Psalm 127:3 Moms’ Night Out movie: Laughs, plus hope for frazzled moms

Today’s post was written by and used with permission from Rusty Wright.
———

Want laughs, plus a way to tell a mother she’s loved? Take her to see Moms’ Night Out, opening Mother’s Day weekend.

When I visited this film’s set last year, actors and producers promised it would be a hoot. They’ve delivered, with loads of family fun. I laughed out loud.

Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings trilogy; Rudy) and Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond; ABC’s comedy The Middle) highlight a cast portraying the chaos of parenting.

Heaton and husband David Hunt executive-produced. Says Hunt, “None of us [parents] would survive a minute without a sense of humor….” “Because if you don’t laugh, you will go crazy!” Heaton adds. “And then the kids know they’re winning.”

Dream life; dejected wife

Allyson (Drew) has her dream life – three adorable kids and a terrific husband, Sean (Astin) – but she’s not happy. Her own lofty self-expectations are shredding her.

Sean comes home one evening to find the house a mess and Allyson sitting on the closet floor watching her DVD player and eating, semi-catatonic from the day’s stresses. She needs a night out with her girlfriends.

Husbands will care for the kids while moms enjoy a dressy evening at a fancy restaurant. Sean implores Allyson to have fun: “Promise me that you’ll do whatever it takes to unplug and just breathe.” (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

Unplugged and exploded

Everything goes wrong. Allyson unplugs…and explodes, triggering a wild night. A trendy restaurant ejects the mommy friends, who desperately search for a missing baby at a tattoo parlor, embark on a “don’t-try-this-at-home” car chase, and more.

Country singer Trace Adkins plays Bones, a tattoo artist with a checkered past who leads a biker gang that joins the baby search with volunteers from First Baptist Church, led by Sondra’s (Heaton) pastor spouse, Ray (Alex Kendrick, Courageous, Facing the Giants). Can you spell i-n-C-O-N-g-r-u-i-t-y?

Mouths wide open

Twists and goofs galore keep you laughing while characters drop morsels of family wisdom down your wide open mouth. Sondra advises Allyson on parenting’s craziness: “Life is…about finding the meaning and the joy and the purpose in…all the chaos and the crazy. It’s knowing that God is with you on the good days and the bad days. Does my faith give me that? Yes it does. Am I always happy? No, that’s a fantasy.”

In his Mother’s Day sermon, Ray cites a biblical Psalm: “‘Children are a blessing from the Lord.’ That’s why the position of mother is a high calling, and one that should be honored and protected.”

Bones on life

Even Bones contributes some pearls, remembered from his mother who throughout his youth reassured him of divine love. “I doubt the good Lord made a mistake giving your kiddos the mama he did,” Bones assures the despondent perfectionist Allyson. “So you just be you. He’ll take care of the rest.”

There’s much more to make you laugh and think. Watch for Sondra’s secret; cops’ consternation; Marco’s (Robert Amaya, “Snake King” from Courageous) obsessive/compulsive fears; and Sean citing a famous poem.

On set last year, Heaton promised “Every woman in America is going to wish that she was married to Sean Astin,” warning men in the assembled press corps, “You’re screwed!” After a year holding my breath – and now that she’s seen the film – I’m happy to report that my lovely wife Meg is still glad she married me, though she appreciates Sean’s wisdom and example.

A tip: don’t skip the credits at the end, or you’ll miss more fun. Moms’ Night Out is a Kevin Downes production of an Erwin Brothers film, shot on location in Birmingham, Alabama, and distributed by Sony Pictures/TriStar.

Rated PG (USA) “for mild thematic elements and some action”
———
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

A note from LC:
I think this movie looks like fun even for those who aren’t moms. Here’s the trailer.

Psalm 23 Dumb, Directionless, Defenseless

Today’s post was written by and shared with permission from Tim Challies.
———
Why sheep? Why not cheetahs or wolves or ligers or another animal with a bit of flair, a bit of class? But the Bible tells us often that we are sheep. We are sheep and God is a shepherd. That sheep/shepherd word picture is at the heart of the best-loved Psalm—Psalm 23. I spent some time with that psalm lately and tried to gain a better appreciation of why God saw fit to tell us we are sheep.

