Sunday Thoughts: Matthew 18:6-9

If you were to see us not in our Sunday best, but in our spiritual armor, in our TrueSelves, what would you see? A congregation of beauty? Coiffed and pampered? Polished plate, gleaming and shiny? Our swords sheathed and our guns holstered? Maybe clean, on parade soldiers, unsoiled and unspoiled by war?

No, my dear friend, no.

You would see a congregation of scarred, maimed amputees. You would see intense listeners, leaning forward in their seats. We fight our exhaustion. We push through distraction. Our swords are in our laps, blades bare, guns drawn and ready.

Row after row after row of bone-tired warriors with missing eyes, fingers, arms, and legs, gather together. We wear dented, miss-matched armor covered in blood and gore. We’re broken, weary to the point of tears, hungry, and never out of the fight.

Look deeper. Look at our gossamer souls. Do you see the holes? Do you see the daily deaths we die to ourselves for one another? Over there is a battle with sin not going so well. Up front is a disfigured saint still gnawed at by a particular temptation. Back there is a weeping soul who fell yet again into the same trap. They bend under the weight of the battles they have waged this week. They stop their ears to lies and unbelief.

Do you see the dreams sacrificed? Do you see the wants set aside? Do you see the here and now given up? The prayers prayed during the dark of the night? The trials, great and ordinary? The hatred of sin? The suffering endured? The pain of refining? The constant ruthless severity with which each saint turns blade and bullet on his own heart and flesh to rend and fight the corruption within?

This isn’t clean.   

This isn’t pretty.

This is war.

Battle.

Look at us on the path to heaven. We have sacrificed beauty and ease here for glory there. We are the scarred, amputated, broken, weary warriors. We are the ruthless.

We are the loved.

Thanksgiving  (Day 11)

Today, I’m thankful for our Veterans. I’m thankful for the men and women who willingly put themselves in the path of danger and death for the sake of others. I’m thankful for those willing to sacrifice all to protect our country. I’m thankful God gave us men wired in such a way as to be effective warriors.

My heart weeps for the boys who never came home, and all the ones who came home broken. My heart rejoices at all the women who support them. I never grow tired of their stories.

So Thank you Veterans! and Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday Thoughts: Boredom

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Sometimes the everyday hustle and bustle of life rubs and rubs until you become blind, deaf, and dumb with the wear. You stop seeing magic. You stop seeing joy. You stop seeing life.

But, what has truly happened is you’ve stopped seeing by faith and started seeing with fallen, old-man eyes. Faith no longer clouds your view. Only deep dark shadows fill your world. You fall before the boredom and monotony of eating, sleeping, cleaning, chores, bills, needs, election cycles, loads of laundry, care for the young and old, wars and the rumors of war, birth and death. The repetitiveness of the world weighs down on you until you forget.

(NOTHING CHANGES!)

This malaise seeps into our churches. The preaching becomes only so many words falling together, powerless as autumn leaves. The saints are no longer a glorious army of the Lord riding forth on white steeds under Christ’s mighty banner. They’re dull, ordinary, offensive people you no longer wish to be with. Sunday isn’t our day of rest, or the Lord’s Day. It is an interruption, taking away hours that could be spent trying to maintain control of everything else in life, or actually resting.

Believers see with eyes of the world. Our old, dead eyes. We get lazy. We stop being Vigilant. Our Christian-colored glasses slip off our nose and aren’t pushed back up. We haven’t stayed in the fight. We haven’t kept the hope.

The regularity and rhythm of life bows us down.

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Awake! Awake! Awake, my soul!

Renew. Refresh. Push your glasses tight against your nose and SEE by FAITH!

The Kings of the earth rage and God laughs.

His hand isn’t weak. His kingdom isn’t failing or even losing the battle.

Put back on your armor and fight! Fight, by God’s grace and in His might, the temptation to see life with dead, old, rotten eyes. They lie.

See with truth!

The preached word is our mighty King speaking to us. The church is the body of Christ and our true family. Do not let the world push you down in the rut of life and cover your eyes with the muck at the bottom. See the world around you with the light of the Word! Christ has already won the war. He is King over-all and He is saving His people!

This is our true reality, our true eternity.

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(Inspired by Dr. Robert Oliver’s preaching on Psalm 2)

Sunday Thoughts: Training

steve-rogers-i-understood-that-referenceA few weeks ago Pastor Eddie Florentino used an illustration for affliction that really stuck with me and has been a source of encouragement to me over the last few weeks. The passage for that morning was Hebrews 12: 4-11:

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

While walking us through the text from Proverbs quoted in Hebrews during Pray Meeting, Pastor Eddie asked if we expected Navy SEALs to get easy training? Do we expect their training to be hard or just a walk in the park?

Well, the obvious answer is we expect their training to not only be hard, but the hardest. These men are supposed to be the elite of the elite. They are supposed to make all our other soldiers look like guys hanging out for the weekend. No soldier should have it easy in basic training. To make it easy on them is to do them a disservice because it leaves them open to attack when they go to war. The better trained our soldiers are the better chances they have of surviving and coming home to their families. (You should always worry if the standards of training are being lowered. That means someone is not getting the training they need. That puts them and  everyone around them in danger.) The Navy Seals and all our other special forces should, and do, have training that makes basic look easy. We should hold them to a high standard and we should expect lots of men to be unable to cut it. If just anyone can make it through Navy SEAL training than we have a problem.

