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I recently wrote a short article that was published in a community book project. It was on the subject of gratitude. The thesis of my piece was that there is always something to be thankful for even if you are going through tough stuff.  And we all go through tough stuff. 

There is a man in the Bible named Paul, and he said, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

It's a recommendation with a promise. He says, "Follow my example, and the God of peace will be with you." Paul didn’t have an easy life either. (II Corinthians 11:23-27) He had been imprisoned, tortured, stoned, shipwrecked and left adrift on the open sea. He had faced all manner of danger and discomfort, and he had been struck blind. And yet, somehow, he had learned how to be content in any circumstance. (Philippians 4:11) So when he gives us the advice to focus on the positive, I’d say it’s worth a try.

If you would like to read the rest of my article and over 100 more, you can get The Community Book Project: A Gift of Gratitude on Amazon Kindle. It is free until Friday.

The link for Amazon.com is:

The link for Amazon.ca is:

 

Hello, everyone!

All of the content on this blog has been moved to a new server by my Internet Service Provider. In the process, I (or more accurately, my tech guy) battled some glitches, which I hope have now been resolved. I haven’t checked every post though, so if you come across any problems, like missing media, would you please let me know, either by leaving a comment on the post (which requires login) or sending a message through the contact page (which will be added soon). Links to Facebook and Twitter accounts are still on the to do list, but for the moment, you can find them by searching for Memos From God on either platform. Thanks so much for your help, and for still being here.  It is still my hope to add to this blog more regularly, but there always seems to be something that keeps me from it. Most recently, it has been technological challenges, and I’m still working on them. My goal is to announce new posts on both Facebook and Twitter, starting today. There will be a new post up in a few minutes.

Today’s post was written by and used with permission from Rusty Wright
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I cannot imagine perceiving my father as a monster.

Bart Millard saw his father as a monster and more.

My dad was warm, gracious, fun, affirming, friendly, professional, caring. A loving husband. By example and precept he inspired me to aim high in life, school, work, and relationships. As a boy, I loved playing catch with him, shooting baskets, attending football games, hanging out. Throughout life, when I failed, he was there to console me, to help me pick up the pieces and move on in a positive direction.

Bart’s dad, Arthur, was any kid’s worst nightmare. Anger and rage consumed him often and drove Bart’s mother away. Bart often felt the leather strap and paddle. “As I became a mischievous toddler,” he recalls, “my spankings slowly escalated from normal discipline to verbal and physical abuse.” Arthur once smashed a dinner plate over Bart’s head. Eventually physical abuse morphed into silence and indifference.

Hopeless highway to hell?

I Can Only Imagine could be a depressing movie and book if the story ended there. But the tale behind the popular song of the same name by the band MercyMe could inspire anyone whose life has seemed a hopeless highway to hell. The cast includes Dennis Quaid, Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman, singer Trace Adkins, author/actress Priscilla Shirer, and Broadway singer J. Michael Finley.

Bart is careful to explain some factors beyond his dad’s control that contributed to poor character development. Arthur’s own father’s divorce and quick remarriage had thrust ten-year-old Arthur into head-of-household responsibilities far too early, sowing seeds of anger and bitterness.

Arthur became a well-liked local high school football star in Texas, but later dropped off the SMU football team to care for things at home, sacrificing a possible NFL career. “Dreams” were worthless; “reality” was what counted. He made sure his son knew that “Dreams don’t pay the bills.”

A horrible on-the-job traffic accident put Arthur in a coma for eight weeks. After that, his temperament seemed skewed, and rage filled their home.

Prodigal father; unforgiving son

Young Bart found escape from family strife and loneliness in music and friends, often through his church youth group. Inspirational music lifted his spirits. The group leader and members helped instill stability and faith. During a camp session, Bart placed his trust in Jesus. But he couldn’t forgive his dad.

The film and book depict with grace, tenderness, and beauty what became of this prodigal father and his unforgiving son. I won’t spoil the story for you, but suffice it to say that the path to redemption and restoration was pretty amazing. In his book, Bart affirms his belief that “God transformed the monster I hated into the man I wanted to become. …From an abusive dad to a loving father. From a heart of stone to a life of grace.”

