Tag Archives: Horror

God’s People, part 98: Exiled

Read Lamentations 4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine became so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.” (2 Kings 25:3 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Circle_of_Juan_de_la_Corte_-_The_Burning_of_Jerusalem_by_Nebuchadnezzar_s_ArmyPart 98: Exiled. I always love when people say that they can’t read the Bible because it is “boring” and it “puts them to sleep.” It makes me laugh because it couldn’t be further from the truth. The Bible is comprised of 66 books, within which we find genres such as history, poetry, philosophy, action, adventure, mystery, drama, romance, suspense, and certainly horror. Don’t believe me on the last one? Then let us look at the events that led to exile.

As you know, from when we discussed King Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar II besieged Jerusalem because Zedekiah had double crossed him and allied himself with Egypt. It is easy, if we are not absorbing what we are reading, to gloss over this event as if it happened in a flash and was no big deal. If we are not intentional we can read it like we read a paragraph in an American History textbook summarizing the Battle of Gettysburg.

So, if you didn’t already, I want you to read 2 Kings 25:1-21 and Lamentations 4. Read them slowly and carefully and you will, no doubt, find your skin growing cold and your blood curdle in your veins. What happened during the siege of Jerusalem is nothing short of gory horror. The terror of the people of Judah can still be felt, their screams still echoing in the collective memory we find in etched in the Bible.

Flavius Josephus (b. 37 AD – d. 100 AD), a Jewish historian who was working for the Romans, recorded that the siege lasted 18 long months. On the other hand, the author of 2 Kings tells us that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, allowing nothing to enter nor to leave, on January 15th of the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign. That siege didn’t end until July 18th of the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign according to the New Living Translation of the Bible. If you do the math, that means that the siege lasted somewhere between 18 and 30 months.

As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for people to starve. Lamentations paint the grisly scene in elaborate detail. If you are squeemish, you might want to skip past the next part:

The wailing of hungry children endlessly filled the air. People were begging and crawling through the garbage dumps to find anything they could to eat. The wealthy were as ragged as the poor, their faces blackened with dirt and soot. Once fattened by their wealth, they were now nothing more than walking skeletons.

The luckiest among the citizens of Jerusalem were killed by the sword or in some other violent fashion; yet, many were not so lucky. The living wasted away to nothing, slowly starving to death. Things got so desperate that the starving mothers began to cook their babies, eating the meat off of their little bones in order to survive. The Lamenter does not let us know whether the babies were alive or dead when they were cooked, but the horror of it is not something you can not easily shake off.

Boring, right? The kind of history lesson that just puts you right to sleep. Sarcasm aside, this was a horror that Jewish people still have in their collective psyche to this very day. From that point on, the Jews lost and never really gained their sovereignty back as a kingdom, minus a short century or so under the Hasmonean Dynasty. While Israel did become a nation again in 1948, the nation of Israel now bears little resemblance to the Kingdom it once was.

The city fell, Zedekiah tried to escape but he and his sons were captured. He was forced to watch his sons be slaughtered in front of his eyes, which were then gouged out of his head. He, and many of the Jewish aristocracy were exiled from their city, taken in captivity back to Babylon. The golden age of this great kingdom, the kingdom that David forged centuries earlier, was no more. The Lamenter gives us a clue as to why: “Our king—the LORD’s anointed, the very life of our nation—was caught in their snares. We had thought that His shadow would protect us against any nation on earth” (Lamentations 4:20 NLT)!

From Saul onward the Israelites placed their hopes in a human king to protect them, rather than relying on, trusting in, and obeying God. The question I would like us to reflect on is this, are we any different? Do we place our trust in God? Do we? Do we trust God enough to obey what God teaches us, or do we save the Bible for church, but place our trust in our nations’ leaders to protect and save us? In my observation, the latter seems to be the case by and large. If you are someone who places your trust in human leaders, presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, or dictators, I would like to challenge you to reflect on the Siege of Jerusalem and the exile of God’s people.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
There is only one Lord and Savior: Jesus Christ. All others will fall extremely short every time.

