Crazy Heart And The Verizon Adventure

The weekend is a blur. We worked hard Saturday morning and then decided to hang out a bit during the afternoon. One of the family phones was dying, so we decided to visit Verizon to explore our options.

Off we went to the Westchester store. We played with phones, talked about new plans, debated Droid vs. Palm, wistfully considered leaving Verizon for the iPhone. We spent three hours working through the phones and comparing features.
We went back home that night, slept on it, made our decision (sadly, passing on the iPhone due to AT&T’s inferior coverage west of Richmond) and returned to Verizon Sunday afternoon to talk through a making some changes.
We came out way ahead financially. We essentially got two brand new phones for free, added a fifth line to the family plan (shhh….don’t tell Daniel….), set up all the lines with the music business (which gets discounted rates) and made a great friend in the salesman.
It only took FIVE HOURS.
I am not kidding.
At one point, after the store had been officially closed for two hours and we were STILL waiting on the business department to sign off on the deal, Tony literally laid down in the middle of the store – on the floor.
It was very surreal. However, we will simply count it all as loss. At least we were hanging out together. And we chose the Palm Pre phone, which – so far – is pretty cool. And we spent a total of eight hours in one weekend – the equivalent of a work day – in the Verizon store. And we bought our sales guy a coffee from the Starbucks next door, because he was pretty cool.
In the midst of all that and the gorgeous day that was Saturday, we took advantage of two free movie tickets (thanks, John Tiller – you ROCK!) and saw Crazy Heart.

Good movie – not as gripping as I expected, but good – but an incredible performance by Jeff Bridges. He deserved the Oscar.
Great music, too – authentic and impressive because Bridges really inhabited the character enough to sing the songs quite convincingly. And there’s T Bone Burnett behind it all, which is fantastic. I loved the music.
Bridges’ portrayal of a washed-up, worn out alcoholic at his worst was enlightening. I know some folks who have battled an addiction to alcohol but this was a stark and almost horrifying look at how desolate life can become when it’s chained to a bottle. There was a great redemptive aspect to the story, but in terms of the punishing power of alcoholism, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I left the movie with a tightness in my gut, thinking about what life must be like for some of the people I see every day who are living with an alcoholic. Or battling the disease themselves.
The movie is worth seeing. I suppose it would hit a tender spot for some. It sure opened my eyes.
So, the point of this post? Threefold:
  • Crazy Heart is worth seeing.
  • Bryant at the Westchester Verizon store is pretty awesome.
  • I like my new Palm Pre.
And the bonus point? EIGHT HOURS IS TOO LONG IN ANY STORE.

Movie Review: "I’ve Loved You So Long"

It took me two days, but I finally finished watching I’ve Loved You So Long. Let me just give a major shout out to whoever came up with the idea of Netflix Watch Instantly.

Word.
Trying to relax a bit while folding clothes, I opened Netflix and found it recommended to me by “them”, whoever “they” are. I vaguely remembered hearing something about this being a good film. I clicked play and was immersed in a film I found strangely powerful, if not somewhat voyeuristic.
The story hinges on two sisters: Lea, with an apparently happily married existence with a spouse, good job, cute kids, nice house. The other sister, Juliette, recently released from prison, is brittle and hard, wrapped in layers of grief and sadness. Bit by bit her story unfolds. It is utterly captivating.
I don’t recall ever seeing such a stark, silent depiction of suffering. Kristin Scott Thomas is brilliant – no makeup, gaunt, silent, pensive. She so completely inhabits the character and communicates every nuance of her pain through the slightest movements. A small grimace, a brief glance. The wrinkling of her forehead. When the movie moves towards it’s climax and the veneer cracks, the physical release is potent.
I was deeply moved by this movie. Often I find myself drawn into films, identifying with the characters and generally pulling out some sort of application. In retrospect, I do think this story is a remarkable demonstration of grace and unconditional love; but my strongest reaction to I’ve Loved You So Long is to the delicate strength of Juliette. She is absolutely untouchable, until she chooses to move past safety and into acceptance. Her initial steps are small and tentative, reactive to the actions and attitudes of those around her. Eventually the character moves from “there” – a difficult, painful past riddled with guilt and great loss – to “here” – a simple statement of grace.
Good movie. Highly recommended for a rainy afternoon.

"It Is Written"

Today I took Shannon on a mommy/daughter date and saw “Slumdog Millionaire”.

Wow.
Took me by surprise; I had heard that it was a ‘love story’, and that therein was the appeal.  So I expected the girl + boy story to be the focal point.  But that aspect seemed almost secondary; the love story was as much about brothers and friends as the romance you might expect to find in a popular two hour film.  The relationship between the brothers was powerful.  And powerful may be a rather anemic word.  I was completely captivated.
Sarah went to see it later today with friends and Twittered afterward, “I am paralyzed.”  I think that’s a good word for it.  
It’s not unusual for me to enjoy a movie and encourage other people to go see it.  But there was something so visceral about this film…so deeply moving…it compels me to want to insist  that everyone in the universe go to see it.  
Reflecting on it a bit, I’m really not quite sure what the appeal is.  Perhaps, more than anything, my western, American, comfortable heart was shattered by the vivid depictions of life in the slums of India.  And because the poverty, the filth, the unbelievably desperate conditions were barely nodded at – simply a part of a very real, authentic story – the impact of how two brothers grew up in Mumbai is driven home with a fierce and desperate power.  It is inescapable.
I was so moved, on so many levels.  It was way beyond what I expected.  It is a movie I want to watch again and again and again.
I suggest you catch it in a theatre, where you can be transported to Mumbai and experience the intensity of this film in the dark.  Because, in spite of the setting of the story, it’s a tale of the triumph of human spirit, and love, and right.  In the midst of the mess, it truly is a happy story.  And I think maybe that’s what resonates most of all, what my occupied spirit completely understands.  
In the midst of great brokeness, there is true joy.