Mainstream media surprise

I Can Only Imagine” – Bart’s tribute song for his father, performed with MercyMe – eventually became a smash hit on Christian media. Then a mainstream FM radio DJ with a reputation for sometimes crude dialogue played it as a joke for his listeners. Phone lines lit up. People wanted “to talk about what the words meant to them and how it made them feel.”

The DJ invited the band to be on his show and the song’s popularity spread among mainstream stations. MercyMe appeared on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show and on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and now has performed at Radio City Music Hall, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, CNN and ABC News.

Paul, an early follower of Jesus, wrote of his Lord’s ability “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Getting Bart to forgive his dad falls into that category. This film is well worth seeing, contemplating, and applying.

Rated PG (USA) “for thematic elements including some violence.”

Opens March 16.

I Can Only Imagine Official Page USA

I Can Only Imagine Official Page Canada

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

I Can Only Imagine poster

Long-time readers of this blog will know that Rusty Wright has contributed many articles to it over the years. Some have been co-written by his wife Meg Korpi. I was very sad to learn that Meg has passed away after suffering with cancer for the last few years. Today's post is a tribute to her, written by Rusty, and shared with permission.
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Meg Korpi 1953-2016 Wonderful wife, committed partner, faithful friend
Meg Korpi 1953-2016 Wonderful wife, committed partner, faithful friend

Recently, when my wife, Meg Korpi, was dying of cancer, a longtime friend offered some advice I'm really glad I heeded.

"Hutch" Hutchins told me I should write a tribute, expressing what she's meant to me and how much I love her. I should frame it, give it to her, and read it to her personally.

Meg was on home hospice care after a three-and-a-half-year struggle with ovarian cancer. I was her primary caregiver – a demanding, 24/7 responsibility – and was reeling with exhaustion. But his advice clicked. I read the tribute to her on May 21, our 16th anniversary.

It had a very positive effect…calming, soothing. She seemed at peace, contented, with brightened spirits. It was one of her last lucid days before dying a month later.

Tribute to a rare jewel

Meg was a rare jewel. In her wedding vows, she had said she wanted me to feel like "the most blessed man alive to be married to" her. I did. In this tribute, I told her that in her, God gave me:

• A gorgeous bundle of fun, adventure, character, and faith

• A godly woman who walks closely with Him

• A faithful friend – my very best friend – and companion

• A keen mind to help me think through life's sometimes perplexing issues

• A wise counselor with sound advice at crucial junctures

• A determined spirit to prompt me to reconsider my course when needed

• A sweet lover (Whew!)

• A fun woman, whose sense of humor brings delight. I love to laugh with you!

Thank you so, so much for loving me unconditionally; for honoring and respecting me; for caring and encouraging; for listening to my heart; for sharing my joys and hurts; for looking out for my interests; for being there through good times and bad; for facing life with me as long as we both shall live.

I love you very much, and am eternally grateful to be your husband.

* * *
Lots of laughter

We loved to laugh. As world travelers, sometimes we laughed about language translation complexities.

60 Minutes television veteran Mike Wallace, speaking through an interpreter, once asked former Russian president Boris Yeltsin if he weren't being a bit "thin skinned" in his sensitivity to media criticism. The interpreter goofed, telling Yeltsin that Wallace had said, "You are a thick-skinned hippopotamus."

Shortly after we married, a speaker at a Miami meeting I attended told of efforts to translate a biblical love poem into the language of a Kenyan tribe. The phrase, "Your beauty is like that of the lily," did not connect with the rural East Africans, for whom lilies were mere cattle fodder. Their culture highly esteemed the cow, not the flower. On the advice of tribesmen, the translators rendered the romantic phrase: "You are a black cow in a herd of spotted cattle."

The speaker relating this tale suggested I use that compliment on my new bride, without explanation. Since Meg was returning to California from Philadelphia that evening, I left the cryptic greeting on our home answering machine. A few hours later, my Miami phone rang. Her first words: "And you are a thick-skinned hippopotamus!"