I will admit I am not the world’s foremost expert on sheep. I grew up in the city and even now live in an area of town that explicitly forbids owning livestock. In place of first-hand knowledge, I spent some time reading about sheep. It was funny. And kind of humbling.

Do a little bit of reading about sheep and you’ll soon see they are not survivors. They are not strong and independent creatures, not proud hunters or fierce predators. They’re actually kind of pathetic, entirely dependent upon a shepherd for at least three reasons. Two of these reasons are related to the brain of a sheep and the other is related to its body.

This is a real news story that aptly tells us the first reason sheep need a shepherd: because sheep are dumb.

Hundreds of sheep followed their leader off a cliff in eastern Turkey, plunging to their deaths this week while shepherds looked on in dismay. Four hundred sheep fell 15 metres to their deaths in a ravine in Van province near Iran but broke the fall of another 1,100 animals who survived. Shepherds from a nearby village neglected the flock while eating breakfast, leaving the sheep to roam free. The loss to local farmers was estimated at $74,000.

One sheep wandered off a cliff and 1,499 others just followed along. Can you picture it? 1,500 sheep, each walking off a cliff, one after the other. Soon they were piled so deep that the ones at the bottom were crushed to death and the ones on top were lying on a big downy-soft pillow. It is completely absurd and tells us one important fact about sheep and the first reason sheep absolutely need a shepherd: they are not the smartest animals in the world. In fact, they may well be just about the dumbest animals in the world.

And here’s a second reason sheep need a shepherd: they are directionless. Sheep are prone to wander. Even if you put them in an absolutely perfect environment with everything they need (things like green pastures and still waters), sooner or later they will just wander off. If a shepherd doesn’t manage them, if he doesn’t micromanage them and keep them under constant surveillance, they’ll wander off and be lost.

Sheep are dumb and directionless. They are also defenseless. Left to themselves, sheep will not and cannot last very long. Just about any other domesticated animal can be returned to the wild and will stand a fighting chance of survival. But not sheep. Put a sheep in the wild and you’ve just given nature a snack.

Think about it: there are different ways animals react when they perceive some kind of danger. Here are three common ones: fight, flight, and posture.

Let’s think about fight. A sheep gets frightened or sees that he is in danger. Maybe he sees a bear rambling toward him. What is he going to do? He doesn’t have claws, he doesn’t have fangs, he doesn’t have venom, he doesn’t have spines or quills or large talons. He’s got nothing to protect himself. Fighting is definitely out. But that’s okay—there are lots of other animals that don’t fight it out.

How about flight, just turning tail and running away? That’s a good defense mechanism. Unfortunately sheep aren’t fast; they certainly aren’t agile, especially when their wool is long, and even more so when their wool is long and wet. Last I checked they don’t have wings. A sheep is not going to outrun or outfly a bear. The sheep will not fight and it cannot take flight. So far it is looking pretty good for the bear.

How about posture? A dog will bark and growl and show his teeth to warn you away. A lion will roar. A rattlesnake will shake his rattle. A cat will arch his back and hiss. The best a sheep can do is baaa. I don’t think that bear is going be too intimidated. It is for good reason that no one relies on a guard sheep to keep their property secure.

Sheep can’t fight, they can’t run away, and they can’t scare away. So what does a sheep do when danger comes? It flocks. When a bear approaches, the sheep will gather with others in a pack and run in circles in complete panic, just hoping that the bear will choose someone else. Without a shepherd to protect them, they’ll be picked off and eaten one by one.

Sheep are dumb and directionless and defenseless. So I guess when God says that we are sheep who need a shepherd, he doesn’t mean it as a compliment to us. It is just a very realistic assessment of who we are and what we need. We are sheep who are completely dependent upon a shepherd.

To say that God is our shepherd and we are sheep, is to humble ourselves, admitting what is true about us, and to elevate God, declaring what is true of him. When you say, “The Lord is my shepherd,” you are saying something that ought to move your heart in praise and gratitude. To declare that God if your shepherd is to praise and glorify him because God the shepherd stoops down to care for poor, lost, not-so-smart sheep like you and me.
———
You can visit Tim’s website at challies.com

Psalm 121 Is anything safe?

