“Gimme Shelter” – Why You Should See This Movie

gimmeshelter1

Last week the Hubbie and I went to our first invitation-only movie preview.  Not one of these sneak previews where you pay full price and go the night before a movie opens (really – what’s so special about THAT?). No – this was a free advance showing of the new movie “Gimme Shelter,” a movie with a strong Christian perspective, for the purpose of getting audience feedback and trying to get the word out.

The movie opens nation-wide THIS FRIDAY January 24.  If you haven’t heard of it – don’t worry.  I hadn’t either.  Or maybe everyone else HAS heard of it, and I’m just living under a rock…..

At any rate……

I have to admit I’m always a bit cautious when it comes to Christian films.  Christian movie-making seems to be where Christian popular music was about 30 years ago.  At that time, Christians were just getting into contemporary music in a serious way, and they had a lot to learn.  Some of the music was…..well, it was “just ok.”  Eventually, though, some pretty good music started to appear.  And today, it’s really good – excellent, in fact.  But it would never have gotten where it is today without people like you and me listening to it, going to concerts, supporting it, providing feedback, etc.

So it’s important that you and I get engaged when Christian movies come on the scene.  If we want to influence our culture for Christ, it’s very important. Sometimes the movies end up being outstanding – Fireproof is one example.  Regardless, we need to support them and provide feedback if we are going to help Christian movies move toward excellence.

Based on all that, I went to the preview with cautious optimism.  And it paid off – the move was REALLY good – and it quickly became apparent that this was a movie worth sharing with my friends!

So here you have it, my very first movie review :-)

What’s It About?

The movie is based in reality, following the story of the “Several Sources Shelters” for pregnant teens in New Jersey, run by a woman named Kathy DiFiore.  While you might be tempted to think this is just a story about teenage pregnancy, you would be wrong – it is SO much more. The story revolves around a girl known as “Apple,” whose mother is an abusive drug user.  Apple has been in and out of foster homes, but as the movie opens, she is back with her mother, and it’s not working out. Ultimately, Apple makes a decision to run away and start her own life – but not without first attempting to connect with her biological father.  We soon learn she is pregnant by a previous relationship. I don’t want to give away the whole story, so I’ll stop there.

While this is the story line, there are several different themes that are running throughout the movie, any one of which could be worthy of it’s own development.  What that means is that when you get done seeing this, there is plenty to talk about with your fellow movie watchers!

Who’s In It?

You’ll recognize many of the key players:

gimmeshelter3

Vanessa Hudgens as Apple

Vanessa Hudgens – plays “Apple.”  This role develops and morphs during the movie from angry, disturbed inner city teen to maturing mother.  Hubs and I both marveled at the breadth of this role and how well she portrayed its various aspects.  You may already be familiar with Vanessa – she’s best known for her role as Gabriella Montez in the movie “High School Musical,” although she has played in numerous other roles as well.

 

gimmeshelter4

 

James Earl Jones – yes, THE James Earl Jones.  He plays a chaplain who befriends Apple and eventually connects her with the shelter for pregnant teens.

 

 

 

 

gimmeshelter6

 

Brendan Fraser – plays Apple’s biological father.  Among his credits are the role of Rick O’Connell in “The Mummy” movies, which earned him multiple best actor nominations.

 

 

 

 

gimmeshelter2

 

Ann Dowd plays Kathy, the woman who runs the shelter for pregnant teens.  She’s previously acted in “Side Effects,” “Compliance” (Best Supporting Actress), and “Marley and Me” – among others.

 

 

 

gimmeshelter5

 

Rosario Dawson plays Apple’s mother.  Rosario has played Kate in the movie “Zookeeper,”  Emily Posa in “Seven Pounds,” and numerous other roles.

Why You Should See This Movie

Here’s the bottom line – If you’re looking for a feel-good movie where you can just sit back and relax – this isn’t it.  You WILL feel good by the end, but this movie will hit you emotionally, and will challenge your thinking.

There are plenty of reasons to see Gimme Shelter.  Here are just a few reasons:

1.  You have a friend who is not yet a Christian, but you’d like to start a spiritual conversation with them.

If you’re looking for a movie that will present the full Gospel message for you with no risk or effort on your part – forget it – you won’t get that with this movie.  What you WILL hear are clear Biblical messages about how God is working for your good even in the midst of problems, and that being a sinner doesn’t mean you can’t be reconciled to God.  You will see the Bible being used as a source of guidance.  Trust me – if you want to start a spiritual conversation with your friend or family member, you’ll be set up perfectly for an after-the-movie conversation.

