I See Choices

“When I look around this room, I see choices. Choices waiting to be made.”

So says Pierre Dulaine, New York dance instructor, played by Antonio Banderas in the movie Take The Lead.
I watched this film again recently and this line stood out to me. He was talking to those commonly known as the “school rejects,” kids who were attending detention for the remainder of the term. Kids from the projects, kids who make latch-key kids look happy and well adjusted. Kids who the world would tell had no future. In this true story of the power of change and the importance of choices, I realized how true this line really is.

The past has only one purpose, but many effects. The purpose of the past is to teach us for the future. The effects of the the past can include dragging us down, telling us we have no future, shackling ourselves to past mistakes and offenses with no hope of redemption. When we realize the past only exists to teach us, we are freed from the negative hold it has on many of us. We have choices facing us every day and each and every choice is a new chance to “do the right thing”, as it were.

Christians have it easiest when it comes to new chances. We believe that Salvation is an effective eraser of all that is bad in our past. A major tenet of Christianity is that Salvation is the covering of ALL past mistakes by the perfect blood of the perfect sacrifice. Even better that erasing, the sins are actually paid in full. There are no half-measures, no wait-and-see when it comes to a Christian’s forgiveness, we are free, completely. And we are given a new heart with which to make those choices which continue to face us every day.

For all of us, though, Christian and non-Christian alike, we face choices, and we must not fall into the death-grip of the past in making those choices. Did we screw up royally? It will still affect us but more powerful is the fact that now we know not to do it again, and we have a powerful negative deterrent to continuing in that wrong path. We face these choices no matter who we are. No matter our history or our situation, we are only bound by the power we each vest in our past.

These down-and-out children from inner-city New York saw through the working of one inspiring individual their ability to move beyond their small dreams and crushed hopes, resurrecting in themselves the golden flame of hope, renewed and inspiring once again.

One choice, though, stands above the rest, the choice to accept the freely offered gift of salvation through the death of Christ on the cross. This choice is with us our entire lives, and it is only removed from us by physical death. To make temporal choices is one thing, but to live free, now that is quite another.

Concise Yet Cogent, And Still Wrong

So a friend and I were looking through the video store isles seeking some randomness to fill an otherwise uneventful evening (no it really wasn’t that bad) and we see several films with the little laurel branches with listings of awards this and that film have won, primarily in Europe, such as Cannes and so forth. We notice most of these films are rated R, and usually for sex, graphic sex, among other things. So we mull this fact over in our minds and together come to a truism. Europe, as a society, has ceased to create, has ceased to lead, has ceased to grow. We see Europe specializing in artifacts (things done by ancient Europeans, back when they actually led), and art (which, because they are incapable of leading and creating is just barely-better-than-playboy porn). You see Europe has always had more expressive languages, generally speaking, than this dry tongue we speak, the American form of English. As such, they can use fewer, smaller words which have much richer meaning.

We Americans take four letters and call it “porn”, but the Europeans, with their expressive language, can say it in only three: “art”.

Read My Lips

I believe trust is the most important factor in holding together micro- and macro-relationships (micro = two people, macro = more than two people, up to and including entire societies). I’ve been thinking on this one for a while, like years, but specifically for the last week as I’ve bandied about what exactly I want to say. I’ve not come up with any smart way to say this, so it may just end up being a “stream of consciousness” which probably means it won’t make complete sense all the way through.

Anyway, enough with the predicates.

A friend of mine has gone through some change-of-life situations recently, and has ended up back at home after several years of ministry and work in various forms. There are understandable pressures as different humans reacquaint themselves and sort out the new hierarchies of authority and responsibility. As this friend has aged several years since she was last regularly present at home, the hierarchies are not the same as they were. Dealing with a similar situation myself over the last few years, her situation has showed me, from a different perspective, the dynamics involved in this situation.

Trust is particularly important when dealing with multiple independent adults residing in the same house, especially when one of the adults used to be a child in that home. The parents are still used to dealing with this person as a child, where trust is not so important as obedience and authority. But even when the relationship is an obedience/authority relationship, trust is important. The child must trust that the parent has their best interests in mind and heart and will not proscribe a course of action that may result in harm to them.

