Yesterday I blogged the preface to our 48 hour 14th anniversary adventure. One thing I left out was that in addition to our marital struggles, I had angst over the culture's recent careening off the slippery slope of moral relativism into destructive definitions of sexuality, family, and even humanity itself.
I wasn't thinking about any of that when we got in the car on Sunday after church (we have learned that it's better to start our adventures away with worship) and drove to the food trucks to pick up lunch for the 2.5 hour drive south. Overwhelmed by long lines, too many choices, the desire to get on the road, and a craving for a deli sandwich, we snuck into the nearby Togo's and shared a turkey and avocado sandwich as we headed toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
We arrived at The Sandpiper at 3:30 pm with just enough time to settle into our room and then go for a walk before the tea and cookie hour, at which the innkeeper explained, there would also be sherry. Or maybe that should be Sherry, the temptress. We made it the block to the beach before my husband immediately found a fishing spot on the rocks where I joined him briefly before meandering back along the seaside to admire the lovely cottages.
Soon tea and cookies were calling my name. Sherry beckoned me, too, her amber body glistening in the crystal decanter, so I grabbed her, pulled off the stopper, and took a good, long...whiff. I set her back down, poured a cup of tea, and ate all of the cookies. Not really, although I did get one of each kind, so I could taste them all, and then I gave the plate to my husband when he came in. We took the leftover cookies back to our room and got ready for dinner.
Years back, on another anniversary, we had dined at Casanova - "Carmel's Most Romantic Restaurant." We remembered its charming patio and delicious food, so decided to return. This was to be the start of a series of divine appointments that continued throughout our adventure. There is really no other way to explain it...unless we were in the Bible Belt, but in fact, it was just the opposite kind of place, as those of us who live on the California coastland know all too well.
We ordered two mocktails and several small plates (the entrees were priced out of this world, and as with the cookies, we like to get in as many flavors as possible). Before the food came, we said a prayer, holding hands like we always do - I was wearing the mother of pearl cross my daughter gave me, and which I wore throughout the trip. After that, the man in the couple seated closest to us, but sort of across the aisle, glanced back and smiled. He and his wife were talking animatedly, and as we were sipping our soup (tomato, my favorite, even though the waiter had said it would be spring onion!), we heard a familiar name - Francis Chan. We didn't want to interrupt because it was clear that the husband was telling his wife a story, so we continued on with our delightful, albeit meager meal, savoring spinach gnocchi gorgonzola au gratin - light pillows pasta with a rich, succulent, brown crusted sauce.
When our waiter brought the carpaccio (husband's favorite) and a cheese plate with artisan bread, we struck up a conversation with the neighboring couple. We had that thrill that believers get with the unexpected discovering of kindred spirits. Yes, they were Christians, and they, too, were celebrating their anniversary - five years farther along than us - also with three children, and they lived in the east bay. We talked about our faith and about the culture and we had a beautiful time of mutual encouragement. They said goodbye and our dessert came - a raspberry flourless chocolate mousse cake. It was good, but bland in comparison to the sweet fellowship we had just enjoyed.
We capped off the evening with comic relief - lured in by the nostalgia of the trailer, we went to see Pixels, a movie made for our generation. You know you're getting old when your childhood becomes "classic." Seeing the film was like a memory from growing up in the 80s - like riding bikes to 7-11 with friends, getting a cherry coke slurpee, and chewing Now and Laters on the way back. It feels fun at the time, but you're ready for a nap afterwards (well, at least now as an adult, you would be). Which was perfect, since it was time to go back to our hotel and rest up for the remaining adventure and at least four more divine appointments to come. Go on to part three...
We started off the millenium and our marriage without TV. Well, the programming, that is (no cable, satellite, or antenna). We had a VCR, so we borrowed tapes from the library and began a modest VHS collection from thrift store finds. A few years later, we received a DVD player for Christmas. Somewhere between babies being born, Netflix made its way into our home. Thus began our foray into television shows that weren't just for kids (by then, we had amassed the entire Baby Einstein, Veggietales, Blues Clues and Barney collections via garage sales, eBay, etc.). Meanwhile, we converted to Apple, Hulu brought the small screen to the even smaller screen, and Netflix introduced instant streaming for the Mac.
The clincher, though, was the Roku player (we were early adopters), which brought all of it (and much more) to the big screen. So now we pay $17.99 a month to watch whatever we want on our 38" flat-screen TV, albeit not in real time, but hardly anyone does that anymore anyway. Plus, I much prefer a long wait in between watching back-to-back episodes of a favorite show than having to see them one at a time, with a week or more between. With our favorite drinks and snacks, we can have a movie marathon, but in smaller doses (we do regulate ourselves, except for the times we've watched 4 episodes of 24 in one evening).