So what does this have to do with affliction and why did it stick with me?

It says in Hebrews that our affliction is God’s disciplining and training for us. It is how God molds us and makes us into his children. This world, in some ways, is our boot camp, our basic training, and God uses trials and and sufferings to get us in shape.

Yet for some reason we always complain that our “training” isn’t easy. Why oh why am I suffering?? We moan and complain when the Bible makes it very clear that God is perfecting us. You see that? Perfecting!  I don’t know about you, but that seems like something that would require a lot of work. Perfection isn’t easy.

For six months, I’ve been struggling with health issue, and yet when I put my mind on them as training, as my spiritual boot camp, I find them much easier to bear with hope. I have hope in my trials because I know God is using them to make me a better soldier.

Navy-SealSee, I’ve read Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell (one of my top 10 favorite books) and American Sniper by Chris Kyle. Through their books, I have gained a very small understanding of what our Navy SEALs do in their training. I have vicariously experienced the mental and physical strength needed to survive to become a SEAL through their stories. Pastor Eddie’s illustration really struck home with me. I truly felt like Captain America in the picture above. I got that reference. It made many things click into place in my head. Their training is hard for a reason and our training by God is hard for a reason. It made my trials logical because I understood they were God’s work in my heart. God is not perfecting everyone. But, He is perfecting His people and that means my life is going to be a struggle, a battle, filled with trials and afflictions, because He loves me and isn’t going to leave me to myself.

That, my dear brothers and sisters, is hope!

Hope!

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are here to make me more Christ-like, not give me an easy life, and just like a Navy SEAL, I’m in for a world of hurt. Not because instructors or God is mean. No. Quite the opposite. The instructors what to make sure each SEAL is the best he can be so that he survives and helps bring everyone home. There is a point to the suffering the SEALs endure in their training. There is a point to my trials and suffering. God is loosening my grip on this world, making me holy, and teaching me about Himself. One day, He will bring me home.

We are being trained. That is a hope-filled thought.

I may never have gotten to be a Navy SEAL in this life (that’s another blog post for another day) but, God is training me as a soldier of the Lord in a much bigger war with a much greater Captain.

Age of Ultron and Fury (My Birthday Movies) (SPOILERS)

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It’s been a long standing family tradition to go see a movie of my choice around my birthday. Thankfully there is usually something out that I’m very interested in seeing about mid-May.

This year it was Age of Ultron directed by none other than Joss Whedon who is one of my all-time favorite story tellers. I tried to keep my expectations low, but who am I kidding? This is the man who created Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and so many more shows. This is the man I would pick to direct anything I’ve written because he always has the right mix of heart, snark, cheese, and greatness. And, he’s not afraid to kill of characters you love.

But we, me and my husband, aren’t comic book people. Neither of us grew up reading them and we aren’t real fans of the movies. There have been a few that were fun—looking at you Guardians of the Galaxy—but overall neither of us like the Ironman movies, or the Thor movies, or the Captain America movies all that much.

So, what did we think, my man and I? We loved it. We loved it. We loved it. I should, at this point in time, tell you that there are some major spoilers here, so be warned.

First, the movie was fun. It had an excellent balance between character building and action. It had just the right amount of down time and just the right amount of butt-kicking. I was impressed with the growth of each of the Avengers. Whedon didn’t leave them where they were at the end of the last Avengers movie. He took the time to grow each of them. He gave them depth. He wasn’t afraid to showcase how easy it would be for Stark to be a bad guy, how lost Captain America is at times, and how broken Bruce Banner is. He took all these different characters in stride and made sure everyone developed into something richer and deeper.

Second, there have been some raging online by the feminist about the women in this movie. (Lol. Classic case of biting the hand that feeds you. FYI Joss Whedon is generally applauded by feminist for his strong female characters.) After watching the movie, I know why. Joss’ gift with female characters is to make them strong without losing their femininity and staying to true to the female psyche. He never tries to make women men. He always has a good balance of men and women. He always lets them both be strong and weak in different ways which complement each other. I have always loved how he handles women.

This movie is no different. Black Widow is her normal amazing assassin self and yet we get to see such a gentle side of her when she’s helping the Hulk. This mighty warrior woman is beautiful because she is the Hulk’s perfect helper. She doesn’t just tramp around hating on men—though she has some really great lines about picking up after the boys. She is the only one able to calm the Hulk down and she doesn’t belittle that gift or see it as beneath her to be his helper in that way.

