Nana’s Legacy

I remember the first time I made spaghetti sauce in my Nana’s honor. I was in my early twenties, living in my first apartment. I was so excited when that familiar heavenly smell hit my nostrils. And the taste was right on! She never actually showed me how to make it but I tried to recall the ingredients I remembered seeing on my plate as a child….bits of carrot, red and green peppers, mushrooms, hamburg….and little bits of info I had picked up from watching her cook were pulled up from my memory. I tried picking her brain in her later years for comparison to see if I had done it right and it all seemed to match up. I’ve since personalized it with my own flair but the taste and smell is still there. I mean, one cannot duplicate another’s sauce exactly. It’s an art-form! (but I have to say, that very first batch was almost dead on)

For a time, if you were fortunate enough to have made the list, you would have received a special jar of ‘Mama Mindy’s Sauce’. I would make giant batches of it at Christmas and jar it as gifts. I made my own labels with instructions on how it should be properly consumed (very important).  I made sure to slap a picture of Nana’s face on the top of every lid. I even got to show her a jar when she was in the nursing home. She seemed a bit confused by it and wanted to know where I got it. I don’t think she fully understood what it was but she looked delighted!

Sometimes I would bring a crock-pot-full of the sauce to my brother’s house on Christmas Eve and we would all eat and enjoy. That’s why this sauce was so important to me…it seemed to bring a warm memory I’ve always treasured. Her sauce was always enjoyed by all of us TOGETHER, with her.

Friends and family alike cherish and share the same memories of meals at Nana and Nono’s house. Theresa’s love language involved food and there’s no doubt that everyone who knew her would agree. By the way, you’ve never had a hot ham and cheese sandwich until you’ve had one of hers…preferably while sitting by the pool on a warm summer day…but I digress…  I can still see us all seated at that long rectangular table (I later learned that this table was nothing more than a sheet of plywood on cinder blocks) feasting on her savory Italian spaghetti sauce. Before we sat down to eat, Nana would pull a huge block of pecorino romano cheese from the fridge meant for me and Todd. My brother and I always had cheese grating duty. Important to note: This particular type of cheese is a VITAL ingredient and condiment to the successful making and eating of this sauce. It’s just not the same without it.

At this makeshift table with the plastic protective covering sat ME at the head of the table, of all places!  My grandfather, Nono, always sat to my right and my dad to my left.  I also had my very own place-mat with my name on it along with kid-sized silverware which I thought was great. What I didn’t think so great was when Nana would make me wear a bib. But once again I digress….Nana would run around like a chicken with its head cut off waiting on everyone else. When Nono required Nana’s attention he would whistle or snap his fingers and she would come running EVERY TIME. Old-school Italian ways I guess… By the time she finally did sit down to eat we were almost finished!

My grandmother passed away two years ago today (Dec. 7, 2015) and I feel I must say, I regret the way I initially responded to reading  her obituary. When I first read it I immediately took offense and was sure to let my brother know about my disapproval (in a text, of course). I know those words were intended to lift Nana up with a bit of humor, but when I read the part that said, “…many have tried to replicate (her spaghetti sauce) over the years without success!” I was immediately offended. That’s right…I MADE MY NANA’S OBIT ABOUT ME. Sick, I know. And what may be even worse is that I complained about it on Facebook (cue in the long, drawn out GASP). I wish I had sat on my feelings and worked it out in my head instead of immediately reacting based on a self-centered emotion. I mean, how silly can one be?!?

Because I’m a thinker and wanted to understand why I got so upset, after some reflection I came to the conclusion that I had been taking pride in this sauce for close to 18 years.  So when I read in the obituary that people had tried to make her sauce but no one had ever come close, I felt as though all my efforts to carry on Nana’s legacy through her sauce had been discredited…or maybe even unnoticed.  And that’s what I had been trying to do, carry on her legacy. So much time and energy put into honoring my Nana knocked down with a few measly words. Of course that’s not what really happened… my pride got in the way and I chose to feel offended when it wasn’t even about me. But I do need to add that I hadn’t only taken offence, I was genuinely hurt. Was it wrong to feel the way I did? No. We initially feel what we feel for whatever the reason. Our feelings aren’t what’s wrong, it’s the way we choose to react based on our feelings that becomes the infraction.