So without further ado (I'm lying), and with much trial and error (Lost was lost on us, most reality shows didn't make the cut, Bones was too morbid, and several others), here are the shows that I will forever associate with the first decade of marriage, raising young children, and relinquishing the idea that television (apart from Seinfeld) was the media equivalent of junk food. Most of it is (even some on my list) but I daresay that programs of substance surpass many motion pictures.
Think about your favorite childhood books - which ones do you know and love best? Was it a single novel or a series? Some of each, I'm sure, but your attachment is more likely to be with the ones whose characters were developed and stories told over volumes, not a mere 200 pages. Little House on the Prairie, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Borrowers, The Land of Oz books - those are my favorites. Then again, I'm not sure I feel totally okay that I've literally spent a week of my life with Jack Bauer (and we're right now adding another day to that, as we watch season 8 on Netflix).
Sci-Fi: New Battlestar Galactica, Eureka
Comedy: The Office, Better Off Ted
Action: 24, Burn Notice
Drama: Lie To Me
Documentary: Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations, This American Life
In another post, I will explain what I like about these shows and what some of them have in common. The only show we watch that I left off this list is Hell's Kitchen. I don't like the drama (well, maybe a little) or the yelling/name calling, but I love the cooking challenges. And it was very gratifying to finally have a winner I was rooting for this past season (I won't give it away in case you're going to watch it).
Did you know your church has a personality type? Chances are, it's similar to yours. Also, some of you missed the memo from way back about the Transformations videos being debunked. What you should be showing your congregation is Lord, Save Us from Your Followers (it's also currently on Netflix instant play). If you really want to see revival, then find out what it means to be missional. It's not just another Christian buzz word.
Some weird and dangerous stuff has been creeping into your church via well meaning but misguided homeschooling families who have been influenced by "family" ministries like Vision Forum, No Greater Joy, the Duggars, Bill Gothard (yeah, he's still around) and others who subscribe to a hyper-patriarchal theology (a.k.a. patriocentricity) that teaches legalism, authoritarianism, and the quiverfull philosophy of limitless childbearing.
And another thing--please leave politics out of church. We're not all republicans (or democrats). We're certainly not all fans of Sarah Palin.
I may elaborate on these and other church-related topics in the future, but in case it's a while, I needed to get it off my chest now...and get the word out. So pastors, please do your homework and encourage your flock to do the same. It's an uncomfortable place sorting through truth and error within the larger church world (and there are those who are overzealous and hyperjudgemental - I'm not advocating that), but please let's not turn a blind eye to, or unwittingly promote theologies which are unscriptural and abusive. Let's examine our own hearts - as leaders, as churches, as individual Christians who are, as the old saying goes, the only Bible some people will ever read.
One last thing...let your people go, and even tell them to leave, when necessary. After all, they're not really yours anyway. They're God's. And where they go, they are still part of the body of Christ, so please don't act like changing churches is akin to spiritual adultery. That's not Biblical. It also divides and wounds. Wouldn't you rather have them growing elsewhere than withering in your care?
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. A true story that reads like a novel. It's about about soulmates (married) who travel around the world in a yacht, come to Christ through their friendship with C.S. Lewis...need I say more? I read it like 5 times in college when I was on the quest for "the one." It does have a tragic element but the spiritual one counterbalances it (hence the title)...think Shadowlands but more romance, beauty, poetry, etc.
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. I saw the film first and fell in love with it (it's finally on DVD in the USA as of this spring! We had a petition circulating) Eventually I read the book and enjoyed the extra details. The book and the film are equally good, in the same way that To Kill a Mockingbird is (but of course a totally different genre). The romance (s) is central, though subtle, and it's hard to beat the setting of four women in the 1920s on holiday in a castle on the Italian riviera.
My favorite mythical romance is of Beren and Luthien in Tolkien's Silmarillion, but the book falls more into the fantasy epic allegory genre than romance. It has everything and that's probably one reason I liked it so much.
I'm not really into romances (though I did adore Pride and Prejudice, as well as the BBC production; disliked the Keira Knightley one), so a book/movie has to have other elements for me to totally be drawn in. I also rarely reread or rewatch anything, and I've done that with both of the above many times (for Enchanted April, just the film, but I know I'll reread the book also).
We don't have TV (no antenna even) but we love our Netflix, and one of our favorite things to watch is the PBS/BBC House series, a reality show that's actually historical/educational, as well as sociologically and psychologically engaging. We're currently watching Manor House, but we also enjoyed Pioneer House (first and favorite) and Colonial House (for once, I was not embarrassed by the token Christians in it, and actually was in admiration of them); 1900s House was the least interesting. 1940s House is up next but we're skipping Ranch House since we read so many dreadful things about it.
