Theology at the Movies: Mary Poppins

Theology at the Movies: Mary Poppins

When is the last time that you let yourself dream? I’m not talking about the calculated dreams that require zero risk, zero courage and zero adventure. Those aren’t dreams. Not real ones anyway. I want to know, when is the last time you allowed yourself to unleash a vision for your life that was so bold, offensively unapologetic, whimsical and bursting with Kingdom adventure?

Why don’t we let ourselves dream?

What are we so afraid of?

We are told, at far too early of an age if you ask me, to put away childish things. Dreaming is simply make-believe, they say. So instead we join Willie and Waylon and sing out our calculations, “Mamas don’t let your babies be cowboys. Make them be doctors and lawyers and such.”

Instead of dreaming we create plans.

We structure the life right out of our life.

But I think God invites us to something far more magical than our puny structured 10-year plan. And if you ask me, we actually don’t need to put away childish things at all. I think we actually need to learn from the kiddos. They are wildly more open to dreaming AND doing than we old curmudgeons could ever be. Our dreams are stuffed in the attic collecting dust while the children are animating their dreams with grass-stained jeans and skinned knees.

When is the last time your jeans were stained green with grass?

When was the last time you wore a kool-aid mustache?

Kids are some of our best teachers because they are the ones who see beyond that which is to what could be. Kids are the ones who take an ordinary baseball card and tape it to the spokes of their bike to turn it into a motorcycle. They’re the ones who see a pile of blankets and can transform it into a blanket-fort. Where we see trees as good for oxygen, kids see them as castle tower limbs upon which to climb. When invited by Jesus to the adventure of following the leader, kids are sprinting to the front of the line. But when we adults are invited to the very same adventure, we ask a bunch of really important questions like how much is it going to cost me? where are we going? who’s going? when will we return?  Or we simply postpone the entire idea with a lazy, “maybe later”.

I think we’re in desperate need of a jolly holiday. And who’s a better holiday partner than Mary Poppins herself?!

One of my favorite scenes in this film perfectly communicates this idea of dreaming and doing. I’ll set it up for you a bit..

Mary is the nanny to Michael and Jane and she takes them out for an afternoon in park. Whilst at the park they run into Bert, a longtime friend of Mary, who is busy detailing colored chalk scenes of adventure on the sidewalks of the park. Michael and Jane curiously ask about the drawings and Bert invites them to dream of a place they’d like to go. But it doesn’t just end with dreaming. With a little help from Mary, they jump right into their sidewalk chalk daydreams and supercalifragilitisticexpialidotiousally live them out. Dreaming is great, but to animate them you actually have to jump in. And it looks a little something like this…

So I ask you again, dear friend, when is the last time you let yourself dream? What is the sidewalk chalk scene of your life that is beckoning you to jump in? If you’re waiting for permission to play in the land of make-believe, here it is! Jesus wants to set you out on adventure and I know you want to go. Grab a piece of sidewalk chalk and blow off the cobwebs that are blanketing your hopes. The world needs you, your creativity, your dreams and your whimsy. Let yourself enjoy the jolly holiday!

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Note: If you’re interested in hearing this post in sermon-style, check out my sermon, “Dreamers & Doers” by following this link: https://whchurch.org/sermon/dreamers-and-doers/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theology at the Movies: Blood Diamond

Theology at the Movies: Blood Diamond

I was in first grade and I wanted my hair done in pig-tail braids. That particular day I was wearing my brand new Mickey Mouse suspenders and they demanded pig-tail braids. It was going to be the best day of school ever.

My three other sisters were hogging our small bathroom, time was short before the school bus would pull up to our yellow rambler and mom was frantically trying to get us all out the door. Bless mothers of small elementary age children. They’re angels sent from heaven with a capacity for mayhem that would make gladiators cry like babies.

As the chaos ensued I sat quietly on the floor by the bathroom door, hoping mom would just get the hint that I needed my hair braided. Before she caught on to my subtleties the bus was honking at the end of our driveway. My sisters flew out the door and mom was nudging me along behind them. With crocodile tears welling in my eyes I said, “But I wanted pig-tail braids!” With righteous frustration, mom tossed my hair in a pony and that was the end of it.

I hated when mom got crabby. I know, I know. everyone gets crabby, impatient, frustrated. We’ve all totally lost our shit from time to time. It’s life. But I was a 6 years old kid and on that day, in my little brain, I internalized my mom’s frustration and my first false identity was formed. I thought, if I’m perfect, then mom will never get impatient.

And so, perfectionism was born.

We all have stories of false identities. At far too early of an age we learn these identities so thoroughly and carefully that sometimes we think they’re actually true to who we are.  I’m Brianna and I’m a perfectionist.