PRAYER
Lord, steer me away from putting my trust in human leaders and help me to place my trust solely in you. Amen.

The Dark Woods

Read Matthew 5:13-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NLT)

blair_witch-2016-headerJust recently I was watching the direct sequel to the Blair Witch Project entitled, Blair Witch. I can remember the first film like it was yesterday. BWP was a highly anticipated film. It was 1999, only two years prior to 9/11, and the way the director and filmmakers chose to promote it gives us an idea on the kind of world the ‘90s were. They chose to use the real actors’ names in the film, put their names and faces on milk cartons, and stated they were missing…FOR REAL. What’s more, and I didn’t know this at the time, they sent each of the actor’s families a letter offering their condolences over the disappearance of their children/siblings.

Yikes, can you imagine being those family members and getting a notice stating that your child was missing and believed to be dead? It was a total commitment to realism, but I can only imagine the heartbreak that caused. Of course, the actors had to hide away, lay low, and keep quiet until the film came out. What’s more, they made a “mockumentary” and aired it on national, and international, television leading up to the film. The marketing was, in a word, brilliant; however, it did have its consequences. Heather Donahue, the main star, stated that the film forever changed her life…and not in a good way. The film went down in history as being one of the most influential horror movies of all time, and it also spawned countless copycats and/or “found footage” horror films that now flood the theaters.

The direct sequel to this film, Blair Witch, was just released in 2016 and it, too, follows the same format as the first film. By now, most (and I do stress most as some still believe that BWP is a true story) people are aware that these films are fiction; however, the newest installment still delivers in terms of intensity, scares and a foreboding sense of doom. What makes this work in both films is that they are filming it in the woods, and a majority of the film is shot at night with very little lighting, only enough to see the actors and their immediate surroundings.

Have you ever been in the woods at night? I have. Well, I practically live in the woods but, that aside, I have been in the pitch black woods at night with nothing but a flashlight to guide my way. It is not a pleasant experience because one’s sight is so limited. Limited sight is scary enough on its own, however, add in the fact that around you could be bears, coyote, mountain lions (I swear they exist here), and any other number of wildlife. All one experiences in the woods at night is darkness, shadowy formations of trees, and sounds of critters moving and leaves rustling.

Being in the woods at night is a great metaphor for living one’s life as a Christian in this world. Jesus tells us that we are salt of the earth and the lamp on a lampstand. In order for us to not lose our flavor as salt, we have to be willing to have the courage and the faith to go where God is leading us. We have to be willing to go into the dark woods and to live our lives faithfully within it. In order for us to do so, we have to not hide who we are or whose we are, for to do so is to hide the light of Christ under a basket. That is treacherous at best for then we do not have the light of Christ to guide our way, and we do not have the light of Christ to draw others to the Salvation we bear in us.

Here’s the catch, we cannot be faithful Christians without entering the dark woods. Following Jesus is NOT about playing it safe, it is about risking safety in order to bring Good News to the last, the least, and the lost. Today’s challenge for us is to reflect on where we are. Have we left the safety of our sanctuary? Have we left the safety of the arms of Christ in order to venture out into the dark woods? Have we left comfort behind to embrace the darkened path that Christ has chosen for us? If not, I pray you will take that next step for the harvest is great, but the workers are few.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey.” – Lord Byron

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for being my sanctuary no matter where I go. Help me rid myself of fear that I might bold step out into the darkness and shine your light. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Haunted

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. While I know we are in the midst of an on going series, “The Sermon”, I am in the midst of important paperwork this week, which is keeping me from writing my devotions. I thank you for your prayers. Please know that I will be diving back into that series next week. In the meantime, here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

Grim Grinning Ghosts

Read 1 Samuel 28:7-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” (Galatians 6:7 NLT)

clare-kramer-grave-dancers-movie-stills-mq-07 “When the crypt doors creak and the tombstones quake, spooks come out for a singing wake. Happy haunts materialize and begin to vocalize. Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize.” Thus the song, “Grim Grinning Ghosts”, kicks off as one is winding down from the roof of Walt Disney World’s “The Haunted Mansion”, to the graveyard below, filled with ghostly ghouls and whisping spirits flying through the night sky. As a huge Disney fan, who will be at the parks this summer as well, “The Haunted Mansion” is without doubt my all-time favorite ride.