The second great female in the movie is (AND PLEASE DON’T READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE) Hawkeye’s wife. This is a woman who lives out on her own with a husband gone much of the time and in danger raising two kids and expecting a third. If she’s not a strong woman, I don’t know who is. She also gives a subconscious kudos to the amazing wives of men in the military and law enforcement. What I love about her is she doesn’t tell Hawkeye to stop fighting. I hate nothing more than women who tell their men to stop fighting when there’s a war going on. She tells him that they need him and he needs to go. She is what Hawkeye is fighting for, what they’re all fighting for. She is the safe house. Do you know how much strength it takes as a women to be a safe house? Many thanks to Whedon for not forgetting the rest of the women out there who don’t get to be Black Widow, who just get to be a wife and mother. Thank you for honoring that and showing it as amazing.

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Third, the movie brought back the idea of super heroes fighting for the everyman. Many of the most recent superhero movies seem to have forgotten the idea of rescuing the little old lady’s cat out of the tree while in the middle of fighting crime. They’ve forgotten the idea of the superheroes being good guys who fight for the little guys. In most of the movies, everyday people were expendable for the sake of bigger effects. My husband said that watching Ultron was the first time he’s seen Superheroes rescue people since the original Superman movies.

Being Joss Whedon, this was done with a wonderful mirroring technic. The end battle is all about rescuing everyone. It’s about the Avengers proving they aren’t monsters by rescuing families, women, and kids even while they’re dealing with the bigger problem of Ultron’s droids. Captain America leads the charge in being unwilling to sacrifice the life of the innocent to save the world. That’s what makes super heroes awesome. They can actually do that. They can save the world and find the lost child, and keep people from falling off bridges. That’s why we love their stories.

The mirroring occurs when we see that the Twins, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, are bad guys because their parents were killed in a war. No one watched out for the innocent families and so their parents died. This led them down a path which ultimately made them villains. When the Avengers come to save the world, they make sure there are no casualties that will create more villains. They make sure the people are safe.

The second way it’s mirrored is when the Hulk and Ironman duke it out. They destroy a city without caring one wit about the people who live there. Ironman sees this as collateral damage, but it eats Bruce Banner alive. He doesn’t want to kill innocent people because of his powers. He wants to help them. These mirroring elements are excellent character building and storytelling technics.

For the first time in a long time, I watched a movie that did what fantasy does best. It raises the stakes in everyday life to something world changing while not losing the everyman. Hawkeye was given a great role in being the person we could all connect to who had to fight without powers, but still fight. Every morning when our husbands go to work and when moms take care of their children and we live our lives, however that has played out, we can see ourselves as being these superheroes who willingly fight for their homes, families and way of life against a bigger and mightier foe.

Warriors don’t fight to just kill enemies, they kill enemies to save their friends and family. That’s what makes a warrior: the reason they fight. That’s what made this movie great.

There are some wonderful scenes in this movie. (Looking at you Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch) There is some wonderful storytelling in this movie, but ultimately it’s about people who are unbelievably powerful stooping to take care of the smallest and weakest of us. Yes, I am looking at this through Christian colored glasses, but doing so let’s me see the Christianity that pervades all of life, for what better echo could you have than someone mighty reaching out a hand to someone low.

Favorite Quotes: “You get hurt, hurt ‘em back. You get killed, walk it off.”


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Fury

After Age of Ultron, we rented Fury. It’s my second time to see this movie and I’m going to try to put into words how much I love this film.

I didn’t expect to like it. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t. The previews made it look like a bad historical fiction with tanks sneaking around behind enemy lines. It’s not that at all. It is good historical fiction. It is about a tank crew asked to hold the line at the end of the war to defend some cooks and doctors from a group of SS soldiers. The tank crew heads to the crossroads but encounters a tiger tank on the way reducing them from four tanks to one. This one tank must decide to hold the line or run away leaving their weaker brothers exposed to attack. They stand.

The movie is dark, gritty, gross, violent, crude and not for the weak of stomach. It doesn’t really pull any punches about being at the end of WW2 in a tank crew. It shows what sort of barbarianism is required in war. But, it also shows a sergeant doing his best to prepare a boy for war. It shows how hard it was for recruits to come in and replace soldiers who had died. It shows how eaten alive these men were by what they had to do.

The first act of the movie is so tense it’s hard to watch. You wonder if this movie has any redeeming value. What’s the point of watching a bunch of men bully each other and kill each other? What’s the point? The value is hinted at in the two times War Daddy (based on the real War Daddy and Audie Murphy—both Texans) steps away from his men to regain his self-control. He loves his men and will do anything, even very hard things, to keep them alive.

Again, warriors don’t fight to just kill enemies, they kill enemies to save their friends and family. That’s what makes a warrior: the reason they fight. That’s what made this movie great.

This movies turning point of grace is when the four men on War Daddy’s tank crew decide to stick with him and fight even though they know they can’t win and they will die. From this point on, the movie is nothing but a tear-jerker as the men spend their final moments bonding, fighting, and dying together.

I can’t say enough how amazing this movie is. I loved the character Bible who loved the sinners around him. I love War Daddy who taught a kid to be a man so he could save his life even when the kid hated him for it. I loved the men bonding around the boy and accepting him as one of their own. I loved the bully who proved himself a friend.

Looking at this through the lenses of Christianity, we are reminded that war, even spiritual warfare, or maybe especially spiritual warfare is dark and gritty. We should also be reminded that those over us, our elders, may seem tough/harsh but they have our wellbeing in mind and they carry their own scars. We would do well to heed them because they love us.

