Saturday, April 25, 2009

See it for yourself

Twilight Part 4
(Previous Posts: Wall-E, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

So, if it's not really about this book or any other, why am I picking on this one? It's a good question, but probably a more personal answer as a woman, a wife of 20 years and as the mother of three girls, ages 11, 13 and 18.

There's a reason I posted first about the analogy between our physical obesity as a nation and our spiritual obesity as a church. But what I didn't point out that we're all seeing is that it's not just the adults in our nation that are growing heavier (over one third of the women in our nation are statistically obese). The real tragedy in the last 20 years is that childhood obesity has tripled. So, it's not simply what we as adults are choosing for ourselves that's the problem, is it?

Can you make the jump with me to our young girls and their entertainment? Back in the old days when I was a young'un, homosexuality was opening criticized and mocked on TV. When Mike and Carol Brady showed up in the SAME BED together...well, I can't tell you the furor it raised. The only movies I ever saw were Disney and that was few and far VCRs, remember? (Yes. I'm that old.) The only time we got to see any late night TV was occasionally at Grannie's, which is probably why I can still remember some images of violence and sex. Problem is...those images are much less violent and the sex much less tame than in the Twilight series and certainly less than normal nightly programming. (And since Bill Clinton isn't here, let's not get into definitions of sex.)

Then there's the other reason that flows from this one. My girls aren't going to stay girls forever. Cassie's already voted. They are becoming women...who will give themselves to their husbands, raise children and serve the body of Christ. And they will struggle, won't they, in all these areas...none more so than in their marriages.

I know this because I'm in it. And I know it because of the woman after woman after woman with whom I talk about their struggles. I know it because of dear friends I walk beside and pray with and who listen to me and encourage my faith. And I know that our hearts are a problem when it comes to romance and fantasy. I know how discontented we can be with our spouses. I know that feasting on the world and snacking on the gospel makes us fat, lazy and ineffective for the Kingdom...especially for transforming our homes for the Kingdom.

Books like Twilight tell about our inner world. They describe feelings, sights, sounds in rapturous, dramatic ways. They take us to a place usually far, far, far away from the daily sights and sounds of toddlers crying and poopy diapers. They take us to a place where men see us...fight for us...declare that no one has ever caused him to move outside of himself like we can. TV shows like the Bachelor pull us not just to watch, but to delight in what we watch. They're not asking us to observe them, but to like them. And if we go there? We enter back into our reality with a skewed perspective. We can't see as clearly as we should why we're there, what our marriage is for, what Christ would call us to as disciples. Are you tracking with me?

Back to the girls. They are young disciples, not fully formed...much more easily deceived...much less sure of the Word. They're still on a mostly milk diet...sometimes not yet able to handle steak. Cassie's chewing on a lot. Aisley's coming along so well. Brennan's still the same...calling black, black and white, white. Things aren't real complicated for her.

Want me to change that? Want me to introduce a book to her that has some good things happen like a guy who is drawn to a girl just for who she is and not for what she looks like or does for him...but a girl who also gives herself in such a way that she'd renounce her parents...even her very soul for him?

Want me to give Aisley...who is so empathetic to people that she can side easily with them in their sin if they're hurting bad enough...want me to give her a character who will easily feed that part of her that chooses people over the Words of Christ?

Want Cassie who's entering that great time when she'll be ready for love (
Song of Solomon 8:4, Ezek. 16:8, Gen. 2:24) but is holding on to the hope that she'll find a guy who's actually a man...want me to feed her this as she goes from our home next fall? Really? That's the image? That setting? Those are the words you think should ring in her head as she readies herself for Christ's call upon her life?

Not sure what to think? I’m just going to start with some quotes and am assuming that you’ve read all the previous posts.
Once again, they are 17 in this book. Not married. In high school. Okay, okay. I'll quit. With that set up…can you see what effect these might have?

Referring to Edward…

He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare.

The meadow, so spectacular to me at first, paled next to his magnificence.

As I had just that once before, I smelled his cool breath in my face. Sweet, delicious, the scent made my mouth water.

I could smell the unbearably sweet fragrance coming off his chest.

He pressed his cool lips to my forehead, and the room spun. The smell of his breath made it impossible to think.

If I stopped looking for him, it was over. Love, life, meaning… over.

Because there was just one thing that I had to believe to be able to live—I had to know that he existed. That was all. Everything else I could endure. So long as he existed.