Most important lesson

At her memorial celebration, I presented all this, then briefly noted a conviction we shared deeply, the most important thing I’ve ever learned. I'm indebted in many ways to my Jewish friends and their heritage for it.

One ancient Hebrew book describes Job, who, despite his slew of troubles, affirmed, "I know that my Redeemer lives." (Job 19:25) That gave him hope.

A skeptic in my youth, I didn't believe my Redeemer lived. I thought it was a fairy tale. Then, my first year at Duke, I heard a lecture about Jesus' Resurrection evidences, given by Bob Prall, who later became my mentor. Jesus was executed and declared dead, wrapped like a mummy, placed in a tomb. A huge stone covered the tomb's entrance, which Roman soldiers guarded. Most of his disciples fled in fear.

Sunday morning, the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, but the grave clothes were still in place. Jesus appeared alive. Frightened disciples became martyrs because they believed he had risen.

Attempts to explain this away didn't work for me. The guard was too powerful, the stone too heavy, the disciples too timid. I realized it was true. Jesus had successfully predicted his own Resurrection. If I could trust him in areas like this where I could test him, I had grounds for trusting him in areas where I couldn't test him, such as eternal life and how to obtain it. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." (John 11:25)

Comforting? True?

Is it comforting to me that I'll see Meg again and spend eternity with God? Absolutely. But it's only comforting because I believe the evidence indicates it's also true. If it weren't true, it wouldn't be comforting.

I realize this is a controversial subject, and you may not agree. If you've not examined the Resurrection evidences, may Meg and I gently and politely encourage you to take a look? Lots of good books and websites present them. Our own site – which Meg designed and built – also presents them. RustyWright.com

We know our Redeemer lives. We hope you can as well.

And…I love you, Sweetheart.

* * *

You can visit Lasting Memories for more on this remarkable woman, including a lovely 5½ - minute memorial presentation of Meg's life (images and music; put together by several family members).

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

Today's post was written by and shared with permission from Rusty Wright.
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Hollywood's Bible Power Couple is back – with a flourish – this time on prime-time network television.

They really take this spiritual stuff seriously. In 2012, my wife and I attended a dinner in Washington, DC, where actress Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) announced that she and producer-husband Mark Burnett (Survivor, Shark Tank, The Voice) planned to devote the rest of their careers to creating works that honor God.

They were heading to Morocco to film a series on the Bible for the History Channel. After dinner, Burnett enthusiastically described his vision to present Jesus "as strong—powerful, impressive." 2013's The Bible series drew 100 million viewers. The couple's 2014 Son of God feature film garnered significant box-office success.

Angst and adventure

Now in 2015, they're bringing the story of Jesus' first followers to television. Their dramatic 12-part series, A.D. The Bible Continues, captures the personal angst and adventure of those tumultuous early years. It premieres Easter Sunday on NBC.

Episode 1, "The Tomb Is Open," is apt Easter fare. It begins with Peter, Jesus' disciple, breathlessly running to watch Jesus' appearance before Caiaphas, the high priest, who accuses Jesus of blasphemy deserving of death for claiming to be the Messiah. A woman says she recognizes Peter as one of the Nazarene's followers. Peter denies it vehemently, and realizes he's failed the leader he'd pledged to support.

The drama conveys conflicts – internal and external – well known to aficionados of the classic accounts, leavened with some speculative dialogue to develop the story for the screen. Peter struggles with the guilt of his denial, as does Judas with his betrayal. Roman governor Pontius Pilate and his wife argue over the wisdom of crucifying Jesus.

After the crucifixion and burial, Jesus' grieving followers wrestle among themselves with whether they should believe Jesus' prediction of his resurrection. He had told them, "The Son of Man must suffer many things … and be killed and be raised up on the third day." (Luke 9:22)

Resurrection hoax?

The high priest appeals to Pilate to seal and guard the tomb, lest the disciples steal the body and perpetrate a resurrection hoax. Pilate remarks that "Roman crucifixion really doesn't allow for [resurrections]." The screenwriters' deadpan worked for me.