There is nothing about this dirty, rough, gross, beautiful and amazing film that I didn’t love. This movies is why I love war movies the best. And Fury is probably up there with Lone Survivor, Band of Brothers, and We Were Soldiers for me.

“Best job I ever had.”

 

Thoughts on the 2015 ARBCA GA

I just wanted to share some thoughts about this monumental week. I, along with so many others, have prayed and prayed for this General Assembly for the weeks, months and the year leading up to it. I prayed for unity, yes, but more than that, I prayed for our men to stand. I prayed they would stand for the truth and for God. I prayed that they would have the boldness and courage to face their brothers and, lovingly but firmly, stand for the truth.

That prayer was answered.

There are moments when you get to see history and you get to see heroes: 9/11, Pearl Harbor, VE-Day. This week I got to see church history. Real history. History that will last for eternity long after the broken history of this world is forgotten. I got to witness the heroes of my generation stand for the truth about God and not cave to the spirit of the age: Brandon Smith, Steve Garrick, Stefan Lindblad, Ron Baines, Rich Barcellos, Jim Renihan, Mike Renihan, and Jim Butler. These men served on the Theological Committee and spent two grueling days defending the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. They were joined by John Giarrizzo and Doug VanderMeulen as men who did not cave. These men, and many more like them, are the heroes of my day. How blessed am I to have enjoyed a front row set to watch them and pray for them.

It’s funny to me to watch this church history unfold, because many of these men are not just names on a computer screen, but men I know. Some I have had in my home, some I have treasured silly stories about, and some are more like extra dads—looking at you Steve Garrick and Ron Baines—than they are mighty heroes. And yet, I find great beauty in the everydayness of these men. I imagine the counsels and synods of the past where Christ and the Trinity were defended were also filled with everyday men just doing what they were supposed to do.

But isn’t it always that way with war and battle. Are there any real superheroes? Usually there are just men doing what men needed to do. The ordinary forced to do the extraordinary because they were there, because this happened in their time.

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I’m thankful God graced us with such men.

I’m thankful for the care and time our elders and teachers have taken to train and guide our church in the doctrines of God, simplicity, and church history. Who would have thought doctrine would be so important? 😉 I’m thankful they never gave up on the mundane teaching of their flock. I’m astounded and speechless, almost unable to describe, the joy and thankfulness in my heart for God’s gift of pastors and teachers. He has been so kind to us.

After a day and a half of deliberation, The Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America voted. It voted to stand. It voted to cling to the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility.

Thank the good Lord for answered prayer.

Thank the good Lord for men who stood.

The praying hasn’t stopped. There is much left to do, many men going home to their churches who don’t hold to Impassibility with tough days ahead, and the Devil is always at work to divide us and destroy us. We still need men in this war and we still need them to be bold, courageous, and to stand.

 

 

Movie Series Review: Rambo (4)

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Rambo 4 is not only my favorite Rambo movie, it’s my favorite movie all together. Why? Lots of reasons. 🙂

Despite the overall lack of cheese in First Blood, and even in First Blood II, Rambo has become synonymous with the epitome of cheesy movies. I’m not immune to this idea, or I wasn’t when I went to see Rambo (4) in the theater with my husband, my brother, and my sister-in-law. I looked forward to this movie and watched a fair amount of previews for it. Settling in, I readied myself for a fun evening.

Within the first oh, three seconds, any thoughts of cheese were dispelled. Everyone, myself included, was stunned. At one point, I glanced at my extra sister to see how she reacted to the film. Both her hands were pressed to the sides of her face in shock. Funny, I was doing the same thing.

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I left the movie sick to my stomach.

This was not a cheesy action flick. This was not the kind of movie, like Die Hard, that you left jazzed up. This is a Rambo movie, and so like the other Rambo movies, (excluding Rambo III) it left you feeling haunted, broken, beaten down. At the time, I told my husband I hated it.

We went and saw it again after talking about it for Valentine’s. Yes, my pick. See, I love warrior movies, and after getting over the initial shock of the violence and story, I realized this was a great movie. Walking into the theater for the second go around, it appalled and shocked me that so many little kids where there. I expected a lot of guys and a few gals who didn’t have dates, but I didn’t expect so many kids. Everyone, except my husband and I, was laughing and joking around. We weren’t. We knew what trials we were about to endure watching this film again. The previews came on. Everyone continued to laugh and joke like they were about to enjoy Terminator. The movie opens. The theater went silent in under three seconds. Parents quickly started removing their children. Why?

This movie is violent.

It is violent on a visceral level.

It’s violent on a level that still shocks me even after I’ve seen it multiple times.

Why is the violence so shocking?

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Two reasons: 1) Stallone—who wrote and directed the film—wanted it that way. He needed the violence to tell the story. 2) The violence is enacted on Christians.

