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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Blue Like Jazz: Ripples...


One month ago today, after many years of hearing wonderful things about Blue Like Jazz, I finally borrowed the book and, as you may remember, ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting. This past week I was reflecting on the impact this has had on my life even just a few short weeks, and I wanted to chronicle some of the results, both direct and indirect, of that day.

1. I realized I was NOT, as I'd believed for the past several years, a "non-reader" after all, and I took up reading again. Since that day I have completed four books (Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, both by Donald Miller; Born Standing Up by Steve Martin; and I Am Not But I Know I Am by Louie Giglio) and I am currently over halfway through a fifth book (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins). As a side note, A Million Miles... and I Am Not... have both had as significant an impact on my thinking as Blue Like Jazz. I'd highly recommend any of these three books as great reading!


2. In order to take up reading again in a way that might actually be successful, I decided to set aside a few hours each week to go to a coffee shop specifically to read. As I purposed to do that, I also decided to pick one coffee shop and stick with it, in hopes that perhaps I'd develop a rapport with the employees and have an opportunity to reflect Christ to them.

3. Because of the intentional design behind my solo coffee dates, I began to look at my weekly coffee dates with Jessie with more purpose. We already have a good rapport with the guys working at the coffee shop we meet at weekly, so I began to look at that, too, as an opportunity to reflect Christ, and I also began praying for them. After I told Jessie about it, she and I also made this a part of our shared prayer time at the end of our coffee dates!

Jessie and me at the coffee shop we now meet at weekly
This was our first coffee date here!

4. Specific portions of Blue Like Jazz that related to grace and what some might refer to as "friendship evangelism" influenced conversations I had with friends in the days immediately following my reading of it.

5. The whole reason I finally decided to read Blue Like Jazz was because a movie based on the book was releasing on April 13, and I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie. When the movie came out, I ended up going to Sacramento (the nearest city in which it was showing) TWICE in the same weekend to see it ~ once with Ashley, and once with Jessie. Both times, the movie spurred a lot of meaningful, thought-provoking conversation for the drive back to Reno.

With Ashley for my first "Blue Like Jazz"
movie experience!

6. The week after the movie released, I was at my coffee date with Jessie and I had a tote bag with me I was using to carry around a couple of books ("non-reader" no more, haha!) and other items when I realized I had unintentionally brought Blue Like Jazz along with me. I had grabbed it by accident that morning and was surprised to find it in my bag, but as Jessie and I were talking, something in our conversation sparked my memory of a part of the book and I pulled it out to read an excerpt to Jessie. I promise you, no more than 30 seconds had passed when another customer in the coffee shop walked by our table, saw the book in my hand, and stopped to ask if I'd read it. He had it on his shelf at home where it had sat unread for about four years. We talked about it for a few minutes, and he had heard about the movie so I got to tell him a little about that, too, and by the end of our conversation it seemed as though he'd decided to finally pull it off the shelf and read it! I'm telling you, the timing of this encounter was uncanny, especially given the fact that I hadn't even intended to bring the book with me that day!!! Super cool.

7. The encounter I just described was a springboard for gradually increasing confidence on my part in conversing with strangers... Two days later I finally had an opportunity to "break the ice" and find out a little about one of the girls who works in the coffee shop I've been going to to read. The day after that I had a friendly conversation with someone who was at the river when I went to enjoy the beautiful weather we were having last weekend. Today while I was reading at the coffee shop, a man who needed some help with directions for a motorcycle ride approached me and I was able to offer him some assistance, and later, as I was getting in my car to leave, one of the coffee shop employees (actually I think she may be one of the owners, but I'm not sure) was asking me about the guy with the motorcycle so I got to have a short conversation with her, too!

enjoying the river!!!

8. After enjoying my afternoon at the river last week and specifically having that encounter with the woman I met there, I was inspired to consider inviting some friends to join me weekly after church on Sundays this summer for a picnic lunch at a park... I have sort of the same idea for this as for my solo coffee dates, just to visit the same spot on a regular basis with the two-fold purpose of both doing something enjoyable and refreshing and making myself available for opportunities to reflect Christ to whomever I might come in contact with ~ and in this case, inviting others to join me!

