Of Beauties and Beasts

tiara 2My daughter and I are currently in a production of the show Beauty and the Beast at LifeHouse, a local community theater.  The heroine of our version is named Rose, not Belle; otherwise the story tracks pretty well with the story you know.

An open letter to my daughter…

Daughter of My Heart,

Since we started this show together, I have noticed a lot of flak out in Cyberland against the Beauty and the Beast story.  Most of it centers on the idea that Rose (Belle, Beauty, whatever you wanna call her) is a bad role model for young women, because she falls in love with the Beast (sort of the epitome of the “Bad Boy”) in the hopes of changing him.  In the Christian world, we call that missionary dating; in the secular world, it’s just stupid and codependent. Continue reading

One-a-Day Friday, 2/21/14

number 1Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).

Yesterday we imagined what the new creation might be like.  But what about the new us?  What will “the redemption of our bodies” look like?  Will I finally get chiseled abs and shoulders that don’t come attached to my coat?

What about the redemption of our minds?

Our hearts?

Sometimes I groan outwardly at the aches and pain that time has given me.  Mostly I groan inwardly at the pride and selfishness that sin has given me.

When will I be released from this body of weakness, this heart of sin?

When he comes for me.

When he comes for us, Beloved.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

One-a-Day Thursday, 2/20/14

number 1We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Romans 8:22).  

We live on a pretty planet.  Think of your favorite scene—sunrise over the mountains, sunset over the sea, starlight through the treetops, waves crashing against the rocks, gentle breeze through a meadow filled with wildflowers.

You know, all those pictures they use on calendars.

All that beauty, all that majesty…that’s groaning?

Yep.

Don’t forget…Creation is suffering under the curse of sin.

Our sin…because…well…trees and seas and dewy meadows don’t sin.

So, if this beautiful, wonderful, awe-inspiring, delicious, amazing world of ours is not currently at its best—or even close—what will it be like when the curse is lifted?  God has promised a new Earth to go with the new Heaven.  Can you imagine what that will be like?

I think we have something to chew on for Thursday.

One-a-Day Wednesday, 2/19/14

number 1I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).

Some days I feel like I’m going through a lot.

Some days I actually am.

But whatever I’m going through—whatever you’re going through—is going to disappear like mist in the sunshine.  It won’t even be worth thinking about when his glory is revealed in us.

So here’s what I’m wondering—what exactly is the glory that will be revealed in us?

Not to us, mind you.

In us.

Frankly, I don’t know, but I’m going to spend this day pondering that very question.

Care to join me?

One-a-Day Tuesday, 2/18/14

number 1Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:17).

Have you ever had the Rich-Uncle-You-Never-Met-Dies-And-Leaves-You-A-Million-Dollars Dream?

I like that dream…but this one’s better.  This one comes true.

In the Greek, the word “if” in the second half of the verse is more accurately translated “since.”  So it’s more like, “Since indeed we share in his sufferings…”  Which means, we will share in his sufferings.

And we will share in his glory.

You, Beloved of Christ, are heir to more than money.  You are heir to the depth and width and height of God’s love.  You are heir to glory.

Well, of course you don’t deserve it—but we’ve been through that before, haven’t we?

One-a-Day Monday, 2/17/14

number 1The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16).

OK, so you’ve got to be careful when people claim spiritual knowledge.   I mean, I used to work with a woman who came in one morning and announced that she had heard the trumpet sounding while she brushed her teeth.

As in, the first trumpet from Revelation 8:7.

By lunch, when the only smoke I smelled was my BBQ potato chips, I figured she was wrong.

On the other hand, I trust the Apostle Paul far more than I do the girl at work, and Paul says that the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit.

So what does that look like?  Sound like?  Feel like?

Frankly, I’m often afraid that I can’t tell the difference between the Holy Spirit and my own imagination.  I mean, I’m the creative type, and I can imagine all kinds of voices in my head.  How do I know what to listen for?  How do I keep from being like Trumpet Girl?

I really wish I had the complete answer for you…for me.  What I can tell you is this—when the message your spirit is telling you is consistent with scripture, you can accept it, believe it, bank on it.  And this message is. You are God’s child, and he loves you completely.  So take a few moments today—like now—to close your eyes, quiet your heart, and let your Father tell you that you are his.  Let his Spirit speak to your spirit, and rejoice in your Abba’s voice.

Happy Monday, Beloved of Christ.

Truth in Beauty

roseIt’s show time…again.

Last night, Beauty and the Beast opened at LifeHouse Theater.  This time, Carissa and I are in the production.  It was supposed to be Cathy’s turn to audition for a show, but when it comes to making our domestic life function, I am ever so much more expendable.  It worked out for the best anyway, because I got cast in the role of the Father—no actual name, just “Father”—and as good as Cathy is, I don’t think she could have pulled it off.

Before we get too deep into this, I should point out that the show we are doing is not the version that you may be familiar with from the Disney universe.  It is based upon the same source, however, and the underlying story should track.

Beauty and the Best is a great story, and every great story is an echo of the Great Story.  I know I have said that before, and my readers—both of you—are probably feeling a little redundified.  Still, it’s true, so you’ll just have to go with me for a bit.   Take a look with me at some of the lessons God can teach us through this show.