It may seem odd that I’m even mentioning this two years after the fact, but I had started writing this a while ago only to save it as a draft to later be forgotten. It’s not that I’ve been stewing over this because I haven’t (OK, maybe I did at first). The anniversary of her passing brought it back up for me and I guess it’s just not something I’m proud of. I like to get stuff out of me by writing it down and then hitting the ‘publish’ tab. It helps me put things to rest and it’s sort of an online journal for me as well.  And to be brutally honest, I care too much about what my brother thinks of me and do hope he sees this someday to know I’m not as self-centered as he probably thinks I am. But what’s most important is that I’m forgiven by the One Who matters most, so there’s that.

Making this sauce is my way of making sure the world knows about the mark Nana left and how cherished she will always be. It’s been a long while since I’ve made it….long time since I’ve made anything for that matter. Maybe it’s time.

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How I Do Milk Kefir

I like to keep my kefir in the cabinet while it’s fermenting.

I leave the lid very loose and just let it do it’s thing for about 24 hours. Some people use a cotton cloth with a rubber band as a cover  but I found that what I’m doing works fine, too. I guess the idea is to let them “breathe”. There are special lids available and maybe when I have some moolah I’ll invest in some. This lady has lots of stuff (and info) here.

24 to 48 hours is all it typically takes depending on how warm your house is and how many grains you have (the warmer the house the faster the ferment). Mine multiply like crazy and I’m running out of ideas on what to do with them! Can’t throw them out because I know they’re alive and I just can’t bring myself to murder them. They have become my friends.

Can’t feed ’em to my dogs because I don’t have any…but that is what many people do. I have 6 cats but when I try to cut up the grains and hide them in their wet food they manage to pick all around them. Finicky little bastards they are!

I’m assuming the grains are full of probiotics and good for you and I’ve never gotten sick from eating them. I’ve ground them up in my blender with a smoothie but I don’t like the slimy consistency. GAG. Some call it “creamy”…I call it nasty. But that’s just me. I’ve taken small chunks and swigged them down with some milk. Milk is best. If you use water they’ll stick in your throat. You don’t want that…trust me.  Swallowing them is challenging but it’s better than cold-heartedly tossing them. I guess some people like to chew ’em right up but they’re so sour and the texture skeeves me out. But yeah, some people like the weirdest things.

Of course, the best thing to do with extra grains is to give them away…I don’t know of many people who want them (only one friend so far). But I suppose you could let people know on the Facebook Marketplace if you don’t mind dealing with strangers..which I kind of do.

So here are the steps I use when making my kefir using milk kefir grains…

Step 1… When kefir is done fermenting, strain.

You’ll know when it’s ready because the sides of the jar will look dimply. If it has fermented too long it will separate into whey and curds..this is fine. Some have dubbed the whey as ‘liquid gold’ and it can be used to culture vegetables…just one of many benefits. Strain it out into a container. I like to use a plastic strainer and a large square piece of Tupperware. I’ve heard metal will kill the grains but if it is stainless steel it should be fine. I use plastic just to be on the safe side.

Ready for straining.

 

The liquid pictured here is just the whey from over fermenting. It’s actually considered a superfood which contains many healing properties.

 

Step 2…Place grains back in the jar and pour milk directly over them.

I prefer to use raw milk but any dairy milk will work. I don’t wash the jar, either. That’s precious bacteria on the insides of that jar! Some people say to wash the jar before placing grains back in and I used to do that until I learned it wasn’t necessary and actually boosts the strength of your kefir. I may wash it after some time if it seems to be getting funky, but it’s not very often. Oh, and NEVER rinse your grains with water! They need that wonderful, slimy bacteria!! And they WILL be slimy…long, stringy, wonderful slime!

Pouring the grains back into the jar…Look at that sweet action shot!

 

After new milk is added, loosely place lid on top and place back in cupboard for another round of fermenting.

Step 3…I do a second ferment.

