures of our friendship.

Last fall, while walking through an alpine meadow bow hunting, I was asking him, How come you don’t give me hearts anymore? I asked it in a pouting kind of way. At that moment something gray caught my eye. I looked down midstride, and there in the grass, about as big as a dinner plate, was a dried piece of cow manure—in the perfect shape of a heart.

If I didn’t know Jesus adores me, if I didn’t know he is playful, and if our relationship didn’t allow me to receive a playful tease, I might have misinterpreted the icon. But I loved it. It was both, Oh, so now you want a heart? and, I adore you still. A cow-pie heart. That is so Jesus. Wish I’d taken a photo of it—we could have put it on the cover of this book.

I’m still trying to figure out how someone could write this kind of stuff and keep a straight face. It’s a complete mystery to me.

I think all of it would be a whole lot funnier if it were written only in jest. But it’s not. As Challies pointed out, Eldridge has put himself beyond parody. Such being the case, I’m not sure whether to laugh, cry, or throw up.