What does your false identity tell you? Don’t be afraid, we’ve all got them. Far better to own it than continue the charade is what I say. Under our masks we’re just a promenade of failures, screw-ups, drop-outs, addicts, too much, not enough, worthless, cheater, liar, deceiver…

But then one day, in the midst of the noise of our masquerade ball we hear the sound of something different. This something is unfamiliar and yet familiar. It’s like a voice, one that is so far yet so real we cannot help but turn our ears in hopes of making out the words of the whisperer. As we turn we begin to hear it more clearly.

Can you hear it? Do you know what it is? Dare I say it’s the greatest longing of every human heart.

It’s the sound of our name. Our true name. Called to us by the one from whom we were created.

The transformation of self that occurs when we hear the sound of our true identity is a powerful gift. It’s a gift offered to all of us and it’s ours if we wish to receive it.

This is where our movie clip comes in. Now, there are a plethora of theological conversations wrapped up in the film Blood Diamond. We could discuss war, violence, injustice, the diamond business. But I chose to discuss identity. Why? Well, this clip will say all that needs to be said. Check it out…

Gorgeous, right?

Friend, what masks are you wearing? You look pretty tired from wearing them so long. Mind if I help you take them off? I need help too. Together, let’s turn our ears to the one who calls us by name.

Bob Goff is one of my favorite human beings on the planet. You should really get to know him. On identity he says this, “Don’t let other people decide who you are.” Isn’t that refreshing? He also goes on to say, “Don’t let your past push you around anymore. We’re new creations.” Gold. Pure gold, I tell you.

I think this clip from Blood Diamond demonstrates the power of hearing our true identity. Young Dia Vandy was kidnapped from his home at a young age by rebel forces and brainwashed into becoming a hardened child soldier. Dia was forced to take on a false identity. Once known as a beloved member of the Mende tribe, he came to believe he was a murderer. Only by the voice of his father reminding him of his name is Dia liberated from his false identity back into his true self.

Dear reader, you’ve got a big life to live! Don’t let your past push you around anymore. This life needs your true self. Come, let us encourage one another to listen to the familiar whisper of our name. You are loved. You are enough. You are a new creation. You are made new. You are liberated. Join the epic adventure that can only be lived out with unveiled faces!

Day of the Girl + Theology at the Movies

Day of the Girl + Theology at the Movies

Today, I am celebrating. Truth is, I celebrate something most every day – a perfect cup of dark roast, an epic lecture, a shared story, a great hair day or hitting nothing but green lights. When we live life fully engaged there’s always reason to celebrate.

But today I’m celebrating International #dayofthegirl.

What is #dayofthegirl, you ask? Glad you asked because I didn’t know either until I read through my twitter feed on this October 11 day. Day of the Girl is, as they articulate, “a youth-led movement fighting for gender justice and youth rights.”

O hell yes, Day of the Girl. Fist bump.

I am a woman in theology, an auntie to loads of nieces, a professor to some outrageously valiant female students and a perpetual dreamer with hopes ranging from birthing/adopting babes – to writing a book – to climbing mountains – to engaging a gaggle of kiddos via Love Does –  to making a giant farmhouse table around which countless friends can gather – to encouraging and empowering women around the globe.

How could I not give a shout out to Day of the Girl?! It’s a courageous act to stand up against the beast of patriarchy.

And when I say beast, I’m not dipping my toes in the pool of hyperbole (although I am rather fond of said toe-dipping). Curious about this insidious system? Here are some ways in which the beast raises its ugly head…

Patriarchy declared women are only capable of fully imaging God when married to a man. Patriarchy demanded women be silent and ask only clarifying questions. Under the oppression of patriarchy the value of women is directly related to the size of her bust, waist and hips, to whether or not she can birth children, bake, clean and dynamically serve in the bedroom. Patriarchy points its crooked finger and accuses, your dress is too short, your jeans are too tight, you’re too emotional to lead, you’re too quite, you’re too loud, you wear too much make-up, your hair is distracting, you’re not guarding your brother’s heart, you belong in the kitchen not in the pulpit, you can teach but you can’t preach, you’re too vulnerable, you emasculate men, you’re too sensitive, you asked for it.

O hell no, patriarchy. We women are raising our drooping hands and strengthening our weak knees, as the author of Hebrews so eloquently puts it (did you know, patriarchy, that many scholars posit Priscilla as the author? Hands raised. Knees strong. Boom, baby).

So. no. Not today. I’ve got sisters, nieces, students and future daughters to fight for.

I have zero interest in burning my bras or shoving men to the side. We need our brothers from other mothers because together we re-present the Kingdom more faithfully. But the prophet in me has got to highlight the fact that for generations we haven’t been allowed to stand side-by-side. Because of that, I am crazy interested in helping equalize the communion table that Jesus came to establish. (Besides, my bras are too pretty to burn.)

