Out of the Game

Observant visitors might have noticed that I took down my “I Like Mike” banner in the sidebar today. I have emailed the campaign as well, letting them know that they should remove me from their blogroll.

I removed the banner for two reasons:

1. I am not as certain as I once was that I support Mike Huckabee.

2. I never meant to write a political blog in the first place.

Because of #2, I won’t get into the details of #1. But for my parting shot, here is a list of my top three candidates, in order of personal preference–which does not necessarily match the order of their chances of getting nominated.

1. Duncan Hunter

2. Fred Thompson

3. John McCain

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How Christian Fiction and Hollywood Are Alike

I just heard that the latest anti-war movie, Lions for Lambs, bombed at the box office this past weekend, only pulling in about $7 million. That’s an opening weekend. With three mega-stars at the helm (Redford, Cruise, and Streep). (See, they’re so “mega” I didn’t have to include first names for you to know who I mean.)So, why is the movie struggling?

One critic’s assessment: “Lions for Lambs simply isn’t fresh or courageous enough to make an impact let alone a difference.”

Really?  Is that the problem?  More importantly, is that the goal: to make an “impact,” or a “difference?”  I thought the goal was to make great movies.  Granted, there are lots of different types of movies, and different reasons for making them.  There are movies for kids; movies for pure entertainment; movies that move us and make us think.  And then there are movies like Lions for Lambs, otherwise known as “message movies.” (Note: a message movie is not the same as a movie that makes us think.  A message movie tells us what the makers think and expects us to quietly agree.)

Here is where my title comes in.  Message movies and most Christian fiction have the same problem: they place more importance on the message than they do on either providing entertainment or artistic merit.  As one speaker at a writers’ conference I attended put it:  “They present life as it should be, not as it is.”

When we present life as it should be rather than as it is, our work does not ring true.  Work that does not ring true has little chance of reaching the heart, or even the funnybone, of the consumer.   Message movies and message-centered Christian fiction are little more than fictionalized lectures, which have no hope of reaching the heart.

People are rejecting transparent message movies because they are smart enough to know that they only tell part of the story.  People know that soldiers are suffering and dying and innocent lives are being lost, all of which are the harsh realities of war.  But people also know that soldiers are volunteering to go back and fight in what they believe is a noble cause.  People know that soldiers are not blind fools who are only going because they’ve been duped and used by Republicans.  People know that soldiers are not that stupid.

In the same way, people know that Christians are not as benign and (dare I say) bland as they are often presented in Christian fiction.  Christian fiction often only tells half the story, with any indiscretions being presented as innocent mistakes or anomalies in the character of the pure, well-intentioned characters.  What impact would King David’s story have if we were not exposed to the evil that he was capable of in his adultery with Bathsheba and heartless murder of her honorable husband?

If Hollywood or the CBA has any hope of reaching people with their messages (clearly, I’m rooting for the CBA, and not for Hollywood), their best shot is to let the message grow naturally out of the truth of their story.  Not to let the message control the story until it is an unrecognizable mess with no truth in it at all.

Why I Love to Teach

I got into teaching purely by accident. My husband is the one who felt called to teach. I was not interested. I spent all my days home schooling our girls, which I loved. But I had no desire to attempt to capture and hold the attention of more than, say, two students at a time.

My husband applied at a few schools between 2004 and 2006 and had no takers (his desire was not matched by classroom experience). Then, last summer, God led us to move many, many miles from home in order to be a part of a brand new school in Colorado.

The thing is, since it was a brand new school, it needed lots of new teachers. So, as a favor to the school and an act of solidarity with my husband, I signed on to teach a few English classes. I was anxious, sure I’d fail, horrified that I’d scar these kids for life. And absolutely positive that I’d hate every minute of it.

(Great attitude, I know. Don’t you wish your kids were in my classes?)

I’m still not sure whether I’ve scarred anyone for life, but I knew from the first half hour in that classroom that I most assuredly did not hate this teaching thing. Even when the kids were squirrelly little terrors (one class was chock-full of seventh graders), I was energized and pretty much full to the brim with joy.

