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Archive for July, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia

I reread Bridge to Terabithia last Saturday. I first read it in sixth grade and fell in love. It tapped emotions as yet foreign to my 12-year-old self. I finally found someone I could identify with in Jess Aarons – his irritation with yet fondness for his family, his artistic dreams and corresponding feelings of inadequacy, his insecurities and fears about everything, his need for secrets. I believed Jess was my soulmate, and I wanted to be Leslie Burke. More than anything, I wished I had written this book. With each subsequent reading that year the urge to create something so beautiful and real as this story confirmed the early and fickle childhood dream I’d had to become a writer.
Bridge to Terabithia convinced me that writing stories was a worthwhile even reverent pursuit. For to me, any activity that produced such accurate and unforgettable insight into kids like me needed to be approached in awe.
I began with trepidation, scared that the magic of it had faded and that my memory bore the only witness. I didn’t want to mar that innocent precious place by trespassing as an adult, but I had to know whether it was good to me because my tastes were immature and anything would have whetted my imaginative appetite or because it was simply magical. As I read, the original images – long dormant – filled with color and life. Everything remained intact and became better. People were more than skin captured on paper; words reverberated sound, pitch, and tenor; the dust gritty, the fresh milk warm; the pain acute and to the bone.
So Terabithia remains an ethereal transcendent kingdom painted on the insides of my eyelids; even as an adult it’s not unreachable – afterall, Jess built a bridge. It’s a wonderful place. Everyone should visit.
*Admittedly, I’m not brave enough to see the movie.

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Mark of the Church

I’ve searched because I want to be open-minded enough to concede that perhaps God really does have only one church in mind for each person to belong to, and by leaving, that person rejects God’s will and should therefore be excluded from fellowship with those who remain. I will have myself be teachable and willing to accept new ideas thereby growing both mentally and spiritually, so I will temporarily entertain the idea of the possibility of truth in a concept that otherwise seems ludicrous. I think, this thing could go either way and I’m not enough of (or any of) an expert to sound off decisively that truth is either one or the other. And so I search.
I’m by no accounts a Bible scholar, but I’m a reasonably intelligent person with a desire to learn, a Bible, and the Internet at my disposal – all useful resources for Bible studying. I’ve given an honest and earnest effort to find a scriptural basis for Christians to quit associating with other Christians because they attend different churches.
Here is the one direct scripture I’ve discovered:
Romans 16:17
Now I beseech you, brothers, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them.

I know that my perspectives are contrary to the doctrine they’ve learned and the doctrine they’ve taught for indeed my perspectives now are contrary to the doctrines I learned as well.
Mark them, identify the dissenters and Avoid them.
Good grief, Charlie Brown!
Needless to say, I didn’t sidle right up to this idea. I was startled to find Biblical evidence supporting the way I’m being treated, or rather, the way I’m being ignored. The behavior seems unChristian, yet the directive is right there. This catylized an immediate suspicion of the application of this text, my decision to leave the old place, and the feelings of injustice at their actions.
All I could ask was, “Is God really like this? I must suffer in a place that teaches twisted scripture because to disagree is to be Marked and Avoided?” This wasn’t a part of God I was familiar with and I’m not even prepared to accept it now.
Then slowly, like dawn creeping over the sleepy sky, an awareness began to burn off my disgust the way the sun burns off a morning fog. Uncertainty faded as a new clarity brightened my mind. I said to myself, “Since when does one verse parading alone and posing as the whole truth reveal the fullness of God’s character?”
It doesn’t! The Bible is a whole book, front to back, beginning to end. You don’t just pick one sentence from any other book and think you have a handle on the plot! Likewise, you can’t pull out just a single verse and expect it to illuminate all the shades of grey in human activity.
Scripture may be pretty straighforward, but the working out of reality is not. Often, application of scripture to life is subjective and all things subjective are open to opinion and debate.
Thus I moved on to read the very next verse.
Romans 16:18
For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Well, that just turned the ride on full tilt. “They that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ.” That doesn’t apply to me, I thought. I do serve our Lord Jesus Christ. “By good words and fair speeches deceive;” some translations write it as “smooth talk and flattering words.” I’m not a smooth talker, nor have I ever been accused of flattering anyone.
With great relief I can soundly assert that this scripture does not apply in my situation.
Then I began to think even more broadly considering the events of the early churches. They helped one another by prayer or sending money or sending ministers or whatever it was within their power to do. Churches collectively cooperated with one another (or at least Paul taught them to) and the individuals comprising those churches often worked together, received one another into their homes, provided meals, wrote letters of encouragement to each other, even paid for travel expenses. They had to leave their churches and travel to new ones all the time; this teamwork was expected and necessary if the job of going and making disciples of all the nations would ever bear fruit. (Matt. 28:19) Aside from individual scriptures we have whole stories and retelling of events illustrating how the churches generally joined together working toward a common end.
If the example of the early church is one of cooperation, hospitality to those new folks coming, and well-wishes and prayers for those leaving, are we now exempt from that example? Does it no longer apply to the church? Who is above the scriptures that he can reinterpret them or tailor them to justify his own whims, pride, or lust?