9. I ended up reading a significant excerpt from Blue Like Jazz (the entire portion about the confessional booth, in case you've read it and are curious) to my fellowship group this past Tuesday night as we discussed evangelism and how to respond to people who have been legitimately "burned" by Christians in the past. I actually felt sort of bad afterward because I took up so much of our discussion time, but it was so closely related to what we were talking about I couldn't resist sharing it. And I think/hope it was beneficial!

10. As I saw that "Blue Like Jazz" was coming to the end of its unfortunately short run in theaters, I made a last-minute scramble to work out a plan for my friend Zack to see it before it was too late and ended up learning a valuable lesson in perseverance, specifically when it is aimed at someone else's benefit.

with Tara and Zack on the last night "Blue Like Jazz" showed in Sac

I could probably think of a few more direct and/or indirect results of that afternoon I spent reading Blue Like Jazz one month ago today, but I think this pretty well covers most of the highlights! It's hard for me to imagine a lot of these things happening if not for that springboard... It's been so exciting to me to see the ripples that have come from that day, and I'm excited to see what else is in store. I can honestly say I have been more excited about God, about the Gospel, about interacting with other people, and about life in general, this past month than I have been in I couldn't tell you how long, and although I credit God with all of it, I can easily point to my reading of Blue Like Jazz as the stone He dropped in the water that started this ripple effect. I thank Him for it with all my heart!


Update 4/30/11 - My friend Carrie gave me a heads-up to another blog people are currently linking up to in order to share about books that have changed their lives. This was quite aptly timed for me since I just wrote such a post two days ago! Feel free to check it out if you are so inclined! And check out Carrie's blog while you're at it!


Last Sunday in our young adults learning group Eric started our time together by talking about how the presence of Christians in Ephesus in Acts 19 led to the decline in the silversmith industry because the demand for shrines of Artemis was decreasing. He went on to ask what parts of our economy in present-day America might collapse if we as Christians were truly living out the Gospel, and later we also discussed what it is (if anything) that differentiates those of us who are a part of the Church from those who aren't.

I won't elaborate on the discussion that followed (except to say that the consensus seemed to be that we ought to "live our lives differently" -- which makes me think of the typical list of things most church-goers refrain from -- and not be wishy-washy about our faith) because I want to skip right to an experience I had the next afternoon at Wal*Mart that drew my mind back to the original question. I was getting ready to check out and had only a few items, so I started to get in line at the self checkout kiosks. However, the thought flashed through my head that I should get in a regular checkout line instead simply to take advantage of the opportunity to interact with a human being.

{photo source}
God has really been leading me to be more intentional lately about my interactions with people in public places with the recognition that every person I come in contact with is created in His image, valued by Him, and may or may not be aware of the fact that He loves him/her. I have been experiencing an increasing desire to take advantage of every opportunity I can to reflect Christ to anyone I may cross paths with, even if it's just in a very small way such as smiling or being kind.

So I got into a regular checkout line, where I spoke with an actual human being. And I found myself wondering if all the convenient forms of self-service we have in our modern world are not a portion of our economy that might collapse today if we as Christians were living out the Gospel in a way that really exemplifies that we value people more than our own time or convenience. Now, I'm not saying that I think all forms of self-service are wrong or bad. I couldn't tell you the last time I spoke with an actual bank teller because I ALWAYS, ALWAYS use the ATM. But this is just something that I have been pondering throughout the week, even to the point of considering giving up my ATM use for the sake of having more human interaction unless I need something after hours. (Just to clarify, I'm not sure if I'm going to take this step or not; it's still just a matter of consideration at this point. So please don't hold me to it just yet, haha...)

The text for my devotional reading earlier that day had come from 1 Thessalonians 5, where verses 12-22 describe "Christian Conduct." I couldn't help but notice the verbs used in that passage and how different they are from what I think we American Christians typically think of as Christian conduct (e.g. that list I mentioned earlier of what Christians tend to refrain from). Here are the behaviors listed that ought to set us apart as Christians according to 1 Thessalonians 5:
~ appreciate
~ esteem...very highly in love
~ live in peace
~ admonish (which means "gently caution")
~ encourage
~ help
~ be patient with everyone*
~ [refrain from repaying] evil for evil
~ seek after that which is good for one another and for all people*
~ rejoice
~ pray
~ give thanks
~ [refrain from quenching] the Spirit
~ [refrain from despising] prophetic utterances
~ examine...carefully
~ hold fast to that which is good
~ abstain from every form of evil.
    *Emphasis added to note that these directions specifically apply to interactions beyond our Church family

