I hate to keep harping on television shows for lessons in life, and yes, I do do other things besides watch tv mini-series, but this one is so amazingly profound that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about it today.  Plus…it’s somehow also incredibly funny.

Last week’s episode of “Game of Thrones” – and I know many of you reading this are not GOT fans, but don’t stop reading just yet, because the moral of the story is just as applicable to non-fans as to those who have been feverishly following the series for years and anxiously awaiting the last batch of episodes before it all ends in a few weeks – was the much anticipated Battle of Winterfell.

You don’t need me to tell you all about it if you’re not a watcher of the show; all you need to know is that the bad guys are corpses brought back to some semblance of life just so they can kill the good guys or even the semi-good guys, in true GOT fashion, because there are plenty of those.  There are also dragons and crypts and lots of swords and fire. Not to mention thousands upon thousands of fighting men (and some women), so the spectacle was long-waited for.

Plus, the on-going publicity for this episode made much of the expense the producers and HBO had gone to to insure that the viewing audience would absolutely be enthralled by the spectacle of the battle scenes; the claim – reiterated many times – was that no motion picture or television series had ever seen the likes of this kind of pageantry and grandeur when it came to battle scenes.

There was only one problem:

The show was so dark that it was almost impossible to see much of anything, including all the action that you knew was taking place because the sound track was doing a great job of portraying the screams and groans and dying sounds that accompanied what were probably incredible battle scenes.  I sat there wondering if there was any way to make my room – my home office – any darker, because I absolutely could NOT see what was going on.  Every once in a while I’d get a flash of something – thank you, dragons breathing fire! – but then…darkness again.  Blackness.  Just shadows and motion that indicated something was happening.  But you couldn’t prove it by me.

I was amused to see on Facebook the other day so many Twitter feeds about this very thing, some of them hilariously funny.  For example, in a Popsugar.com article which referenced quite a few of these remarks, someone tweeted: “Turning off my own lights isn’t enough. Everyone in DC needs to turn out their lights for it to be dark enough in this house to see what’s happening in this episode.”  Another tweet: “Imagine spending millions of dollars on history-making battle sequence and you don’t even bother to light it well enough for anyone to see what’s going on…” And another comment, “I was absolutely convinced that we needed to upgrade our television and watch it again.”

Well, you get the point, I’m sure.

And as I smiled and laughed reading these comments, I was struck by a few life lessons, because indeed life lessons are all around us if we are willing to look for them.  Here’s what this episode of Game of Thrones, The Battle of Winterfell, taught me:

First, you’re almost never the only one to react a certain way.  While watching the episode, I was sure I was going blind or that old age had finally done my eyesight a turn and I’d have to adjust the tv for it permanently.  I was a bit shocked when I saw the abundance of comments that agreed that the episode was too dark for so many viewers…and these are just the few I read on Facebook.  I imagine there are many, many more out there, and so I am not alone.

Second, you can spend an awful lot of money and still make a horrendous mistake.  I don’t know where the buck stops on something like the lighting or lack of it on a tv episode, or if everyone on the crew came away after watching early screenings of The Battle of Winterfell and said, “This is amazing; just what we want!” But surely there’s a gap between what they created and what the viewing audience wants, and that’s a lot of money for what may be a big mistake.  Not the end of the world, but it teaches me that mistakes come in all price ranges.  And this one isn’t going to cause a war or global warming furtherance, so on that kind of scale, it’s not so bad.  There, I’m calmer about the darkness of the episode already, seen in this light (no pun intended).

Third, there’s a potential moral or story in everything.  Look for it, shape it, tell it, and laugh about it.  Share it if it’s good enough to share, or just tell it to your spouse or a good friend if it’s not that good.  But just creating the story in your mind is a good exercise of your creativity, so be willing to do the work to put it together.

And now, I’m going to watch tv tonight, and I’m going to look for the lightest, brightest shows I can find.