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I met my first true best friend in a refrigerator box. I was seven and she was five. Her family welcomed my family into their home in the middle of the night when we moved to a new state. Over the years her parents were like an extension of mine; her siblings crowded into my family and we all grew.
Slumber parties, picnics, ice-skating escapades, first trips to the mall after getting my lisence (and getting lost 20 miles the other way), surgeries, broken hearts, 24 scoops Tons of Fun ice cream at Kings, dreams, wedding plans, even lazy Sunday afternoon naps were shared with her.
We denied it, but everything changed when I went to college, got married, had kids. Nothing in common anymore. We tried, she even had her own room at my house, but it was all life support. Yet, I think we both still held the expectation of a relationship. We still worshipped with the same group of people; our families and siblings were still close, so it wouldn’t have occured to either one of us to just quit the feeble friendship that remained.
She’s getting married today, I think – inference based on grapevine hearsay. She hasn’t invited me. I can’t say I’m surprised by it, but I guess I’m hurt anyway. The final common thread between us frayed when I chose to move church and town. The blacker of those two marks is moving church. I wonder whether she made the decision to not invite me or if she was counseled to not.
It’s not far-fetched; plenty of other people in the previous church are being misguided and instructed to have no association with me or my family. For some reason, it doesn’t occur to any of them to ask why. What purpose does the shunning serve? It certainly doesn’t provide me or any other “outsiders” an accurate example of how Christ behaved.
It saddens me because this bygone best friend is being manipulated, deceived, and misled by people who are not in the truth, but rather serve their own bellies. I think that now I must have no voice or sway with her because of our increasing distance upon my exit of the place. That is the most grievous of all, now I can’t help her or convince her of the unhealthy, spiritually damaging environment she is in.
*This introspective confessionary moment was brought to you by an endowment for Common Sense, and by the letters J, L, and W, and by the number 2.
*In association with Harangued and Fallacious Productions.

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Hairy Scary

Getting a hair cut is always a crap shoot. Even when you have the same stylist time after time. There’s no guarantee she will cut the same hairs exactly the same way or the same length she did the last time when you loved it. There’s a very real chance you will hate it this time, or at least you won’t love it which translates easily over 24 hours into hating it.
Getting a hair cut in a new town, in an unknown salon, by a stranger is not a crap shoot; it’s ulcer-inducing and doomed to failure. Really, what is so difficult about cutting bangs in such a way that I don’t look like I have a shelf on my forehead? It’s the stylist’s job to make me look better than I did when I arrived. And to be fair, my hair was washed when I left, whereas it had been stuffed under a hat all day when I arrived. Clean is good; Bangs shelf bad.

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