{photo source}
The first thing that stands out to me about this list is that the first 14 (out of 17 total) verbs used to describe Christian conduct are in some way relational ~ ways we are to relate to our leaders in the Church, our brothers and sisters in Christ, our fellow man in general, and our God and His Spirit. Only the final three directions apply specifically to our personal, private behaviors. The second thing that stands out to me is that only four of the 17 verbs incite us to refrain or abstain from something... That means over 75% of the direction we are given in this passage for conducting ourselves as Christians is comprised of POSITIVE ACTION, which I believe stands in pretty stark contrast to the general list of things we DON'T do that we tend to think of as setting us apart.

Now I am well aware that this is not the only portion of Scripture that gives us instruction for Christian living, but since this is what I just so happened to read the day after our discussion about what sets us apart as Christians, I am pretty confident that God had some things to say to me through that particular passage. As I've continued to consider all these things throughout the week, it's really been on my mind that I think we could boil down to a single word what OUGHT to set us apart as Christians:


{photo source}
Humility is not something we do or don't do; it is an attitude that affects how we relate to and interact with others. I can't help but recall the passage from Philippians 2:5-8 (which, quite ironically, is the "verse of the day" on BibleGateway where I look up passages online!) where we are reminded that Jesus Himself, "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." He "humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." The very first words of verse 5 call us to have this same attitude in ourselves. And prior to this description of Christ's humility, in verses 3-4 we are urged to "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than [ourselves]" and to "not merely look out for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."

Can you think of anything more counter-cultural, ESPECIALLY in America, than humility? It is a far more distinguishing characteristic than not getting drunk, or not having sex outside of marriage, or voting conservatively, or even making sure we voice our Christian beliefs and convictions to everyone with whom we cross paths. I honestly believe if we truly exercised humility, if we truly regarded others as more important than ourselves, if we looked out not only for our own personal interests but also for the interests of others, this in and of itself would be completely sufficient to set us apart as the Church.

I am very intrigued by these ideas and I am eager to continue considering the impact they need to have in my life...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Thanksgiving All Year: 361-370

Ahhh, another lovely week has gone by and I am posting on time once again! And I have lots of pictures to share this week! Hooray!

This week I am thankful...

361. For BEAUTIFUL weather last weekend that enabled me to enjoy both my weekly coffee + reading excursion AND dinner with my parents at our favorite pizza place outdoors on Saturday and also allowed me to spend part of my Sunday afternoon with my feet in the Truckee River while I took pictures, enjoyed God's creation, and re-read a couple of my favorite chapters of Blue Like Jazz.

The tree outside the coffee shop
was enjoying the weather, too!
Finally, a photo of
the pizza whose praises I've already sung!
blossoms at the park I went to on Sunday
double refreshment!

362. For the beautiful Biblical principles related to what I've heard referred to as "appropriate smallness" ~ recognizing how great God is and how small I am ~ in Louie Giglio's book I Am Not But I Know I Am.


363. For increased confidence in conversing with strangers, which is allowing me to make more connections with people outside my "Christian bubble."

364. For a co-workers who truly love the Lord and are so much fun to spend time with, whether we're discussing our faith or just laughing together.

We ladies were missing Jane!

365. That God brought the Thompson family to our church last year (through a series of events that makes a pretty awesome story, actually)... I am so thankful for Pastor Eric's heart for the Gospel and his leadership of the young adults.

366. For the people who comprise our fellowship group.

These ladies make the rest of us
look more refined!

367. For time with my nephew. (Let's just be honest, this may show up on my list every week for the rest of my life!)

I LOVE his expression here!!!!!!!
Cannot get enough of that precious grin!

368. For deep-fried squash blossoms filled with cheese. Oh my goodness these things are delectable!

That's also dandelion soda! What a cool place!

369. For a life lesson in tenacity and the reward of not giving up on something, especially when it's something you're pursuing for the sake of someone else more than for yourself.

seeing "Blue Like Jazz" with Tara and Zack
on the last night of its run in Sacramento

370. That the Gospel is, in reality, so very simple in spite of the fact that we all too often tend to complicate it.

I have so much to be thankful for... I feel like I just continue to realize more and more how ABUNDANTLY God has blessed me! It's humbling, really. I'm so grateful. I hope you all have a great weekend! Until next time...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tenacity. [& the joy of working for someone else's gain]

I've been known to do some crazy things when it comes to movies I'm passionate about.