As most people know, I love horror movies and, in particular, I love a good ghost tale. One of my more favorite ghost movies is an independent film called, “Gravedancers”. I am not sure how many people realize this or not, but it is a fact that this film was inspired by Disney’s “The Haunted Mansion”, which is the favorite ride of the director/writer of the film. He has loved that ride since he was a child and the frightful fancies it induced.

In fact, it is the song from the famous ride, “Grim Grinning Ghosts” that the director drew the most inspiration from when coming up with the ghosts that were going to be haunting his film. Perhaps, the word “haunt” is an understatement when it comes to these ghosts. Take a long, uncomfortable look at the ghost pictured above. They go beyond creepy, to downright making your skin crawl at first sight.

Like all horror films, there is a certainly immorality present in all of the characters that causes the horror they go through to manifest in their lives. The ghosts that haunt them, no doubt, do so because they disregard their own moral compasses and act selfishly, with little regard to others (including the dead) in the process. Their sins literally come back to haunt them in ways that are both horrifying and unforgettable. Like, the images literally are etched into one’s mind after seeing this film.

One of the main moral failures that he characters display in this film, is the utter and total disregard of others. The story starts off with a group of college friends reuniting years after they had graduated in order to attend the funeral of one of their former friends. Following the funeral, they all go out drinking and end up taking their party to a cemetery because, well, excessive alcohol intake leads to some pretty nonsensical and irrational decisions and deeds.

At the cemetery, they open up a letter in a black envelope that has a poem in it, which beckons them to dance on the graves of the dead. To most sober people, this would sound like a bad idea just out of respect for the dead and their living, grieving, loved ones. But these characters (to avoid using a more pejorative word) think this would be a great way to celebrate their lives. So they dance and, in doing so, desecrate the graves of the dead, awakening the rage of some pretty vengeful and malicious spirits.

There’s something in this story for us to pull from. How often do we go about our lives, merely thinking of ourselves and our own. We call ourselves Godly people because we, typically, care for those we love and those who love us back. We call ourselves “good” people because there are “far worse” people than us out there; however, we are, admittedly, “not as good” as we could be. We measure the merit of our lifestyles by how much gratification it gives us, with often little to no regard for whether our lifestyles are impedeing and/or harming others, and we fight to keep the status quo so that the powers that be, so-to-speak, favor us over and above others.

While we may not be dancing on the graves of the dead, we are often living our lives in a way that dances on the lives of others, thus sealing their fate in terms of their suffering. We often are dancing on the living graves of the oppressed in order to enjoy the benefits that are afforded to us but not to others. In doing so, we are also simultaneously conjuring up grim grinning ghosts that come to haunt us in ways we could have never imagined.

Just take a look at all of the chaos and woes of society, and you will see the grim grinning ghosts that have been unearthed by the sins of a people who have forgotten to live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. What can we do about it? We can choose to begin to fight for justice, for equality, and for the peaceable Kingdom of God in our households, our communities, and our world. Through standing up for such ideals, and through self-reflection and contemplation, we can be holy agents of change.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts.” – Italo Calvino

PRAYER
Lord, empower me to recognize the ghosts I have unleashed in my life, and in the lives of others. Help me to stand true in your light in order to remove them once and for all. Amen.