Pour strained kefir into jars and add any kind of fruit you want. The sugar in the fruit provides food for the good bacteria and second fermenting will not only increase the amount of nutrients and vitamins, but it will make it taste better. Screw the lids on nice and tight and leave on counter for 1-4 hours or half a day. I leave mine out overnight. Then I put them in the fridge until I’m ready to prepare it the way I like.

I like to use bananas for my second ferment. I will break them up into pieces and put them in Tupperware for freezing. That way I always have them on hand and they don’t go bad from over-ripening on my counter.

 

Make sure those lids are screwed on tight! When they’ve ‘second-fermented’ long enough put in fridge until ready.

 

Step 4…Making it yummy!

When I’m ready to mix it the way I want, I go grab a jar from the fridge (I have a separate, much smaller fridge I use just for storing my kefir) The longer it sits the more likely it will separate. Just give it a good shake and then be prepared for a popping sound when you twist off the top! There’s natural carbonation in there! I love when it’s good and fizzy. I pour it into my blender and add frozen berries, a bit of organic maple syrup, and cinnamon. You can add any kind of fruit you want. This is just how I prefer it. Then I pour back in jars and keep in the fridge. Whenever I want a cup of kefir I have it already made and ready to pour!

This is what it looks like when it separates.

 

Yum! Remember to keep those caps on tight. It will keep fermenting in the fridge, just at a much slower rate…but sometimes they can erupt if left too long (hence the tight lids)!

 

Sometimes I have too much kefir already made. When that happens I just keep the jar of grains in the fridge until I’m ready to strain them. Just make sure you have done the fermenting time in room temperature FIRST before placing in the fridge. That goes for second ferments, too.

 

 

Lesson Learned

Motorcycle safety tip of the day:

Always check your tires.

Apparently I’ve been riding around on a bald tire but didn’t notice due to my rear fender hiding most of it. From the side it looked deceivingly fine.

So glad I always pray a prayer of protection before setting off on my rides!

Rick still seems a bit dumbfounded…he noticed my tire was flat yesterday after I stated I was planning on a ride for today. Upon closer inspection he could see the tire had been worn all the way down to the canvas! These tires weren’t brand new but they were supposed to be decent. Rick was surprised at how worn out it was but there’s no reason it should have been flat. I said there is a reason….God! If my tire hadn’t been flat I would have taken it out as usual which could have turned out to be a fatal decision. Rick said I could have died. I said God is always protecting me.

But, yeah…I will definitely be more careful from now on. God’s protection doesn’t give me license to be foolish! Lesson learned.

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YIKES!

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All That From A Pancake

Met up with the hubby for some food after church. After perusing the specials board I asked the waitress what “Italian meatloaf” was and upon receiving the answer proceeded to order the short stack of buttermilk pancakes.

THEY. WERE. HUGE.

Two giant pancakes crowded my plate with only an inch of exposed circumference. If I had known how gargantuan their pancakes were I would have only asked for one! I barely ate half when I defeatedly announced my fullness to Rick. Scoffing quickly ensued from across the table with some comment about hungry people in India.

“Really?!?! I’M. FULL. What do you want me to do? Shove them down my throat until I throw up?!?” was my defensive response.

Suddenly childhood memories came flooding back. I could see one enormous pancake dominating my plate and a most irritated woman standing over to the side. Her name was Donna and she was the land lady of the two family home we lived in. Me, Mom, and my two older brothers lived downstairs and Donna, her husband, and their baby lived upstairs. My mom paid Donna to make breakfast for me and my brother, Todd, every morning and then send us off to school. My mother had a full time job and liked to go to this place for coffee before work instead of spending time with me in the morning. Perhaps that belief is skewed from a child’s perspective but I still feel it’s spot on. I mean, she probably did have to be to work by a certain time but that coffee shop was like her second home…or should I call it her respite?

As I sat in my booth looking at my almost half eaten brunch I relayed to my husband about how I used to get myself ready in the morning (I think that was during 2nd and 3rd grade. Maybe 1st, too, but not certain) and then head on upstairs for breakfast. I was so little! I hated having to go upstairs because I always sensed Donna’s dislike for me…a child.  My candidness, my curiosity about things…my many questions seemed to irritate her. I knew she didn’t like me…or maybe she just didn’t like her life. Either way I felt the brunt of it.

