Sunday, February 29, 2004

I Am Loved

Jesus came to visit me at the store today. He came in the form of a brother and sister in Christ. Katie has shared that these particular people have asked about me since I haven't been able to attend church for a bit. They've been concerned.



Robin and Tanya came into my store, took time out of their day just to say "We miss seeing you Sue!". They have no idea how God used them to encourage this weary soul.



Last weekend another sister in Christ, Tommye, came to say hello. She gave me a big hug and said that she loves me.



It just feels good to hear those words and see the truth of it in the eyes of the one telling you. It's at those moments that I feel like I am looking into the heart of Christ.



Amazing how those few simple words, and the act of kindness and caring, encouraged me to get through another long and very trying day.



Thank you Jesus for the friends and family you have given me.

Church Attendance

Interesting.



Katie just came home and started to tell me about church today. She does this anytime I am unable to attend because of work. It's how I keep in touch. She mentioned the great number of new faces in attendance today.



I wonder if The Passion of the Christ had anything to do with encouraging some seekers to check out church?



Did anyone else notice an increased number of new faces at their worship service today?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Mikao's World

Help out Michelle by completing her blogging survey. It is for a research project she is doing to complete her Master of Arts in Christian Ministry. The details of her project are here, so head on over to Mikao's World and contribute!

Soap Box

I am really getting tired of all the negativity put on things by a liberal press who's opinions are not only continuously immoral, but often completely wrong. I could bring up a list of examples but for now, I am only going to focus on one. It blows my mind how I read so much about the anti-Semitism and some fanatical "Christians" who have reacted completely wrong to this movie. If there was a room of a thousand people and 3 felt that it was an attack on Jews...guess what the headlines would read?



History is history. However, all true believers know that it was the Jews as well as the Gentiles that put Christ on the cross! Every sinner that has ever lived has taken their turn pounding in the nails. I know I have. To this day people of all walks of life continue to live in ways that are no less cruel than what every non-believer in Jesus' time on Earth did. The facts are as they are. To quote the Pope, "It is as it was." The idea wasn't to judge the Jews. In fact, I do believe there is a part that speaks of "...greater love has no one than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends????" I believe that was AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MOVIE!! So, what is the message we are supposed to get from Gibson's new film??? Oh, and critics seem to forget the part about loving enemies??? Then there was the healing of the soldier's ear and the scolding of Peter to put down his sword. I do believe that Jesus told him to lay down his sword! When I watched the movie, I saw some extremely compassionate Jews...including Simon, the thief to Christ's left and especially Jewish women.



I believe Mel Gibson covered every aspect of the crucifixion humanly possible (or bearable)...from all angles with no particular bias. Try to convince the secular media to believe and promote that! The only thing intended from this film was a reality check that I believe was needed by Christians and secular society as well. The unbelieving Jews needed a reality check. The unbelieving Gentiles needed a reality check. Christians who have become complacent needed a reality check. Christians who have never really understood just exactly how big of a sacrifice was made in their behalf needed a reality check. I needed a reality check. It is true, the gruesomeness of the movie is almost unbearable. I have been deeply (but necessarily) disturbed from watching it and it is not something I believe any child should watch. However, the movie came with its warning labels so nobody can blame Mel Gibson if they couldn't handle it. Nobody is being forced or tricked into it. Everybody has the opportunity to choose to stay home. I know some people who, for their own personal reasons, have decided to do just that..and I have no problem with their decision. I completely understand.



In some studies I have done about Christ, I have read and heard literal descriptions of how Christ's body probably looked as it hung in death. I have heard descriptions of ribbons of flesh dangling and exposure of organs. He didn't even appear to be human! This is what happened when the real crucifixion took place. What the Jews of that day did during this time is no worse than what the "Christians" did during the Holocaust. It's a historical fact. Mankind has a history of being selfish and cruel beyond words. It belongs to no particular group of people. Every race, culture, and nation has had their part in horrendous cruelty. What is really sad is that we blame and punish people who weren't even alive when our ancestors behaved so ignorantly. Why can't we just love each other simply because we are all human? We belong to the same species for heaven's sake! Christ's message is one of love and it has been misinterpreted throughout history and used to brew hatred. That isn't from God. Even Christ's death in itself ironically was done "in the name of God!" Talk about blasphemy!



The reality of the crucifixion as it truly happened could in no way be accurately portrayed on the big screen because it simplywould be too much. But, Christ endured it. There never was a man alive before Christ, nor has there been one since, who is willing to go through what He did for the very ones who put Him there. The only explanation for His ability to endure until the end is....He was and is truly God. That's my soap box.

More on the Passion

Another scene that was particularly moving for me was when Jesus had been carrying his cross and couldn't bear to continue. Simon was directed to help him. They struggled together up the hill and Simon got to the point where he could no longer handle the abuse and punishment he watched being inflicted on Jesus. He eventually started yelling at the soldiers to "stop! stop!".



That wasn't the part that moved me the most, I was setting up the scene. Jesus was exhausted and used the cross more as a "crutch" as Simon beared most of the weight. Jesus, moaning and bleeding, exhausted and dying recieved encouragement from the one who helped him carry His cross. Simon said "you are almost there. Almost there" as if relief was coming soon. His torture was soon to end and Simon tried to encourage the Son of God to continue His journey. I found that somewhat inspiring that this man, plucked from the crowd who helped Jesus carry the cross was used, at least in the film, to encourage Jesus to finish His mission. Simon demonstrated compassion and a merciful heart which God enabled to become bold. I thought that was cool.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

My Cross

For several years now I have carried the burden of a particular sin that I didn't feel worthy to be forgiven of. I repented immediately after committing that sin and even though I was forgiven by God the first time I asked, I have continued to repent for all these years. Not anymore because yesterday, I embraced my cross and the timing couldn't have been more perfect!