2.  You know someone dealing with issues of teen pregnancy, drug use, physical/emotional abuse, or who has grown up in foster homes, etc., and would like to build a connection with them.

Again, inviting a friend who has dealt with these issues is a great way to get the conversation going.  If you feel the time isn’t quite right, at least go see the movie yourself so that you can use it as a conversations starter later (“I saw this movie, and it made me think of you.  Is this the kind of thing you experienced”?  You get the idea…)

3.  You’re considering ministry to folks in the inner city, in poverty, in the foster care system, etc.

You will likely get a much better appreciation for the challenges they face on a daily basis.  You’ll also understand why well-intentioned efforts to help people often fail, and what makes for successful efforts.  I’ve read several good books on the topic (like this one), but seeing it unfold on the screen before you really helps drive the points home.

4.  You would like to see a real-life example of how God can take someone society thinks is a “nobody” to make a huge impact in the lives of many other people.

Do you want to do something really big for God, but don’t know how God could use someone like you?  The movie will show a real life example of how God works.  Not going to say any more….go see it for yourself.

5.  You like movies that challenge you and make you think.

This is a good reason, but I put it last because in my book it’s the weakest reason of the bunch.  A movie like this is too good to just see as a piece of art.  See the movie.  Think about the movie.  But please….don’t stop at thinking.  Do something in response to what you’ve just seen.  Even if it’s just a first step….

Find More Information Here

You can check out the trailer at Gimme Shelter Trailer

You can also check out the story behind the making of the movie.

Gimme Shelter is rated PG13.  It opens at theaters nationwide on January 24.  You can find out where it’s playing in your area by going to its Fandango page.

In Summary

Opening weekend is critical!  The better the movie does that weekend, the longer it will play at theaters.  So please – support this movie by seeing it.  Invite your friends – and do something in response, whether it’s talking with friends about how God works through the tough times, or getting involved with someone who’s hurting right now.

I’d love to hear your comments.  Are you planning to see it?  Once you’ve seen it, what did you think?

 

Worship – Setting My Inner Child Free…..

This past week’s snowstorm caused no end of excitement in our household.  So much, in fact, that some of my friends marveled at how I could get so excited by something as simple as a little snow. But here’s the thing – it wasn’t about the snow….. My life is complicated – I’m sure yours is too.  I routinely deal with heavy topics that  consume my life.  They spill over into everything.  I’m distracted when I shouldn’t be, I’m too tired to enjoy things, and occasionally I don’t react as I should (yes, it’s true…).  What’s more,  when I go to church, sometimes I struggle to stay focused and worship. But every once in a while, something happens that changes all that.  Snow is one of those things.  I’m not talking about just seeing lots of “white stuff” on the ground, or skiing or sledding.  I’m talking snow FLAKES – watching them land, and looking at their designs before they melt to nothing before my eyes.Snowflake1 Yes, like most of you (at least those that will admit it), there is a small child that still lives in me. And this child plays a bit of a game, trying to find two identical snowflakes.  I haven’t done it yet.  And I understand from those who’ve tried, even after cataloging thousands and thousands of snowflakes, I’m not likely to see two that look the same.  And even if I did – I’m pretty much guaranteed they will be different if only I look closer. But I digress….. The whole point is that snowflakes captivate me – they make me lose all sense of time, and forget my problems and anything else that’s not really that important.

   I want to let my “inner child” worship, as only my inner child can do.

And they evoke this surprising response from me. It’s like God is showing off part of His creation in a private showing – just for me.  I’m filled with wonder – at the beauty and detail of what God has made, and at the incredible God that could create something like this. I’m  amazed that God would choose to show off His creation….to ME!.  It drives home to me that God not only knows I exist, He delights in me and loves to reveal Himself to me. And I love Him…. Well, it’s not just snow that does this.  There are other things….. Like seeing the tops of the clouds when I fly in a plane:  Above_the_Clouds In all of history, it’s only in the last several decades that anyone has seen this.  I get all excited to see this view that previously only God and the angels saw.  How cool is THAT???       And spider webs (without the spiders :-) ):Spider Web Morning I think about the God that designed the webs – all their various shapes and purposes.  They are beautiful and so perfectly detailed…..     Things like these in nature trigger the same reaction in me: This is SO beautiful……I can’t believe I got to see this….that God is showing this to ME – just me! And I feel like the most special child of God on the planet! I am TOTALLY delighting in God!     I am WORSHIPING God! I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever felt that way.  I think might be a little of how David felt in 2 Samuel 6, when he was bringing the Ark to Jerusalem for the second time. You may remember that his first attempt didn’t work out so well – because David didn’t do it God’s way.  But David learned, and now the second time was incredible.