For the sake of keeping this short(ish), I'll spare you the details, but allow me to mention two examples. When "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" was in theaters, I ended up seeing it in five different states. A couple years later, I once saw a movie in each of Reno's three main theaters (at that time) IN ONE DAY.

Yes, I am, in fact, insane.

Yep. I'm talking about it again.
Now, if you've read my blog lately you've probably picked up on the fact that Blue Like Jazz (both its book and movie versions) has made a significant impact on my life lately. Our young adults fellowship group had planned to drive over to Sacramento this coming Sunday after church to see the movie, but unfortunately we discovered that it was only going to be showing in Sacramento through today. It was also playing in San Francisco, which is about twice as long of a drive, but I was crazy enough to drive even that far if others were game, and as it turned out, they were! However, my excitement was quickly deflated when we learned the movie was only playing through today THERE, too. UGH! Well, it just wasn't meant to be, was it?

In spite of my disappointment, I was thrilled yesterday when I heard that our young adults pastor had spontaneously decided to take the afternoon off and drive over to see the movie with a friend of his who lives in California... I knew he was a huge fan of the book, and it just didn't feel right to think that he wouldn't get to see the movie in theaters. So I was glad that wasn't how things turned out for him. However, I also knew his son was a huge fan of the book, and I felt like now that Eric had seen the movie, if only Zack could see it, too, I'd be satisfied.

I started trying to finagle a plan for us to SOMEHOW get over to Sacramento today to see the movie, and things were falling into place beautifully until I started trying to find a third person to join us. One person had to work tomorrow and didn't want to be out so late; one person had to work tonight; one person had plans with his family; one person was packing for a trip; a couple of people had youth group responsibilities. I was starting to lose heart but I refused to give up until I had exhausted every possibility. If I had knocked on every door I could think of, and every door was shut, then I would accept that it was not part of God's plan for us to go tonight, and I would be satisfied knowing I'd literally done everything in my power to make it happen. But until then, I wouldn't ~ I COULDN'T ~ give up.

Then FINALLY, a breakthrough... Eric suggested I see if his wife, Tara, wanted to go. And long story short, SHE DID. And I breathed what I would call an "epic sigh of relief."

I realize it's just a movie, and in the grand scheme of things, it is not a big deal if any of us see this movie tonight (or ever) or not. But I just wanted so desperately for Zack to have the opportunity to see the film that was inspired by a book that has been significantly influential in his life, and I was beyond thrilled that all the scrambling this morning paid off.

Like I said, at one point I had started to lose heart and give up, resigning myself to the apparent conclusion that this just wasn't meant to be. But I pressed on. And I am grateful that I exhausted every possibility I could think of because the payoff was most definitely worth it! I realize it doesn't always end this way; sometimes even our best efforts still find us empty-handed in the end. But I HOPE I am always persistent enough to pursue everything to the end that I believe to be a good thing insofar as God does not direct me otherwise. If God directs me to let go of something, then by all means I hope that my response will be to let go. But otherwise, I hope I never let any perceived obstacles convince me to give up until I have, in fact, exhausted all possibilities.Then, at the end of the day, if I am still empty-handed, I will at least have the satisfaction of knowing I did not simply quit when things got hard, and therefore it wasn't my own lack of perseverance that led to that end result. I think our culture by and large gives up on things too easily when results aren't coming quickly or easily... I don't want to follow suit.

As small and seemingly insignificant as this particular example of a last-minute trip to see a movie may be, I honestly believe I learned a valuable lesson in tenacity today. As chaotic as it was to see this come together, I can say now, knowing that Zack is going to get to see "Blue Like Jazz" on the big screen in a few hours, that it was worth it.

One final note ~ I don't think this experience would have held even a fraction of the reward if I'd been so tenacious in seeking something that was only about or for myself. It is in knowing that my efforts have led to someone else's joy that I find my own. I don't want to forget that for a second or else I expect any tenacity I have will be largely empty.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Random Fire {Episode 2}

Well, it's been a couple of weeks so I suppose it's about time for another one of these random posts!