Because, through the heavy water, I heard the sound of an angel calling my name, calling me to the only heaven I wanted.

Bella’s words to Edward:

Don’t I taste as good as I smell?

You are my life. You’re the only thing it would hurt me to lose.

If he’d asked me whether I would risk my soul for Edward, the reply would be obvious.

I don’t care! You can have my soul. I don’t want it without you—

(Can I get some props for not making sarcastic comments all the way through?? Come on. His chest glows??)

But does it get better in the next books? Well, how about one preview quote from Bella in Eclipse, speaking about Jacob Black...

He was more than just my friend. That’s why it was so impossible to tell him goodbye — because I was in love with him. Too. I loved him, much more than I should, and yet, still nowhere near enough. I was in love with him, but it was not enough to change anything; it was only enough to hurt us both more.

Yep. After all that, she's torn between two and that tension even lasts after they're married in the book Breaking Dawn (Yep. There are sex scenes in that one where they go all the way albeit after marriage. Though you get references to the taste and feel of bodies, they do refrain from actual descriptions at a certain point.) Okay? I've got problems and so should you.

Or how about Bella's high view of marriage...biblical?

But more than that, I just couldn’t reconcile a staid, respectable, dull concept like husband with my concept of Edward. It was like casting an archangel as an accountant; I couldn’t visualize him in any commonplace role.

And then there's the descriptive quotes I left out. Picture the scenes between them that these all went in. Picture her offering her virginity to him...trying hard to get him to give in. I feel like surely you see it now. Surely you know that this kind of obsessive…I’ll give up my own soul for him…I’ll defy my parents…I’ll give my own life to have him…that kind of love is reserved for One, right? You have been crucified already. Your life is already demanded. You have been claimed. You must forsake all others for Him. All others. No one else in your eternal existence gets what Bella offered to Edward. (And then for Jacob...sigh...)

But that’s the temptation. To give up what is inside of us that belongs only to Christ and offer it to another who will really satisfy us. To believe that human love…the love of man with a woman…can be what only Christ can be for us.

Wayne will die. Today. Tomorrow. In 59 years if God is so gracious. And if I am alive, my life is not over. My hope is not gone. I remain standing on solid ground. Wayne is a gift…more gracious than any other earthly gift I’ve received. But he is not my passion. I am joined with Him to represent my passion. He is not my highest treasure without which I am lost. He and I are together…I am so in love with Wayne 20 years into our marriage. I can’t imagine even knowing where to begin if you ask me about how I feel about him or how he’s been used in my life. I am unendingly grateful.

But he only gets what’s his. My devotion is God’s. My life is God’s. To paraphrase Mark Driscoll from a sermon a couple of weeks ago…If Wayne follows Jesus, I follow Wayne. If Wayne stops following Jesus, I’m still following Jesus. He gets his. Christ gets all. (For more on this idea, please see this little 3 minute clip...or better yet, buy this book or read it free online here.)

That’s the gift of God in marriage…in that deep, deep relationship between man and woman. Everything else we keep creating in our fantasies only fuels our desire to have more than what God’s given us in this creation. He has told us to keep pure what is His. And to keep pure from any other until that day when He seals the relationship. Our hearts are supposed to be given at the same level as the commitment. Bella gives what is not hers to give…herself. We’re God’s. He owns us. He gives us.

And any book that goes into rapture about any other way…that calls good what God calls evil…is not to be rejoiced in. But it’s just a book, right? Yep. And donuts are good for you. So, I wonder why these pants don't fit? It's a mystery.

Q&A coming next...

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Bella in all of us

Twilight Part 3
(Previous Posts: Wall-E, Part 1, Part 2)

Stephanie Meyer did good, didn't she? Millions love it.
Bella, her lead character, is funny, capable, quirky and hopelessly klutzy. She's trapped in a dismal existence...a flower waiting to bloom, unappreciated by all those idiots in that dull town who can't see her true beauty. In other words, she's what we all think we are.

No matter how together and fashionable a girl seems, there is a deep, dark secret we all carried as we grew up. Funny isn't it that we are all quite sure we're the only one who did. But here it is in a nutshell...What if no one ever picks me. What if no one sees me...desires me...thinks I'm smart enough, pretty enough, cool enough...what if I'm the one…the wrong one.