I wrote last week that our hardships serve a purpose and that God can bring good from our suffering. I wrote that God wants us to focus on what matters for eternity. Did I really believe that when I wrote it? This week has certainly tested that. Someone I’ve known for most of my life, and all of his, was killed in a car crash on Friday night. It all happened in an instant. No one had a chance to say good-bye. No one had a chance to resolve differences. No one had a last chance to say I love you. We are never guaranteed those opportunities. We are not promised tomorrow.

I had already picked this week’s verse (Psalm 121:1-2) before I finished last week’s post. Last week was about suffering and hardships. This week I would talk about looking to God to be the source of our help, trusting Him to be our provider and protector. The only thing is that as I look back now, last week’s hardships seem so minimal, while this week life itself seems so fragile.

Psalm 121 talks about our Creator not allowing our foot to slip, not allowing the sun to harm us by day or the moon to harm us by night. The Lord will protect us from all harm. He will protect our life. He will protect us in all we do now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:3, 6, 7, 8). The Lord never goes off duty; He does not slumber or sleep. (Psalm 121:4) How do we reconcile that with all the tragedy in the world? With the fact that a life can be taken in an instant?

I believe two things are true. First I believe that if we specifically ask for protection of our physical bodies in the circumstances we face day by day, God will protect us, unless His larger purpose will be served by allowing our suffering. Secondly, I believe that the protection which is promised in this Psalm is the protection of our souls. Everything about our life on this earth is temporary. What matters for eternity is the condition of our soul. Turn to God and trust Him to protect that for eternity. Since we are not promised tomorrow, please take time to consider this today.

Psalm 32:7 Does God’s Love Make You Want To Give?

Today’s post was written by Rusty Wright.
———

Does experiencing God’s love make you want to give? Some current social scientific research suggests it might.

University of Akron sociologist Matthew T. Lee says, “Millions of Americans frequently experience divine love and for them this sense of God’s love not only enhances existential well-being, but underlies a sense of personal meaning and purpose and enlivens compassion for others.”

Godly Love National Survey

Lee and his colleagues Margaret M. Poloma (a sociologist) and Stephen G. Post (a theologian) interpreted the results of the Godly Love National Survey (GLNS), a “representative random survey of 1,200 people – both religious and nonreligious – from across the United States.” Their Flame of Love Project studies how spiritual experience relates to benevolence.

The project’s ambitious goals include “establishing a new field of interdisciplinary scientific study” and seeking “to transform social science by taking God seriously as a perceived actor in human events….”

Sigmund Freud, call your office.

When the father of psychoanalysis branded faith in God as “an illusion,” did he ever imagine this?

Of course, the GLNS studies perceived influence of godly love – individuals reported their own thoughts, feelings and experiences. No one is claiming to have a machine that sees God or definitively confirms divine existence.

Numbers and Stories

But the GLNS results – numbers and stories – are impressive, and certainly merit consideration in a discussion about divine influence.

Among the numbers: People who claim to feel God’s love more than once daily are over twice as likely as other Americans to help others, and to donate over $5,000 annually for the needy. Experiencing divine love most consistently predicted six kinds of benevolent behavior the researchers studied.

Among the stories: The researchers – funded by the John Templeton Foundation – interviewed at length 120 people and included five stories of “exemplars of godly love”in their book, The Heart of Religion. One of the five is Anne Beiler, whom you may recognize as the pretzel lady.

Darkness, Light, and Pretzels

It’s hard to walk though a major US airport or shopping mall without seeing Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. She and her husband parlayed her successful business into funding for their hometown Family Center to promote mental, physical, and spiritual health. But life was not always pretty.

Jonas and Anne Beiler’s lives plunged into darkness when a farm tractor struck and killed their young daughter, Angie. Anne’s pastor, whom she approached for assistance, sexually abused her during her first counseling session. The abuse continued; her marriage deteriorated.