David Dancing before the Lord

David Dancing Before the Lord(http://lorialexander.blogspot.com/2013/11/a-scolding-wife.html)

And so we see David, in pure joy, praising God by “dancing before the LORD with all his might.”  It got to the point that David’s wife told him this was totally inappropriate behavior for a king.  But David was adamant: “therefore I will celebrate before the LORD.”  I think David was bursting with joy that God had allowed him to do something as special as bringing the ark to Jerusalem. And so he danced with child-like abandon, not caring what others might think. That’s what I want.  I don’t want to act my age, or according to what others think is appropriate when I’m with God.  I want to worship and celebrate before Him – no holds barred, in  pure joy.  I want to let my “inner child” worship, as only my inner child can do. Which makes me wonder – isn’t this another aspect of what Jesus meant when He said that only those who receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will enter it.   Yes, we need to come to Jesus with child-like faith, trusting Him as a child trusts a parent.  But then we are also called to worship as a child would worship – in pure amazement, pure wonder, pure enjoyment. That’s what I want in my relationship with God. And little things like snowflakes help me do that. How about you?  Am I the only one who sometimes struggles to worship in church (please tell me it’s not so!!!)  Have you found things that help you worship?  What does it look like for you when you delight in God and worship Him?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!  

My 2014 “Triple-Dog-Dare Ya” Goals

New Year’s is fast approaching, and with it my annual tradition of goal setting.  I’m a fan of  goals, but it seems every year they’re becoming eerily (wearily?) similar.

This year needs to be different….

I want to get it right – so that next December I don’t say “I didn’t make a lot of progress” or “so many missed opportunities.” You know….the gap between “how my year should be if I really live by faith” vs. what really ends up happening.

I suppose this year the sense of urgency is increasing.  It pains me to say this, but in just a few weeks I’ll be able to order off that “special menu” many restaurants have.  You know, the one with the smaller portions and lower prices. I shudder to think of the word “senior” and me being used in the same sentence.  It’s time to get serious and kick things into high gear.

Instead of focusing on the same old goals, what if we each picked at least one item that would be revolutionary in our lives? One that would hit at the undercurrent of dissatisfaction, and turn life back into a great adventure?  Would we dare do that?  Would I dare do that?

That implies change – with potentially big consequences.  It sort of makes me feel like the character Flick in that scene from “A Christmas Story”  where Schwartz dares him to stick his tongue onto a frozen pole:

christmasstory450_53158a_8col“Well I double-DOG-dare ya!”
“Now it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a “triple dare ya”? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare.” “I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!” “Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat!”
Ralphie, Narrator and Schwartz in A Christmas Story

That’s what I need for 2014 – a “triple-dog-dare ya” goal.  Bold and daring.  (But hopefully without leaving my tongue stuck to a pole!)

I decided to seek wisdom from the masters.  So here, my friends, in a nutshell, is pretty much everything one needs to know about goal-setting:

#1 -“YCopyright © 1995 - 2008 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). All Rights Reservedou rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices.  And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”  Mr. Rogers

Diana Translation – I have way too many demands on my life – and I’ve learned it’s impossible to do them all well.  It’s time to make some choices based on God’s Word and the gifts, talents and desires He has built into me.

francis chan#2 – “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that really don’t matter.” – Francis Chan

Diana Translation – Just because I CAN do something, doesn’t mean I should.  How can I better align myself with God’s plan for my life?  If I weren’t afraid of failure, what would I do?

tom-landry

 

#3 – “Setting a goal is not the main thing.  It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”  Tom Landry

Diana Translation – Intentions without follow-through are cheap.  Don’t just build goals, build solid plans to make sure you reach them.

And so for me, this is the year of the “triple-dog-dare-ya” goal……

While I’m not totally done with my goal-planning (after all, it’s not January yet), these themes are emerging for my 2014:

1.  First Priority – Free up a significant amount of time to make room for the things God would have me focus on during this period in my life.

2.  Adjust my personal and ministry priorities and choices based on what really matters – especially those things that are aligned with the gifts and abilities God has given me.  This could mean many things, but for sure it will require more willingness than ever to trust God and “go out on a limb” to obey His leading, and then see what He does!