Bewitched

Read Galatians 3:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14, NLT)

TheWitch01The lights darkened, the room silenced, and the discordant sound of stringed instruments filled the air in an unsettling and disturbing manner. The sounds of violin and cello cut through me like seraded steel as the theater screen faded in from black to the image of a teenager’s stone pale and frightened face. It was clear from the way that she was dressed that she was living in seventeenth century New England and that she was among a group of people known as the Puritans.

As it turns out, her father is standing trial for not adhereing to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, at the time a British colony, because he believes those laws to stand against the teachings of the Gospels. As such he and his family are banished and end up moving out of the village they were in and settling in the wilderness of New England on the edge of a think and dark wood (aka forest). While I will not give away anything, as I run a tight “no-spoiler” ship, this is where the 2016 film, “The Witch”, opens up and where the horror begins.

This film, as I see it, is a work of fine art and there is much for us Christians to pull from it. On the surface, the horror is centering on a potential witch that lives in the woods and is preying upon a New England family that is doing everything they can to remain godly and to stay together as a family. But as misfortune after misfortune happens, and as the family becomes more and more certain they are “witched”, the more and more it is that the real horror is revealed.

Right from the opening scene onward, we are made aware that this family is hypersensitive to their sin, to the sin of others, and to the soveriegnty of God. It is not wrong to be sensitive to those things in a healthy kind of way, but this family is overly sensitive, to the point that every conversation is filled with talk about their sinfulness, the wickedness of the world and the uncertainty of their own, let alone anyone else’s, salvation.

At every turn, the family is reminded that they are wicked and sinful and they start to have the feeling that they are “witched” because God is punishing them and handing them over to the devil as a result of their wickedness. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, is God’s grace really at play here in this film and in the psyche of the family. Even when God’s mercy is mentioned, it is with the understanding that they are in need of mercy because of their wickedness, and their pleading for it betrays their theology that they worship a God who just might not show mercy to them.

It becomes clear to me, without giving anything away from the actual story line of “The Witch” itself, that the family is bewitched by their own stringent, and horrific, theology. While it is true that God is  sovereign and it is true that we fall short of God’s glorious standard, it is NOT true that God is out to get us for our fallenness. Their theology is so damning that they could never, ever experience the grace and mercy that was already there waiting for them. They were so busy worrying about the prowling devil in the woods that they could not see that they had all they needed to thrive in the wilderness: their family and their faith.

Today’s challenge is this: don’t let yourself get bewitched by a negative and graceless theology. Rather, at every turn, steer clear of the devil by choosing to see the grace of God throughout your life, in your family, and in your community. Community is not perfect, but God is working to perfect it through your presence as well as others. Remember, God saved you from slavery to sin and death, so why negate that by making those things the foundation of your faith? Jesus Christ is the grace of God. That, and that alone, should be your faith’s foundation.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The devil’s work is division and separation from others.  God is the great uniter.

PRAYER
Lord, keep me from bewitching myself with bad theology. Remind me daily of your grace. Amen.

Haunted

Read 1 Samuel 28:7-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.” (Matthew 4:16, NLT)

Crimson-Peak-photo-600x400As a fan of Gothic Romance, Horror, and Ghost stories, I was super excited to see Guillermo Del Torro’s latest film, “Crimson Peak.” It is a film about an aspiring author falling in love with an obscure Baronet who lives in a remote Gothic mansion in the English hills. Following a very tragic event, Edith marries that Sir Thomas Sharpe (aka the Baronet) and moves with him to his remote mansion and begin a new life with him and his sister, Lady Lucille. While, I am not one to do spoilers, it would hardly spoil the fun of the film by saying that the move to England doesn’t end up as romantic or happily-ever-after as she would’ve hoped. It turns out that the mansion has a long, bloody, and terrible past that is literally haunting Edith at every turn. The ghosts of the past lurk in the halls, the walls and the floor boards of a house that is relentless in bringing the past to life to the horror of everyone involved.

