Hunger for What?

July 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Anyone who reads my books or columns knows that I’ve been boycotting violent and explicit sex movies for years. Ever since Basic Instinct, I’ve been totally horrified at what our youth are exposed to and I have refused to participate on any level.

At least until today. I’m breaking my own rules, and I’ll tell you why.

At the suggestion of my husband, I went to see The Hunger Games. At first, I was adamantly opposed. “Nope, not going. Don’t want to be a party to this trash. I’m boycotting.”

Jim insisted. “I think you ought to see this one. Everything you talk about in your blogs politically, spiritually, culturally and emotionally is in this movie.”

Good point.

So I agreed and, wow, what a thought-provoking movie. I didn’t agree with the premise or story line. And, yes, I was disturbed by the themes and visuals. But Jim was right regarding the hidden discussion opportunities. They just jumped off the big screen yelling to be tapped.

The movie is a snapshot of the world—a reflection of what society has become through competition, reality games, large government, power and control. But it’s also an opportunity for our generation to launch a discussion of the post-modern world versus the Biblical worldview. If this movie is any indication, it looks like post-modern is winning—now’s our chance to right this misconception.

In the movie, political, emotional, ethical and spiritual themes abound. Take your pick. But you have to look beyond the obvious. You have to look with eyes of wisdom and experience, with spiritual eyes that see into the deep.

An obvious theme is the conflict between good and evil. If you know anything about history, much of the imagery resembles documented textbook evil: Nazi concentration camps, the Roman Forum, chariots of gladiators, ravenous crowds hungry for blood. The images of the haves versus the have-nots were disturbing. Sound familiar?

That’s why the title—The Hunger Games—was brilliant. Hunger was on every level: the people hungry for blood; the producers hungry for control; the audience hungry for a winner; the combatants’ hungry for a savior, the sponsors hungry for victory, and the reality shows hungry for ratings.

On the political front, the government was pure evil, perhaps a modern day China, Iran or Cuba. The potential ramifications of global policy as it relates to a Hunger Games scenario is worthy of thought and discussion? Although an entire article could be written on political ramifications, I’m concentrating on reviewing the movie through spiritual eyes.

History teaches that when people move away from God, they fill that vacuum with something else: addictions, drugs, pornography, money, people, power, control or idols. But there’s a hunger implanted in each heart, a search for something greater than ourselves. In Hunger Games that hunger is filled with counterfeits and distortions, cultural and ethical mandates, as well biblical themes and principals.

Another distortion was in the area of transformation. What a great opportunity to act as a bridge between the worldview and biblical view of transformation. Clearly, the missing component was faith, specifically the Christian faith. An explanation of the presence of Jesus and how His saving grace would have transformed everything would certainly add flavor to any discussion.

The question of ethics and a moral compass is another theme worth contemplation. In the movie instead of consistency, the rules changed on a whim, leaving a trail of confusion and delusion. Can you imagine what sort of discussion you could get into on that one?

As I ponder the consequences of The Hunger Games, it is clear that God is opening a door for writers to witness to the truth through the visual arts. There seems to be a hunger for these types of movies. Look at Star Wars, ET, and Lord of the Rings. What a magnificent way to communicate Biblical values through metaphor, symbolism and science fiction. Indeed, there’s an opportunity for creative missionaries to write and produce a witness for Christ in a genre that young people understand.

So should you see the movie? I answer with a resounding yes. Not because it’s good, but because your children and grandchildren are seeing it. And not only that, it is now required reading in elementary and middle schools. Can you believe that?

All this to say, anyway you look at it, the world is changing. If you want to stay on top of the eight ball and influence what your kids and grandkids believe, if you want to present a moral, biblical worldview as an option for right living, you better speak the language of the young. Like it or not, The Hunger Games is that language.

While they are being fed mistruths and distortions, we are asleep at the wheel. Better to combat distortion with facts, figures and truth, in a language they understand, than to be left out in the cold.

It’s up to you.

Waves of Joy

June 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Recently I heard a speaker describe a phenomenon he believes will manifest in the Christian community in the near future. “Waves of Joy,” he calls it. “Such joy,” he says, “that believers will just ooze and pour out Christ upon all those with whom they come in contact.”

Isn’t that a great thought, pouring out Christ on all who God puts in our path? But why wait? Isn’t this what we should be doing right now?

And isn’t that a great picture?

When I think of waves of joy, what comes to mind are fields of wheat blowing in a West Texas breeze. Anyone who’s traveled in the Midwest knows what a field of wheat, waiting for harvest, looks like. No way to describe it but magnificent. Soft stalks of yellow ebbing and flowing with each breath of air that passes over them. As waves on an ocean undulate in their own rhythm and timing, so too do waves of wheat. As they move, they create a symphony of music as the tide flows in, out, around and through them.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful, if we as followers of the Resurrected Christ lived and breathed such music? What a pronouncement of life for others, what a beacon of hope to a lost and hopeless world.