Aisley and I have been talking a lot about it because she’s beginning to see it. If you’ll remember, this is her first year in public school after 7 grades at home with me. Lots of revelation going on for her…and some of it’s even good! One is that even girls who seemingly have it all are riddled with insecurity. Girls who we all look at and just know get a pass on that deep heart longing? Come to find out, they don’t. We all are together, ladies. We all are standing together, young and old, vulnerable to becoming Bella…even if only in our minds.

I say this as a final thought before the actual concerns of the book (don't sigh at me!) because if we women don’t see this, we’ll never awaken from the deception in our flesh. We’ll never know why this stuff resonates so strongly, so clearly within us…beyond how it should…beyond the truth…beyond godliness. We’ll never begin to filter our emotions through the grid of the gospel. When the Bible goes on about how we women are prone to being deceived, it’s not an insult…it’s a revelation for the good of our souls. We will fight when we believe there's a problem. Deny it and we perish without raising a sword.

But we do know how it can go inside of us. We see something…we feel something about it…we move based on how we feel…and we might think about it later if the consequences are bad enough. This attuning to emotion is wired into us and is meant for the good of the see hurt where others might just pass stay and remain because of depth of affection. But we were never meant to be ruled by it. That’s not how the gospel is to work in us.

Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed
by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern
what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2

Instead of being ruled by our feelings, we are instead supposed to be transformed first by the renewing of our minds. Then and only then can we test and feel…the Word says discern or approve…get our heart behind…feel our souls rejoice and be able to know deeply that this is worthy of being rejoiced in…for it would match our Father in its goodness and perfection and be pleasing to Him. Paul said it again to the Ephesians that we are supposed to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

I’ll show you evidence of what I’m talking about in the next post. I know that’s number five. Try to go with me. But for now listen and see if this doesn’t resonate. When we read books like Twilight, we’re not caught up in the uniqueness and structure of its high prose. Even those who praise it don’t try to make it more than it is. What catches us is that it allows us to feel what we all long to feel…caught up…taken away…given to something more than we have…more than we could ever be alone. We are given not to visuals but we are given to fantasies…thoughts…dreaming about what could be. Books like this feed that. They give word and picture to what lies within us.

And again, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing…as long as what is resonating with us is resonating with the good that God is in us…when it stays in its place…when it doesn’t seek what is not ours…when it keeps us eating from the trees God has given and doesn’t tempt us to take what is not ours to have. When our souls rejoice where goodness, rightness, justice, truth are found? Good stuff.

So let me ask you to discern...Do the characters who are given for us to cheer for, are they worthy of cheering? Is evil really evil? Does good shine as good? Are they expressing longings unchecked by a renewed mind or are they actually fighting to overcome that which they know is sinful? Do the characters you love stay within the bounds God’s given? Or do they reach beyond what should be and make you feel like that’s not only okay…it’s what you deserve, too?

And no. I'm not asking if the characters are Christians. I'm asking if they reflect God's truth rightly. Is justice upheld? Or are you asked to sympathize with rebellion against God's ways? Some places in the book, you could say a resounding YES! That's good stuff. Others? Maybe even lots of others? Not so much. The relationship between these two as a whole? Not what we're aiming for with the Ransleben girls. The point is as Paul says...test it...Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

It's not about what we read really, but checking our hearts as we read so that what is there is filtered through what should be. It's not about the TV show really. Or the movie. Or that conversation. Or anything other thing in the world. The things in the world are we use them, delight in them, approve of them. That's a problem.

God told Isaiah to tell His people this...
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Isaiah 5:20
Good called good. Evil called evil. Or are we asked to softened where we should stand? Are we asked to feel sympathy or at least stay silent like Adam did in that Garden so that what the characters feel could be delighted in? So that what we feel can be rationalized, too? We have to discern.

But is that really in Twilight? We'll see what you think next time.

P.S. So many of you have been gracious to write me your questions and concerns. I'm hoping this as well as upcoming posts hit some of those issues, but am also preparing a Q&A post for the end. Please keep them coming and we'll see what you think!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You'd think the cover would have given us a clue

Twilight Part 2
(Previous Posts: Wall-E, Part 1)

So, we've got little girls tucking their hair and watching every move he makes. Good stuff, isn't it? I mean it. The writer of Proverbs 29 says that there are four things that are too wonderful for him...the last is the way of a man with a maiden. Makes us smile to think of it. (Or scares us to death when the little girl is your teen daughter.) What am I saying could be so wrong with that desire?

