Friday, January 31, 2014

That's Entertainment?

I have reached a terrible conclusion…I have become my grandmother.

As a young woman, my grandmother worked as a script girl at MGM studios. This was in the 1930s and 40s, when the likes of Lionel Barrymore and Shirley Temple were in their prime. I once told Grandma that I had thought it would be a fun and exciting job, but she quickly burst my bubble. She recalled an experience where a famous male star called for her and when she entered the room where he was, he exposed himself to her. To be fair, my grandmother was probably the MOST proper and, um, private person you’ll ever know. And she was deeply offended. She had seen the seemy underbelly of Hollywood. She said that said she could never respect an industry so full of filthy people. 

As a teenager, the magnificence of the epic masterpiece The Ten Commandments was ruined for me when Grandma proceeded to explain sets and trick photography. Of course I knew it wasn’t real, but…she really spoiled the magic! I promised myself I would never let such things get in the way of enjoying good entertainment.

Fast forward to just a couple of years ago, when we were in the hospital (wow, I say that like I was there, which I was…but it was Robert who was IN the hospital, not me, although I was right by his side nearly 24/7), we sort of got out of the habit of watching TV. I know…it sounds crazy, right?  I mean, what is there to do when you sit in a hospital room for 43 days in a row? Well, we just didn’t watch TV much. It was probably a combination of a desire to spend our last moments on earth together differently and the fact that high levels of pain meds made it difficult for Robert to concentrate for very long. Then again, we both had a different attitude about the meaning of life and most TV shows we could find on the hospital network didn’t really contribute to feeling peace and comfort. At any rate, we didn’t watch TV much at all during that time.

And after he was gone, I didn’t have much time or desire to watch TV either. So many other things to do, and I wanted things to keep my mind and heart at peace. Activities with family and friends seemed to be much more exciting, so the TV stayed off (we’ve not had cable or satellite for years). Mostly off, that is, until about two weeks ago. 

I wanted to watch a fun show that Robert and I had enjoyed before, The Sing Off. The singing, the talent…that was incredible. I LOVE good music! But I couldn’t watch…. I wondered if the suggestive dancing and lyrics full of innuendo were present when we watched it before? Because the way some of the beautiful young people moved their bodies was certainly suggestive. Then one of the judges opened her mouth….and…well, I was a bit surprised to hear a talented and beautiful woman speak so coarsely and use words that made me glad there were no tender ears nearby to hear. I turned it off….I was sad. I wondered what had happened.

A few days later I tried again…this time a program that I had enjoyed watching on the iPad while Robert slept, a popular period drama from Britain on PBS. PBS is good, right? I was disappointed in the way the storyline had moved away from showing the class struggles with real problems to a program so full of (oh my, what word works here?) salacious plot twists it became a completely unbelievable. As in, unreal. I don’t know, maybe my life has been so full of drama that I can call a fake plot twist from a mile away. Or maybe the show was just unreal. I recalled an evening when Robert had awakened by my side while I was watching that show years before and said, in a weakened voice, “Turn it off, it’s nothing more than a soap opera”, and now I realized he was right. 

I flipped channels…dark dramas, evil supernatural creatures, murder, rape, crime, cheating spouses, random violence, you name it, it seemed like every show had it. I almost wondered if the news and the TV shows had gotten confused. Oh wait, it had. I mean..what passes for news? Someone’s barely adult son got a DUI and it was news because he has a CD (or two) out? It’s sad is what it is, it’s not news. A bunch of impressionable young women think he’s cool, but if he were to date your daughter, would YOU think it was cool? When did we become so confused? When did we start thinking that watching TV shows about a woman who has been cheated on by her politically motivated husband but then becomes unfaithful to him herself with co-workers is a valuable way to spend our time? What is right or good or even glamorous about that? Why are we sickened and saddened at news stories about bombings and  school shootings but then hail as artistic or entertaining the TV shows depicting the same things?

The Apostle Paul counseled the people of his day, but I believe it applies to us here and now, "whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovelywhatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Phillipians 4:8 

I love good entertainment. I love good music. Beautiful music and art bring me peace and fill my senses with joy. But there is no joy for me in watching people portray wickedness as acceptable or normal.  I cannot feel peace or happiness either. I choose not to seek after these things. Somoene I knew said, "TV is the medium by which we invite characters into our homes with whom we would never associate in real life."

Grandmother was right. There is nothing to respect about an industry that glorifies evil.

And that is why my TV remains dark most nights. Sometimes on a Friday evening my kids bring grandkids and we watch a movie, but they are movies about goodness, families and learning to make good choices. They are movies where wrong is wrong and right always wins. There is so much good in the world, we choose to seek after those things and to feel peace. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Age of Discontent

In the story Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye, the main character, a poor village milk man, sings of having material wealth. Tevye has already told us that he is a man of faith and has a desire also to be learned. But in this moment of dreaming of the things material wealth could buy for his family (and yes, maybe a moment of jealousy), he asks, 

“Lord, who made the lion and the lamb, 
You decreed I should be what I am, 
Would it spoil some vast eternal plan 
If I were a wealthy man?”

I have felt discontent. We all have at one time or another. My discontent has not been with things, mind you, but with situations. It has been disappointing to have my life plan change unalterably before my eyes more than once. I have felt stymied in my hopes and dreams on occasion. The grand plans of serving the Lord with my sweetheart by my side, traveling the world, of happy family gatherings with him….all of those plans have been disrupted. I have wondered, ‘what good is it to have hopes and dreams when they get interrupted so rudely?’ I have watched friends who are similarly stymied with life situations that are less than they ever hoped or dreamed. They may have had college plans that were sidelined by illness or finances, children who go fall into extreme addiction, children with severe illnesses that ravage their bodies and tax their families, spouses who suddenly and rudely decide not to be a spouse, careers that do not play out as hoped, or yes, spouses taken away in the prime of life. All of these and a host of other monkey wrenches can appear to ruin our well laid plans for life. 

I have wondered how to reconcile the wrenched life with the life I am in. I have poured out my tears in prayer. These disrupted plans are not wicked schemes, they are wholesome and righteous plans. Why can’t the Lord just give me what I want and plan? I have felt to ask, as Tevye, ‘would it spoil some vast eternal plan’ if my life just played out like I planned it?

Alma, a prophet of old, also had grand desires in his heart. 

“O, that I were an angel and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!”

What could be more noble and righteous than that? He desired to serve the Lord in a glorious way.

But Alma’s next words are also instructive; “…I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.”

Boy, does that thought dash grand plans! But as I have pondered this statement, I have found comfort. 

THIS life, the one I am in, is the life that my loving Father in Heaven planned for me. It is the one He knows will teach me the most and allow me the greatest path to learning. Through God’s grace and continual tender mercies, of which I have received many, I know that I am loved and all of these situations are for my personal benefit and growth. 

In this age of discontent, I am happy now to keep walking forward in the direction I am headed, knowing that Christ has overcome the world and that through His Atoning Grace, I can continue to learn and grow. I have not given up dreams of earthly happiness, I have come to see that a desire for eternal happiness with my sweetheart is something that I build here and now. That even though Robert is not physically present, we are working together on THAT vast eternal plan, and that there is much to be content with. There is much to do here and now. I am learning to trust that God’s plan, His Grace, is sufficient for me, and that gives me not only contentment, but Joy.

The answer to Tevye’s query is, “Yes! If I give you all that you want, YOU will be spoiled. You will not learn to trust me as you need to. This path you are on is where I know you can BE good, become better and also DO good!”

How much more can we be joyful
When there’s really something

To be joyful for!