Heaven knows the world needs to experience this joy. The images people get today from a world gone awry are not only shocking, but also horrifying. And it’s not just print media or the news. It’s permeated our kids’ world.

Just this week I experienced that world as my grandkids and I watched two cartoons together. Big mistake.

The first was Scooby Doo. The story line: Scooby and his friends sneaking into an abandoned house. When we tuned in, they were being pursued by an ugly witch who cast spells and incantations on them. Are you kidding me? Spells and incantations?

I grabbed the remote and switched the channel to the Pink Panther. How harmless can that be? Wrong again.

In this segment the main character was a blue elephant. Talking through a mouth at the end of his trunk he resembled the snake in the Garden of Eden. I wasn’t far off.

His first words to a school of rapt fish students, “Remember children, animals do not leave by leaves alone.” What? Hold on a minute. This sounds like a distortion of Matthew 4:4. “Man does not live by bread alone.” Surely not?

I missed the next scene as my mind was reeling. Jolted back into reality I heard, “Out of your produce, you will give me 50% of the profit.” Was he talking about a tithe here? Surely not.
Then came the clincher. I kid you not. A sorcerer’s hat appeared on his head, with a rotating circle going round and round. Yep, he was hypnotizing the fish.

Now I don’t know about you, but I was appalled. Perhaps I’m too sensitive but I think not. Maybe, just maybe, because I have spiritual eyes of faith, as well as grandmother eyes of love, I saw if for what it was—pure unadulterated evil, a world gone awry.

So there you have it, waves of joy versus waves of unadulterated evil. It’s time for the believing community to choose, to take a stand for good, to pour out waves of God on our young people.
Let’s not sit around and wait for the children of this world to be hypnotized by the evil one disguised as a blue elephant. Let’s pour out waves of joy now before it’s too late!

O Happy Day

May 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Remember the song “O Happy Day”? You know, the one about Jesus washing our sins away and teaching us how to rejoice, love and pray each day. Well those are the lyrics that came to mind as I sat down to write this article, probably because I’m in a place of joy and thanksgiving myself.

So many things I’m thankful for: Palm Sunday, Easter, Mother’ Day, my grandson’s 8th birthday, safe return from my Mercy Ships Mission trip, good friends, loving family and health. The list goes on. But today I’m thankful for the publication of my new book, and I wanted to share my joy.

God is good. I marvel at how he creates each of us, giving gifts and talents, time and treasure to help him build his kingdom. I’m more than grateful for the gifts he’s given me this year.

I’m overwhelmed with pre-release details but God is even in those. Especially the women I meet at book signings, the ones who share their heart and love for writing. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed God is raising up an army of women writers. It’s as though he’s calling many to speak up for the kingdom and has provided this season for such a time as this.

The book encourages leaving a legacy of faith, for the Lord has created each of us unique. He expects us to use his gifts for his glory. As I age, I’m drawn to scripture that exhorts us to pass on faith to the next generation.

Psalm 71:18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation. NIV

Psalm 145:4 One generation will commend your work to another, they will tell of your might acts. NIV

Proverbs 17:6 Children’s children are the crown to the aged and parents are the pride of their children. NIV

These scriptures pose the question – how are you planning to pass down your faith?

For me it’s easy – through writing. It’s my passion, my life. But there are so many other creative ways to tell our stories, to pass on our faith. I’ve met so many women with creative ideas that I never thought of.

Mary is a scrap booker. She shares her faith through combining scripture and photo journals for her grandchildren. Sharon is a quilter. She shares her love for Christ through amazing quilt works. Suzan is an artist. She paints her faith while Karen sings her faith, making up special songs for each grandchild.
I don’t know how you are sharing your faith. But I want to encourage each of you to get your stories down in some creative form. We never know how much time we have left. Once we are gone, our stories are lost forever.

So, “O Happy Day” is not just a song, it’s a mantra. A way for each of us to give thanks and glory to God who richly blesses us beyond anything we do or deserve.

Dark Tunnels

April 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and
compassionate and righteous man. —Psalm 112:4

I love Holy Week. The visual and daily readings of the Passion of Christ place the believer in the thick of the crucifixion experience, reminding us of Jesus’s amazing sacrifice.

I thought I’d seen everything, but when Jim and I attended our first musical Tenebrae on Good Friday at a Bible Church I was stunned. What a powerful experience!

The Anglican Church always had a service on Maundy Thursday. It was very moving but I never knew why I left with such a sense of hopelessness, especially at the end of the service when the altar is stripped. Everything that related to Christ—light, candles, Scripture, and crosses—was taken out of the room, one by one, to be replaced by emptiness. I didn’t realize it but this was a Tenebrae service.

Tenebrae is a Latin word meaning shadows or darkness. A Christian service in the Western Church, it is celebrated in many ways by Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Protestants. The common denominator involves a gradual extinguishing of candles while readings and psalms are chanted or sung.

