Five Minute Friday: Five

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Gentle Reader,

Tonight for the five lead by Kate, we write on: five.

Go.

Sometimes the crap hits the fan, and there’s no disguising the mess. Or smell.

Car.

Dishwasher.

Dog.

My faithful buddy, the fat and neurotic Benny, has congestive heart failure. He’s somewhere around 12-13 years old, so it’s not entirely surprising. But so hard. So very hard. The kind emergency vet lady gave him lasix pills, which seem to be helping, yet I know that the end of his life is nearer than the beginning. I can’t even start to think about what it will be like without him pressed up against my hip as I sit, curled up in the couch corner, tapping away at the keys.

Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.

– Matthew 5:4 (NKJV)

This stage of existence is one of steady trouble punctuated by moments, tastes, glimpses of glory. Not one of us has an “easy life,” despite appearances. There is always something. Always tears lurking just beneath the surface, no matter how wide the smile. All it takes is one event or well-timed word to bring them crashing, rolling, down our cheeks.

Christ extends His hands, the ones still bearing the holes. Five fingers on each, wrapping around the back of our heads and pulling us to His chest. His heart and our sobs come together in an silent symphony, a song heard only by the orchestra of two. The lyrics are meaningless to outsiders. The clash of sacred and profane strikes a disturbingly dissonant chord.

Somehow, it is right.

Somehow, there is peace.

We’re trying to set aside just a little more money before we go car shopping, but that’s probably about to fly out the window and into the greedy mouth of a noisy new dishwasher. I can’t stop time’s ravaging effect on the soft, warm little body I see just out of the corner of my eye. I lay my hand on his soft fur, feel the rise and fall of his somewhat-labored breathing that continues only for now. My face is wet. I lean back and imagine myself the Beloved Disciple, reclining on the Savior’s chest that night, in that pause during the dinner, before the horror. He must have known, in that place buried deep in the back of each person’s mind, that the clock was set to shift to a new hour. An unsure hour.

As I know now.

And yet the promise stands,

I will not leave you orphans…

– John 14:18a (NKJV)

I have no solution for this problem, this thing called Pain, that has puzzled the wise down through the ages. I don’t know why things happen when and as they do.

I know only that He has not left me.

Nor has He left you.

Stop.

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Voiceless: a Review

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Gentle Reader,

A few months ago I was contacted and asked if I’d like to review the movie Voiceless in advance of its October release.

Battling his own inner-demons, Jesse (Rusty Joiner: Last Ounce Of CourageDodgeball, “Days of Our Lives”) encounters a young, pregnant teen overcome with grief that, after an impulsive abortion, has her family blaming Jesse for more than just her final decision. Jesse’s wife Julia (Jocelyn Cruz: Strike OneThis Is Our Time) must come to terms with her own choices and decide if she can support her husband as opposition mounts against him. Comedian Paul Rodriguez also stars as Virgil with James Russo as Pastor Gil.

I have mixed feelings about this movie. On the one hand, I appreciate the fact that the overall tone is thoughtful and the filmmakers resisted tying up everything in a neat bow at the end. On the other, what should be an emotionally-charged story falls flat in many places.

Thoughtfulness is both the strength and weakness of Voiceless. Jesse Dean is not presented as a perfect action hero, but as a normal, flawed human being. In fact, all of the characters are relatable. Of special note is that the manager of the abortion clinic isn’t a crazed, bloodthirsty killer. She believes that she is helping women, just as Jesse believes he’s helping them. Though there is clear moral right and wrong on display, nobody is cast as a villain. A movie like this could have easily gone that direction.

Unfortunately, these good elements somehow come together and make for a plot that moves at a snail’s pace. I found myself thinking, “Come on,” more than once. I think that we, the audience, were supposed to have a sense of taking part in Jesse’s struggle, but instead we’re treated to lingering shots that cause already-slow movement to drag. I think this comes down to editing rather than a story flaw; a good 10-15 minutes could have been shaved off, making for a film that packed more punch.

Not that I wanted Voiceless to be loud or in my face. I actually liked that it was on the quieter side. There were some moments that needed to land hard, though, and didn’t quite get there. Example: Jesse’s interactions with a pregnant teen and her boyfriend needed to feel more urgent, like there was truly something on the line. Additionally, when he and his wife finally come to the moment when they discuss their shared past, instead of feeling shocked I thought, “Yeah, saw that coming.”Voiceless crawled where it shouldn’t have and sprinted where it needed to slow down.

I genuinely can’t decide what I think of the main character being male. Abortion is not a women-only issue, for sure, despite what some claim. Yet I wonder how I would have felt if a lone man stood outside Planned Parenthood the day I visited and tried to convince me not to go inside. Like many of the women in the movie, I probably would have ignored him and thought that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Now, years later, I know many men who ooze compassion for women in that position. Still, I think it would have been more powerful for me to see a woman reaching out to her sisters.

The story itself is one that is lived out in every town, big or small, each day. How should Christians respond to abortion? Is it enough to pray for the people involved in offering that service and for the people who take advantage of the offering? Should we protest, and if so, what form should that take? We see Jesse wrestle with these questions. We see him get it wrong more than once. We see the other Christians around him get it wrong.

But ultimately, they do something. That, I think, is the point of Voiceless. Sitting inside our comfortable churches, piously and hollowly praying for people doesn’t do much good, but neither does violent protest. Our hearts must move from both coldness and extreme zeal. We must love as God loves, act how He acts.

I recommend Voiceless, whatever your views on abortion, on the grounds that it is something different. It’s not a perfect movie, but the filmmakers deserve credit for avoiding a condemning, judgmental tone and for striving to contribute to national debate in a thoughtful, positive way.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Listen

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Gentle Reader,

So many ways to go with this prompt of Kate’s. Listen. A recent experience results in this.

Go.

Do you hear the sound?
Pulsing, pounding, vibrating ’round?

Can you feel it, ‘neath your feet?
Sense it moving, creeping, clapping beat?

Not with eyes is reverberation spied
But with ears, open, open wide

An ache that words cannot express
A sigh too deep, the story repress

A meaning couched behind the words
Fleeting, fast as hummingbirds

More than what is said, down to what is felt
To beliefs, to core, to wounds’ harsh welt

To quesitons, to self-sense, to space
To wondering if there is a thing called grace

Do you hear the sound?
Of people longing, straining, bound?

Of souls in need of strong embrace
To know the God who can outpace

All lies, all hurt, all vision wrecked
The injured ones, He does collect

The ones who huddled in cars sleep
The ones over lost children weep

The ones whose bodies are bruised and black
The ones who know they can never go back

Do we see what God sees, hear what He hears?
Or are we wrapped up in vanishing dears –

The things we hold so close, so safe
No matter how the weight does chafe

The skin of hands held to tight
Hands that were made to spread His light

Do we stop, or do we walk on by?
Do we leave them alone, left to cry?

Left to wonder if anyone cares
Left to wonder if He knows their hairs

Do you hear the sound?
Of opportunities abound?

Or do you sit up in your tower,
Behind your reasons cower?

Stop.

How do we treat those who are different from us? Different life experiences, different views, different choices. Today I was reminded of the vital nature of looking beyond the surface. Of not assuming.

People are people, whoever they are, and all deserve to be treated with compassion.

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Photo Credit: Jose Martin