Nothing...when it's accepted as a gift from be used and exalted under the guidelines He gives. When it's embraced so that the two don't become more than they are for themselves, but so the watching world sees...Paul says they literally can see...the joining of Christ and His Church. When God is exalted, Christ is honored and the Spirit reigns in the joining? That's good stuff. And if that's our highest goal...our only desire which keeps all those other desires in their's very good. God said so Himself in Genesis 1:28-31, didn't He? He's the one who brought Adam and Eve together. He sanctioned that joining Himself. He made us this way as women. And He did good.

But then came Genesis 3 and that which was only good became tainted...poisoned...not by the fruit that was eaten but by the desire in her that caused her give birth to sin and to reach out for it. When she was created, Eve had in her a desire but it was a desire that was overruled by her allegiance to her God. She knew what she could do with it and what she couldn't. She knew that if it was used within the bounds given, good followed. And she knew that if she went outside of it, she'd die. And that mattered to her...for a while. We don't know how long. I'm guessing it didn't take too long. It would have been a matter of minutes if it had been me. I'm really excellent at thinking I know better than God.

But then the Bible says that a serpent came and spoke to her...challenged her view of God and the goodness of His commands...and she saw things differently than before. That's the important we see. Not how we see physically, but how we see God. There's a reason that Paul prayed that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened. He knew that our hearts are more than blind...they're stone...dead rock...unable to love and obey God. And so we can't see like we need to see when it comes to this thing that rises between men and women.

If we could just get that then the battle is mostly won for we won't assume that if we love it then it must be great...if we are moved then it must be good for us...if we feel ourselves softening at words spoken by a man in a book we will remember that it may be good...but maybe not. Maybe it's just hitting us like that fruit hit Eve. Remember what she said deep in that heart of hers? She saw that it was good and would help her and besides, look how pretty it is. How...tell could anything like that be bad for her??

So, here we are with Twilight. And there's all the excuses you've heard or given. Some of them are good questions and some of them sound a lot like Eve's rationale in the could something so good be so bad? Just a little taste won't do any harm.
  • It's just a book.
  • I know there's some things in it that they do that aren't okay, but it's full of great stuff that is okay.
  • They don't have sex. He really loves her and is committed to waiting until marriage to have her.
  • Besides, it's really well written. It just grips you from the start and you can't put it down.
  • He's so great...protects her...cares for her...sacrifices himself for her.
  • And she loves him so much she'll do anything for him.
  • They are devoted to each other.
  • It hasn't done anything bad in me that I can see. It's just for fun.
  • Or as a couple of girls have put it...Come on, Mom. It's not like I'm going to read it and go out and have sex. I just want to read it.
But look at the title of this post again. I mean it. Have you seen the cover? They’re not trying to hide it. Hands offering fruit...get it? This isn't about romance. It's about temptation...the temptation that lures every woman ever born. It's about desire...the desire for the forbidden. It's about forsaking what we know for what we feel. Can you feel the pull in you every day like I can? Can you see yourself as a woman fighting to have your feelings under God's control? Can you feel the discontent that we battle for contentment where we really are and what we really have? Can you feel yourself as Eve's daughter struggling to rejoice only where God rejoices?

We'll get to that...and to the specifics about the book…promise.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Part 1

(Previous Posts: Wall-E)

Here's the bottom line. Don't read the Twilight books. Please don't let your young women read it. Don't pour over it in your book clubs. There. I said it. Now, I'm sure you'll walk away from them and go on with your life.

Well, those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about might go on your way. Or if your male, you probably will. But if you're a female between the ages of 10 and say, 40ish, you might need a little more to convince you. I'm warning you now, I'm going to try...hard.

Let's get this part out of the way. It has nothing to do with vampires. They worry me about as much as aliens and swamp monsters. Why you would set a romance book around a group that sucks the life blood from people...that's a whole 'nother post. But I couldn't care less. They're made up. I don't care where it's set...what kind of creatures it involves...or what action it involves. It's fiction. Got it. No problem.

But what happens between Bella and Edward isn't so fictional, is it, ladies? And what happens inside of us when we read it isn't fictional either. And there's the problem with the books. You can see the symptoms of it everywhere. Grown women sighing over the same thing jr. high girls are. Faces softening when you say...Edward. Everyone asking have you read it yet?? They love the character of Edward. In a sense, then, I guess I could say that he's the problem. But really, that's way too shallow of an answer.