See, about the time Stallone made this movie, Burma—you know, where Adoniram Judson went—was in the middle of genocide. The world sat silent about the horrors going on just like they sit silent about the sex trafficking, and the Christians persecuted by Muslims all over the Middle East and Africa. The Burmese government was murdering Christians. Watching this movie, Stallone makes it very clear from the beginning that the people under attack are Christians. He leaves no doubt in your mind that this is what is happening. Knowing my history, the history of the church, and the martyrdom faced by so many of my fellow believers made this movie hard to watch.

Stallone specifically said he left the movie violent so that we could see and know what was happening. We need to know, not be sheltered. And the sad part? This was the toned-down version. What was really happening to those people was the much much worse.

So, Rambo (4) takes place twenty years after Rambo III. Rambo is now in his early sixties. The Vietnam War has been over for decades and Rambo has settled in Thailand along the Burmese boarder. He never went home. At this point, he is filled with bitterness. He cares about no one and nothing. And why should he? At every point, the people who should be backing him have betrayed him. They’ve made it clear he’s expendable, and that what he is is wrong even while they use him like a tool. (Sound familiar to what every man in our day and age is facing?) Rambo has failed to “Come full circle” and accept that being a warrior is part of who he is, not just what he was made.

A group of missionaries asks him to take them to Burma. He refuses knowing Burma is a dangerous war zone. Sarah, one of the missionaries, reaches out to him in friendship and convinces him to take them up river. Once there, the missionaries are captured by Burmese soldiers and tortured. Their sending church hires a group of mercenaries to free them. Rambo takes these mercenaries up river to the same spot he left the missionaries. They refuse his offer of help, but Rambo follows anyway. By the end of the movie, only two out of the six missionaries survive and only three out of the five mercenaries. But, in the end, Rambo comes full circle and the story closes with him coming home.

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There are three reasons I love this film:

1) Justification of Violence: Violence is justified in two ways in this film. First, it’s used to tell the story, not to glorify itself. It’s not wasted, but used to create the necessary horror of the situation. The violence is visceral, but not indulgent. There is a time and place for violent stories. Second, Rambo doesn’t shy away from the proper place of self-defense and the defense of the helpless. It combats head on the notion that guns cause violence. Rambo asks the missionaries if they’re bringing any guns with them. They are shocked by the idea. Rambo tells them that if they aren’t bringing in guns, they’re changing nothing. One of the missionaries chews Rambo out for killing some pirates even though the pirates wanted to rape his fiancé. “Nothing justifies killing,” is his comment. By the end of the movie, that same missionary kills to defend the life of a mercenary who had sacrificed everything for him. He realized that killing can be justified. The Bible doesn’t say Thou Shall not Kill, it says thou shall not murder. Murder is wrong. Not killing. Killing to save a life, to defend a life, is not wrong. This movie makes a strong case for the idea that there are things worth fighting for.

2) Full Circle: Rambo realizes he was made for defending, and defending with violence if necessary. He is a warrior. He has all the mental and physical fortitude needed to make him an effective killing machine. Accept it. But what does he do with that? As an old man he finally realizes, “live for nothing, or die for something.” It’s time to sacrifice his life for those weaker than himself and in need. It’s time to take up his bow and defend life from those who would violently take it from the defenseless. Interesting note, Schoolboy, one of the mercenaries, seems to have a grasp on this concept at a much younger age than Rambo. Sarah challenges Rambo to sacrifice his life. Rambo takes up his .50 cal machine gun to do just that. Only after he gives himself, uses what he is for others, can he make peace with himself and go home. I think this is a huge way our overly feminine society hurts men. We don’t let them be who they are and direct them to use that strength for others. We drug them and tell them to be quiet. We don’t like manly men. We don’t like warriors. But, we need them. We need them as computer programmers, teachers, and pastors. We need men who know who they are, what they can do, and then to do it for the sake of others. Rambo is an exaggerated story that teaches this point.

3) The main thing I love about this movie is the way Stallone used Rambo to bring to light what was happening to Christians in other countries. It’s easy for us to think persecution is in the past. We believe we’re somehow more evolved and enlightened than the Romans. We think persecution was something faced by Christians during the Inquisition. We don’t believe it’s something Christians face today. But it is. Christians face as much or more persecution today than the past. I’m so very thankful God uses a man like Stallone, whose personal beliefs I’m unsure of, to showcase what was happening. I’m thankful there are men who are man enough to make this violent film. This world is a violent place. There are wars, and rumors of war. We can’t escape that. We can’t somehow, by just loving everyone enough, escape the violence. Sometimes Violence must be met with violence. A gun, rock, or stick must be picked up and used to protect the young, the weak, and the innocence from them that would murder.

I’m thankful for warriors.

And I’m thankful for spiritual warriors. I’m thankful for saints, who day in and day out, look to Christ, because they are dependent. I’m thankful for men who faithfully lead their families, lead in their churches by sacrificing everything that they are or could have: fun, more money, more respect, more prestige. They sacrifice the world for a kingdom not of this earth. They stand shoulder to shoulder and I’m grateful to stand with them.