Eventually, the pastor was dismissed from the church and the Beilers began repairing their relationship. As he saw wise counsel benefit his own marriage, Jonas wanted to help others by offering free counseling services.

Anne’s work to support Jonas’ dream morphed into what became “the world’s largest hand-rolled soft pretzel franchise.” Accolades for her entrepreneurship recognized her efforts to inspire, serve and give. Today, The Family Center partners with community organizations to offer counseling, healthcare options, education, and more.

A Hiding Place

Anne credits God with sustaining her, quoting David, an ancient Israeli king: “For you [God] are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.” (Psalm 32:7)

“We all need that hiding place,” she affirms. ”The reason I never wanted to tell anyone about the secrets in my life was that I was ashamed, and afraid, and scared that people would no longer love me. So I tried to hide my ‘stuff’ from everyone. But this kind of hiding only made it worse. … Confession allows us to hide in God and be surrounded with songs of victory and not floodwaters of judgment.”

So … can experiencing godly love prompt benevolence? Certainly worth considering.

———
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.rustywright.com

Psalm 73:25-26 Not Fair!

I have often mentioned in my posts that in this world we can expect to have trouble; the Bible tells us so in John 16:33. That may be a bit difficult to accept if you are a perfectionist, an idealist, or someone who has a heightened sense of justice, and does not want to accept that injustice takes place and especially that it frequently goes unpunished. I fit into that category. So I can relate to Asaph, as he laments in Psalm 73 that the wicked seem to prosper. And oh, how unfair that seems!

Asaph was a Levite, from the family of priests, and a musician in the tabernacle. He would have had extensive religious training, and yet even he succumbed to envy. He envied that things seem to go so well for those who were immoral. The old adage that cheaters never prosper is untrue. Cheaters very often prosper, and that made Asaph wonder why he worked so hard to do the right thing. It didn’t seem to be getting him anywhere. Don’t we often feel the same way? We envy those who seem to be happier, who seem to have more luxuries and fewer struggles, who seem to have more friends and fun times. I wonder if their lives look as good from their own points of view, since it is likely that we don’t know all the things they are facing that they keep to themselves.

Thankfully Asaph didn’t write this psalm until he got through his time of doubt. (Psalm 73:15) What turned his thoughts around? He went into God’s temple. (Psalm 73:17) He started to look at things from an eternal perspective. He realized that the struggles we face are temporary in the light of eternity. The wicked may have the advantage now, but doing right in God’s eyes was more important, and would bring its own reward. Asaph realized that his envy was foolish and senseless. And he knew that God was all he needed. God would be there for him when Asaph went through times of weakness. (Psalm 73:25-26)

Who do you turn to when you feel like things aren’t going your way? When you start to envy the advantages of those who don’t follow God’s ways? Do you always turn to a friend or a loved one? Do you ask yet another imperfect person for advice? Try turning to God. You will find that He is enough if you trust Him to be enough. Seek Him first, and everything else will work out. (Matthew 6:33)

Psalm 19:1-2 *The Sky Is Not The Limit—A Tribute to Commander Chris Hadfield

It’s an old expression that I used to hear quite frequently when I was younger: “The sky’s the limit.” In other words, you can do anything; there is no limit. From our perspective standing on the Earth, the sky seems to be a very long way up, and it seems to go on forever. But Colonel Chris Hadfield has a different perspective.

Chris Hadfield knows what it is like not to limit himself. He decided when he was 9 that he would like to become an astronaut, and since then he has chosen activities and school programs that would help get him there. Now, people all around the world have heard of Colonel Chris Hadfield, many hearing about him for the first time as the astronaut who tweets from space. As a Canadian who has lived in Southwestern Ontario, I have been hearing about him for much longer. He was the first Canadian to walk in space, and the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm. Today, March 13, 2013, Chris Hadfield becomes the first Canadian to command the International Space Station.

This is what Commander Hadfield has to say about limits: “Anybody who thinks the sky’s the limit is not thinking very clearly. The sky is incredibly thin. I’ve been above the sky. The sky is this paper-thin sheath around the world, and almost everything that exists lies beyond the sky. And it’s only our imagination that keeps us from going there.”