3. Share my goals and plans with a critical few who can provide wise counsel and hold me accountable.

Well, that’s where I’m at in my 2014 goal-setting. Thoughts or advice?  What about you?  What bold goal would make a big difference in your 2014?  I’d love to hear from you!

My Love-Hate Relationship with Christmas

At the risk of sounding like a heretic, I’ll admit to a bit of a love-hate relationship with this whole Christmas thing.

DG Xmas 1966

Me in 1966, enjoying my Christmas loot!

Growing up, I was like most kids – I loved Christmas and everything about it. I wrote letters to Santa. I sang Christmas carols. But best of all – I got lots of STUFF.

And every year I counted the days until Christmas would come (YAY!)….and I was sad when it was over.

 

There was only one little problem…..I grew up.  And that changed everything.

Christmas went from the annual time of joy and excitement, to the annual tension between joy…..and disappointment.

I started to hate Christmas:

Being the only “single” in gatherings where everyone else was married with kids.  Stressing over what to buy everyone, having no idea what they wanted.  Blowing the budget.  Way too much to do, feeling pressured to meet everyone’s expectations.  Giving gifts because “that’s what we do.”  Giving gifts people might enjoy, but didn’t necessarily need.

And so every year I counted the days until Christmas would be OVER, and I was relieved when it was past!

In retrospect, I think God was trying to get my attention. Forcing me to cut things from MY Christmas, so I could focus on HIS Christmas.

Fast forward to today, and here’s what our Christmas looks like now.  The Hubbie and I don’t exchange gifts anymore. We’ve reduced gifts that people don’t need – the only “real” gift we buy is for Mom (after all, she’s Mom!)  Christmas decorations? Virtually non-existent…although we do put up our outside Christmas lights, so the neighbors don’t think we’ve totally given up on Jesus….

And as we’ve kept cutting, Christmas is taking on new meaning. Yes, life is still busy.  But finally I have time to think about the real Christmas.  About the gift of Jesus coming as a baby – mind-blowing, really, that the God of the universe would come to earth as a baby, fully relating with me and to me as a human.

Grandma Sweatshirt

Really, who would buy this shirt, except for the message???

But it wasn’t just His birth – Christmas was the start of an entire chain of events.

Kind of like getting a sweatshirt for Christmas that says “I’m Going to be a Grandmother!”  The real gift isn’t the sweatshirt.  No, the gift is the promise of what’s coming later – the grandchild.  In the same way, Jesus came at Christmas, but the real gift was that He would ultimately die and be resurrected, making my salvation possible.  That’s the gift I most desperately needed.  That’s why the angel announced “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a SAVIOR has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

And so I finally realized, the true spirit of Christmas is about meeting needs – real needs. God met MY biggest need.  So now I celebrate Christmas by meeting the real needs of others.

And you know what? It’s not hard to figure out what to give folks in desperate need. No more wracking my brain to figure out “what to get the person who has everything.”  Because when someone’s in desperate need, often their needs are staring me in the face. Spiritual needs, physical needs, emotional needs.

In that spirit, this year for Christmas, we’re giving the gift of meeting basic needs for some new moms living in poverty.  As part of that, they’ll also be hearing about the gift of Jesus.  I’m not telling you this to look good.  Anything we could give would be miniscule – a mere token – compared to the gift Jesus gave us. But if we can meet a need, in honor and thanks for what Jesus did for us, that’s a great Christmas.

Maybe you’ve experienced that same Christmas joy I’m still learning about…..or maybe this is new for you.  Not sure what to give?  It’s easy really. Just look around you – there are people in need everywhere.  Still not sure?  You can start here.

I’d like to tell you all the stress of Christmas is over.  I’m not totally there – but I’ve come a long way.  And as Christmas has changed for me, I’ve discovered I really enjoy Christmas again.

In fact, I love it.

How about you – are you in a “Love Christmas” or a “Hate Christmas” season of life?  What helps you focus on the real gift of Jesus?  I’d love to hear your comments!

How Do You Rate?

It’s that time of year again!   No, not Christmas and New Years – I’m referring to that OTHER “special” time of year.

You know, that time where we endure employee performance reviews with our bosses – telling them what we’ve done, then hearing how the boss sees us.  I admit it – this is one of the more uncomfortable times of year for me – hoping my boss will appreciate how hard I’ve worked, but fearing he didn’t notice or understand what I did.