The last time I had the opportunity to lead somebody to Christ was just prior to committing that particular sin. Since then, I have had a dry spell. Today, after seeing The Passion, I led a friend to Christ. I will share more details later because I have a paper to write tonight and it's already late. I just had to comment because I was so happy that God delivered me from my sin of unforgiveness (even if it was against myself). But, as is the character of my precious Father, He went above and beyond anything I could ever deserve. He gave me a gift by using me to lead one precious lost soul to Him today. I can't stop thinking about the movie. I don't know what is going on inside me but something is truly changed and still changing. I have never felt so close to my Lord since the day I first committed my life to Him in 1985. I feel so utterly loved beyond anything words can say or my mind can fathom. I have learned so much from this experience. One thing I can't really put into words accurately is how much more I have learned about harboring unforgiveness in my heart and how I have no right to do that. I think that the unforgiveness did more damage than the sin itself. (This just now came to me). The enemy used guilt to keep me from giving all I had to God. I couldn't lead anybody to Christ.



If you have something that you are struggling with that you can't forgive yourself for, think about what I am saying. No matter what lies satan has told you about how unworthy you are, they are nothing more than that....lies...straight from Hell. You are hurting God, yourself, and countless others more by not forgiving yourself for something He took upon Himself on the cross. The unforgiveness is doing more damage than the sin you won't forgive yourself for. No, you are not worthy....but Christ died to deem you worthy...no matter what you have done or continue to do. Lay it down! Surrender. It is time to get on with your walk and give Him ALL of you. He gave all He had..don't deny Him that part of you anymore. Do you think that the life and death of Jesus Christ wasn't enough to pay for your salvation? Is that what you believe?



"No greater love than this...that you should lay down your life for someone such as me"...I can spend the rest of my life wondering why...and I will never be able to fathom how deep and wide and far His love is....for me.



Think about this....more later

My Passion Experience

Katie and I arrived at the theatre about 35 minutes early in order to be able to get a seat and also hook up with the three women that were invited to view the movie with us. Only one of three showed up, but we did give the tickets to others expecting to be able to buy tickets for the sold out show at noon.



Katie sent me home when the film ended and asked me to pick up her kids from school while she stays with the one woman she invited who did come to the show, because she wants to talk. I say, that's what this movie should be about. Sparking the ever important question "who is Jesus?" I pray for Katie and her conversation right now.



When we arrived at the Cinema we noticed immediately that the parking lot was filled up, which is obviously unusual for 11:30am on a Wednesday morning. It was exciting to see a good turn out, then we noticed the line. People were standing in line in front of the door waiting for it to open. It was a chilly 40 degrees as we stood there among others waiting to see this highly talked about film. I kept wondering about why people were here? Why have I wished to view this film so urgently since I first heard about the thing about a year ago now? I have no clue what movie will be showing a year from now, but about a year ago I first heard about Mel Gibson's effort to make a film portraying the final hours of Christ's life, and it has ever since intrigued me. Why?



What is it that is bringing people out to see this movie? Do they just wonder what all the hype is about? Do people hope it might spark a renewed understanding of what Jesus Christ did for them? Do they just want to see blood and gore? Do they want to know who Jesus is? or was? Do they care? So, as I stood there in line shivering, I had a bunch of thoughts running through my mind. I looked at the crowd. I saw elderly. I saw people my age. I saw black people. I saw white people. I saw people with their church fellows, and people apparently alone. I saw people from all walks of life. I felt my heart already in my throat at the simple thought that Jesus always does this...He brings people together.



The doors opened and we all filed into the theatre. I fasted. Not really, but I am a huge movie popcorn buff and today I didn't feel it appropriate to eat popcorn. I got myself a drink and went in to find a seat and save a few for Katie and the other's whom she had invited. The theater filled up quickly and people were all making accommodations for others, making sure people who came together were seated together. I saw nobody get frustrated and people respected the fact that others were saving seats. I was starting to get ancy waiting for Katie to arrive and take her seat because I am uncomfortable saving seats. I figure if you want one, you need to get in and get one! LOL It was important for her to wait for her guest though. She and her guest finally came in and we settled in awaiting the start of the previews.



I was nervous. I have heard so much about the film and all the hype. Frankly I was sick of hearing about it and I just wanted to see it! People came prepared with Puffs and Kleenex and it turns out that was a good plan! I even saw people offering tissue to others before the movie started "just in case."



If you do not want to read about specific scenes in the movie, stop reading now and go get tickets to the show.



Finally the previews began and ran and almost without warning came the verse from Isaiah that signaled the start of The Passion of the Christ. White letters on a black screen which faded directly into Jesus' prayer in the Garden. The mood was set by the fearful praying of Jesus and the stillness of nightfall. It grabbed me right from the beginning as I started to feel afraid. I sensed doom. I could only imagine what Christ felt. He grappled with temptation there in the garden. He knew the burden He was to carry, it had to be something he feared, and satan was there to try to trip Him up. Jesus gave it up to God and God gave Him the strength to do His will. It was in that moment where His humanity and divinity was clearly portrayed.



There were moments of the movie that just pulled me right into the scene. One was Mary, His mother, following Him all the way to the cross. At one point Jesus fell to the ground and the cross with him. He fell hard and his mother watched helpless. Then we are taken to an earlier time in the life of Jesus when he fell down as a child. She ran to him, arms outstretched, and couldn't get to him fast enough to soothe His pain. That flashback coincides with her trying to get closer to her Son as he now carries His cross of crucifixion. Her heartbreak was felt so deeply by the viewer and that was made evident by the sobs from the mothers in the theater. At the foot of the cross Mary begged to die with Him, as I'm sure she felt as though she were going to. I thought about the fact that I do need to die to myself at the foot of the cross daily. Heck...hourly! and sometimes minute by minute.



The demons that tormented Judas after he betrayed his friend led to his taking of his own life. His demons were quite pesky and he knew that they would never leave him alone, and they haven't. I praise God that He can handle my demons and that he gives me the option to let Him do so. If only Judas had.



Some of the moments that stand out in the film for me were when Peter denied Christ that third time and Jesus looked at him directly in the eye. Peter ran. He was ashamed. He wouldn't allow Mary to touch him, to even comfort him, because he was unworthy. I remember that feeling before I was able to accept Christ in my life. The tossing and turning over of thoughts. Feeling unworthy and ashamed. Not fully understanding the Grace of the Lord. Not fully understanding that God loves me right where I am. I like to compare Peter and Judas. What separated their actions? How do I deny Christ in my own life? Peter eventually does turn his sin over to God who forgives him. Judas, although tormented with his sin, never gave it to God. He never accepted God's Grace.



