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.
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
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.
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