*note: at this point my browser window crashed (I’m still working out the kinks in Linux on my laptop) and though I’d written about twice this much, I’d not saved it yet. Being as this is a “stream of consciousness” piece, it will not sound quite the same. I really liked how it was going before the crash too…

When dealing with multiple adults (individuals with lives and wills separate from each other) living in the same house, trust is very much the substance which both holds together and limits friction resulting from the different goals at once contained within the house. Particularly if this relationship has been that of parent/child in the past. Parents have to both trust that the once-child-now-adult has absorbed the lessons of childhood and trust that this new adult will not burn the house about their ears (this is not a commentary on the basis of the trust, merely the trust itself, so if the person is undeserving of that trust, at some point they should be ejected from said domicile to face consequences of life on their own). The once-child-now-adult must still trust the parents but now not so much in the blind way they did as children, but as one would trust a good friend or wise elder person.

Trust is a fragile thing, too. In a sermon I heard once in Columbia Missouri (only Sunday I’ve ever spent in Columbia Missouri) the pastor made a simple point that is still important nonetheless: trust must be earned. Duh, I know, but think it through. Soldiers are expected to trust each other with their lives, that is a very obvious and gritty example. And if a soldier fails in that trust they can face Court Martial, a very serious proceeding indeed. On a personal level though, trust between relations, once breached can take a long time to be re-earned and the wounds may never fully heal. I have once very personal example of this, and I must predicate it with a disclaimer. I have verbally and in my heart forgiven my dad for this, and I have done it repeatedly. I know my dad is human and that I’ll likely face a similar problem from his perspective through neglect or chance during my life. I will not detail the event but suffice it so say my dad lied to me, and I still recall this even on odd occasions. As I said I’ve forgiven him and I know I’m no one to claim righteous indignation at a falsehood committed against me, but I always have that question in my mind: “Is he telling me the truth?”

When any authority, parent, pastor, mayor, husband, wife, makes a statement, the trustworthiness of that statement must be beyond doubting. Truth is not strictly necessary so much as a “to the best of my knowledge” and there must have been some effort behind that search for the truth. If there is any duplicity or planned inaccuracy, that persons’ truthfulness will always be questioned by right-thinking individuals (notable exceptions being Clinton and his groupies LOL). Speaking of Clinton, will any of you ever trust anything he says? Ever? Nope, me neither.

Secondary relationships from the perspective of the parents in a house with mature children (relationships those children have outside the house) are particularly difficult territories I’ve found. My perspective is that unless there is sufficient concrete proof the friends are having negative effects on the adult child the parent has little control, only counsel. The adult child raised properly does not follow lock step with their parents, and usually tends to be more divergent through the first years of adulthood until they’ve found who they are and settled upon their life courses. Their friends may be very different from what their parents prefer but look back at the friends that you’ve had over the years parents and see that you’ve still turned out alright, eh?

This is still very much a thought in progress, but this I know is true: Your word is your identity. If you say something, it is so. If it is not so and you spoke out of ignorance, make your word agree with how it is (admit you’re wrong and make it right).

A good name is rather to be chosen that great riches. And a good name doesn’t cause headaches and worrying in the night.

Making The Grandiose Human

The Nativity Story is a wonderful, powerful, yet so human retelling of the the story we all know so well. The best part of this film is that it tells the stories of Joseph and Mary in such a way that we see their humanity (for me this was a first). I’ve always known that they were ordinary people, but I’ve never really been able to see this in my minds eye. But here are two newlywed people facing the disapproving stares of a community because it would have been no secret that Mary was pregnant before she and Joseph were supposed to have been together. This truth alone gives such depth and dimension to the story that I nearly cried at the birthing scene of Jesus. The film is accurate with only time compressions which do not affect the efficacy of the story. Not suitable for the very young because those were not easy times and Herod did order the death of hundreds of innocent children, but still tasteful and by no means a ‘bloodfest’. I will be purchasing this movie when it is released and it will likely become a regular holiday tradition.

On another note, if you want Hollywood to make more films like this, see it in the theatre. We complain at the trash coming out of Hollywood, but we are at a powerful moment. The Passion of the Christ made large amounts of money, but it was an independent studio. The Nativity Story is the first major-studio biblically-accurate production since the 60s. If it makes lots of money, the studios will see this. Idealogical or not, the studios are not dummies when it comes to money. Even if they don’t agree with the content, they will make more good movies if they see this one as successful for them.