The beatings were atrocious. It seemed as though they were not going to end. Jesus, exhausted and hurting, laid there, hands shackled to the whipping post, bleeding from almost every inch of his body. Before this "punishment" began, Jesus said "My heart is ready" and he accepted the scourging. His energy was drained from him with every blow to the pulp that was His body and then the Romans were commanded at one point to cease the beating. Jesus, looking toward his mother, loving her and all mankind, was able to muster enough to stand again and be whipped some more. That moment when He stood represented that Almighty Power that He is. He HAD to get to the cross! It really spoke to me about His sacrifice, as though the beating he already endured wasn't yet enough to take away my sin. He was ready to accept more. I started thinking about sin. My sin. With every crack across his body I thought of my sin. This sin tore His skin there. That sin ripped through His flesh there. The final blow from the whip, which had pieces of bone tied to the end, actually penetrated his skin and got stuck, and I winced as the Roman soldier had to muscle it out of the back of my Lord.



The struggle that Pilate went through when The Messiah was presented to him was portrayed well, I almost felt sorry for the man. Pilate's wife seemed to know Truth, and yet the truth seems so elusive to Pilate. Pilate does eventually decide to do what is "right" for himself, but I found that an interesting struggle within himself. Instead of taking a stand, Pilate gives in to the wishes of the Jewish leaders and then symbolically washes his hands of the situation. We can not afford to wash our hands of Who Christ is! We must make a decision in this life and we must accept or deny Him as Savior! Pilate seemed to want to have his cake and eat it too, he didn't want to accept responsibility for something he sensed was important, but he needed to. Pilate didn't want to make a decision so he passed Jesus off on Herod, who ended up sending Him back. Pilate was forced to make a decision and still he bucked under the pressure. A poignant moment came as Jesus, being questioned by Pilate, told Pilate that he "has no power over me that hasn't been given (him) from above." Sometimes I just wanted to stand and cheer! Here was this man, weak and bleeding, barely able to stand telling Pilate that he has no power over Him. I really wonder what went through the head of Pilate in those moments?



Another very emotional moment for me came when Christ just began to carry His cross to Golgotha. The crowd is yelling and people are pushing to get a view. Soldiers are working to keep the crowds back and it is an organized chaos being carried out in a rather businesslike manner. Jesus is bloody and bruised, swollen and exhausted. He is on his knees as the cross rests on the ground and Jesus grabs the cross post hanging on for dear life. He is praying, and a soldier jeers him "Why are you embracing your cross you fool?"



I thought about that line for a few moments. "Why are you embracing your cross you fool?"



"Why are you embracing your cross?" I know why He embraced it, at least I say I do. All Christians say we do. He embraced his cross because He loves us. We say "Jesus went to the cross for our sins. He died and rose again so that we might have eternal life." WE say it, but I don't think we can ever fully comprehend all of why He embraced His cross. He literally embraced it! My sin, my sin IS the cross...and He embraced it! That day He died he embraced my sin and it died with Him. Then, a couple of millennia later I accepted the fact that He was willing to take my sin from me and present me clean and whole before my Father. Let me not embrace sin, let me embrace the Son.



There were so many symbolic happenings that I can only recall when they flash back into my mind. It was a lot of movie to absorb. I may want to go see it again. Seeing the crowd mock Him, their own Savior, in ignorance was disturbing, yet it is what I find myself doing at times. This film has a powerful conviction factor!



Another part of the film I enjoyed was the fact that God mourns His Son. The Son who proved Himself faithful, and the Son he was so proud of, was tortured with a pain that was deeper than any one of us can possibly imagine, and God watched all of it. It was difficult to watch Mary react to every scene as it played out in the Passion, and at the end, Gibson demonstrates a bit about the heart of our Father. I won't give away what the particular scene was, but you will know it when you see it. Very well done.



I'll probably end up posting on this profound movie and the story it tells, as well as the convictions it stirs in the future as my mind settles and my heart has time to absorb it all. I got a much needed dose of the reality of Christ's suffering today. I said "dose" for a reason, that's all it can ever be, a "dose".

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

New Sites

Nicole stopped by Sisters' Weblog and wished to inform us of a couple of new sites she has started. I know that many do this to shamelessly promote their sites, but I took a look and thought she deserved mention here. Both sites look great and have good starts. She hopes to fill one with testimonies of how God is working in the lives of His children at The Truth of It All and another site that looks to be aimed toward young people. It looks to be a Christian magazine online and has many different areas of interest to explore such as music, books, and missions. Check out Example E-Zine.



While I'm at it I will point the reader to a couple of other blogs of note. I've been reading with intense interest Jack's Personal Growth Chart as she shares about a recent event in her life that has her crying out to God "Oh, God, please ... please help me... help me get through this, help me accept this... I feel so lost, so weak, so defenseless... I don't know how to not have a mom, Father... I need your help, I need you so much... It hurts, God, and I'm scared... Please help me."



Holly has her new site up and it's streamlined and pretty. She has very humorous insights and I've been reading her blog now for over a year! Hollyrhea just cracks me up!



I checked out a couple of new blogs via blogs4God and found Nykola.com where Ambra posts about life experiences and her thoughts on current events. She expresses a certain spiritual maturity and is very forthright in her convictions. Her blog is a pleasure to read when I see things like her take on the Screen Actors Guild Awards "I wasn't paying attention much, but I caught a statement made by the president of "the Guild" that struck me, "We have the ability to foster tolerance through new insights and the deep understanding of each other." Eww, how I hate that word tolerance. Tolerance goes on my list of "Top 10 Loads of Crap Taught in Education".



So if you are looking for something new and interesting to read, those are some suggestions to check out. Enjoy!







I Don't Get It

I got a call from a customer today. She asked if we had a CD by the Ohio Mass Choir.



I said "no, I'm sorry, we do not carry CDs by the Ohio Mass Choir" and she replied "so, I take it that you don't carry any music by black artists in your store?"



I was somewhat upset by such an ignorant statement that I said "As a matter of fact, most of the music we carry in this store is by black artists!" I then looked to see what was available by the Ohio Mass and the only listing was for the North East Ohio Mass Choir which had a CD that was no longer available. I shared this with the woman and this led to the end of our conversation.