If you haven’t attended a musical Tenebrae, you must. At the climax of the performance, with the choir sounding like angels from heaven, Jesus moves toward the crucifixion. As the candles are extinguished the auditorium is left in total darkness. The significance of the extinguished light is not lost on the audience.

What a visual picture of a spiritual truth. Without the light of Christ to permeate the dark, all truth and hope are blotted from view—total darkness.

I don’t know how many of you have ever been in total darkness. I have, and it’s scary.
There is a train in Europe that runs between Austria and Italy. For a fee, a car can make a reservation that takes a shortcut through the mountains, on the back of a flatbed train. In the convenience of one’s car, a train carrying its load winds through a dark tunnel. Much like a ferry on water, the winding mountain drive is shortened by hours.

I knew that tunnels were dark. But inside the car, on top of that flatbed train, I wasn’t prepared for such darkness. At one point, I insisted we turn on the light inside the car just so I could get my bearings. The whole experience was disorienting.

Isn’t that how we are in the middle of a spiritual crisis? When we are in a dark place, it’s darker than we anticipated. Yet God is the engineer of our train. He can navigate us through any tunnel. We just have to trust, knowing that we are in good hands, for he has promised light at the end of the tunnel.

While in the tunnel, disorientation often takes over. In that case, there is only one thing to do. Turn the light on, reorient ourselves, and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Only by turning on the power are we able to find our way.

What a good word for the twenty-first century, especially for mothers and grandmothers. Keeping dark tunnels and trains front and center in the mind go a long way in keeping us focused.

Taking A Stand For God

March 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman

The world is in conflict. The scripture tells us that in the last days evil will be called good and good, evil. Anyone with spiritual eyes who follows the news is aware that this statement is true. Darkness is, indeed, falling upon the earth.

In Ezekiel the Lord talks about the watchmen on the walls, those who stand and warn the people of the danger that is coming. These are God’s people, the believers. As watchmen, our assignment is to tell what we see and know, to warn of danger when we see it coming.

And make no mistake, danger is coming. In fact many of us believe that danger is here. It behooves us as God’s people to speak out to take a stand for right, to do what is right no matter the cost. If we do not, we are complicit, and accomplices in the coming evil.

Time and space limit the many topics for which we could take a stand. But you know the issues. Take your pick. But whatever you do, pick one and speak out.

Some might say, “but I don’t know how to speak out. I don’t know where to begin; I don’t know what to take a stand on, there are so many issues.”

I say it doesn’t matter. Just begin; begin somewhere. Begin with what you know. Practice taking a stand on things that you know. Start simple Get comfortable on forming an opinion and back it up with fact. Then expand.

I began taking a stand with issues that involve my grandchildren for that is what is most dear to my heart. The topic: God being removed from schools and the public arena. Not only do I feel strongly but I also have personal experience in this area, so I know from which I speak.

As I wracked my brain to give an example, I decided to use one from my upcoming book “The Savvy Grandmother – Building A Legacy of Faith” to be released in June 2012. This is from page 162 and speaks about learning to be a savvy grandmother who stands up for what she believes.

“Whether in the political or spiritual realm, my opinion is rarely in question. Lucky for me that God gave me sons to push me to the next level. Recently one challenged me to compare news stories from opposing media outlets. For three weeks I checked the websites of eight different outlets: four liberal, four conservative. I even charted their differences for my own information.

The exercise not only solidified my own position but it also gave me clear talking points and a platform from which to debate.

A most interesting discussion transpired. As I shared my observations, I also talked about my experience of prayer in school growing up. I quickly realized this world was totally foreign to him.

“But Mom, you attended a parochial school,” he responded.

“Not so,” I replied. “This was not a church school. This was a public school. Religion and prayer were not only in the public schools, they were also at the sporting events, graduation exercises, and more. We sang ‘Fairest Lord Jesus’ and ‘God of our Fathers’ at my sixth-grade Thanksgiving program. There were no conflicting messages. Everywhere—church, school, and home—children got the same message.”

“But what about the separation of church and state?” he asked.

It hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. My son had no frame of reference for the world I grew up in. The change had been so dramatic that his generation, Generation X, had no idea of what it used to be like. How could I have let this happen?

As usually happens with God, this topic came up again not long afterward with one of my grandkids. But this time, this savvy grandmother was prepared. When Jack reported that he was getting out of school on December 22 for winter break and could come visit me, I took advantage of the teachable moment.

I carefully instructed from the other end of the phone: “You mean Christmas break.”

“No, Marme, it’s winter break,” he said.

Raising myself up to all of my five-foot-six-inches, I told him that indeed it was Christmas break. That Christ was born, that the son of God was made man and came to earth, and that is why the celebration began in the first place. Christmas started out as a religious holiday and that is what it still is.

“The school can call it anything it wants,” I said in a firm voice, “but it’s Christmas break, and that’s what I’m calling it.”

No budging for this savvy grandmother.

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