Fireproof

Yesterday’s message at church was on relationships, and our pastor encouraged us all to watch ‘Fireproof’.  His words were:  “It wrecked me.”

Yeah.  It wrecked me, too.
I’m still processing.  We watched it tonight at small group, and I knew it would be emotional.  My kids had seen it in the theater when it came out, and they told me I’d cry.  They’d been with their dad – they said he cried.
I reacted to the movie in a few different ways – and not as I expected.  First of all, it was rather cheesy in some respects (something our pastor had warned against.  He said not to bail on the movie because of any production or acting issues – to stay tuned for the message).  Actually, I found the production to be fairly decent.  Some of the “preachier” moments were what got me.  But more about that later…
I watched the story unfold expecting to feel guilty.  As a divorced woman, one who can clearly see her mistakes in hindsight, I was prepared to feel beat up, reminded of my own sins.  To my surprise, none of my reactions lined up with guilt, shame or condemnation.  I’m not sure how much of that has to do with my own recovery or the gentle grace with which the movie delivered its story.
My overwhelming reaction was one of sorrow.  Deep, deep sorrow -the kind that I feel when I hear of a marriage that is broken, when I see two people unable to reconnect, when I talk to a woman seeking love outside of her marriage.  This movie connects in a powerful way with those emotions.  Divorce hurts.  Brokeness hurts.  Emptiness hurts.

It was impossible to watch the movie without connecting, in some way, with the characters.  I’m not sure if that’s everone’s experience, but it was mine.  In some objective fashion, I was able to see the husband and wife and relate to both – and to shed some healing tears of forgiveness that had much more to do with me and my former husband than the characters on the screen.
That’s profound, when a story can reach that deeply.
I thought a bit about the cheese factor, the stereotypical “come to Jesus” scenes…and I am thinking that maybe that’s a large part of the grace of our faith.  See, I am very caught up each week in church; in creating worship experiences, connecting people, leading, discipleship, etc.  It’s important to be relevant and present and authentic and all that.  There’s not a lot of room for cheesiness in the world in which I operate.
But this movie, and the emotions it triggered, got me to thinking:  maybe cheesy isn’t such a bad thing.  Maybe those stereotypes, that simplistic explanation, the corny scene with the father leaning against the cross…maybe there’s just enough truth there to allow us to relax, to get past the glamour of production values, celebrities and strong story lines and just take it for what it is.  Because, truthfully, that’s what most of us are dealing with. 
Still processing this.  Grateful to the folks who made the film.  Thinking about my own history, thankful for a chance to forgive.

Summit Recap

We had a great time at the Leadership Summit. Every year, our church invests some serious money and time in this event; we take a large group to St. Paul’s Baptist Church to catch the satellite feed of the conference. Generally, they do a great job hosting us. We consider the two-day conference an invaluable way to cast vision, build unity and hear some incredible teaching from some amazing individuals. This year was no exception.

After the final session, we always gather together for a meal and some time to decompress. This year we spent some time at our tables discussing how we were most impacted by the Summit. I heard a wide variety of answers; some folks were feeling affirmed, some sensing that God was really pushing them to move, some wondering what might be opening up for them in the future. Others were convicted that they needed to ‘shake it off and step it up’.

One by one, people stood to talk about their Summit experience. My friends, my colleagues, my brothers and sisters – my heart was warmed, surprised and touched by their words.

Then my daughter stood.

Sarah said that this conference – that she attended at the last minute – had been life-changing. She was transformed. It was time, she said, to walk away from the turmoil of the past and move into the future. Time to accept that God has not given her a spirit of timidity. Time to move into leadership in her church. She said she couldn’t believe that after five years, we were about to move into our first building – that it was time.

Her words were powerful, full of all of the hope and vigor of youth. Her passion is extraordinary. I found myself marveling at this young woman – her words, her ability to convey her desire to honor God with her life, her vision for the community, her passion for more.

And it was as if she was a young woman, standing apart from the reputation and influence of her mother. Standing alone, but with a huge collection of hands around her to hold her up. I had a tremendous sense of our community showing love and support for my daughter. And I was proud, beyond words.

And grateful.

Brian shared some powerful words about the future. Then he read some excerpts from a few emails from folks who had been impacted by what God is doing through PCCC. The words evoked deep emotions; coupled with Kevin’s voice singing in between Brian’s words:

“What a faithful God you’ve been to me
You’ve provided far beyond everything I need
What else can I do but give thanks to you
What a faithful God you’ve been to me…”

I found myself overwhelmed with worship and emotion. Grateful that God called us together to show us, again, why we do what we do. Grateful that we seem to have ‘it’, as Craig Groeschel described today.

Still amazed that I am part of this work. And, at times, terrified. God is leading us to be risky again, to stir the waters, to aim higher, to stretch out for more. It is all directed by him – all for him – all focused on him. And I have no idea what’s ahead of us.

But I can’t wait. I’m in. For keeps.