Besides, the Bible declares some really great truths like Paul told the Romans...
I know and am persuaded
in the Lord Jesus
that nothing is unclean in itself...
Romans 14:14
Or to Timothy...
Everything created by God is good,
and nothing is to be rejected
if it's received with thanksgiving,
for it's made holy
by the word of God and prayer.
Oh, good...I hear you say. I promise I'll keep reading the Bible and praying, so I'll just go grab book 3 real quick. I wish it were that easy. But the Bible proclaims a few more truths to keep the balance. And here's the root problem...
But each person is tempted
when he is lured and enticed
by his own desire.
Then desire when it has conceived
gives birth to sin,
and sin when it is fully grown
brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
James 1:14-16
The problem isn't with the and of themselves. The problem really lies within each of us as women. We have our own desires...and not good ones. The same desires we can see birthed when little girls who are content to play with dolls start to play with their hair when boys walk by.

I saw this happen so clearly just last week as I was dropping off a friend's son back to school after a orthodontic appointment. She and I watched him get out as we made plans for after school. I noticed peripherally that two girls were walking on the sidewalk near the school door. I saw them glance at the van and look away...not even noticing or caring who we were...until little Jimmy stepped out. Then they glanced again when they heard the car door opening...and stopped dead in their tracks as each of them started tucking back her hair. I'm not kidding.

Oh, yeah. Have I mentioned that little Jimmy is about 6 feet tall and is almost 16...plays in the secondary on the football team...great so compassionate, quiet, and kind...unassumingly handsome with a great smile...humble and gracious. (Yeah. You're tucking your hair, aren't you? Quit it.)

But wait. Am I saying that what a female feels for a male is wrong?? No. Promise. Just stick with me. We have that pull toward men...that softening toward them that is almost indefinable, but unmistakable when you see it happen. We have a longing...a deep longing to be the one. To be chosen. To be seen, loved, lifted beyond where we are to a whole other level of being. We are somehow more when we are loved. And we know that somehow when two become one...they are more than just the two. They create a whole new level of existence.'s God placed. It's normal. It's built into the system. I got it... really. Everything's far.

A Wall-E world

I had a talk with a good friend right in the middle of writing and gave into more of a rant than you’ll even hear in my tone here. She and I wondered together how we can all be so deceived into believing that we can just live like we want, take in what we want, entertain ourselves how we want and think there’s no consequence for us. No. We weren’t talking about you. We were talking about ourselves.

The Israelites apparently weren’t enough of a clue for us as they sold themselves slowly and incessantly to the culture that surrounded them.

So, let me be very blunt. Our nation is becoming more obese every year while we spend more and more…now in the trillions of dollars…on dieting and exercise. And I actually heard a TV promo for a show on it…one of those 20/20 sort of things…the commercial actually asked, “How is this happening?”

Seriously? Seriously?!


I put too many calories and the wrong calories in my body. I don’t work hard enough to burn what I take in. Let’s not be deceived. I know I’m 41. I know that I used to be able to burn it off faster and with less effort than now. But don’t let me fool you. I weigh what I weigh because I eat what I eat.


If I could snapshot your spiritual body? What would I see? What are you eating? What do you snack on all day? What’s the balance between the healthy food you intake and the desserts in your life?

I told a lady yesterday about two passages of Scripture. And I told her to memorize them. Ten verses in one book…seven in another. When I mentioned the second set, she immediately interrupted and said, “Don’t you know I have a life?” Can you relate?

Now, she was just joking…sort of. Don’t you dare cast a stone. I bet she’s doing it. I mean it. She loves her Savior and she knows she’s in need of His Word. But that default reaction is just the same as when someone calls us to discipline our bodies for health.

What you see…what you entertain yourself with…what you listen to…what thrills you and moves you and interests you and pleases you…it all matters. And sure, one time is probably not that big of a deal. I say that every time I eat a donut. But there’s a difference between eating a donut and loving donuts…and telling others how to find the donut shop…and asking if they want to get together to eat them and talk about them…and see if we can search the internet to find more of them. That’s got to stop.

I’m not concerned about our once-in-a-whiles…I’m concerned about our passions and joys. They reveal a more insidious obesity in our lives than a scale ever could.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, there’s a series of postings coming about a wave that’s swept up our girls and grown women, and I’m jumping into the fray.