Why would this woman assume that we don't carry music by black musicians just because I said we didn't carry the Ohio Mass? I think it is this kind of stuff that continues to keep people ignorant and bigoted. It is almost as if she was imposing racism on me!

Monday, February 23, 2004

Not Enough Time for Practical Jokes

Work has been stressful for me lately. Shorthanded and constantly understaffed. It is starting to take its toll on me.



I'm having trouble motivating my staff. Last Saturday night was the worst. I just wanted to go home. I was working the last few hours of my 57 hour work week and was tired and feeling highly unmotivated. As manager it is my job to motivate my staff, but on Saturday, it was the other way around! My staff was trying to motivate me with some positive encouragement. We can do it Sue! We can do it! I just kept saying "I want to go home! I want to go home!" LOL



I have a good staff. Not enough staff, but good staff. On Sunday my staff decided to play a practical joke on my assistant manager. My AM can really ride people at times and push them to work hard. It is a good quality to have in an AM, but sometimes we wonder if she just needs to chill?!! LOL



She will be going on medical leave here soon and won't be around for April Fool's Day so we decided to play the practical joke today. She always gets on to people for leaving the understock cabinets open. These are the cabinets underneath the browsers, or bins, where the CD's are displayed. She'll say "THIS ISN'T A GARAGE SALE!" and demand that the cabinets be closed. So, as a joke, we put a sign on the grill at the front of the store that said "Garage Sale Today" and opened every single cabinet in the store! LOL That is what she walked into today, and also the labrynth of register tape strewn about the store!



We also strategically placed some of the standees in the storefront in the backroom so as to startle her when she entered. It worked. She said she came into the backroom upset about the "joke" and then swung open the backdoor to see "someone" standing there in the darkened backroom! LOLOL I wish I could have seen that, she startles so easy! LOLOL



All the while we were planning this I was wondering about taking the time to do it and also the time it would take to get the store back in order. We are always so far behind in our work that we really need to be working toward the goal of catching up at all times. Then, sometimes we just need to cut loose and have some fun! I decided that we needed the fun more than the price change done! Maybe I'm not a good manager because I didn't work my employees until time ran out, but I do work them very hard and they do a great job for me. Every now and then I think we need to break from the "norm" and enjoy ourselves. We may have "wasted" some time, but we made a memory! Are things like this important to help keep morale up? I know I needed something to help me keep MY morale up!



Well, back to the grindstone tomorrow. *sigh*



I do get Wednesday (Opening Day for the Passion of the Christ), thanks to my hardworking AM who volunteered to work an "iron woman" shift, which is open to close. She's doing it just so I can have a day off. It will be my first day off since...ummmmmm....what month is this? Oh...Let's see, I was off Wednesday the 4th!

Saturday, February 21, 2004

The Light of the World

I, like most people,have played many roles in this life of mine. Some of them were unhealthy, such as a prodigal child, rebellious teen, and a wandering believer. I have also played the role of dedicated wife. I took this role seriously and remained in a dysfunctional marriage for 11 years until I was finally set free. Currently I am a single mom, friend, student, cake decorator and recently I even signed up to become an Avon representative. All of these things are okay, but, first and foremost, I am a child of God. Without Him, none of the rest even matters. That is why, in spite of the darts that are thrown at me daily; I will keep reaching for that prize that only comes from knowing Christ. I try to see the trials that come my way as an opportunity for growth. This is not to say that I do not get depressed or feel hopeless at times. Sometimes I feel like I am alone and nobody understands what I am going through. It is in these times that I just tell myself, "I am not going through anything that anybody else isn not going through."



Everybody has problems and to each one, the problems are unique and painful. Each of us struggles with the temptation to take the load that Christ desires to carry in our place (Matt 11:28-30). So many times people refer to Hebrews 4:15 to help comfort those suffering in times of temptation and weakness. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin," I suppose that hearing the words, "You are not experiencing anything that Jesus cannot understand because He has experienced it Himself," is supposed to offer some kind of comfort to those in great pain. Of course it is! Yet, we have heard it said so often that some might call it cliche. Well, it is not. It is Truth and it is meant to offer comfort. After all, I cannot even begin to imagine the horror of that experience. Christ knew that He was heading for the Cross. That was His goal…to die…in our behalf. He did it knowingly and willingly. On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself the epitome of suffering like no man can ever know. He took upon Himself the sins of all mankind (1 Peter 2:24). I cannot even begin to fathom what that must have been like and I praise God that I never will. However, to a heart that is so desperately lost in hopelessness (especially one who does not know Christ), this may not come as comfort. But to a believer such as myself, even when I get irritated by these words (and there are times when I do) I do know the validity of the Truth that has found its root in the depths of my soul. Therefore, by His strength in my times of weakness, I can reach down deep inside and bring to the surface His word that I have hidden in my heart. That is what has kept me going through the most difficult times in my life.



Hiding His word in my heart has saved me in more ways than I can put in a book. One of the most important ways to get through times of worry is by focusing on Christ and the Truth that His Word teaches. It is so important to keep focused on the path that is right in front of me and to avoid trying to see what is out of sight down the road. We need to trust God with that part. He knows the end of the story and only He knows the best way to get there. We are encouraged by Paul's example to "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). Some may see "the prize" as being at the "end of the road" which may sound like contradiction to focusing on the here and now. But in reality, it is quite the opposite. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning AND the end (Rev. 22: 12-14). The light to our path is the Word (Psalm 119:105) who is Christ (John 1). Therefore He is not just at the end of the road. He is before us, behind us, right in front of us, and ever present with us as we travel in our journey to get there! When we are in trouble we should RUN to Him (Psalm 46:1). The goal is to know Christ and become like Him!



The Light that is guiding the way is our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Psalm 27:1 says that "the Lord is my Light and my Salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" We should only seek to see as much as He makes clear and trust Him with the rest. If we are focused on knowing and becoming like Christ (and we keep our eye on that goal, as an athlete runs a race), He will take care of us in His time and in His perfect way.



Thank you, Lord, for speaking to my heart today. This is answered prayer.

The Passion of The Christ

I got this in an e-mail this morning. It is perhaps the most heart wrenching description of The Passion of the Christ I have heard to date. I had to pass it on.