But this particular day, the day of the giant pancake, was a day when about two bites was all I could muster before announcing that I just couldn’t eat anymore. That pissed her off. She already had an issue with my small appetite as it was, so she wasn’t too pleased. Off to school I went only to be dropped right back at home again by my grandmother. Yup. Turns out I was sick…threw up in the nurses office (I did make it to the toilet). I still remember the look on Donna’s face when I stepped inside her kitchen. She must not have been notified by anyone because it did not look like she was expecting me home anytime soon. Since my brother Todd was already home sick and on her couch she sent me downstairs to be sick, ALONE, in my bedroom, throwing up in a plastic bin next to my bed. Mom says she felt bad about giving me grief over the wasted pancake but that was news to me…news I heard as a grown person.

Then I started thinking back to how alone I was growing up. I went from babysitter to baby sitter to babysitter…anyone my mother could find to watch me. The worst of the babysitters was when I had to go to my Aunt Mary’s house everyday. I was TERRIFIED of her. She ran an unlicensed home daycare and I had to walk there after school everyday. I recall how angry and unapproachable she was. I recall how I could never say anything right. I recall her shaking me violently by the shoulders because I came inside for water. I recall her forcing me to demonstrate in her kitchen, with one foot in front of the other across her braided rug, just how slow I was walking one day. (Apparently I took way too long to walk “home” from school. Why was that? Because I actually had a friend who was walking my way that day and I was enjoying talking with her which lead to a slower walking pace. God forbid I should have any kind of enjoyment! I mean, I can understand if she had told me she was worried because I wasn’t home when she expected BUT instead she chose to humiliate me which wasn’t helpful to my already low self esteem. I just think she thought I was lying.) I recall sneaking snacks when Aunt Mary was in the basement doing laundry because I was starving. I recall staring out the window towards the end of each work day longing for my mom to finally pick me up and take me home.

My life consisted of school (which I hated),

the dreadful daily walk to Aunt Mary’s,

finally going home at the end of the day only to be dismissed by my mother who was exhausted from working all day and just wanted to read in bed,

being teased by kids everyday for a season of which I cried everyday and which my mom knew nothing about,

…and being alone most of the time…alone with just my thoughts to keep me company. I remember playing alone a lot.

I grew up missing my mother. I remember crying for her when I was home alone. I must have been crying pretty loud because my neighbor from downstairs (we moved…no more Donna) called me to ask if I was OK. I told her I was fine. I was so embarrassed. This was when I apparently no longer needed supervision. (I’m generation X…the “latchkey” generation.)

The best two years of my childhood were spent at Mrs. Fredette’s house everyday after school…oh, and summers, too! Those were the best summers of my life. From the ages of about ten to twelve years old I was cared for by a woman who showed me what a loving, fully functioning family unit looked like. She always had a smile on her face. She never talked down to me. She talked to me AND listened. She took me places. She loved me unconditionally. All 4 foot 10 inches of her tiny Italian frame embraced me and treated me like one of her own…and she had five other kids! Her oldest daughter, Wendy, became my very first BEST friend (until she broke my heart by wanting a new best friend named Anne…but that’s another story). Her house was full of laughter and love and CONSISTENCY. I desperately needed that kind of structure and acceptance and I will be forever grateful to God for placing her in my life.

But alas, it was eventually decided that I was too old to need that sort of “care”. Perhaps there were other factors but that is what I was told. I was devastated. I loved feeling like part of a family so when that came to an end I felt rejected. She still came around for a time and helped me with rides on days I had the cello, but it was still a huge loss for me.

So, YEAH! All that from a pancake!

My husband finished most of it off.

Facebook…the place where dreams go to die.

So, I’d never even heard of this double-yolked phenomenon until recently…never knew there was such a thing. So imagine my surprise when I cracked open my very first double-yolked egg today! Of course I had to document this rare event. Apparently the odds of finding a double-yolked egg are about one in 1,000. Maybe I should try a lottery ticket next…or did I use up my odds-quota on the egg? DANGIT! STUPID (delicious) EGG!