The un-narrated presentation assumes a basic familiarity with the characters and story. A quick read of a biblical account before watching could enhance the viewing experience. For Episodes 1 and 2, I recommend the final three chapters of either, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. And as you view Episode 1, watch for the angel. Way cool.

Episodes 3 through 12 portray stories from the first ten chapters of Acts. Viewer guides exist for those wanting to learn more.

As with their earlier biblical projects, Burnett and Downey and their team sought to be faithful to the spirit of the Bible. They take typical filmmaking liberties – combining events and condensing timelines – to represent the gist of the story without changing its basic message.

Racial and ethnic diversity

Producers took pains to involve a racially and ethnically diverse cast. "Christianity is among the most diverse movements in history," notes Downey, "so … it was important to us to find a cast as diverse and beautiful as the church is around the world. … We hope that people see themselves [in the performances]."

Cast members hail from ten nations. For example, Juan Pablo di Pace (Argentina) plays Jesus; Babou Ceesay (Gambia) is John; Chipo Chung (Zimbabwe) is Mary Magdalene.

Nothing and everything

Foreshadowing much to anticipate in the rest of the series, Episode 2 ("The Body Is Gone") highlights a key point. When Peter and John emerge from Jesus' empty tomb on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene asks, "What did you find?"

"Nothing," John replies. "We found nothing. And everything."

Burnett, Downey, et al. are bringing timeless, inspiring stories about the "and everything" to millions of homes and hearts. May their tribe increase.
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www.NBC.com/AD-The-Bible-Continues Series premieres Easter Sunday, April 5, 9 PM/8 PM Central on NBC-TV and runs for 12 consecutive Sundays.
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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

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Traditionally people give things up for the forty days before Easter, but I want you to get something instead. I want you to get closer to Jesus, to become more familiar with God's Word, to feel more of his love. (Coincidentally, that is the purpose of fasting too. Every time you refrain from indulging in the luxury that you usually have, it makes you think of why you are doing it, and makes you thankful for Christ's sacrifice for you.)

In previous posts, I have talked about reading plans, and how following them can bog us down and make us feel guilty when we don't keep up. This is especially true if your goal is to start in Genesis and read through the Bible in one year. A lot of people never make it through Leviticus. However, I have also constantly said--and it's the whole reason this blog post exists--that we need to read more of God's Word. We don't have to do it in a particular order, or at a particular rate, we just have to do it more.

What I am proposing to you today is kind of a compromise between those two options. Today I received an e-mail from Margaret Feinberg. She and a few others have joined together to do the #LentChallenge. The challenge is to read the four gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--during Lent. That's 89 chapters in 40 days (Sundays aren't counted in the fasting schedule), so just over two chapters a day. If you think that's more than you can do, aim to read through one of the gospels. Pick whichever one you like best, for whatever reason. Just spend some time reading about, thinking about, praying about the life of Jesus. Once you understand his purpose for coming to Earth, and his reason for going to the cross, you will be overwhelmed by how much he loves you. If you do this, Easter will become more meaningful than you've ever imagined.

Margaret has a reading plan that she'll send you if you sign up for the RSS feed at her site. Or, if you have the YouVersion app, you can search for a plan that suits you, using the keyword "Lent" or "gospels". YouVersion has a plan that will take you through all four gospels in 30 days, so you will have a few days of grace if you choose that one, and the app makes it easy to catch up. I am currently using YouVersion's chronological plan for reading the Bible through in a year (no I didn't start in January), and I just happened to reach the beginning of the gospels yesterday. (It's day 274.) Since it's chronological, I'll be alternating between the gospels as I go, but I should arrive at the same destination just at the right time. Whatever plan you use, my challenge to you is to make reading the gospels during Lent your goal. If you would like to share with others who are doing the same, use the hashtag #LentChallenge.

May you be filled with God's unfathomable love this Easter season.

Today's post was written by Rusty Wright.
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Want an alluring love story for your Valentine's Day movie date? US filmgoers have distinct options this season.

Much-discussed Fifty Shades of Grey is based on the erotic novel that's drawn countless bookclubbers into lip-biting, toe-curling ecstasy. Trailers promise mystery, pleasure, bondage, and pain.