Received from Jody Dean, one of (the sender's) local CBS news anchors in Dallas, TX.





All...



There've been a ton of emails and forwards floating around recently from those who've had the privilege of seeing Mel Gibson's "The Passion Of The Christ" prior to its actual release. I thought I'd give you my reaction after seeing it last night.



I want you to know that I started in broadcasting when I was 13-years-old. I've been in the business of writing, performing, production, and broadcasting for a long time. I've been a part of movies, radio, television, stage and other productions - so I know how things are done. I know about soundtracks and special effects and make-up and screenplays. I think I've seen just about every kind of movie or TV show ever made - from extremely inspirational to extremely gory. I read a lot, too - and have covered stories and scenes that still make me wince. I also have a vivid imagination, and have the ability to picture things as they must have happened - or to anticipate things as they will be portrayed. I've also seen an enormous amount of footage from Gibson's film, so I thought I knew what was coming.



But there is nothing in my existence - nothing I could have read, seen, heard, thought, or known - that could have prepared me for what I saw on screen last night.



This is not a movie that anyone will "like". I don't think it's a movie anyone will "love". It certainly doesn't "entertain". There isn't even the sense that one has just watched a movie. What it is, is an experience on a level of primary emotion that is scarcely comprehensible. Every shred of human preconception or predisposition is utterly stripped away. No one will eat popcorn during this film. Some may not eat for days after they've seen it. Quite honestly, I wanted to vomit. It hits that hard.



I can see why some people are worried about how the film portrays the Jews. They should be worried. No, it's not anti-Semitic. What it is, is entirely shattering. There are no "winners". No one comes off looking "good" - except Jesus. Even His own mother hesitates. As depicted, the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day merely do what any of us would have done and still do. They protected their perceived "place" - their sense of safety and security, and the satisfaction of their own "rightness".



But everyone falters. Caiphus judges. Peter denies. Judas betrays. Simon the Cyrene balks. Mark runs away. Pilate equivocates. The crowd mocks. The soldiers laugh. Longinus still stabs with his pilus. The centurion still carries out his orders! . And as Jesus fixes them all with a glance, they still turn away. The Jews, the Romans, Jesus' friends - they all fall.



Everyone, except the Principal Figure. Heaven sheds a single, mighty tear - and as blood and water spew from His side, the complacency of all creation is eternally shattered.



The film grabs you in the first five seconds, and never lets go. The brutality, humiliation, and gore is almost inconceivable - and still probably doesn't go far enough. The scourging alone seems to never end, and you cringe at the sound and splatter of every blow - no matter how steely your nerves. Even those who have known combat or prison will have trouble, no matter their experience - because this Man was not conscripted. He went willingly, laying down His entirety for all. It is one thing for a soldier to die for his countrymen. It's something else entirely to think of even a common man dying for those who hate and wish to kill him. But this is no common man. This is the King of the Universe.



The idea that anyone could or would have gone through such punishment is unthinkable - but this Man was completely innocent, completely holy - and paying the price for others. He screams as He is laid upon the cross, "Father, they don't know. They don't know..."



What Gibson has done is to use all of his considerable skill to portray the most dramatic moment of the most dramatic events since the dawn of time. There is no escape. It's a punch to the gut that puts you on the canvas, and you don't get up. You are simply confronted by the horror of what was done - what had to be done - and why. Throughout the entire film, I found myself apologizing.



What you've heard about how audiences have reacted is true. There was no sound after the film's conclusion. No noise at all. No one got up. No one moved. The only sound one could hear was sobbing. In all my years of public life, I have never heard anything like that.



I told many of you that Gibson had reportedly re-shot the ending to include more "hope" through the Resurrection? That's not true. The Resurrection scene is perhaps the shortest in the entire movie - and yet it packs a punch that can't be quantified. It is perfect. There is no way to negotiate the meaning out of it. It simply asks, "Now, what will you do?"



I'll leave the details to you, in the hope that you will see the film but one thing above all stands out, and I have to tell you about it.



It comes from the end of Jesus' temptations in the wilderness - where the Bible says Satan left him "until a more opportune time". I imagine Satan never quit tempting Christ, but this film captures beyond words the most opportune time. At every step of the way, Satan is there at Jesus' side - imploring Him to quit, reasoning with Him to give up, and seducing Him to surrender. For the first time, one gets an heart-stopping idea of the sense of madness that must have enveloped Jesus - a sense of the evil that was at His very elbow. The physical punishment is relentless - but it's the sense of psychological torture that is most overwhelming. He should have quit. He should have opened His mouth. He should have called 10,000 angels. No one would have blamed Him. What we deserve is obvious. But

He couldn't do that. He wouldn't do that. He didn't do that. He doesn't do that. It was not and is not His character. He was obedient, all the way to the cross - and you feel the real meaning of that phrase in a place the human heart usually doesn't dare to go. You understand that we are called to that same level of obedience. With Jesus' humanity so irresistibly on display, you understand that we have no excuse. There is no place to hide.



The truth is this: Is it just a "movie"? In a way, yes. But it goes far beyond that, in a fashion I've never felt - in any forum. We may think we "know". We know nothing. We've gone 2,000 years - used to the idea of a pleasant story, and a sanitized Christ. We expect the ending, because we've heard it so many times. God forgive us. This film tears that all away. It's is as close as any of us will ever get to knowing, until we fully know. Paul understood. "Be urgent, in and out of season."



Luke wrote that Jesus reveals Himself in the breaking of the bread. Exactly. "The Passion Of The Christ" shows that Bread being broken.



Go see this movie.





John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.



Friday, February 20, 2004

I'm Debt Free!

YAY! I'm debt free again. I was able to pay off all my debt today, except for the house and one car. It is a good feeling.



Now I own my computer and the sealant on the outside wall of my house! I also own the drainage tile laid in my front yard.



I'm the proud owner of drainage tile, oh and that neato drain cover at the end of the drive. Life is good. :-)



I am bumming because the server that hosts bf1942 is down and I can't play! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! I'm hoping it will be up soon. I didn't play last night, and I'm feeling some withdrawal symptoms coming on! I can play on another server, but the rules are different and I miss playing with the guys. I miss my community of bf1942 gamers!