Lesson #1—Look Deeply

Man looks at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  When God sent his prophet to anoint a new king for his people, Samuel was naturally drawn to the tallest, strongest, manliest looking of the men.  Had I been on the scene, he probably would have gravitated to me. God nixed that one, however—as he would have nixed me—because God could see the man’s heart.  In our show, the Enchantress comes to the Prince to test him.  She sees what is in his heart, and transforms him so that his outward appearance reflects his inward, ugly self.  Over the course of time, the Beast has a change of heart so that, again, the outward visage does not reflect the man within.  Rose must choose to see beyond outward appearances—like both her heavenly and earthly fathers have taught her—in order to see, love, and free her Prince.

 

Lesson #2—Treasure Wisely

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).  Jesus instructed his followers to focus on the things of Heaven, because the things of this world are fragile and temporary.  Ivy and Iris, Rose’s two sisters, apparently missed that message.  These girls are utterly consumed with their place in the world, and how they appear to others.  They are constantly looking for the material possessions—and rich husbands—that they think will bring them happiness.  In all their plans, there is no room for God.  Rose, meanwhile, is content.  Her treasure is her family, particularly her Father, who loves and cares for her.  She does not concern herself with worldly gain, and does not seem to care about other’s opinions. This gives Rose a quiet strength, wisdom, and beauty that her sisters just can’t understand.  When crisis comes, Rose trusts and follows her heart, and it leads her to a far different, far better place than her sisters’ limited imaginations could conceive.

 

Theme #3 Love Sacrificially

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). Rose willingly goes to the castle of the Beast in the place of her father.  Her love for her father spurs her to take the punishment that is rightfully his.

Sound familiar?

The Beast, who has finally found someone to love in Rose, gives her up so that she can return to her father.  He loves her enough to want what is best for her, even at the cost of his future.  He also risks his life by protecting Rose and her father from the attacking wolves.  Father shows this same love by releasing Rose to return to the Beast.  His other daughters have already left to make their way in the world, and Father knows that his choice may leave him alone and bereft of the person he loves most.  Still, his love for her is such that he must let her go.

 

Story has power when it reflects the inner truth of our lives and the ultimate truth of God’s will.  Frankly, I’m surprised that I can learn from a dream-sotted girl with a ditzy dad, two obnoxious sisters, and a boyfriend with hygiene issues.  But to the extent that I see myself in the characters—I won’t tell you which—and see God’s truth at work in the plot line, I find power.  Life changing kind of power.

Every great story is an echo of the Great Story.

And this is a great story.

One-a-Day Friday, 2/14/14

…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

It’s Valentine’s Day, right?

OK, so let’s talk love.

Forget the hearts and flowers.  Forget the candy.

Real love sacrifices.  Real love gives, even when there is no reasonable expectation of a return on the investment.  Real love sees you at your worst, and does not turn away.

While we were still sinners.  While we were totally unworthy and unlovable.  Beyond pot bellies and vanishing hairlines.  Beyond bad hair and no makeup.  While we were steeped in darkness, inside and out, Jesus died for us.

For you.

Want him to prove his love?

He did.  We call it the Cross.

When I write these One-a-Days, I often call you “Beloved.”  I’m not putting the moves on you, nor am I trying to be J. Vernon McGee.  I’m praying, along with Paul, that you, “May…grasp how high and long and wide and deep is the love of Christ.”

In the Song of Songs, God gives us a picture of the love between a man and a woman.  Beyond that, though, he paints a picture of Christ’s love for his Church.

He calls the Church his Beloved.

He calls you his Beloved.

And so will I.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Beloved.

One-a-Day Thursday, 2/13/14

number 1For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

Interesting how similar Paul’s discussion of fear is to his discussion of sin.  I mean, he’s right in the middle of talking about sin vs. living by the Spirit, and out pops this comment about being a slave to fear.

I wonder what connection fear has to sin…

Something to chew on.

My children never need to fear being unloved, empty, alone, because they have a father who loves them and stands ready to protect them.  Sure, there will be things that make them afraid, but as long as they are with me they need not be controlled by fear…slaves to fear.  How much more can we all say the same, because we have a Father who is always with us, loves us even more, and is infinitely better able to care for and protect us.

If I were cool enough, I’d end with a “Who’s your daddy?” line.

But I’m not.

One-a-Day Wednesday, 2/12/14

number 1You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you (Romans 8:9).

If.

If the Spirit of God lives in you.

That there’s a pretty big “if.”

If you’re not certain whether the Spirit of God lives in you, that, I humbly suggest, is your first fish to fry.  If you have admitted that you are a sinner, “Fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), if you have accepted Christ’s death on the cross in your place (Romans 5:6-8), and if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9), then yes, the Spirit of God lives in you (Acts 2:38).

And, therefore, you are not controlled by sin.

It may feel like you are some days, but you are not.

Notice, Paul didn’t say you won’t sin, he said you won’t be controlled by sin.  As tough as it is to admit, the sins we commit, we choose.

Whaddaya say we both give the Spirit a little more control today?

I‘ll pray for you—you pray for me.