Scientists who have studied the universe, and astronauts like Chris Hadfield who have explored it, know that there is so much more to it than we have yet discovered or than we can comprehend. But we do have enough information already to know that it could not have been created by human hands. Lord Kelvin observed that “if you think strongly enough, you will be forced by science to believe in God.” But even the psalmist David could see that. In Psalm 19:1-2, he said that the heavens declare the glory of God and reveal His greatness.

The heavens declare in a language that we all speak. Even the best communicators can’t do that. Commander Hadfield speaks several different languages, and he is a natural teacher. He imparts scientific and technical information in a way that is easy to understand, but he does not communicate in all the languages of the world. The heavens themselves declare the glory of God in a way that anyone can understand if they will just open their eyes to see. Day after day, and night after night we can see the vastness of the sky: the sun, the moon, the stars the clouds, thunderstorms and snow. So many different elements can be seen by the human eye and even more with powerful telescopes, but even from the perspective of the International Space Station we can see only a small fraction of what God has created. The next time you doubt that God is all-powerful, look up.

———

*The title of this post comes from a documentary about Chris Hadfield that is available for purchase at the Crossroads estore.

You can follow Commander Hadfield on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Psalm 5:3 First Things First

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? This is a question that I happened to see on a Facebook page recently. The three most popular answers seemed to be:
1. Make coffee
2. Check my phone
3. Pray
Your need for coffee aside, which would you do? Are you more likely to check your phone for messages from friends, colleagues, clients and possibly strangers? Or do you take a few minutes to go to God first? A healthy relationship requires regular and honest communication; without it, the relationship suffers. We spend our time on the relationships that mean the most to us.

David, the psalmist, didn’t have the benefit (distraction?) of a smartphone, so perhaps his choice was easier: he went to God first. David made a habit of going to God regularly, not just when he wanted to extend a desperate plea for help. And although he often asked for help and protection from his enemies, he also praised God for His goodness and faithfulness. The pattern of his psalms often goes from complaint to praise.

Psalm 5 is one of David’s morning prayers. In this Psalm, he starts by asking God to hear and consider his prayer. He doesn’t tell God what to do, but presents his case and waits expectantly for God to answer. (Psalm 5:3) We can see that David is confident that God will not only hear his prayer, but also answer it according to His character. David knows that God is a God of love and mercy, but He is also a God of justice, and David appeals to God to protect him from his enemies. (Psalm 5:4-6, Psalm 5:10) David asks for God’s guidance through whatever obstacles he must face, (Psalm 5:8) and he also asks for God’s blessing. (Psalm 5:11-12) Even though David is asking for God’s favour toward him, so that his life will be safer and better, David approaches God with reverence and praise—honest, but respectful communication.

When you get up tomorrow morning, who will you go to first? How do you suppose your choice will affect the remainder of your day?

Psalm 42:11 Intervention

For the last couple of days I have been considering what verse I should write about this week. Usually I come across a verse while reading, checking Facebook or listening to a sermon or television program, and I think, “That is the one.” This week there seemed to be a few, but on a similar theme. The book I just finished reading for book club focused on Psalm 46:10. “Be still and know that I am God.” One of the verses quoted on an archived episode of Full Circle that I watched this week was Isaiah 64:4. “God intervenes for those who wait for Him.” Then this morning I read today’s verse on YouVersion, Psalm 42:11 “Wait for God. For I will again give thanks to my God for His saving intervention.”

The writer of Psalm 42 is depressed and far from home, (Psalm 42:6) he is being taunted by his enemies, (Psalm 42:10) and he is feeling overwhelmed. (Psalm 42:7) He is longing for relief. (Psalm 42:1) We can’t be sure of the exact circumstances he was facing, but we do know that he felt that he was facing it alone. At that time, the temple was the place that was set apart for worship and to hear from God. The writer not only missed the fellowship of being in God’s house, (Psalm 42:2, Psalm 42:4) but he also had to endure the voice of his enemy suggesting that God had forsaken him. (Psalm 42:3) And I think he wondered if God had. (Psalm 42:9)

We might not find ourselves in the same situation as the Psalmist does here, but we have certainly felt the same emotions. We may be saddened by our circumstances, lonely, irritated by malicious co-workers or neighbours, or burdened by the number of things we have to do. The good news is that we don’t have to get to the temple to be close to God. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and because of the Holy Spirit, we can communicate with God wherever we are. A look through God’s Word assures us that we have not been forsaken. (Psalm 37:28, Romans 8:38-39, John 3:16) Whatever you are going through, don’t give up hope. Wait on God’s saving intervention.