 

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UPDATE:

Apparently, according to all the facebook comments I got, this is not rare. Facebook “friends” were quick to let me know that they get these ALL THE TIME. So google lied with the one in one thousand bullshit. Unless it wasn’t referring to local, farm-raised eggs (which these are) but was referring to crappy, store-bought eggs. Although, I’ve been getting these eggs for quite some time and this was still my first double-yoker experience.

WHATEVER. No lottery ticket for Mindy.

Facebook…the place where dreams go to die.

UPDATED UPDATE:

Got the lottery ticket…didn’t win. But I did win another double-yoker! It was the second to last egg from the same carton. I took a picture…of course.

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What A Day

He said he didn’t believe in God.

Didn’t know if I’d heard him right so I was sure to make my brother repeat himself. His words BruceLee-ed me right in the throat.

“I don’t believe there’s a God.”

“When did this happen?” I thought. How can he believe something can come from nothing? It’s so illogical it boggles my mind because he’s quite intelligent. I know it’s because he doesn’t want to believe, like most. He had a response for every point I tried to make, although my lack of articulation did not help matters. My brain tends to shut down when I need it the most. Whenever the topic of God and Jesus come up with someone who doesn’t believe my heart pounds in my chest and I struggle to find just the right words. I panic inside. My life is centered around Jesus so when my deeply held convictions are challenged my heart can’t seem to bear it…and my brain goes on vacation. What’s frustrating is that I quite often listen to some of the best Christian apologists in the world. There is so much solid evidence for our faith. One would think I would be able to relay all that I have learned when opportunity arises. WRONG! …of course, I also knew you can’t reason someone into believing, so there’s that.

1 Corinthians 2:14

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

I have often heard that we should always share our testimony with the unbeliever because they can’t argue with your own personal experience. Well, I guess that theory is blown. According to Todd, when I felt the Holy Spirit enter into my body at the age of nine it was nothing more than endorphins…or at least that’s what he suggested. But I know the truth. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a child crying out to Jesus with a sincerity that couldn’t have been any purer. I was not expecting to feel anything that night. Didn’t know I COULD expect to feel anything. I didn’t even know about the Holy Spirit! All I knew was that I needed Jesus. I didn’t need any proof of His existence. I just knew that I knew that I knew. I wanted Him in my life. I asked Him to come into my heart. With my face pressed into my pillow I sobbed with a desperation that could have only come from a deep, inner knowing that my heart was incomplete. How could I be aware of such a thing at the tender age of nine? Perhaps because I had not yet been jaded by this fallen world?…I really don’t know. My dad used to tell me a lot of things as a kid. Much of it I discarded for many reasons, but when he simply told me about Jesus I knew it was true. It was the one time he managed to relay something to me in terms I could understand. Imagine my surprise when God literally entered the depths of my heart upon an innocent child’s request. A most pleasant surprise indeed. So sudden! So unexpected! The peace was immediate. Lying on my little belly, crying out to Jesus to come into my heart and then Him responding in the most literal of ways. The energy was immense! It shot right through my back, directly into my heart (just like I had asked) and then spread throughout my entire tiny frame with such warmth and love…well, it’s beyond words. After that I knew without a doubt that Jesus was with me. I had been sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:13-14

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

No big brother, that was not the work of endorphins…especially when one is not expecting to feel anything but the wetness of her tear stained pillow.

His unbelief hurt me more than when he told me my niece is transgender and has a new name. That came up first. We were in a diner at the time and I couldn’t hold back the tears. Never could hide my emotions. Yup. Apparently it was a bomb dropping kind of day over a plate of Eggs Benedict and home fries. Don’t get me wrong, the news of my niece’s on-going struggle with her identity hit hard too. I didn’t feel well. Angst began squeezing my aorta and I can still feel its presence. My appetite vanished. Yet, what seems to be weighing on me even more than that revelation is the fact that my brother, ALL of my brothers, do not believe in the one true God. I had thought (hoped even) that at least Todd still had faith. It does indeed grieve my soul. But I am so thankful for how calm, loving, and patient he was with me. He understood I was learning all of this for the first time and allowed me my natural reaction. It was time well spent in George’s Diner, regardless of the tears. We actually had more time to talk because my motorcycle crapped out on me and I was forced to hop on the back of his bike. We ended up eating much closer than originally planned for our Thursday afternoon, bike riding adventure. Divine intervention? Perhaps. After fussing with the fuel switch (it’s a long story) my bike did get me home on the way back.