If the Lord ever blesses me with a son, I want to raise him to understand his strength, not view it as distasteful. I want him to harness it, and hone it like a weapon, not try to batter it down. I want him to be like Schoolboy and come full circle at an earlier age, not like Rambo who didn’t accept who he was until he was an old man. This is going to make me counter culture. We live in a day and age that tells boys to be like girls. It tells girls to be like boys. It disrespects everything that God designed. Women are told to be fierce but not how. Boys are told to be in touch with their feelings, but not how to respect their ability to box things up in a way that women can’t and shouldn’t.

I’m thankful for the Rambo series, probably in a way the writers never expected, because it is the tale of a broken man, lost and alone, who finally comes to terms with who he is, is given the opportunity to use that to help others, and thus saves himself by losing himself.

If you haven’t seen the Rambo series, I highly recommend watching it.

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Movie Series Review: Rambo: First Blood

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I’m going to do a four part series on the Rambo movies. This may seem like an odd thing for a blogger who titles herself a gentle and quiet spirit, but I think women play a significant role as memory holders. I think it’s important for all of us to remember. And, I think it’s important for women to have a heart for warriors because we’re the ones who raise them. Women can make or break the children they have. Many of our best officers will tell you their mothers influenced them the most, and serial killers will say the same thing. Thus, I think it’s important to study these things. Even though I don’t have sons, I do have nephews. On the other side of my love for warriors is the Bible’s teaching about spiritual warfare. We’re at war, as Christians, and it doesn’t do to forget that—whether we’re pastors on the front line or housewives. These are purely the thoughts of an amateur theologian and amateur modern military historian. If any pastors or soldiers would like to weigh in, please feel free.

I found a love for action flicks in the mid-to late ’90s as a teen. I regularly watched Terminator 2 and Predator. For years I disregarded anything and everything Stallone ever made. I constantly thought of him as the Arnold wannabe. For a few years in my early-married life, I moved away from action flicks thinking I should watch deeper and more artistic films. Jason Stathem’s Transporter movies reignited my love of cheesy action flicks, and warrior stories. There’s been no going back since. Once my husband and I started watching action flicks again, he suggested we watch Rambo. I made my usual snide remarks about Stallone being an Arnold wannabe and dismissed the idea. He kept pressing, sighting it as a necessary point of Action Flick Education. Finally, I caved and we got our hands on First Blood.

I was in for a big surprise.

First Blood is not a cheesy action flick.

First Blood is a true and real drama.

It has real people with confused and mixed up morals. It raises interesting questions. It tracks the life of a man abandoned by his country and pushed to the breaking point. First Blood isn’t about big explosions, big guns, or body count. It’s about a part of our society which wasn’t popular than and isn’t popular now.

I’m not talking about soldiers.

We live, thankfully, in a day and age when it’s very in vogue to support the troops. It only took Vietnam for us to realize how much these men and women need civilian support. It only took that war to make us realize how sick a country is that spits on its soldiers. To this day, it nauseates me to think about what our boys—and I say boys because most soldiers are boys—went through in Vietnam and what they went through when they came home. I’m very thankful we live in a society that goes out of its way to show support for our troops.

But I’m not talking about our everyday soldiers.

I’m talking about warriors.

I’m talking about the men who give up everything that seems normal and safe to do all the hard things none of the rest of us want to do. Many of the everyday citizens must appreciate these people or shows like 24, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp novels, and action flicks wouldn’t be popular. I think it’s our media and our elite academia who don’t appreciate these people. How can I say this?

Try reading a novel called Lone Survivor and you’ll see why we lost four of our warriors due to their fear of the liberal media. There I said it. Done soap boxing. Back to Rambo.

So, what happens to a society that pats itself on the back for supporting its troops, but doesn’t understand the blood and guts on its warriors’ hands? What happens when a man is trained to do one thing, wired to excel at that one thing, used to do that one thing, and then told what he did and what he does and what he’s good at is wrong?

What happens to a society when we start doing this at the earliest stages of boyhood? When we teach boys to be gentle to the point of emasculating them? I’m all for teaching boys to control their strength, but I still want boys to be boys. Instead of understanding that boys are uniquely different from girls in the area of physical and mental strength in a way that allows them to go and fight wars, evil, and meet violence with violence, we teach boys that they need to be medicated. We teach them that they need to be safe. Oh safety, you dangerous dangerous thing.

Do we do this only to our men? Nope. We do this to women too. Women are taught that the one thing we do in an amazing and only female way is valueless, or just not that important. Hello! Women have children. We create life in our bodies. We nurture. We sacrifice the ‘best’ years of our lives to raise up the next generation. Could we have a higher calling? Even I, a woman without children, count herself blessed to aid and help women who do. I still believe I’m strongest in my ability to support my husband, cherish life, nurture, and instruct. Just because I haven’t created a life in my own body yet, doesn’t mean I don’t have intrinsic female uniqueness. Same for a man, you may not get called to creep through jungles or fight in the sands of the Middle East, but you are still called to defend. You are still called to use your strength for truth and justice.

Now, back to Rambo First Blood.

John Rambo comes home after fighting in Vietnam. The movie opens with him finding out that the last man in his elite unit has died. Vietnam killed him too. He may have made it home, but he couldn’t escape the long dark reach of war. This information demoralizes Rambo. He hoped to find one of his brothers. Instead, he found he was truly and finally alone.