But, I can sit here and think about the fact that I am debt free. Aahhhhh.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

I Point the Finger

Bible Gateway : MATT 18:17;



I have a huge problem with Christians who proclaim to know Christ, yet behave in ways that don't show it.



I am not claiming to say that I live a life perfect...far from it, but I attempt everyday to live in Christ by abiding in Him. I fail. I fail every single day and that makes me weary at times and I feel like a failure.



I see people in my store everyday looking for Gospel music. I love that. However, once (and I've blogged about this before) a woman cussed us out because we were stocked out on a particular gospel title and the other day a gospel CD was stolen! I just don't understand.



Also, recently I became quite annoyed by someone who claims to be a believer, but lives a lifestyle totally worldly. For those who are non-believers, this lifestyle is perfectly acceptable. I can have compassion and desire to be an example of Christ before them. I can "love them to the Lord" if you will.



However, if that behavior is being demonstrated by a believer, I can't help it. I get very irritated and feel the ire welling up inside me. I judge. This, I know, is wrong. I just don't understand people not having any conviction about certain things. I wonder "why can't I just do anything I want and not be convicted?"



I have a huge problem with self-control (a fruit of the Spirit still developing in me) and recently said something to this person who just seems to justify behavior totally inappropriate for Christians. I did not say it in love. I said it rather ugly and in a very judgemental way. For this I am ashamed, because I commit the very sin I am condemning another for! I HATE THAT!



Well, in thinking about forgiveness, the article I read made me realize something. That if a Christian is behaving as a heathen, I should treat them as one.



Since I have no problem loving a heathen and not expecting them to live a Christian lifestyle, I should behave the same way toward a Christian who is at the time, living as a heathen. Matthew 18:17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."



This is such a simple concept and I am going to do all I can to apply this to my life. (It might be that fruit of self-control sprouting! Wooohoooooo!)



When I shared this "revelation" with a friend last night she asked me "and how should you treat a heathen?" and not understanding what she was getting at, she continued..."you must pray for them" and she was totally correct.



I must pray for them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Any Good Employees?





This is me going through applications.

Forgiveness

What does God require of us to be forgiven?



Do we need to repent?



Are we forgiven even before we sin? or after we sin?



Is forgiveness different for those who are not children of God? Are there those that God does not forgive?



I get stuck on these questions a lot. I wonder about forgiveness and the difference or similarities of "giving it to God".



If a person wrongs you and then comes to you to ask forgiveness, without a doubt you are commanded to forgive.



If a person wrongs you and never asks forgiveness and continues to wrong you, what is the point in forgiveness? Some say "forgiveness isn't for the offender in that case, it's for you, your peace of mind." But then I ask, if forgiveness is for the one who was offended, why would God ever forgive? Does God need to forgive for His peace of mind?



Are we really required to forgive those who wrong us, who never ever repent, and then continually wrong us? Or, are we asked to give that person/situation over to God. Let God deal with that person and remove ourselves from harms way?



Is forgiveness a "two-way" deal? Can there be true forgiveness if one party doesn't want it? Would God forgive me if I didn't ask?



I do wonder sometimes if we require more of ourselves than God himself requires when if comes to forgiveness. If God forgives when we repent, shouldn't we require the same?



Maybe forgiveness is the actual act of handing over an unrepentant offender to the Lord. If we can do this, we are acting biblically. We are maintaining our relationship with the Father and not allowing unforgiving to become a sin "of the mind" that would hinder our relationship with God.



This is one of those things that keeps me up at night...pondering.



I found an interesting and well thought out article on forgiveness here if you want to check it out. The author does a great job of separating God's forgiveness, or "Divine forgiveness" and "civil forgiveness", which would be forgiveness between two people. It is a pretty well-balanced article that presents a couple of different viewpoints on forgiveness.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Yahoo! News - Women Over 40 Biggest Online Gamers -Study

Ha! Turns out women are gamers too!



Sometimes I get a bad rap because I enjoy gaming online. I remember years ago I played in online Baseball leagues and did fairly well. I actually had some guys give me a hard time about it. Dorks!



Today I saw an article on Yahoo! News (link via Kim Kommando) called Women Over 40 Biggest Online Gamers -Study. In some ways I don't really believe the stats because I do play online and the majority of others are male, many of them teens and early twenties. I am also NOT over 40! So, I'm not even in this category, although I do see myself still gaming in a few years to fit in with this statistic!



But, friendships starting online? Huh? That's how Katie and I met!

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

What's Up With Blogger?

Hmmmmmmmm? For some reason Blogger is sending me to the "basic" interface instead of the "classic Blogger" interface to blog from. I don't see anything in the status to indicate why this is. There is mention of some api trouble, but I wouldn't think that would effect the interface that I am using.



I also had trouble with a username/password combo at another site I frequent. They even reset my password, but I still can't log in. They are looking into it.



This on top of the problem I had seeing the Sisters' button, which I recently remedied with some tweaking of Norton Internet Security. You know, sometimes the more bells and whistles that come with a program make it difficult for the user.



Years ago, my main method of communication online was ICQ. I remember downloading and installing the huge program and once I said "you know, I wish you could just download the basic program...who needs all this other junk?" and sure enough, ICQ got the clue and now allow you to choose which program to download...I chose ICQ Lite.



Bells and whistles are fine for some, but I think simplicity still rules.



Computers are weird.



Saturday, February 07, 2004

The Passion of the Christ

The theaters here in Jackson were not planning to show the movie!



It seems the people in the area started calling to inquire about it being shown, and the theaters wisened up and will be showing it on it's opening day, Feb. 25. They were getting so many calls that the decision was made to sell advance tickets. Katie bought ours today. She bought 4 tickets, with the hope we will each be able to bring along a guest.



I'm excited to see this film, and nervous at the same time. I heard someone describing it on the Michael Reagan talk show last night and he kept saying "this film grabs you by the throat and doesn't let up...it's very intense. The only break you get are during the flashback scenes of Jesus' ministry." He said that some people were not able to cope with the brutality of the beatings and actually walked out of the screening.



When I told Katie about what I heard, she said "I can't believe that people couldn't handle it and walked out! He didn't walk out!"