What I loved about this film is that it is a ghost tale of the classic order. It doesn’t set out to give the audience cheap thrills and “gotcha” pop-out scares. While there is a little bit of that, this film seeks to get under one’s skin and haunt them in ways more profound than anything cheap could possibly accomplish. If Edgar Allan Poe were a film writer/director, then this is the film he would have come up with. As a result, I think that this film not only haunts us with the ghosts we see on the screen, but also gives us a glimpse at the ghosts that haunt us from within as well.

Each and everyone of us are haunted by ghosts of one form or the other. Each of us carries around with us things from the past that linger within us and haunt us like spooks in a boarded up abandoned house. Some of us carry around the things we’ve done in the past, similar to what I wrote about regarding skeletons in our closet. For some, there ghosts are there as a reminder of the foul play we’ve participated in. Perhaps we have hurt someone, perhaps we have harbored ill will toward people, perhaps we have harbored grudges, taken part in gossip, slandered those we don’t like, or perhaps we done things that we fear will expose us in ways that will be less than flattering.

On the other hand, many of us carry around ghosts of a different kind. We have endured hurts and been weighed down by the hangups that come from them. Perhaps we’ve been bullied, been abused, been mistreated, been cheated, or been burned in one way or the other. Perhaps we have been the victim of cruelty, victims of a weakened and demoralized self-esteem, victims of hatred and bigotry, or perhaps we have been beaten down by depression and other paralyzing diseases. Whatever we’ve been scarred by, we are haunted by the ghosts that remind us of the thorny and twisted path our lives have been journeying on.

What is important to note is that, whatever our ghosts are, they will not go away until we address the warnings they bear us. If your ghosts are closeted skeletons, address the ills you have done and sincerely reconcile yourself with your past and those you have brought harm to. If your ghosts are the kind that have been brought on by others and/or circumstances, then you need to address the warnings they bring you. Whatever you are demoralized from, whatever is casting a haunting, shadowy stain on your soul, these ghosts are serving to let you know that something is NOT right with how you currently view yourself. You are a beautiful person, a child of God, worthwhile, and valuable. Until you seek help and get past your ghosts, you will continue to head down the corridor of foreboding. I pray that you put your ghosts to rest and step out into the light where you belong.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” – Stephen King

PRAYER
Lord, help me to understand that the ghosts that haunt me are angels warning me that something needs to change. Help me, also to discover what that “something” is, and empower me to change it. Amen.

The Modern Prometheus

Read Psalm 14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness; they chatter on and on. No one really knows what is going to happen; no one can predict the future.” (Ecclesiastes 10:13-14 NLT)

FrankensteinOne of my more favorite books, as a fan of Gothic Horror, is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s “Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus”. Inspired by a group of friends who were all competing to see who could write the scariest horror story, Shelley penned Frankenstein about a doctor who would use science to create human life. Shelley’s world was one that had gone through the age of enlightenment and scientific knowledge was growing in leaps and bounds. There was seemingly no limit to human potential and it seemed as if humans could achieve anything if they so willed it. All it took was scientific discovery. As has happened ever since the Age of Enlightenment, scientific discovery got more and more narrowed down to physical and/or natural sciences, such as medicine, biology, anatomy, physiology, ecology, etc.

But Shelley also lived in a world that still held on to the other sciences as well. The word science comes from the Latin word scientiae, which means “knowledge.” Therefore, the sciences were avenues to attaining knowledge. Whether it be the knowledge of the physical/natural world, of wisdom (philosophy), of the mind (psychology), or even of God (theology), people have been in pursuit of such knowledge. Thus, the physical and/or natural sciences are no more or less science than philosophy, sociology, psychology, archaeology, and theology. All of these are avenues to knowledge…all of these are sciences.