The sheriff picks Rambo up on the side of the road and encourages him to stay out of his town. Sheriff Will Tease is not a completely evil character. Imagine the whirlwind of emotion he struggles with as he does what he thinks is right for his quiet little town only to have it blow up in his face. Repeatedly, he gives into his own pride even at the cost of his men, but he does try to do the right thing. He tries to keep his men under control so Rambo isn’t killed. He tries to patch things up with Colonel Trautman. The Sheriff tries multiple times to do the right thing. He’s not a flat character. This movie could easily be told from his POV with him as the underdog hero instead of Rambo.

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Rambo gets pushed by Sheriff Tease and he pushes back, but it’s the moment he’s arrested that clicks Rambo’s training into high gear. In a way, Rambo looks for this fight. He could have avoided it. He could have kept walking and just shrugged the Sheriff off. But without hope, he goes back to the only thing he knows: fighting. Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s men don’t realize who they’re dealing until they’ve already shed first blood. They’ve already fired the first shot. If the Sheriff had kept his men in control, done a little research on the drifter they picked up, and had a little less pride on the line, Rambo could have been defused easily. Blinded by their arrogance, and the spirit of the day and age that hated both hippies and soldiers, Rambo’s training is switched on. The treatment Rambo experiences in the county jail makes him flash on his time as a POW. Escape becomes paramount in his mind.

The situation escalates. Rambo tries at one point to diffuse it after the first civilian dies. The Sheriff’s men open fire on him settling in his mind that he is at war.

The tension continues to build with the civilians bumbling around, Trautman trying to explain that it is the Sheriff and his men who are in danger not Rambo, and Rambo doing exactly what he was trained to do: fight.

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Then you reach the end. This is the moment you realize this movie isn’t an action flick but a real drama. When Rambo’s about to kill the Sheriff, Trautman finally stops him. Rambo yells at him, “It’s never over.” And then, surprise of surprises, this great warrior breaks down in tears.

Why?

He’s alone. Rambo’s terribly and horribly alone. None of his friends made it out of the war. The nation he sacrificed so much of his humanity for does things like throw him in jail, rough him up, deny him food and work, shoot at him, and tries to kill him. They don’t honor, respect, or even care what he did. (Christian-colored Glasses: Many pastors face the same thing. They battle. They fight. They seek to defend their churches. And many times they aren’t respected, loved, or supported.)

I think this is why we see so many soldiers in our special forces go back. They go back to where they’re respected. It may be hell on earth, but for them it’s where their families are. It’s where their skills are used. It’s where they can do what they were made to do.

The question posed by Rambo, that I think we’re still asking ourselves today, is what do you do with the warriors when the war is over? Where do you put them? How do you utilize their skills so that they’re respected and honored?

What do we do with our warriors?

I found this video very interesting. Every mother, especially if you have sons, should watch this: Why do Veterans Miss War? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGZMSmcuiXM

This video asks a similar question to Rambo First Blood. I don’t believe, as a Christian, that by understanding war can we eradicate it. War is a result of sin. We can help our warriors, or soldiers, return to civilian life in a healthy way, giving them a chance to use their skills instead of telling them that what they do is unimportant or downright bad, if we understand that they were made to do this and that part of them loves doing it.

Watch First Blood. It is a well-done and amazing movie.

It made me finally place Stallone over Arnold. I’ll take a Stallone movie any day! Join me tomorrow for my thoughts on Rambo 2.

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Movie Quotes:

Trautman: Company leader to identify Baker Team – Rambo, Messner, Ortega, Coletta, Jurgensen, Berry, Krakauer confirm! This is Colonel Trautman. Talk to me, Johnny.

Rambo: They’re all gone Sir.

Trautman: Rambo! Are you all right?

Rambo: Baker Team. They’re all dead, sir.

Trautman: Not Delmar Berry, he made it.

Rambo: Berry’s gone too Sir.

Trautman: How?

Rambo: Got himself killed in ‘Nam, didn’t even know it. Cancer ate him down to the bone.

Trautman: I’m sorry, I didn’t know.

Rambo: I’m the last one Sir.

______________

(Language warning!)

Rambo: We were in this bar in Saigon and this kid comes up, this kid carrying a shoe-shine box. And he says “Shine, please, shine!” I said no. He kept askin’, yeah, and Joey said “Yeah.” And I went to get a couple of beers, and the box was wired, and he opened up the box, f–king blew his body all over the place. And he’s laying there, he’s f–king screaming. There’s pieces of him all over me, just…

[Takes off his bandolier]

Rambo: like this, and I’m tryin’ to pull him off, you know, my friend that’s all over me! I’ve got blood and everything and I’m tryin’ to hold him together! I’m puttin’… the guy’s f–kin’ insides keep coming out! And nobody would help! Nobody would help! He’s saying, sayin’ “I wanna go home! I wanna go home!” He keeps calling my name! “I wanna go home, Johnny! I wanna drive my Chevy!” I said “With what? I can’t find your f–kin’ legs! I can’t find your legs!”