Shot 1 ~ Hank's Blog:

My friend Hank has been on a journey this past year to lose 100 pounds and writes a pretty great blog chronicling his progress. I met Hank when my friend Jessica and I used to frequent Celtic festivals and Scottish games events when I still lived in Tennessee. He owned a business called Highland Tide that produced some of the funniest apparel I've ever seen and was often one of the vendors at these events. Since moving to Reno I've also befriended his wife Deetz on MySpace (back the dark ages) and Facebook and I have loved getting to know Hank and Deetz both a little better, even if it's been in the virtual world! Anyway, last week I was catching up on my blog subscriptions and Hank had an entry about a 5k he ran last weekend. The following paragraph had me trying hard not to laugh out loud... Read, enjoy, and check out his blog sometime if you are so inclined!
We donned our rock star running apparel and slapped each other about the face and head in order to psych ourselves up. When the cannon erupted to signal the start of the race, we laid waste to the pavement and pushed forward through the crowd with amazing speed and agility. None of the things said in the past two sentences actually happened, but I thought it would add dramatic flare. I like to take artistic license in some circumstances.  I digress.

Shot 2 ~ Worship Lyrics:

For many years I've heard a generalized criticism of modern worship songs being referred to as "7-11 songs" (repeating the same seven lines eleven times, or something to that effect), as opposed to the wealth of theology one tends to find in each and every old hymn. Now don't get me wrong, I genuinely love hymns, and I do love the depth found in them that isn't generally found in modern worship songs. HOWEVER, I feel the whole "7-11" criticism is really unfounded. My two main reasons for believing this stem from a great song by Matt Redman called "Let My Words Be Few" that is inspired by Ecclesiastes 5:2 and from the Psalms... I think the Matt Redman part is pretty self-explanatory, but as far as the Psalms go, my thinking is, How repetitive are THEY? Would we look down our noses at Psalm 136 because it repeats the phrase "His love endures forever" 26 times in 26 verses? I hope not, haha! It was interesting to me that this came up recently during a conversation with Jessie, because she proceeded to tell me that her brother, who leads worship at his church, has actually been SEEKING to lead his church family in simpler songs so that they don't have to focus so much on the wordiness and can, instead, focus their minds completely on the Lord. I was actually impressed by that. Now I'm not saying we should throw out hymns BY ANY MEANS. But I absolutely believe the simplicity of many modern worship songs has just as important a place in our praise and worship as the deeply theological hymns. I love both genres and hope we can embrace both.

Shot 3 ~ DEscriptive vs. PREscriptive:

While reading this review of the "Blue Like Jazz" movie last week, I was introduced to this concept that has stuck with me ever since. The reviewer addressed criticism that has been directed at Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller for trying to make Christianity "hip" and "cool" and stated that he didn't think this critique was quite fair because "he doesn't labor at making precise theological statements; he labors at telling compelling stories..." That struck a chord in me, not only because I greatly appreciate what I've read of Miller's work so far, but also just because I LOVE reading people's stories in general. It's the DEscriptive that I love, much more than the PREscriptive, generally speaking. That whole concept has just shed a lot of light on my perspective and preference when it comes to what I like to read and why I've so enjoyed Miller's writing so far.

Shot 4 ~ Floating Lanterns:

I did it! Consider it an investment in my dreams for the future...

Well, I think that'll do for this post... Thanks for reading and stay tuned for Episode 3!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thanksgiving All Year: 351-360

HOORAY for posting this week's list of thanks-giving on Friday as originally intended!! I have to admit, I had so many things I wanted to include in my list this week, I kept having to combine things in order to stick with the routine 10 items -- and even so, I can think of at least three things off the top of my head that I didn't include at all! Obviously, I'm not complaining!! It's been a good week, but I'm becoming increasingly aware that how "good" my weeks are is a lot more dependent on my perspective than my circumstances. And I'm finding that to be a pretty freeing realization.

Today I am thankful...

351. For a fun day trip to Sacramento last Saturday with Ashley to see "Blue Like Jazz" (and eat at Chipotle and, of course, Chick-fil-A!), and for meaningful conversation on the way there and back.

Purple Bean peanut butter mocha
frappuccinos in hand,
ready to head through
the mountains into California!
After some time goofing off in
the mall, we had the theater
to ourselves for a few minutes
before Blue Like Jazz started!

352. For a spontaneous trip back to Sacramento the very next day with Jessie to see "BLJ" again. (That was my third trip to Sac in one week, and that was quite enough haha!)