I know it's going to be difficult. I know what Christ did for me on the cross. I know I put Him there. I think, from what I have heard, that this movie will allow me to "experience" and come to a new and better understanding of what Christ did for me. It will be intense I'm sure. My emotions will be intense, knowing that He suffered for my transgressions. I'm excited to see this film, yes, but also nervous.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Rappin' the Truth

My store was host to a rapper out of Nashville today.



When his CD showed up in the store this past Monday, I was thinking I can't believe I'm going to have a rapper performing in the store on Friday. I was thinking riots! Loud noise! I'm not a huge rap fan, so I wasn't too excited about the whole thing.



I noticed that there were no parental advisory labels on the CDs. That puzzled me, although the PA sticker is totally voluntary by the record labels. I thought to look over the CD's song titles. "Changed Man", "All About You", "Trinity"...stuff like that. I wondered hey, is this a gospel CD? So, I opened it immediately and read the "thank yous". Many rap artists "thank God" and blah blah blah as they rap blashpemy....but, this one was different. This one thanked Jesus. THE JESUS! I immediately put it in the player and I was right! This is the gospel...IN YO FACE!!! Now I was excited!



K-lee showed up with his homies and started hustlin' the goods. I played the CD and rap fans in the store were diggin' it. They were catchin' the beats and K-lee did some rappin'. At one point he even shared about his music...he told the crowd. "There ain't no cussin' on my CDs...I sold 20,000 CD's out of the trunk of my car. My music is selling without the cussin', so why cuss?" Then he went on to share some of his story and of the life he raps about:



"MY MAIN GOAL BY THIS CD IS TO BASICALLY TELL U WHAT ITS LIKE TO BE ME....

WHAT I SEE.....WHAT I STRUGGLE WITH.....WHAT I LOVE AND WHAT I HATE......I WANTED TO PUT IT ALL OUT ON THE TABLE AND LET U KNOW THAT "YEA IM A CHANGED MAN THAT DONT MEAN THAT IM PERFECT" I STRUGGLE EVERYDAY TO STAY ALIVE TO SCRAP THE SURFACE OF THIS LITTLE THING THAT WE CALL "LIFE" DO OR DIE WHO'S NEXT U OR I.....1 LIFE THEN WE DIE PLAYAZ LOOK TO THE SKY-(lyrics from "changed man" #5 disc 1 )



THIS AIN'T CHRISTIAN RAP.....WHAT I DO I CALL DOWN SOUTH REAL RAP, THIS IS ALL I KNOW MAINN....I CAN'T BRING IT ANY MORE REAL THAN WHAT I DO......MY PAIN , MY STRUGGLES, MY LIFE ON A DISC......



THIS YEAR I HAD TO FACE SOME HARD TIMES.....AND I HOPE MAYBE THROUGH THIS RECORD THAT U WILL FIND THAT NO MATTER WHAT U FACE IN THE SCREWED UP WORLD....THAT GOD STILLS CARES AND AIN'T FORGOTTEN ABOUT YOU....





K-lee shared with me that He knows He is in God's will. He is spreading the good news to many people who won't hear it any other way. I felt privileged to have this man in my store today and was very pleased that we sold #60 CDs! That is great for an unheard of artist. He's known in Nashville, just now coming up from the underground, and today he made Jackson a bit more aware of the God He serves! Woohoooo!



It was a very interesting day and I really enjoyed what he brought into my store today! It sure was a change of pace, that's for sure!

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Extra Ingredient

My co-worker said "Sue, we need you in the back", but I was busy with a customer so I nodded that I heard, but it would be a minute.



Unfortunately, the customer's request was time-consuming and my co-worker came out of the back room again and said "Sue! We reeeeeaaaally need you back here!"



I wasn't going to leave my customer hanging while I went to see what I was needed in the backroom for, so I continued helping my customer although becoming quite curious about what was so important?



Again I heard "Sue, I really think you will want to see this." and she lightly chuckled as she re-entered the backroom. I was finally able to go see what all the fuss was about.



When Danielle went to get a hot chocolate, she got me one too. It's always too hot to drink right away, so I sipped it a bit before I set it down and headed out to the sales floor. While I was working the sales floor Danielle drank some of her hot chocolate.



When I entered the backroom, she said "look at my hot chocolate" so I did. I saw little specks of something...Then to my horror I realized that what I saw floating on the surface of the liquid and clinging to the inside wall of the Styrofoam cup were approximately a dozen or so dead ants!



Danielle said "I was drinking it and then there was something 'crunchy' and I opened my cup to look. I was thinking maybe chocolate flakes or something, so I had Brian verify what I was seeing. He said those flakes have legs...It looks like ants!"



So I immediately looked at my cup of hot chocolate...I didn't see any ants in mine, but you can bet I wasn't gonna drink it now!



Danielle took both cups back to the establishment where we got them and she said the girl called her manager at home and said "ummmmmmm, we've got an issue here". I'll say! LOL



We also learned something disturbing...They had had ants before and "thought they cleaned them all out". That scares me!



They gave each of us $10 in Gift Certificates...But I don't know when I'll be brave enough to use 'em! I'm so bummed, I loved that hot chocolate, it is sooooooooo good. Now I know why...It had an extra ingredient!

How well do you know Sue?

Take my quiz at FriendTest.com and find out!



I found the link via Food For Fish, by way of Superblessed.net.



Give it a try!

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Goodbye Grandma

She whispered "We all love you very much. It's okay to go, go be with Grandpa" gently into Grandma's ear.



We can't know if Grandma heard the soft-spoken words of my mom, but she did let go of this life yesterday. She pined for Grandpa since his death five years ago and she no longer needs to. She is comforted now by her savior.



My parents have been with Grandma during the dying process of these past couple of weeks. In some ways the entire family anticipated the moment and were anxious for it to arrive because we all knew how much Grandma wanted out of this life and into her new one.



The most amazing thing about it all to me is my parents devotion. This was my dad's mother and my mom was so loved by her mother-in-law. As a child, a teen and an adult I have always listened to my Grandma brag about how special my mom is. She would say things like "Oh, Sue, your mom is so special." My Grandma was right. My mom is so special.