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Posted by: ritagone | April 24, 2019

Something to Think About…

Another great daily devotional from Nancy Guthrie’s “Book of Hope,” which I’m finding to be one of the best contemporary devotional books I’ve used.  Not only is it a beautifully bound book in simulated leather and a ribbon book marker, but she deserves the right to talk about tragedy and how to overcome it through Jesus, having lost two children at six months old through a genetic disorder.  So when she writes of great loss and falling into the arms of Jesus, you know she’s practiced what she preaches.  Besides, I love the way she writes.  Read this piece from a few days ago, and you’ll understand why I say that:

 

MERCY SAVES ME FROM GETTING WHAT I DESERVE – “He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy.” – Titus 3:5

 

 

“We live in a world that teaches us: ‘The early bird gets the worm,’ ‘No pain, no gain,’ ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch,’ and ‘You get what you pay for.’  We’re comfortable in this world where people get what they deserve, at least in theory. But when pain invades our lives, we quickly say, ‘I don’t deserve this!’ and claim our right to justice. Believing we have a right to fairness, we feel violated when we think we haven’t gotten what we deserve.

But if we open our eyes to the rest of the world where most people do not live with even the basics of comfort and security that we enjoy, or if we look back on the living conditions and daily-life realities previous generations lived and died with, we realize that to assume we deserve a life free of loss and pain is not only unrealistic, it is arrogant. Our insistence that we don’t deserve to suffer betrays our naiveté and narcissism.  Just what have we done to deserve the lives we enjoy and the people we love?

On the surface, a perfectly fair world appeals to us. But would we really want to live in such a world? In a perfectly fair world, there is no room for grace – receiving what you don’t deserve. Neither is there room for mercy – being spared from receiving the punishment you do deserve. Suffering may be undeserved, but so is our redemption. A fair world might be a nice place for us to live, but it would only be as nice as we are. And we know we’re really not that nice. We deserve punishment but receive forgiveness; we deserve wrath but experience love; we deserve death, but God has shown us mercy.

Living in a world where we do not always get what we deserve, and one in which we sometimes get what we don’t deserve, means that we will suffer loss. But it also means we will receive mercy. We naturally dread pain, but isn’t it worth it if it means we will also experience the gift of grace and the release of mercy?

 

Merciful Savior, you have forgiven my guilt and pitied my helplessness. Your mercy is the hope I cling to that balances out the pain in this unfair world. Thank you for not treating me as my sins deserve, but for showing me mercy.

Posted by: ritagone | April 17, 2019

Call the Midwife

Well, if you were to put a gun to my head and ask me to name my favorite TV show of all time, I would have to say that it’s “Call the Midwife,” a British period piece of the late 1950’s into the early 60’s, set in an impoverished section of London near the River Thames. It’s based on the memoirs of midwife Jennifer Worth, whose aged voice-over which is heard at the opening and closing of the show is supplied by Vanessa Redgrave.  The cast is magnificent, the writing is beautiful, and the sets make you feel that you know what it was like to live in that place and during that time.

But what really wins my heart is the frequent use of voice-over narration like this, which was from last week’s episode dealing with a baby born with a cleft palate into a family of rambunctious siblings to a harried mother whose husband was at sea most of the year:

“We can decide to be happy, make much out of little, embrace the warmth of our ordinary days. Life unfolds, as a mystery, an enterprise whose outcome cannot be foretold. We do not get what we expect, we stumble on cracks, are faced with imperfection, bonds are tested and tightened, and our landscapes shift in sunshine and in shade.  There is light. There is. Look for it. Look for it shining over your shoulder on the past. It was light where you went once; it is light where you are now; it will be light where you will go again.”

How can anyone resist such beautiful sentiments expressed bravely and honestly at the end of an hour-long episode that wrings your emotions and makes you stop and think about humanity in all its glory and its gainliness?

For eight years this series has touched me and made me both laugh and cry.  I have watched characters come and go, age, die off, and battle such things as alcoholism or whether or not to stay in the calling of a nun or return to civilian life and marry.  There’s no spectacle the way there is with “Game of Thrones,” to be sure; just the occasional kids’ Christmas or Easter program where the little ones are dressed in costume and someone invariably goofs up a line or spills red punch on the outfit right before going onstage.