In Shelley’s novel, Dr. Victor Frankenstein abandons himself to the physical sciences in order to attain something that the other sciences such as theology and philosophy might warn against. He attempts to leave the realm of humanity and starts to play God. The results are catastrophic, as one can imagine. Instead of creating another human being, Dr. Frankenstein creates what he ends up considering to be a monster and an abomination. In reality, the creation (who refers to himself as “Adam” in order to draw a parallel between himself and the first man created in Eden) is not the real monster…rather, Victor Frankenstein is the one who becomes monstrous in creating and abandoning “the Adam of [his] labours”, as well as for the hell he brings upon his household and his people.

Shelley’s novel is one that intentionally warns the reader about the danger of abandoning the sum of knowledge for just one of its parts. While we have learned a great deal about the world through the physical and natural sciences, that is not the whole of the knowledge we have to learn. Just as one who ignores the knowledge we have gained of ourselves and of the world through the physical sciences is considered to be foolish, so too is it foolish for one to ignore the knowledge we have gained of God, of the cosmos, of creation and of our relationship to all of the above through theology.

Today’s challenge is for us to move away from being like Frankenstein and toward a more holistic understanding of reality. We are not just physical beings, but we are also emotional, intellectual, psychological and SPIRITUAL beings as well. We cannot be one without the others. We cannot be one part without the whole. When attempt to be apart from the whole, we end up becoming hollow, shadowy caricatures of our former selves; when we abandon the whole of knowledge we often, in our willful ignorance, end up becoming monstrous and dangerous to the larger community around us. Christ is calling us from that to humility, curiosity, and open-mindedness…values that any true scientist would eagerly embody.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink, so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor.” (Ecclesiastes 10:1 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, teach me to be open to all of the possibilities so that I may grow in knowledge, as well as in wisdom. Amen.

The Beast Within

Read Luke 15:11-32

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT)

wolfmanJust recently I sat down to watch the remake of the Wolfman. Of course, the original 1941 Wolfman starring Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Bela Legosi and Evelyn Ankers will always be one of my favorite monster movies ever; however, with that said, the 2010 remake of that film does pay homage to it, all the while adding its own twists and spins.The root of the story is the same. Larry Talbot returns home after his brother dies suddenly and horribly. Upon getting home Larry ends up getting bit by what he believes is a wolf, and when the moon shines full and bright in the sky, things begin to get a bit hairy for Larry (pun totally intended) as well as for the village. In the remake, which is where the film departs from the 1941 storyline, we learn that Larry and his father, who is cold and quite distant, had a falling out years earlier over the death of Larry’s mother (among other things). Since that time, Larry had distanced himself with his father and his family (including his brother), and did not wish to return…that is until he learns of  his brother’s death.

When he does finally return he is not welcomed warmly, as is the case in the story of the prodigal son; rather, his father greets him coldly and indifferently. Clearly both father and son have a resentment toward one another and the result is, in the end, catastrophic. In more than one way, the fact that Larry ends up turning into a werewolf serves as a metaphor the hatred, bitterness, anger and unresolved hostility that is caged up inside of him. That is all being said as a matter of observation, without affirming or denying the justification he had to be angry, bitter, and hateful of a father who, in many ways, failed him from his childhood onward.

The truth is that we all have the beast that lies within us beneath the surface, don’t we. For most of us, we are able to supress the beast, to keep it locked away, and to move our lives forward in a positive, constructive and meaningful manner. Yet, there are some who have truly been beaten up in life, or at least the feel as if they have, and it is very hard for them to move beyond what has happened to them. It’s not right, or wrong, it just is. The problem is that, when we are unable to move beyond our past, that past comes back to haunt us and that is when that inner beast comes out in full force.

Today’s challenge is for those of us who have a hard time moving beyond our past, beyond the hurts, the pain, the abuse, and/or the perceptions we have of those we feel have wronged us (whether they have or not). If you are a person who struggles with this, know that forgiveness is attainable. There is a God who has forgiven us of our past and that same God is calling us to forgive others as well. Forgiveness does not mean that we forget what has happened, or that we somehow pretend it didn’t. Nor does it mean what happened to us is okay, or we should somehow justify it. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we ignore when wrong is being done, nor does it remove the obligation we have to seek justice, as well as reconciliation.