To my squad of sisters from near and far, listen up.

You have a place at the table and I’m here to cheer you on. Grab your plate and pile it high, honey.  Take a serving of wanderlust, work, academia, motherhood, laughter, love, passion, dreams, valor, courage, perseverance, wisdom, resiliency, strength, grace, beauty, fearlessness.

The communion table is big and God has invited you to feast.

May you receive the invitation with confidence.

Let that lionheart of yours roar.

C’mon, girls. Patriarchy, mistakes, insecurities, failure; all the stuff that is this wonderfully messy life has the potential to defeat you. I’ve known that all too well. But woman, you are stronger. I know you are. Let these Disney clips set a fire in your belly. Stand tall, speak up, walk on. You were born into a trajectory of triumph, joy, perseverance and overall bad-assery.

 

Theology at the Movies: Moana

Theology at the Movies: Moana

I used to have a really hard heart. The kind of heart that was rebellious, closed and obnoxiously self-protected. During this time I subconsciously abandoned all the things that I love. Things like romance, connectedness and being known. You know, the very things that are simultaneously the source of great joy and potential heartache. I also, for some odd reason or another, shut down all affections toward the more peculiar loves in my life – namely, Elvis, Disney movies, vintage romantic musicals and terribly cheesy songs. I bid farewell to all these jewels. Oh my prison of protection was strong, ya’ll. Horrifically strong.

But then the Spirit broke through my stoney self-protection and gave me this new, drippy heart of flesh. And with this new heart all my former loves came flooding in. Elvis sings to me on a daily basis and I hang out with The Man From Snowy River at least a dozen times during the Christmas season. I want all my people to be joined by the darling little app knowns as ‘Find Friends’ and what’s even crazier still, apparently I now wanna be a mama. (Warning! Use caution when you let the Spirit open you up. She’ll shock you with all these new desires you didn’t even think of. This PSA brought to you by the woman who regularly joked about tying her tubes.)

All this to say, I’m watching movies with different eyes and I’m seeing theology show up all over the place. So it only makes sense to create a thread of posts devoted to two things I love dearly: Theology and Movies.

First up on the watch list is Walt Disney’s, Moana. (PS, we’ll be hanging a bunch with Walt. And at the end of these posts I’ll lead a “Theology and Movies” trip to Disneyland… JK. But wouldn’t that be one of the happiest trips on earth?!)

The synopsis goes like this:

Daughter to the island chief, Moana is the only navigator courageous enough to voyage away from the island in valiant effort to restore the heart of the mother island, Te Fiti,  which was stolen ages ago by the demigod, Maui. Without her heart, Te Fiti’s island deteriorated into a hardened darkness, no longer empowered to bring forth the vibrant, verdant life she once generously provided.

On her epic adventure Moana finds Maui and demands he help her in restoring the heart of Te Fiti. As they sail toward the mother island challenges ensue and nearly entirely thwart their mission. But with a perseverance only legends speak of, Moana sets her gaze upon the task before her and sails on through the many odds stacked against her. With the power of knowing her inner strength alongside the desire to call forth Te Fiti’s true identity, Moana finally makes it to the mother island.

Unscathed by Te Fiti’s calloused exterior, Moana asks the ocean to allow Te Fiti to come forward. The sea is parted in two and Moana boldly walks toward Te Fiti, singing into being her truth, beauty and life.

Go grab the box of tissues and check this out:

 

I know your name.

They have stolen the heart from inside you.

But this does not define you. This is not who you are.

You know who you are.

Gah! I sob. Every. Single. Time. Undoubtedly my tears come unglued because this movie taps into so much of my own narrative. But I also think it touches on something much larger than this. You see, I believe this story of restoration is communal in nature. Every one of us has areas of our hearts that are calloused and closed. Deep wounds, lies of the enemy, insecurities, the voices of society, broken relationships… all of these experiences cause us to hide behind our little walls of self-protection.

And there is grace for this. Lots of grace.

The crazy thing about the grace that blankets our journey is that the power of grace itself does not allow us to remain in our lifeless state. Isn’t that insanely lovely?! Grace empowers us to do that which we cannot do on our own. God gives us community to support one another along the way. We need each other to call out the truth of who we really are, we all need Moana’s in our life and we all have the chance to be Moana for one another. And as we engage in this reciprocity of grace we become a band of love and light, singing songs of liberation from every false identity.

So go, gather your friends and kiddos around the tube. It’s the perfect fall day to cozy up with a blanket, hot cocoa and Moana. Let us sing without apology the truth of who we really are. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are a warrior. You are beautiful. You are more than enough. You are not your past. You are God’s beloved.