They’ve tackled subject matter that was controversial back in the day historically (abortion, Downs syndrome, wife beating) and remains so even today.  There is humor that comes at just the right time, as if the writers and producers know when to lighten up and let the audience laugh instead of cry. (And I’ll wager that’s exactly what they do know!)  I know many people love the sentimentality of “This Is Us” right now, but I find “Call the Midwife” much less manipulative, more touching in its story lines.  If you’re a “This Is Us” fan, in fact, watch an episode of each of the shows and see which one feels more sincere, less contrived.  I’d be interested in what you have to say.

In short, if you haven’t already guessed it, I love this show.  You can watch it on Netflix or Amazon Prime (but you have to pay for each episode on Prime), and if you’re looking for something really good, this is where I’m sending you.

Hey, have I ever steered you wrong before?

Posted by: ritagone | April 3, 2019

Nothing Is Better Than an Evening with Old Friends

Last night (well, at 5 p.m.,

to be exact, because we’re older now and disband at the other end of the evening earlier than we used to) I got together with three old friends, ladies I have known for the better part of my adult life, part of a group which used to call itself, with wild and sarcastic abandon, “The Ladies of the Night.”  It was a title we bestowed on ourselves, tongue in cheek, and which we thought was very funny.  We still do.

Last night the four of us met at one of our homes for a deliciously prepared dinner and dessert, wine (or Diet Coke, in my case, because of my headaches), lots of reminiscing, laughter, and some tears, because you can’t be friends with people for 30 or so years without bringing up some pretty emotional and hard-to-relive experiences.

I learned a lot last night: I learned that the human bladder is a delicate thing, that cooking and presentation, while I can thoroughly enjoy someone else doing it, is definitely not my “thing,” that three hours is not enough time to get everyone’s story in, and that time actually does fly when you’re having fun.

And probably the most important lesson of all: old friends are hard to come by.  If you have someone who’s been in your life for more than a decade, cherish them.  Treasure the history you have built together, and let them know what they mean to you.  Spend time together whenever and wherever you can.  Laugh a lot.  Cry even more.

And if you don’t have any old friends that fall into this category that I’ve been describing, go out today and start making some new old friends to last the rest of your life!

I’ll be in New York City next Wednesday, so I won’t be writing next week.  See you on the 17th with some good stories from the trip to the Big Apple!

Posted by: ritagone | March 27, 2019

Your Defining Moment

One of my favorite devotional writers, Christine Caine, in her book “Unshakeable,” writes the following, and I’d like to share it this morning with you, dear readers:

 

Your Defining Moment

 

Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? – Esther 4:14

 

At some point in your Christian life, you’ll be faced with a crossroads decision. We face them when we consider changing jobs, moving out of state, or going back to school.  We face them when we have to choose between looking out for our own interests or the interests of others.

Esther was a queen in the Bible who faced such a decision. An evil adviser had persuaded her husband, King Xerxes, to sentence her people, the Jews, to death.  Her uncle Mordecai pointed out that she was uniquely positioned to save the people – to petition the king.  But it was dangerous.  Esther chose to put God and the people first.

I call that a defining moment – and eventually, we all have them. Maybe yours hasn’t happened yet, but at some point you will have the opportunity to make an eternal difference in the lives of others.  It may be something as simple as driving someone to the doctor or skipping a movie to be with a hurting friend, but it will be a defining moment. A moment when you choose to do the right thing and it affects someone’s life.

Keep close to God and attune your heart to His plans around you, so you don’t miss any defining moments.

 

God, please show me the defining moments You send my way. Thank You for opportunities to make an eternal difference in someone’s life today and every day.

Posted by: ritagone | March 20, 2019

Paranoia! Conspiracy! Deception! Lies!

Now that I have your attention, I want to tell you about an HBO Documentary I just watched –The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley – which I think every

one reading this should find a way to see if HBO is not readily available to you.

It’s the now famous story of Elizabeth Holmes, wunderkind who started the company Theranos promising to revolutionize blood testing by using a simple finger prick instead of (what often seems like) vials and vials and vials of blood from your veins.  With people on her Board of Directors like former Secretary of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger, with her blonde good looks and personable ways (although the fact that she hardly ever seems to blink is, I found, a bit off-putting), she built an office building/laboratory in Silicon Valley after dropping out of Stanford, razzled and dazzled everyone for years, even when the promise became impossible to fulfill.