353. For the joy of seeing some of our high school guys playing with the worship team in our main service last Sunday.

354. For total contentment in "going with the flow" in the midst of mild chaos getting to and being at a Florence + the Machine concert Tuesday night, and for making new friends along the way.

I already knew Samantha and Christy
but just met Holly!

355. For a job with flexibility in scheduling, and for my newly adjusted schedule... I switched my Mondays off to Wednesdays so I can keep my nephew, and although I wasn't excited to give up my three-day weekends, I'm amazed at how much BETTER I like this new schedule!!!

He's totally the cutest thing
I've ever laid eyes on.
He wasn't loving our venture
into the backyard, but it's
pretty adorable how he's
holding onto my thumb, huh? ->

356. For Reno skies.

357. For a most excellent coffee date with Jessie this week, and for a COMPLETELY surprising ~ almost to the point of hilarity ~ divine appointment.

So this picture was at the Florence concert,
not our coffee date, but you get the idea...

358. For trusted friendships that are safe enough for honesty, confession, and vulnerability, and meet such with grace, understanding, truth, accountability, encouragement, love, and hope!

359. That, although I was super disappointed to see Colton go home so early in the competition (a fluke, I do believe), I was overjoyed to see his exit performance which he blatantly sang as a worship song to God... There is no doubt in my mind the Lord has some amazing plans ahead of that man!

360. For signs of new life...

As I was talking to God this morning I was just overwhelmed with gratitude for how FULL life is... No, things are not perfect in my life right now (nor will they ever be as long as we are on this earth), but I honestly feel like EVERYWHERE I look I am seeing beauty lately, even in the midst of pain and brokenness. And I realize all that beauty is a reflection of the great God I serve. I am so very thankful I recognize Him as the living and active center of my life! I hope you are seeing beauty around you today as well and recognizing Who the source is! Until next time...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Floating Lanterns

"I've been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky..."

Oh my goodness. I have wanted to see what these things are like in real life ever since I saw "Tangled." Good thing I was already planning to look at my finances tonight ~ it appears that I have about two and a half days to decide whether or not I want to splurge on a great deal and save them for some special occasion................ Stay tuned to see if I decide to go for it!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Blue Like Jazz: The Movie

If you've been following my blog in recent weeks, you know that I recently read the book Blue Like Jazz in anticipation of the film that was being released on April 13. The film had a limited release for opening weekend, but fortunately Sacramento, one of the cities in which it was showing, is only a couple hours from Reno, so I made plans with Ashley to go see the movie the day after it opened.

The day before we took our mini road trip, I read Movieguide's review and became a bit concerned about how I was going to feel about the film due to some of the "objectionable content" described. And upon watching the movie, I wasn't completely sure until the final scene whether or not I was going to walk away a fan.

But I did.

This is quite possibly the best review I've read of the movie ~ and of Donald Miller and his writings in general, for that matter ~ from a Christian perspective. In fact, I agree with so much of what this reviewer says, I am going to keep my thoughts here short and recommend that you check out his review if you want to know more.

The only thing I want to offer my commentary on is a sentiment expressed in another review I read today that "Blue Like Jazz" is "a movie that hopes to serve as a reality check to believers trying to ignore touchy subjects." This had to be the strongest impression I came away with after seeing the film...

One of the major themes in the book Blue Like Jazz is the need for self-examination, for recognizing and owning up to the part we play in the problems we see in the world around us. The portrayal of some of the hypocritical Christians in this movie is not one we as believers are fond of being associated with, and yet it is reality. I think too often we want to dissociate ourselves with the brand of hypocrisy displayed in this story and/or bury our heads in the sand, pretending it doesn't exist or that WE are above it. But the truth is, we are all hypocrites at times, even if our hypocrisy isn't as blatant or shocking as what we see here.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the various opinions and convictions we tend to hold so dear, promote, preach, and "live or die" for, and I've been thinking about how detrimental our preaching of these secondary things is to the promotion of the main thing: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. THAT is the only thing I want to "live or die" for. That's not to say that I never get caught up in the secondary things, because I do. (Hello, have you ever known me during an American Idol season? I can sometimes, unfortunately, become obnoxious.) In fact, I don't want even this blog post to come across as a "live or die" attitude about promoting this film. It will undoubtedly offend many believers, and I'm not condemning you if it offends you. I'm not here to convince you to see it. All I'm saying is for me, it did have merit. And I think the intended message is an important one. I need to take responsibility for how I represent -- or misrepresent -- Christ to the people around me.
“...sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself...” 
This is a key line in both the book and the movie, and that's how I want to live my life, loving God in a way that will hopefully encourage others to love Him as well. I don't want to be so dogmatic about my own personal convictions that I promote them instead of the Gospel or, even worse, value them above other human beings who are flawed, yes, but created in the image of God and LOVED by Him. That, I think, is the beautiful redemptive message that comes across through "Blue Like Jazz" on film.