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Writing Journal: Being a Mini-Creator

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Being a novelist has deepened my understanding of some of the truths of Scripture.  It has helped me relate more personally to some doctrines I knew and believed but found difficult to understand.  These are very personal observation.  Please take them with a grain of salt and not as perfectly sound, doctrinal expositions.  Meaning, they are like all experiences, examples, and analogies for the truth of Scripture – they fall short at some point.

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”
― George MacDonald

I read this quote the other day and it gripped me in the corner of my mind where my stories wait for the chance to come out and play.  I have sets of characters that I have written stories about for years.  Again and again, I send them off on dark adventures.  Some of them make it out on paper…or computer, and some of them don’t.  New stories with new characters get mixed in there, too.  It’s like having a new friend – so exciting.  Some of you with children will probably tell me that you get what I’m saying but you learned it by having children.  I learned it through the process of creating worlds, lives, and the events in those lives.  Someday, I hope to join you, but for now, you can join me.

The process of creation is something unique to human beings.  Sure, you can stick a paintbrush in the trunk of an elephant and watch them splash paint on a canvas, but to birth art you have to be human.  Why?  We are created in the image of God with souls.  Part of that expression is being little mini creators ourselves.  I can relate to the power and beauty of realizing God, the incomprehensible, has comprehended me because I create.  The process of creating little fictional lives makes this quote mean more to me.  Why?

I destroy their lives and rebuild them.  I walked with them through the darkest of moments.  I design and create them.  I weep as I injure them knowing they had to be injured or they’ll never be who they need to be.  I suffer and rejoice along with them.  I am irrevocably tied to the lives of my characters.

This may sound strange, and it may be something only other novelist can relate too, but these fictional characters are very ‘real’ to me.  I don’t mean that in some mystical way I think they exist, but they are something I’ve created, and they are an extension of my soul.

This is just a hint, an inkling, a tiny example of what it means to be formed by the hand of God, to have Him write my own story.  I’m real.  I’m a human writing about humans.  He is God creating.  To move beyond my experience as a writer and think about God – mighty, holy, loving, perfect, complete in Himself – thinking, designing, and creating me, is a humbling thought.  Mind blown.  My brain just can’t comprehend it.  So I return to my little example to keep my brain in my head.

e4ddc8cd09daedbde32cae418edd178fI spend so much of my time thinking about my characters, and God says my worth is far above sparrows, which He tends to every day.  I plan each little step they take, each word they speak, each mistake they make.  God says He formed me in my mother’s womb.  I focus on how I’m going to heal them.  God says he will make me more like Christ and finish the work He began.  I’ve literally sit and weep on my keyboard as my characters suffer, experience loss, are tortured, and even die.  God says He’ll never leave us or forsake us.  I’ve gotten a better sense of walking through the valley of the shadow of death and fearing no evil for He is with me.  Why?  Cause I’ve put some people through hell and agonized over them more then than I did when they were happy.  I don’t worry about them when they’re at the good part of the story.  I worry about them when they’re at the darkest part of the story.

I have a better sense of not rejoicing in the death of the wicked because even my evilest characters have a small drop of pity from me.  I don’t have any qualms about their death.  My antagonists are evil.  But, I still pity them.  I pity them because they don’t want salvation.  They love their evil and have no desire to leave the darkness and come to the light.

I have a better sense of the salvation of monsters because I’ve saved some.  My favorite characters are the ones so unworthy of salvation.  I look forward to the day when I am before the Throne of God and I get to see all the vile sinners He has saved.  I anticipate that there will be some very horrible people there.  Why?  Well, for one, I’ll be there and I know my sinful heart.  I also know because on a very small, human level, I have copied my creator – like a fumbling child after a parent – and saved my own monsters.  Saved monsters are so much deeper and more wonderful than saved unicorns.

517af6dcdb6fb3c8f6e3f067d3827746I write stories, even my fairy tales, about things that go bump in the night and the men and women who battle them.  I’ve have characters who give up on anything resembling a normal life to protect that normal life for others.  This has given me a deep appreciation for the sacrifices required by the men on the front lines in the physical battles and the women who stand by their sides.  That understanding has blossomed into a deep respect for the men who wage spiritual battles against darkness.  It has helped me appreciate and pray for the men responsible for my soul.  Do you ever think about what your pastor has given up to be your pastor?  A well paying career, worldly respect, friendships, hobbies, a hidden life free from judgment and peering eyes to name just a few things.  Pastors have many sleepless nights filled with concern for their flock.  Everything they do is under the microscope.  And yet, they willingly put themselves and their families through this for the sake of the glory of God, the gospel, and you and me.  My appreciation for their sacrifice has been enriched by my writing.

If I, a weak and distracted writer, can spend that much time working on her characters, how much more does God work on us, His beloved children?

All this the Lord has helped me see over the years I’ve been writing.  In another words, I look at life through my Christian-colored glasses translating my experiences through the Bible, not the Bible through my experiences.  When you do it in the right order, there is a treasure trove of truth to learn.  I’m so thankful for my writing gift from God.  I hope to encourage and lift others up with it.  I’ll never write a story void of darkness, but I will always have light, hope, and a happy ending.