What amazed me as I watched whistleblowers and journalists as the heroes of this story, was that how often we are bamboozled by the things I mentioned in the above paragraph: promises, well-known names attached to the project, an attractive founder who can be very articulate about its prospects, and other factors that just turn our heads and make us believe, as one writer said, “in unicorns.”

        The story behind this documentary is all too familiar, and illustrates to me a very definite point: we can be pretty gullible, pretty susceptible to the lies and deceptions of other people too often.  Why is that?  Sometimes it’s because we want to think well and positively of the people we know.  Other times it’s because they are so adept at pulling the wool over our eyes.  Elizabeth Holmes appeared so sweet, so earnest, so enthusiastic about her mission in life, to bring this one aspect of health care to as many of the general population as she could, with her mantra being, “No one should have to say good-bye too soon,” that it was hard to resist her appeal.

And yet.  And yet.  Beneath the sales pitch, beneath the enthusiasm, machines were being switched, patients were being fooled, and staff being asked to lie and cheat if they wanted to keep their jobs. It got more and more out of hand.

Thankfully, the company is no more.  What was at one time a nine billion dollar business is now worth zero.  But it makes me wonder what other companies and people are out there trying their best to swindle, to lie and cheat and deceive us.

No wonder we need a free press to get to the bottom of things, to expose these kinds of deceptions.  No wonder we praise the whistleblowers (sometimes, whereas sometimes we don’t) who are brave enough to take a risk to come forward and speak the truth.

You don’t need to go hunting for a good fictionalized movie to see this weekend.  Just find this documentary, sit back, watch, and be amazed once again at what people are capable of.

 

Posted by: ritagone | March 13, 2019

A Simple Thought

So simple.

And yet so eloquent.

A great, powerful, wonderful society is all of those things when old men plant trees knowing they will not live to sit under the shade of those trees.

In other words, when those old men sacrifice for the next generations willingly and generously.

I don’t think I need to say much more than this.

Think about it.  Ponder it. Process it.

It’s so simple, yet so profound.

Posted by: ritagone | March 6, 2019

Even This Day???

 

One of my devotional books this year is “The One Year Book of Hope” by Nancy Guthrie, a woman who sustained great loss in her life yet chooses to love and honor God and Jesus anyway.  Anyway.  That’s the key: being able to go on and go on well.  Here’s her writing for one day that moved me greatly, and I wanted to share it with you.

 

EVEN THIS DAY?

“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God!” – Psalm 139:16-17

 

On the days when life seems good, it is easy to say to God, “Every day of my life was recorded in your book.” But on the day tragedy strikes, on the day our lives are changed forever by loss, we wonder.  Was this day of my life written in your book, by your hand? Is this the story you have intended to write for my life, or has there been a terrible mistake?

On April 20, 2001, missionary Veronica Bowers was in a Cessna over Peru, holding her seven-month-old daughter, Charity, in her lap. With them were Veronica’s husband, Jim, and six-year-old son, Cory, when Peruvian authorities mistook them for drug couriers and opened fire on their aircraft. One bullet passed by Jim’s head and made a hole in the windshield. Another bullet passed through Veronica’s back and stopped inside her baby, killing them both.

We can’t help but wonder, Was April 20, 2001, written in God’s book?

A week later Jim Bowers said at his wife and daughter’s funeral, “I want to thank my God. He’s a sovereign God. I’m finding that out more now. Could this really be God’s plan for Roni and Charity, God’s plan for Cory and me and our family? Roni and Charity were instantly killed by the same bullet. Would you say that’s a stray bullet? That was a sovereign bullet.”

A sovereign bullet? Think about it. Jim Bowers went on to say that the people who shot the bullet were used by God to accomplish his purpose, comparing them to the Roman soldiers whom God used to put his Son on the cross (Acts 2:23). At first it can seem absurd to label what happened as anything other than a senseless tragedy. But Jim Bowers sees beyond the real culpability of those who fired weapons at their tiny plane and sees instead the sovereignty of God. His words reflect a ruthless trust in God.

Are you willing for your belief in God’s sovereignty to permeate your thinking and captivate your heart, enabling you to write across the arrows that pierce your heart and the hurts that invade your life: sovereign?