I’ve lived through this performance review cycle 31 times in my career. After 31 times, it’s still uncomfortableBecause let’s face it, deep down we all want to be viewed as “better than most,” and not just “average.”  

In some watodolistys, my Christian life is like this, always wondering how “the Big Boss” views me.  I want God to be so impressed with me that He comments to the angels about my amazing performance.  And since God built me to be task-oriented, I run my personal life with “to-do” lists trying to achieve great results for God.  I love checking items off my list.  Did your devotions?  Check!  And in my imagination, a little voice whispers “God is SO pleased with you for spending time with Him.”

So you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that in addition to my “to-do” lists, I also set annual goals for my life.  Please don’t laugh at me – remember, God made me like this.  It helps me get things done. Besides, having annual goals is WAY better than New Years resolutions.  Because I can work on goals all year, and not just throw everything away on January 2nd when I choose cheesecake over my New Year’s diet.

Which I probably will……

As I get to the end of this year and reflect on the state of my personal 2013 goals, I’m afraid they aren’t in great shape. My personal performance rating would be “Didn’t Meet Expectations.”  I didn’t lose 15 pounds.  I didn’t de-clutter the house.  I didn’t spend as much time with friends as I intended.  I’ve been focused on just surviving in 2013, and it shows.

In spite all that I didn’t do, I was able to spend time with Jesus most days.  And you know what?  That made all the difference.  Because Jesus is not like an earthly boss….no, He is WAY better!

Bosses says “Get things done.”

Jesus says “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind.”

Bosses says “Live by your accomplishments.”

Jesus says “Live by faith.”

Bosses say “Figure it out!”

Jesus says “Follow me, and trust me.”

Bosses say “You can be replaced.”

Jesus says “You’re precious to me – I gave my life for you.”

Bosses say “You’ll be held accountable.”

Jesus says “Your faith in me saves you from your sins, I see you as righteous.”

And that’s when I realize….being rated as “righteous” by the God of the universe….well, I can’t think of a better rating than that!  So why am I working so hard to impress Jesus, when all He asks is that I love Him, trust Him, place my faith in Him?

And as I hold on tightly to Jesus each day and trust Him, He shows me things I can do for Him that day, that don’t necessarily “count” toward my goals – but that share Christ’s love with others.  And you know what?   I think Jesus cares a lot more about my following His lead and sharing His love with others each day than about my annual goals.  I just need to remind my task-oriented brain of that.

How about you – do you live off a “to-do” list?  Are you constantly checking to see if you’ve done enough to please God?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…..

Join Me for a Cup of Coffee?

coffeeIf you know me, you know that I  love coffee.  But it’s not that simple.

You see, it’s not really the coffee itself that I love – although it does taste good!  But more than that, it’s what the coffee represents that makes it so special.  You see, over the years, some of my most cherished discussions with friends and family have taken place over a hot cup of coffee.  We shared our lives over coffee.

So when I sit down with a cup of coffee, it doesn’t matter what the slogan on the mug says, or whether it’s latte or mocha, flavored or plain, iced or hot.  It doesn’t even really matter if it’s “caf” or decaf.  The real treat is that it brings back memories of some of the best parts of my life.

Those discussions were “real” – there was no pretense.  We talked about our lives, our  hopes and plans for the future, and we shared both celebrations and disappointments.  We talked about romance.  We talked about what we thought was going on…and what we later found was really going on behind the scenes.  About how we wanted to be significant – yet wondered whether, in the end, anyone will remember us.  We talked about our desire to be accepted by the holy God of the universe, and our own inadequacy before Him.  And we talked about how to really live out our faith in God in a very imperfect world.

Both in the past and today, through discussions over coffee, we are truly there for each other.   We talk out issues to help figure out what we really think about things – really listening and seeking to understand.  We encourage each other, we comfort each other, we help each other be better than we could ever be alone.

For all those reasons, the most enjoyable times of my life have been those I’ve spent time with others over a cup of coffee.

And yet…..

In today’s society, all too often we have our coffee “on the go,” slugging it down in the car or during a meeting, but not taking time to truly connect. And when we do sit down to talk, we are competing with cell phones and iPads.  I miss so much, by not having those quality discussions with my friends…..

My hope is that this blog becomes a series of discussions between friends “over coffee” –  a safe place where we can share thoughts on issues, deepen our understanding of God and our relationship with Him, and challenge and encourage each other to grow into the full potential God has for each one of us.

Whether you’re an “old friend” or “just stopping by,” I hope you’ll join in the conversation!