...On to my ideas for future shows: 1950s house, Medieval House (Castle?), Amish House (simulate an Amish community), Tribal House (live like the Native Americans did pre or early colonization), Plantation House (perhaps have a black family play the white family and white people play the slaves), Jane Austen House (her era), Shakespeare House (his era). I'll update this post as more ideas come to me.
One thing I really don't understand about many of the people who have been casted in these shows is their unwillingness to live by the cultural norms and mores of the period. I mean isn't the point of signing up for a project like this to leave the 21st century (temporarily) and experience what life was really like in another era? I think potential cast members should be thoroughly informed of the roles and the rules, and they should enthusiastically agree to them, perhaps even signing a contract to that effect.
I almost didn’t want to watch the final installment of the Lord of the Rings because I didn’t want it to be over. We were privileged to be able to see it at the best theater in the Bay Area, the Tamalpais, which is one of Steven Spielberg’s favorite moviehouses (it’s also where I once sat behind George Lucas when I was a teenager–wish I could remember the film!).
But Lucas and Spielberg had nothing to do with this movie, or the entire trilogy, which surpassed anything they’ve ever produced, in my humble opinion. It was masterfully done, but the secret to its success was something we can all relate to–-a great writer. The makers of the films were faithful to Tolkien’s text and masterfully depicted the intricacies of his imagination.
What really made this movie special for me was how clearly Tolkien’s Christian faith played itself out on the screen. I’m sure most members of the audience were oblivious to the metaphorical imagery (not allegorical since Tolkien himself denied using that literary device). I gleaned more than I’m sure Tolkien intended, but I believe that when the hand of providence is involved, certain stories take on a life of their own.
I couldn’t help but see Christ in both Frodo and Sam. Frodo bore the ring, “his burden”, our sin on himself and endured something of a crucifixion of spirit. He knew he was the only one who could carry the cross, so to speak. At one point, Sam says something like “I cannot carry your burden, but I can carry you.” That reminded me of the poem “Footprints” which speaks of how we feel so alone in our hardest times because we only see one set of footprints, but the footprints are actually God’s because he is carrying us.
Christ’s humility was personified in the hobbit demeanor which was always humble and giving. Both Frodo and Sam were servant-leaders like Christ, but Sam was the best example. He always put Frodo before himself, even allowed Frodo to make the wrong decisions, and stuck by him even in the face of his betrayal (reminded me of Jesus and Peter). Sam even carried the ring, and wasn’t tempted by it, in order to protect Frodo and the rest of Middle Earth from it falling into the wrong hands. Sam also seemed like the beloved John, the disciple who was closest to Jesus.
In Gollum, I could see both Adam and Judas. He was the first ordinary person to take hold of the ring, even though it meant murder. Original sin brought death into the world. When he pretended to leave behind his sinful life, he was so steeped in it – his own pride and lust – that he betrayed the one who was kindest to him and the one who had the power to liberate him from his sin (the ring) eternally – Frodo as Christ.
Aragon too was a Christ figure, the King himself. That final battle was like Armageddon. The Bible says that when the Lord returns, the dead in Christ will rise up to be with the saints (all the Christians). That’s exactly what happened when they freed the dead spirits from the mountain (mind you, I’m not Catholic so I don’t believe in purgatory).
Everyone who was part of the fellowship of the ring was Christlike in their willingness to sacrifice their lives for the others. My memory might be deceiving me, but I think that in the earlier films, both Aragon and Frodo were brought back from the dead.
Bilbo resembled John the Baptist. He prepared the way for Frodo by acquiring the ring. He was also Frodo’s uncle which is interesting since John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. He also lived in seclusion like John in the desert.
In the first film, Gandalf seemed like the primary Christ figure but as the story continued, he seemed more like the Father to me. He directed their every move and knew what the final outcome would be. Both Gandalf and Aragon constantly empowered and encouraged the people. They literally breathed life, in the face of death, into their hearts.
The concluding scene reminded me of Christ’s ascension and the bittersweet farewell with his disciples.
The most significant aspect of Return of the King was also probably the most obvious theme: courage. As a person who struggles with fear (I even whispered to My husband in the theater that if I was faced with those orks, trolls or any of the other hideous creatures, I’d kill myself on the spot), this film really spoke to me. Gandalf constantly stressed not giving in to fear. They all knew that in their own strength, they would be defeated, but that greater forces were at work. Ultimately, God’s goodness always triumphs over evil.