 

Writer of all my days, it seems a dangerous prayer to invite your sovereignty to rule what is written every day of my life, but knowing how precious your thoughts are about me helps me to trust you and entrust my life to you fully.

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | February 27, 2019

How Easy It Is To Be Hypocritical!

 

 

 

I watched the Academy Awards last Sunday night, like many others, rooting for my favorites and wondering which movies would win and which actors.  It’s fun to guess.  This year I had $5 in a pool of voters, so I had a lot at stake!!!!  (I lost, by the way, badly, but that’s another story.)

What I want to talk about briefly today is how easy it is to be a hypocrite and not even notice.  I say this first of all about myself, because the minute I use someone else as an illustration, I realize that I too make the same kinds of mistakes.  So know as I write these words that I put myself in this category of unwitting hypocrite too.

I’m speaking, though, about Spike Lee, the director this past year of “BlackkKlansman,” which, I will say, was my favored movie to win Best Picture.  I thought it was a well done film, memorable, with substance and gravitas, a film to last for a long while if it had won this major award.  Poor Mr. Lee has not done well in the awards department, having never won as Best Director, so he’s due.  He’s a good director, I’m told.  I wouldn’t know.  I always think I could direct a movie; it doesn’t look that difficult.  Then my husband rolls his eyes, my son walks out of the room in disgust, and I know I’ve said the wrong thing, made the absolute wrong assumption.

Anyway, just in case you didn’t watch the Awards program this past week, Spike Lee did win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “BlackkKlansman,” and at the end of his very muddled speech, he launched into a plan to derail Trump’s second run for the presidency.  “Let’s all mobilize,” he said. “Make the moral choice between love versus hate.  Let’s do the right thing!”

“Let’s do the right thing!”

“Make the moral choice between love versus hate.”

Got it.

Only, not even a few hours later, Mr. Lee was criticizing the movie “Green Book” for willing Best Picture with some not very nice comments and unloving statements.  Where’s the love?  Where’s the right thing when what he wanted to happen didn’t happen?

It’s called hypocrisy when you say one thing and then turn right around and do another. Or say one thing and then an hour later say something completely opposite of what you said earlier.

We all do it; we’re all guilty of it.

I just wish that Spike Lee – public figure that he is, admired by so many that he also is – would recognize that words and attitude coming from him mean something and say a lot more than cries to do the right thing and make the moral choice between love and hate do.

And then I’ll also take what I’m writing here to heart in my own life.

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | February 20, 2019

Decisions, Decisions!!

Sometimes making a decision feels better even than eating ice cream.

Michael and I have been debating, talking, processing, thinking over the last year or so about our living situation: should we stay where we are, in a rather large (4,000 square feet) house with a big back yard and a pool and spa which are hardly ever used or downsize to a smaller house, even though the one we’re in now suits us as far as floor plan (no formal dining room, no family room, we each have an office, there are two guest rooms and a master bedroom, and all on one floor except for one guest room which we never ever go into) and location?

And then, through a set of circumstances, we found ourselves with lots of quiet time, so we set about talking to one another A LOT!!  And we listened A LOT to what we each had to say, how we felt, our dreams and plans for the future.

And we came to a wonderful consensus that we wanted to stay where we were, unused swimming pool and all.  (I must confess that the pool guy for some strange and unexplained reason doesn’t send us a bill and hasn’t for a few years.  So it’s essentially a free pool, which makes it a lot more palatable to own for when it’s wanted during the summer for grandkids and poolside parties.)

So now we’re on a mission to rehabilitate our house so that it’s the way we want it for the remainder of the time we will live in it: new flooring (that is not carpet) in the bedrooms and two offices, new windows that will do a better job keeping us insulated and draft-free, tiles on the roof repaired.  You get it.

But what really feels good about all of this is that we have made a decision, we’ve made it together, we’re on the same page about it, and we’re moving forward!!!

Are there decisions in your life that you need to make, but you find yourself stalled, unable to pull the trigger?  I’m praying for you, even if I don’t know who you are  specifically or what the details of your decisions are.  Because I know what it’s like to be undecided…and then I know the wonderful joy and relief of decision making.  And I want that for everyone reading this.

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