It is also important to note that forgiveness is not just to the benefit of the ones we are forgiving, rather, it is a benefit for us…perhaps even more so than the ones we forgive. Forgiveness is our way of saying that no matter what others do to us, God still loves us and cares for us and we aren’t going to harbor anything against anyone. We are defined by God not them, and in that recognition comes a liberation that not only keeps the beast at bay, but eliminates it altogether. Remember that no one is without the need to be forgiven; therefore, no one is above forgiving others. Forgive and be set free!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER

Lord, give me the strength to forgive, even as I seek to be forgiven, and move me beyond my hurts and pains to a life of joy and peace. Amen.

The Task at Hand

Read Acts 20:20-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12)

1600x1200-11587-nosferatu-wallpaper-hdI have been a life-long fan of the classic horror films. Lon Chaney, Sr.’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” F.W. Murnau’s “Faust”, Lon Chaney, Jr.’s “The Wolfman”, Henry Hull’s “The Werewolf of London”, Bela Legosi’s “Dracula”, Boris Karloff’s “Frankenstein” and “The Mummy”. My all-time favorite horror film from the Silent Film era, is F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens” (translated as “Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror). The film is a German Expressionist film about a vampire coming to Germany to prey on its citizens and it was loosely based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.

What makes me love this film is its use of lighting and shadow to pull off eerie special effects, the makeup work that was done to Max Schreck who plays the infamous “Count Orlok”, as well as Schreck’s amazing character acting. When watching the film, it is impossible to see Schreck’s Orlok as a “human being.” His rat-like features, pointy ears, sunken eyes, long tallon-like fingers, gaunt and lanky stature, and pale skin really make this character appear to be the monster that he is. Looking at him would make anyone’s skin crawl. Murnau created a film that is timeless and never feels dated, even though it is in black & white and has no audio aside from the music that has been added to it.

Back in 2011, I embarked on a project to rescore “Nosferatu.” There have been many attempts to rescore it, each trying to “update” the music in a way that makes it feel fresh and new; however, I have found every attempt (for the most part) to fall short of the film. None of the soundtracks seemed, in my opinion, to do justice to this film. So I figured I would rescore it, not trying to “update” the score with bells and whistles but, rather, trying to keep it simple and foreboding. I wanted a score that would give one the sense that evil was coming, and the urgency to rid the world of it.

As with all “great” ideas, it sounded much easier than it turned out to be. It is now July of 2014, and I have yet to finish the score. Life came in the way and I became preoccupied in other things. Inevitably, I let the rescoring of “Nosferatu” take a back seat to the “busy-ness” of life. Just recently, I decided to pick the project back up and to work on it whenever I have to the chance too. The more I work on it, the closer I get to completing it, the more and more fulfilled I feel. To be honest, whenever I start something without completing it, I feel incomplete.

While I have been using a “hobby” of mine as an illustration, how much more true is it that we feel incomplete when we don’t finish what Christ has called us, the church, to do. We are all called to be agents of God’s Kingdom of Heaven, of God’s hope, healing and wholeness, and we are all called to do different tasks in order to continue to usher in that Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven. Yet, often times we get “burned out”, or the “busy-ness” of life gets in our way and we begin to fall away from the task that we’ve all been called to.

In the process, we find ourselves feeling incomplete. We often find ourselves lost, literally, in things that fill our time, but not our souls. Christ is calling us to reprioritize and to recommit our lives to the purpose that God has laid out for us. Let us not be a people that only starts projects, but never sees them through to completion; rather, let us be a people that completes that task at hand. Let us keep fighting the good fight and continuing on in the race. Let us remove the distractions of purposeless “busy-ness” and remember what it is that we’ve been called to do. Once we are realigned with our purpose, we shall feel fulfilled!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – John F. Kennedy

PRAYER

Lord, remind me of my purpose and spark a passion in me to see it through to completion. Amen.