I have two reasons, both simple.

First, I love kids. Head over heels, over the moon, I love them. I love to hear them say they “can’t” write and then show them that they really can, even though it never gets easy. I love to see their surprise when they realize they’re enjoying a book that was written in the 19th century, set in the 18th century. I love it when a parent emails me and tells me that she’s afraid her son won’t be able to get through the book he’s chosen for his book report; and I tell her to sit back and watch him triumph over what he (and she) thinks is impossible; and she does; and he does. I’ve got chills right now, just sitting here remembering.

Second, I love words. Put them in poetry, prose, essays, or transcendent, brilliant books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Gilead, Peace Like a River, Light in August or even The Velveteen Rabbit. I don’t care where I find them, read them, hear them, or write them, I love words. There is nothing quite like the feeling of finding precisely the right word. Unless it’s reading someone else’s precisely-right words. Words can be brusque, brutal, harsh, cruel. They can soothe, comfort, heal, inspire. Some words are inherently hilarious. Like flibbertigibbet. Come on, you know you just laughed.

So, now I spend my days with fabulous kids and marvelous words. It’s the very definition of a happy accident.

Not Me

On a news program this morning, I heard a defense lawyer proclaiming that Michael Vick will undoubtedly “recover” from his current woes. I don’t recall every word verbatim, but the gist of it was this: “Michael Vick has lots of loyal fans.  Atlanta loves him.  Football fans love him.  They’ll forgive him and he’ll be back on the field by next season.”

Well, I beg to differ.  And, as a Georgia girl (an Atlanta one, specifically) as well as a huge football fan, I think my vote counts.   As a matter of fact, Michael Vick headed up my fantasy football team last year, taking me to a third place finish in my league.  And I happen to care very much about the character of my players.  The guys in the league (I’m the only estrogen-bearing team owner) all laughed at my philosophy the first year: no jerks on my team, thank you.  That rules out Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Chad Johnson, to name a few.  To hammer the point home, I named the team the Mama’s Boys.  And the guys quit laughing when I won that first season.

Obviously, I don’t have a say about who the Falcons put on the field at the Georgia Dome.  But he won’t be on the Mama’s Boys’ virtual field, no matter when he returns.

A Bit of Politics

A big thanks to Jeremy for helping me get the lovely linky image in my sidebar!

I never intended for this blog to have anything to do with politics, but with the ’08 election looming and no clear Republican nominee in sight, I have been doing a lot of research into the various candidates. As usual, my favorites have been the “second tier” candidates.

Until now. Mike Huckabee has moved up a tier, and I’m thrilled.

Michael Medved has a good bit to say–click here.

Blame the Florist

Here we have yet another example of man’s infinite capacity for passing the buck. (And by “man,” I mean “mankind,” so don’t get smug, ladies!)

A fellow sends a bouquet–complete with a cuddly stuffed animal and a love note–to his girlfriend. What’s newsworthy, you ask? The florist sent the receipt to his house. Where his wife found it. Naturally, our Romeo is suing the florist for one million bucks.

Are we missing something here? Do Don Juan’s marital problems really lie at the foot of the florist? The ridiculousness of the situation renders it almost comical, until you really stop and think about the pain that’s been inflicted. And no, I don’t mean the pain of Slick’s embarrassment. Though the couple was already going through a divorce, and the wife was apparently already aware of the girlfriend, it still must have opened up horrible wounds for her to actually be faced with evidence of her husband’s romance. Even the words he wrote on the card were included on the receipt, so she had to read her own husbands’ declaration of love for someone else.

One would hope that, faced with his wife’s reaction, Smarty Pants would have had at least a brief moment of stunned contrition. That this scenario would have shocked him into facing what he’s really doing to this woman that he once, presumably, loved enough to want to share his life with her.

But, like I said, man(kind)’s capacity for denial and finger-pointing is, as always, bottomless.

You know, I have some friends who could use a nice bouquet. I believe I’ll click on over to 1 800 Flowers.

Care to join me?