Todd & Mindy 8/31/17

Me and my big brother after we ate at the diner. I think this may be the only picture of just the two of us…we need to start taking more pics I think!

I don’t know how to let go of this burden. I’m well aware that I cannot convince anyone of the existence of God yet I still tend to carry the responsibility as if its my own. I’m trying to give it up to my Heavenly Father. I’ve cried out to Him to take this heaviness off of my heart. I was told by one confidant that I’m grieving and I know they are correct in their assumption. It comes in waves. Just when I think I’m all better another bout of sadness overwhelms my soul from deep within. It’s a sadness I don’t want.

This world we live in, these bodies we possess, the spirit we feel deep within our core…a creator cannot be denied. Our bodies are so intricate in detail. Each person so unique to the next. God cannot be denied. Everything has order…from the structure of our DNA to the finely tuned universe…God cannot be denied. This does not happen by chance nor accident. All men are without excuse when it comes to the rejection of our mighty Creator.

Romans 1:19-20

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

God Keeps a Record of EVERYTHING. He Never Forgets a Single Tear.

Our one true God keeps a record of everything…even when we forget.

He sees all. Even good deeds we’ve done in secret, no matter how small to us, never go unnoticed by our Heavenly Father. And He also sees the tears we shed in private. The tears cried into our pillow at night may be unknown to others, but not to Him.

It’s comforting to know that God never forgets a single tear.

You know, I’ve always imagined God keeping every single tear I’ve ever cried and will cry within my very own bottle, labeled “Mindy’s Tears”. I envisioned it sitting upon a heavenly shelf somewhere for safe keeping, along with every one else’s tear-filled bottles. Actually, I pictured my plethora of tears requiring a much larger container such as a water jug, or maybe even a vat. But I now realize I misread that passage. It doesn’t say He keeps all my tears in A bottle…it says He keeps all my tears in His bottle. Huh… That changes everything.

Psalm 56:8 

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?

There’s A Difference

Two days ago marked the one year anniversary of my deliverance from depression (April 22, 2016). It was a long 28 year battle; quite severe at times. I could definitely be happier in my life but there’s a huge difference between unhappiness and depression which I can CLEARLY see. The depression is GONE. I’ve had lots of struggles since this event but I’m certain that’s to be expected since when the enemy loses a battle he tends to attack with something else, but through the trials I’ve learned and grown a lot. I have a long ways to go and I hope I can overcome all the other tiresome struggles that are still holding me back from being the person I truly want to be. God knows what they all are. I pray the Lord will guide me and help me live the life He wants for me…whatever that is. It’s definitely a process and I’m trying to work through it.

And on Friday the 28th it will have been a year since I gave up marijuana. Haven’t touched it since. It was definitely a stronghold in my life and I’m glad to be free from it. I don’t even think about it anymore (that took some time) and my lungs are happier, too.

 

The Shack…See or Shun?

So, after listening to both sides, I think each make legitimate, reasonable points. When I first saw mention of this movie I looked it up to see what it was all about since I’d never read the book. SO MANY of my devoted Christian friends were raving about this movie on Facebook, so I needed to see what all the fuss was about. But once I googled The Shack I quickly became unnerved by all the negative reviews (you know what they say about the internet…It’s where dreams go to die). Then I found some excerpts from the book that troubled me…“How could so many of my Christian peers be so enamored by such heresy?”, I thought to myself. “Where is their discernment?”“Why aren’t alarm bells going off in their heads?!?” I know their love and devotion to the Lord is genuine. I trusted that fact so I decided maybe there was more than meets the eye in this case. I say “in this case” because there are movies I have flat out refused to go see because of their BLATANT heresy. Films such as The Last Temptation of Christ or Exodus: Gods and Kings, or Noah, just to name a few. The bible is amazing all on its own. It does not need help with its narrative. It does not need any changing or add-ons, but Hollywood seems to think otherwise.

