NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

A Lesson in Joy

 

Girl, Joy, Smiling, Happy, Children, Child

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/girl-joy-smiling-happy-children-206144/

I’ve been learning a lot about joy recently. Partly because it keeps coming up at church as we read through Philippians, but also because of what I’ve been going through lately. I tend to be a happy person, and look for the positive in each situation. But when circumstances get hard, I feel like I have a right to be angry, upset, hurt, sad, depressed, etc. In essence I can throw myself a little pity party and I want everyone to notice and try to make me feel better.

But that is not right. Even if a lot of other people do the same thing, and there is a time and place to mourn and cry and be sad. At the end of the day, it’s not about me, what I want, what I don’t have, my feelings, or anything related to me. It’s really all about God. His plan for my life is what matters, not my own. And I know if I let go of my self pity, and focus instead on what God is doing, I will have joy. It’s more of a choice than I realized at first. And it’s a hard one to make. There’s something in me, probably in my selfish will that wants attention, wants other’s love, wants to be noticed, but even when I finally do get that attention I crave, it doesn’t make anything better. I’m still stuck feeling sorry for myself. It’s only when I stop looking at me, that joy, life, and peace shine through.

Well it’s a lesson I’ve had to learn again and again, and I’m not done learning it. Each day I have to choose not to focus on me, and instead focus on Jesus. But I know it’s better. And I’d like to ask you to do the same thing with me today.

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Proposing and Predestination

 

So a couple of weeks ago, I had to try to explain predestination to some Jr. High kids at church. This is one of those subjects that can be hard to understand even for an adult. and oftentimes results in negative responses. I know I’ve had my issues with predestination in the past. So I started brainstorming about how to explain predestination. Then God revealed to me that “proposing” can be a great example or illustration of predestination. I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but it helped simplify the concept for the younger audience. So I thought I’d share it on this blog.

So basically when a guy is going to propose to his girlfriend, he usually puts a lot of forethought, planning, and effort into how he’s going to do it. It’s not usually a random thing. A guy can go to a lot of trouble trying to make everything perfect, and the plethora of videos on Youtube can attest to how extravagant a guy can get. But all these planned efforts have a purpose behind them; to show the girl that he loves her. In the end, however, when the ring comes out, the girl can still say “yes” or “no.”

Couple, Love, Sunset, Proposal Marriage, Water, Sun

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/couple-love-sunset-915991/

It’s kind of the same way with God. He has predestined, or planned out our lives, with events and circumstances in an effort to show us that He loves and cares for us. But we still get to choose between loving Him back or rejecting Him.

It doesn’t really make sense to say that God forces us to love Him, because He’s predestined it, anymore than a girl could say a guy is forcing her to marry him because of an awesome proposal. God wants our love to be real and genuine, not forced.

In addition, when a girl gets proposed to, most don’t respond with “Wow, I’m so awesome,” or start looking around at the people nearby and asking why the guy didn’t get flowers for everyone. Instead, what we hope to see is a grateful smile, an excited “Yes!” and a declaration of love from the girl.

I think that’s what God longs to hear from us. He doesn’t want us to start thinking all high and mighty of ourselves, becoming prideful, or start wondering if God isn’t fair because he doesn’t choose to save everyone. Instead He longs for our hearts to be filled with gratitude, love, and devotion to Him.

That’s how I try to respond to God’s choice to love me. Sometimes I do have questions, predestination is a hard concept to get, but ultimately I choose to trust that God knows what He’s doing even if I don’t understand it.

 

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Society, Morals, and Choice in Movies

10. Katniss Everdeen - Hunger Games

Ender's Game

 

Recently I’ve gone to see both the new Hunger Games movie and Ender’s Game in theaters. In the process of doing this I’ve also seen previews of a new movie coming out next year called Divergent. All of these movies are based on book series and all of them are coming out around the same time. And that’s not all that these movies have in common. They also bring up deep themes about society, morals, and choice, and the various perceptions of what’s right and what’s wrong.

Now these story lines are all unique and I haven’t read the Divergent series so I can’t say too much about how it fits into this trend, but it seems like there is a strong current towards these topics, at least in popular films. And I think it’s worth looking into.

Are these types of books and movies becoming more popular because the idea of being controlled by others and not being free to make your own decisions is a growing fear among the United State’s population?

Is it simply that stories that portray a darker future seem more realistic and connect with us more than the fantasies of years past?

Or is it just money hungry publishers and producers that saw one success and that led to others trying to mimic the successful book or movie and make some money?

In any case, I think it’s worthwhile to look more closely at what is similar in all of these story lines. In the Hunger Games we are given the perspective of Katniss, who is living in an unjust world that tries to punish the descendents of rebels in hopes of avoiding any future conflicts. Their punishment includes restrained freedoms, limited provisions, little privacy, and the horror of children being forced to kill each other in the Hunger Games. In essence it is a scary society, at least from Katniss’s perspective. And as the audience we can all agree with her that there is something sickly wrong with the way things are set up.

However, we are also given glimpses of another perspective, those of the people who are privileged and live in the Capitol. They seem completely unaware of the evils in this system. They have plenty to eat and happily go on eating after they are full, without thinking of the thousands of people who are starving. In addition, they focus on entertainment so much so that the Hunger Games becomes a grand event to be watched, celebrated, and invested in, instead of seeing it for the slaughter that it is.

To the audience, these opposite perspectives reveal how wrong the collective thought of a society can be. Just because everyone says “it’s okay,” or “it’s fun,” or “may the odds be ever in your favor” that doesn’t mean that what they’re talking about is morally right. Seeing this in the movie, could force us as the audience to start evaluating our own culture and what we view as right only because our society says it is, and not because it actually is. Similarities can be seen in our own culture as we hear about starving kids in Africa but still insist on eating our super-sized meal. The list could go on and on, with many subjects becoming touchy because it is real and affects us directly.

Ender’s Game, however, takes a different take on our world’s possible future. In this storyline, it is not people who are viewed as the enemy, but an alien species. In this world people fear the possibility of another attack from aliens so much that they decide to train children to become the best army possible. Kids are tested for brilliance and told that learning to kill is okay. I haven’t read the book series, so I could have some of this wrong, but I did at least see the movie. And it haunted me that young teenagers could be trained for a war, and told over and over that the tests they are going though are simply that; a test. Only to find out that the last test was no test at all, but a real war, that caused real deaths.
It was a horrifying realization to the main character, Ender, to find that he wasn’t winning a game, but he was killing real creatures and destroying their entire planet. He wished he had known the truth so that he could have acted differently.

I think this plays into our society as well. I’ve heard about countless debates over whether violent TV shows or video games are appropriate for children, or if they can be directly linked to real violence. This movie plays around with these thoughts and I think brings us some valuable questions.

When does something become more than a game?

Is it okay to trick kids, or use their intellect without their moral consent?

Who should be allowed to make the ethical decision: Is it generals, the government, or the individual who is doing the killing?

I think both of these movies have serious undertones that reflect our own culture’s perspective. There’s a reason that these movies and books are popular now, and not fifty years ago. Maybe the government taking control of health care is scary to people. Or maybe there’s a general fear of the future instead of a hope of better days to come. Who knows, there could be thousands of reasons, and each one could be different for each individual. But collectively as a society, something in these movies is striking a chord and resonating with people.

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