Old Fashioned takes, shall we say, a somewhat different approach. Boy meets girl. Attraction is mutual, but they focus on romance with respect, even chivalry. Both have painful pasts that influence their feelings and decisions. Each struggles to know the other and to discover whether they should forge a future together.

"Girls Gone Wild"

In Old Fashioned, writer/director Rik Swartzwelder plays Clay, a former party animal who produced "Girls Gone Wild"-style videos, but eventually wearied of empty and broken relationships. He's determined to treat women with respect and honor, patiently wait, focus on head and heart before body. A nice guy who occasionally hides behind sometimes quirky relationship rules to protect himself from vulnerability and pain.

Enter Amber (Elizabeth Ann Roberts), a free spirit who rents the apartment above Clay's antique shop, then creates repair needs as excuses to spend time with her cute landlord/handyman. Surprised and puzzled by his platonic convictions, she longs to explore his mind and heart, but meets resistance. Her persistence plus a friend's intervention start them courting.

Navigating relationship complexities

The film traces two wounded souls navigating relationship complexities. Turns out Clay's profligate-to-platonic transformation involved a Bible, a gift from a former love interest. Amber asks about his favorite parts of the book. Clay refers to an assertion about life change: "Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (II Corinthians 5:17)

"Don't...tell me you found Jesus?" asks a skeptical Amber on another occasion. "More like he found me," explains Clay.

Sex, of course, is a powerful drive, as Fifty Shades' popularity attests. But so is love. Who doesn't want to be accepted, understood, cherished, affirmed? Old Fashioned touches these deep human desires and presents realistic portrayals of people with whom you might identify, seeking – and finding – genuine fulfillment. And its precepts offer sound counsel.

Sound counsel

"When did treating women with respect become the joke?" asks Clay in the film. He values building his own character over happy hunting.

I'll second that. Certainly evaluating prospective mates is important. But often people focus more on finding the right person than on becoming the right person. A good question for singles seeking a meaningful relationship: "How can I become the kind of person that the kind of person I want to marry…would want to marry?"

Unusual behavior?

In the run-up to both films' Valentine's weekend openings, Old Fashioned promoters played off the contrast with Fifty Shades. The latter received an "R" rating for several elements including "some unusual behavior." A clever OF trailer invites moviegoers to "leave the door open as two souls take the time to discover…[not] manipulation [but] healing" in "a love story that most only dream of."

"The wheels of Old Fashioned were in motion long before the Fifty Shades book got to Hollywood," Swartzwelder explains. "We didn't create our film in response to any other specific book or film, at all … but the decision to hold-off on our release so it could open alongside Fifty Shades? Yes, that was indeed deliberate." He sees his film as remedy: "Think of a young woman you care about … which love story would you wish for her?"

As the OF tagline reads, "Love is…patient, love is…kind, love is…old fashioned." Yes. And very, very nice.
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Rated PG-13 (USA) "for some thematic material".

Opens February 13. www.OldFashionedMovie.com
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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

Hello everyone!

I know it has been a long time since I’ve posted an article here. I wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten you; I’ve just been busy with other things. Unlike some bloggers, this is just a hobby for me, and not part of my full time occupation. Each post I write involves a couple of days of reading and research before I start to put my thoughts into sentences. This fall, I have not had the time to do that as I have been taking a couple of courses that keep me very busy. By the time I do the reading and studying required for the courses, I don’t have what it takes to do some more. I haven’t quit though. I plan to be back early in the new year, ready to share some more thoughts with you. I hope you will be back then too.

In the meantime, I wish you all a very Blessed Christmas--a time of peace, joy and refreshing.

Here’s a bonus for my Twitter followers:
One of the courses I am taking is an online class on the lands of the Bible. In one lesson, our prof asked us how we would tweet about the events we had just discussed. One of my fellow students took up the challenge admirably, and because he received such positive feedback, he started a Twitter account to continue with other Bible events. I thought they were fun, and thought you might think so too. Check him out at @Laceduplutheran. If you like what he posts, give him a follow.