Again, I really encourage you to read this review of the movie and of Donald Miller and his writings for what I believe is an extremely balanced and accurate Christian perspective.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Thanksgiving All Year: 341-350

In an effort to get back to my original plan of posting my weekly list of thanks-giving each FRIDAY, I am here posting what I'm thankful for for the second time this week! Let's see if I can keep this up... Doubtful, but we'll see!

This week, I am thankful...

341. For the opportunity to stay with Erin and Caleb for the past four nights while Cassidy was at a conference in Washington, D.C.

Belgian waffles Erin made for dinner

Caleb in his jammies, ready for bed
342. For the super comfortable, warm bed in Cassidy and Erin's guest room.

343. That Jessie and I got to see Mat Kearney in concert again this week! I seriously LOVE seeing him live! It was fun this time around hearing him talk about his college days in nearby Chico, telling us how he pulled a "hat trick" (aka scoring three goals) during his first college soccer game and how "it was all downhill from there," haha! I love, love, love his music anyway, but the fact that he really just seems like such a down-to-earth and funny guy makes me an even bigger fan!

So glad he played in
Reno AND Sacramento!

344. For laughs and good conversation with Jessie during our mini road trip.

being silly in parking lots
and enjoying the concert

345. That God controls the weather and was very merciful with us on Tuesday night... It was supposed to be snowing over Donner Pass as we drove home late after the concert, but the storm stalled before it got into the mountains so other than a couple of patches of fog, we didn't run into ANY inclement weather!! Thank You, Lord!

346. For a super refreshing coffee date with Audrey on Wednesday afternoon. It is so encouraging to talk with former youth group girls who have continued to walk with the Lord after graduating high school instead of falling away from Him and are now living lives of faith out in "the real world."

with some of my favorite ladies at a wedding last summer ~
Audrey is in front on the right wearing the pink dress

347. For my Wednesday evening with Erin as we cooked dinner together, talked about life, called to wish my grandmother a happy birthday, prayed for people we know who are hurting, "FaceTimed" our siblings in Baltimore (Cassidy and Eric stayed with Kara while at their conference), watched American Idol, and took turns snuggling with Caleb. I loved my entire week staying with them but Wednesday night was my favorite!

...and this was how the evening ended. Perfect!

348. That I can be thinking some deep thought about my walk with God even while singing along to mainstream music by the likes of Dave Matthews Band... Hahaha, while I was driving to work Thursday I realized this happening and I gratefully reflected on the fact that I can enjoy elements of the mainstream world while never losing sight of the fact that my purpose and joy are completely wrapped up in my heavenly Father.

349. That Judy and I got to enjoy a delicious breakfast at Peg's Glorified Ham and Eggs this morning... We haven't seen much of each other for the past few weeks so it was good to catch up!

350. For the hilarity of reminiscing with Ashley about the time we decided to float down the Truckee River on an overcast Saturday in August 2010 when it was only like 65 degrees outside... The experience included Ben's raft gradually deflating throughout the day, me falling off my raft and almost getting carried away raft-less by the current, Ashley accidentally kicking me in the head, my raft popping when I floated into a tree branch, and all five of us huddling in Ashley's car with the heat blasting for about a half-hour once we crawled out of the cold water. Ahhhhh, the memories!! Hahahahaha!!!

Still freezing, haha!

Even as I continue to wait with great longing and anticipation for the Lord to unfold His plan for other parts of my life, I recognize that He has already blessed me so much through my friends and family, and I don't ever want to take for granted the abundant blessings He's given me there already. This week has been particularly blessed (and it's not over yet, as I look forward to spending time relaxing at home with my parents tonight before Ashley and I take our own mini road trip to Sacramento tomorrow!) and today I am so thankful! Until next time...