Dare I say my mom has had the privilege of being with my aunt as she died and also with my Grandma as she passed. Mom said in both cases "it was so peaceful". I am wondering if some of that peace comes from the simple fact that my mom was there to whisper words of comfort and words of hope.



My parents are always taking care of things. They have handled my Grandma with gentleness and respect these last years of her life. I love them for loving her so much. It is not easy to go visit someone every single day who does not even respond to your presence, but they did. Everyday they were able, which was just about everyday. Then mom would send out "progress reports" via email to keep the family informed of her condition day by day, and sometimes every few hours. To me, this was true love because it was action. Love is action, as some say "love is a verb".



During all of this with my paternal Grandmother dying, they are also caring for my maternal Grandmother who broke her arm on Christmas Eve. It is a very slow healing process for her and I am again thankful that my parents are there to handle that situation. This is not even to mention the recent times I have called on them for help as well.



As I know I can run to my parents, and trust them to give any help they can, I now run to my Father. My heart is saddened at the loss of my Grandma. I ask Him to comfort me and my family through this major life adjustment and to give everyone strength to endure this difficult time.



I am so far away from the family and with snow storms on the way in Ohio Dad is suggesting that I not try to make it home for the funeral. I missed my Grandpa's funeral for a similar reason. I feel so far away. I think that is the hardest part, the funeral isn't for Grandma, it's for family and friends and I probably won't be there. I told Ma "our family really needs to start picking times of death during the summer!" LOL This is an example of my bizarre sense of humor!



My Aunt in Albuquerque will not be making it home and she suggested a sort of reunion to plan for the summer. I think that is a grand idea and we may go with that.



Bye Grandma! I'll see you later!



*note: I blawled all the way through this

Monday, February 02, 2004

Privacy or Responsibility

I used to believe it was wrong for a parent to read a child's personal notes and journals. But, as I have listened to successful parents preach, and read several books on the subject of parenting, I have changed how I feel about that. God knows every thought and every deed that I do. I am glad that He is all knowing and invades my personal space because He loves me. I also know that I have a sinful nature that is untrustworthy and He is my guide. If I could hide my sin from God, would I want to? If I could choose to give God permission to know my every thought and every deed...would I? The answer to this question is an absolute YES! My father needs to have access to the most intimate private parts of my life in order to love, protect, and guide me in all wisdom and truth. I WANT him to know.



So, when applying this principle to my children....should it not be the same? Should I not follow His example? Just as God's children are sinful and deceptive by nature...so much more are my children who have not reached a safe level of maturity and growth in Christ. I have heard it said in sermons, and read it in books. It is the parent's responsibility to know the intimate details of their child's life...even if it means reading a diary. My children know that I will read things that I come across. I told them that it isn't because I don't trust them but because I love them and I know that they need guidance at times. They understand where I am coming from. I hav heard wise Christian counselors say it is irresponsbile for parents to close their eyes to the idea that their child will decieve and even possibly bring about great harm to themselves or others. Through the example I see in my heavenly Father, my experiences as a child and the wisdom I have gained in life...I agree that it is irresponsible NOT to invade their privacy.



When I think back over my life, I can only wish that my parents were more intimately involved in my personal affairs. Sure I would have rebelled and resented their "snooping" when I was a teenager. I would have given them the lecture about their lack of trust in me. I would have said all those so called "wise" things that teens say like..."If you don't trust me then maybe I should give you a reason not to!" But, I think my life would have turned out so much better if my mom had known that I was thinking about giving myself away to a boy just because I wanted him to "love" me. She could have saved me from running away and getting picked up by a man who wanted to involve me with prostitution. (God saved me from that one!) I put myself in harms way so many times and suffered serious concequences...some of them life long. Maybe some "snooping" could have prevented that. Who knows? I am not living with the regret that these things happened because by God's grace, I finally gave the controls to the ONE who knew me all along and HE was one step ahead of me when my parents werent. I do wish that my mother read my diary. I do wish that I had a dad who looked through my book bag periodically. I was involved with terrible things that they could have protected me from if they hadn't been so blind to the deception of an immature preteen/teenager who just needed some loving interferance and proper direction.



I don't go snooping through my kids things every day. But, if I come across something folded up in a pocket or something that says "Keep Out"...It IS my responsibility to take a look. I have already had some good results come from my "snooping". I have prevented things and I have also been able to talk with my kids about a wrong direction that they are taking. They get angry sometimes that I read what I did, but, today, we are closer and they appreciate that we were able to talk about it. I wonder what would have happened if I didn't check up on one of my children's internet surfing...when that child was in a very dangerous place? I confronted my child. It was tearful and difficult, but, it caused him/her to see the danger and it prevented some serious consequences. I still hold my child accountable in that area because we now both know that there is a weakness that needs to be strengthened and we work on it together.



It's the private places in a child's life that satan invades and corrupts. If a parent is not into the private places, who will help that child to identify the presence of the enemy? God wants us to trust Him in all things...but, He also entrusts His children to us as we raise them. We are accountable to God and we have to be responsible to them...even if it makes for a temporary struggle. The consequences of the alternative can be devastating and permanant. It can leave scars that may never heal. I believe it is wrong to invade somebody's privacy (in most cases)...unless it is your child. It is responsible to let them know that you will be checking up on them. We are all born sinners. We are all easily tempted...especially when we are young and unwise. Children are easily influenced and evil in this world is all around them. The media and secular world of entertainment has gone to hell in a handbasket and it's the biggest influence in the lives of children everywhere. Children will make wrong choices...it's a given.



As parents we have to compete with that influence. We have to be a more powerful influence. I concentrate on trying to be a parent that my kids feel comfortable talking to, but even the best parent cannot get their child to tell them some things. Those are the things they probably need to know the most. As a child grows and learns, they gain the wisdom they need to make right choices. As they get older, perhaps there will be less of a need of interferance. A parent should seek God, use good judgement, and when the time calls for it...responsibly look into their child's "private" affairs. This is truly love. Sometimes it shows great wisdom when you don't trust the judgement of another. We can only completely trust God. Our children need our guidance. How can we give it if we are "trusting" them to use good judgement when they haven't developed the tools or life skills to do so?



I pray that God will guide me in my judgement when I am in a position to read a note or a journal entry and can't decide whether or not I should.