Psalm 86:12 Still Working On It

You may have noticed that things don’t always turn out the way you hope they will. And they almost always take longer than you want them to. In this world of instant everything, many of us have lost our ability to wait patiently. And yet, there are times when we must wait, whether we like it or not. As I told you last week, I have been ill recently, and because of a condition that may or may not be related, and that did not resolve itself within six weeks, my doctor sent me for a medical test. I waited a month for that appointment, and the results were inconclusive. So I was sent for a different medical test. Again inconclusive. A third test has been scheduled for next Tuesday. It has now been almost three months without answers, and frankly without any information about what the problem might be. I am still waiting.

Now if I were to be honest, I would have to admit that I don’t always have the best of attitudes in situations like this. I worry, and I often complain. Unfortunately, that only proves that I’m not as good as I would like to be at trusting God with the outcome. What should I do instead? As hard as it is sometimes, I should be praising God. King David had a lot of trials and struggles in his life too, so much more serious than mine, and he concluded that he should praise God continually. Early in Psalm 86, David was pleading with God for mercy, but in Psalm 86:12 he declared that he would give God praise with his whole heart and would honour His name continually. With his whole heart meant that David would be sincere in his praise; he wouldn’t just go through the motions. He could do that, because he had established a relationship with God, and knew that He was trustworthy. God had shown David His mercy many times before. David knew that he could trust God with his life and with the outcome to the situations he found himself in. Continually is pretty self-explanatory. At all times. In every situation. Since not all situations are good ones, David would honour God even when things weren’t going the way he wanted them to.

Moira Brown has said that, “Praise is the elevator that lifts us out of the pit of despair.” If we can praise God even in the tough times, we will be able to focus more on the goodness and faithfulness of God, the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever, (Hebrews 13:8) rather than dwelling on the challenges in our circumstances. I’m still working on it. How about you?

Psalm 23 Walking Through The Valley

I have to admit that I have a tendency to focus on the destination rather than the journey. I’ve often said that I would enjoy my vacations more if I didn’t have to spend time getting there. Every time I hear some profound quotation about enjoying the journey, I think, I really should learn how to do that! The problem with my way of doing things is that I always seem to be looking forward to a future event, rather than fully enjoying the present.

When I was a very young girl in Sunday School, I had to memorize Psalm 23, though at the time it was referred to as The Twenty-Third Psalm. I memorized it in the King James Version, and I still think of it that way. Like most verses I memorized in the KJV, it always seems a little odd to read them in a different version. But I think it’s a very good practice to look at scripture in different versions, especially if you are familiar with it, because new wording may make you look at the passage a little differently. Such is the case for me with Psalm 23.

It started with thinking about Bella, a friend’s 9 month old daughter with stage 3 cancer—thoracic neuroblastoma. The Lord gave me a vision of my friend and her baby walking through a dark valley, and the assurance that they would reach the other side. But the only way out of the valley was to walk through it; there was no way around.

We all have different circumstances in our lives that could be regarded as our dark valley. Injuries, job loss, family breakdown, house fires, natural disasters… the list of tragedies we might face in our lifetime could go on and on. And in many cases there is nothing we can do to avoid them. So how do we make it through? We let the Lord be our shepherd and lead us. Now I see Psalm 23 as a journey. I am walking through the valley, but with my shepherd beside me, I will lack nothing. I will be protected and have no reason to fear. One day I will be victorious, and, like the psalmist, instead of being pursued by my enemies, I will be pursued by God’s goodness and faithfulness. And you can be sure that I will enjoy my final destination.