Word of the Week

I'm always on a quest to find God in places that are outside the church. Spirituality can happen anywhere, I feel-- in conversations over coffee, while listening to music or even at the theater. We just have to have our eyes open!

I love watching and going to the movies. Even besides the excuse to eat more popcorn (my favorite), particularly good films especially the artsy kind have the ability I feel to shape my  conscience and expand my worldview like nothing else can.

In light of this, recently, I've found myself making a mental list of the top five films I've seen in the last few years that have the possibilities for great faith discussions. Here's my top picks and a bit on how they got me thinking--

1. The Soloist (2009) When we believe in transformational community and doing life together, it is easy to fall into the trap wanting to "fix" people. We believe a person's life could improve if they could just do x, y, and z. But, The Soloist provides a unique message not only on how friendship can be one of the most important acts within the kingdom of God, but how complicated mental illness, homelessness and systems of social services can be. There are no easy answers but faithful friendship is a start. (Topic: Faith and Friendship)

2. Chocolat (2000) Life together is messy. Those who we think are "the religious ones" are often the most sick. Those who we think are the most lost are often the most found. Staying in one place, planting roots and being in relationships with others for the long haul is counterintuitive to our transit society. But, as we stick around and begin to learn from one another, what we find is that the pleasure of community life is sweeter than we could have ever imagined! (Topic: Faith and Community Life)

3. Moneyball (2011) There is the old way of doing things. There is the new way of doing things. How easy is it to think that they old way has nothing to speak to the new way. Leadership is doing the tricky balance of helping bring people along and create a new vision with respect for what has always been. Transformational leadership can be costly, especially to your family life. But, when tough choices are made and the right people are put in place, old institutions can be more amazing than we ever imagined. (Topic: Faith and Leadership)

4. Philomena (2013) Our paths to wholeness are often so broken that we feel beyond repair. The twists and turns of our lives lead us to wide open spaces of regrets, grief and shame. But, this is the mystery: grace is present even still. And it is grace-- as we lean into it-- that enables us to become the unthinkable: a forgiving people.  And when forgiveness happens, it is like a dance that brings beauty to our lives even in our most rough edges. (Topic: Faith and Forgiveness)

5. The Way (2010) Healing is often about making the first step out of bed and then the next. And when we make such steps, guideposts of all sorts will often show up to help. Guideposts can look a lot like the gift of conversation over a good bottle of wine, the company of strangers, and strength for the next day. We all have deep pain, though some of our pain is more visible than others. And it is in facing our pain and the journey it takes us on, we find rest for our souls. Healing work is intense work, though so should not be entered into lightly. Who knows who we will become as we move? (Topic: Faith and Grief)

What others might you add to this list?

What does it look like to move toward hope?

I have to thank our music director, Ken for this quote that is now one of my favorites, "When they tell you that when God closes a door, he always opens a window, they don't tell you that it is hell in the hallway to get there."

In the same manner, the movie Shawshank Redeemption is one of my favorites. I tune in every time it is endless played on one of those cable networks even though I'm seen it 100+ times now. I watch it, again and again because as I do, new insights emerge.

Recently, while watching I was mesmerized by the scene shown for you below. It's near the end of the movie and contains one of the most hopeful scenes within this film. But I had never noticed before how long and how gross and horrifying really it was for Andy to get to the moment of freedom. I guess, previously, I'd just been so caught up in the emotions of his successful escape, that I forgot the journey it took him to get there (which is often what we do in real life isn't it?). But, wow, what determination, patience and courage Andy showed and freedom finally came. Finally.


Though we like to talk a lot in religious settings, about this word, hope with smiles on our faces, I have to think that it is messier than we think. Fear, doubt, abadonment are all words that are cousins of hope as much as faith and freedom are.

Sometimes living with hope means crawling through tunnels of uncertainty with the odor of the past making us want to throw up. Sometimes, we wonder where in the world hope lives, for it doesn't live at our address. Sometimes, we think our moment of freedom will never come for we've been chipping away at the same old same old for so long. Sometimes, as in the case with Andy, hope means literally making your way through 5 football fields worth of shit, the real stuff.

But, just as Andy modeled in this film, we have to keep crawling with hope that when we get to the other side, whenever and wherever this might be that something better will await us. Or, best stated by this film, "You better get busy living or get busy dying." This is the choice that moving in hope offers us.