Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Deep stuff from the movie, "Lincoln"

A few weeks ago our family went to see the movie Lincoln, and I knew right away that Daniel Day Lewis would have to get an Oscar for his portrayal of such a fascinating man.

Raised dirt poor by a devoutly Christian mother, born in a one room log cabin, Abraham Lincoln pushed himself to eventually become a successful lawyer, riding the circuits with a judge who tried cases in the various towns along the prairies of Illinois.  How a classically trained British actor could be so convincing as this poor pioneer man who became the 16th president of the US, amazed me.  Even the way he paused to take a breath, tipped his head to the side and grunt the tiniest bit, brought back memories of my uncles from Indiana and so many other elderly men I knew whose way of life had been formed in another era, when people would sit in rocking chairs on their front porches in the summer, sipping iced tea and telling long stories... Day Lewis made me feel like I knew Lincoln personally.

I had to pay close attention to all the details of the movie, and the complicated political discussions.  It was a great history lesson for my 9th grader, who was actually able to keep up with all the ins and outs of the story.  (Yay for me, homeschool mom!)  For those who aren't familiar with the struggles that the US had before the outbreak of the Civil War, the rights of the individual states, the economic impact that slavery had on the South, and the way that our government functions, it would have been hard to follow.  But even so, it was a brilliantly done film.  These were the points that most caught my eye:

  • Great, heroic moments in history (such as the abolition of slavery and the winning of the Civil War), come at a great and painful price.  This includes heroic moments in the Bible until now. Massive sacrifices were made for them to come about.
  • Just the fact that we believe in what is right is no guarantee that we'll win.  As kids learning about Lincoln and his great deeds, there was always a rosy glow around each story, as if it was just natural that America would abolish slavery and that the north would win the war, and that we would never be divided into two countries.  But the reality was that nothing was a given.  Many times it appeared that all would be lost throughout that fight.  Had the leaders given in to doubt or discouragement, had Lincoln and his supporters not pressed onward tirelessly for years, this country would not exist today as we know it.   
  • The influence of a weak woman can shake the strength of her husband, and the determination of a strong one can raise him up.  The movie's take on Mary Todd Lincoln was the kindest and most understandable one I have ever seen.  Most historians talk about her being wasteful with the White House funds in decorations and renovations, and that she was too superstitious and mentally unstable to be a good wife.  This movie showed her in a light that seemed highly credible, and I trust that Steven Spielberg did his homework well enough to portray her fairly.  As strong a man that her husband was, her fears and emotional outbursts were painful for him to bear on top of all the other stress of leading a country at war with itself.  But one thing that did come through was that they ultimately believed in each other, stood by each other's side, and loved each other deeply.  
  • One of Lincoln's greatest strengths was that he never stopped being an ordinary man.  Power and prestige didn't mean much to him.  He cared about leading well and holding his country together.  His down-to-earthiness made him immune to the temptations of pride and the praise of others.
  • Lincoln believed so deeply in his principles, he was willing to do whatever it took to establish them - sometimes he used sneaky and questionable ways.  These parts of the movie are the funniest, and take him down from being the "holiest" of presidents to being very relatable!
  • He comments to his wife on an afternoon carriage ride once the war is over and the anti-slavery amendment has been passed by congress, "We must both be cheerful in the future. Between the war, and the loss of our darling Willie, we have both been very miserable.” And then he goes on to speak of someday going to the Holy Land to walk where King David and Solomon once were.  The movie doesn't show him praying or being particularly spiritual, but you can see that his heart was on the things of God throughout his struggles, all of his life.  His mother's teachings stayed with him till the end.
The saddest thing about this movie is that a large portion of movie goers are either not going to understand what is going on because they won't try to figure it out, or others won't even bother seeing it because they "aren't into history."  If we aren't willing to learn from history, we aren't really willing to learn much at all.

I didn't leave the movie all pumped up and inspired as some movies can make me feel, but instead it was like a slow burning flame that reveals new insights that I'd like to keep with me for a very long time.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reason and Emotion, Walt Disney style

Got 8 minutes to smile about something we always talk about but never quite get a handle on?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Missing the gate of Heaven

She was peering out at me holding a steaming mug of coffee through her rain-spattered window, in her warm pajamas on a cold Sunday morning.  I'm sure she was thinking "So glad I'm not her!" as she saw me rushing to the car in my heels and dress, carrying bags and a tray stacked with covered pyrex dishes of food.  I had been up since before dawn cooking the lunch we would all share after the Sunday morning service, and I was frantically trying to make sure nothing was forgotten.  Dog was walked, dried off and fed, husband and boys fed breakfast and dressed, makeup on, earrings - check. Bag, computer, check, check.  Now we dodge freezing raindrops and cram into my son's little Chevy and off to church we go while the rest of the neighborhood seems to be in a deep sleep.  Years ago I would have looked at that woman and wished I could take her place, stay home in the warmth of my kitchen and lounge around on a Sunday morning.  But I wouldn't trade places with her for the world.

Sunday mornings, the first hours of my week - cold, warm, sunny or dark and dreary - it doesn't matter,  they're always beautiful.  I'm always reminded that Jesus came back from the dead for me that same time of day.  That's the time I want to be with Him, talk to Him, hear what He has to say to me, learn something newer and deeper and change myself for Him.  Better than Christmas morning as a child, better than the first day of summer vacation, Sunday morning is the time I hear His voice the loudest, surrounded by others who are searching for Him.  Why would I want to stay home when I could have that?

Thousands of years ago a man was running for his life.  His brother was ready to kill him for cheating and robbing him.  This man wanted God's blessings but was going about it all wrong.  But God saw that under all those deceiving and conniving ways, there was a man that valued Him.  Only God could  make sense of something so contradictory!  God loved this loser because he was a fighter.  In the middle of the night, in the middle of the wilderness with nothing but a rock for a pillow, God revealed something amazing to this man.  It was a staircase covered with angels climbing up and down from where he lay, up to heaven itself.  Then God spoke to him about his future and how He would watch over him always.  When he awoke, he said, "God was in this place and I didn't even know it!"

In the past month or two, this comment of Jacob has stayed with me daily.  Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and it comes to my mind.  "He's right here!" I'll think.  In the most ordinary, unimportant times and days, when we feel blah or burdened or fearful or anything that seems so far from God, He is right here and we don't even know it.  With His blazing light, with His host of angels carrying my requests to His throne, ready to reveal Himself to me, He's right there in the middle of my "wilderness."  I can access heaven right now.  Big deal, you might say, I was taught that in Sunday School, but that doesn't change the fact that my life is still so crummy. Nothing changes if you don't understand how deep this is.  Once you really know what this means, it changes EVERYTHING.

Jacob said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:17)  I wish more people realized just how close God is to them, just how awesome God's house is, and how every effort we make to hear and see Him is worth it.  There is so much more of the real world hidden from our eyes, that if we could only see it, we would live totally different lives.

Sure the covers are warm and soft on cold Sunday mornings, and sure a hot cuppa something nice is a wonderful thing, but what are those compared to looking into the things of heaven, wrapping my fingers around them and bringing them down into my own life?  Once you've done it, you want more, and Sunday mornings aren't even close to enough.