For me it is far too painful to watch lies about my Lord on screen so I try to avoid them. I think those movies are quite damaging because so many people who have never read a bible story watch Hollywood’s version and know no other. BUT, after reading someone’s comment about how God can use anything it got me to thinking about these heretical films. “Hmmmmm”, I thought, “How many people, after watching these, actually picked up a bible  to see if what they saw was actually in there?” That’s not to say these films don’t draw more people further away from God than to Him. I’m just pointing out the fact that God CAN use anything. And I’m most certainly not trying to excuse the making of these blasphemous films. But, in my humble opinion, malice intent was behind the making of those films but not so in the making of The Shack. Yes, yes, I know good intentions can fall short and lead to unintended consequences. After all, French philosopher Albert Camus made a good point when he said,

“The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.”

Hmmm…So I guess I just refuted my own argument.

Let’s see what the bible has to say. I’m no biblical scholar and I have so much to learn, but I kept hearing a passage in my head from Romans 14…so I read the entire chapter and feel its meaning goes well beyond food. I think it relates to what someone was trying to say in a comment I mentioned earlier…Those that are confident enough in their faith to go see this movie and gain some sort of beneficial understanding from it which does not conflict with God’s truth should not be condemned or shamed by those who aren’t comfortable with this film. God blesses both. 

Was The Shack perfect? No. But after excessive researching of different reviews and comments from both sides of the aisle and a self-defense piece by the actual co-author (don’t forget to check out the comments section, too), I decided to go see the film for myself. After all, how can I make judgments based only on others’ opinions? As my husband loves to quote, “I’ll know my song well before I start singing”. And, like I said, after all of my studying of this film it did not seem to fall into the same category as the others (for me). I still had my doubts and worries about how God’s character would be portrayed but I also went in knowing that this movie was having a positive effect on people. I can’t say the same for those OTHER films nor did any of my fellow Christians endorse those films. Ope! But since those movies were OBVIOUSLY disingenuous I can already hear the arguments now…“but deception comes wrapped up in truth! That’s far more dangerous!” Yes. That is true. Deception works best when it’s disguised with truth. But I didn’t see anything in this film that would cause someone to lose their soul to the dark side. But yeah, there were some key elements in this film that I didn’t like.

I’m not into a fictionalized idea/portrayal of two parts of the Trinity appearing as people, but that’s just me. It felt wrong. I also didn’t like the watering down of sin and its consequences. When I heard her (Papa) say, “Sin is its own punishment” I immediately said out loud, “WHAT?!?!” I don’t even know what that means! Most sin is enjoyable or no one would be doing it. How can sin be its own punishment? That would mean Jesus didn’t have to die for our sins if there’s no danger of punishment. We all have to face judgment one day. That’s why believing in Jesus and what He did for us at the cross is so important. We are redeemed through His blood. I didn’t feel the complete message of the cross was presented well, if at all. It was hard for me to move past that scene. It was basically implied that there is no such thing as the wrath of God. Well, tell me that after reading the book of Revelation. Let’s just say this is why I don’t like to watch these movies…I feel safer (and calmer) learning and reading about God’s will and character straight from God’s Holy Word because from there I KNOW for sure, without a doubt, that what I read is true and accurate. But that’s not to say God can’t reveal Himself through other avenues. He does it all the time.

I do understand the thought behind these fictional characters (and that’s just what it is, FICTION) and the reasoning of why God the Father appears to the character, Mack, in such a way. And the reasoning was also explained to the audience. Just because I don’t like that concept doesn’t make it wrong for others who do (again, refer back to Romans 14), but then again…does it?

So this is where my struggle/inner conflict comes in… 

I tend to think something is either wrong or it isn’t…it’s either scriptural or it isn’t. I’m really confused since so many believers don’t seem to have any qualms with these portrayals, yet I do.  Is there something wrong with ME? Am I too closed-minded? Are they too open-minded? I tend to think if something portrays God’s truth then there shouldn’t be confusion attached. And I understand there are those of you who believe the mere fictionalized portrayal of God the Father as a woman is blasphemous. I’m not so sure I disagree but I don’t believe this portrayal was meant to imply that God is a woman. Besides, later in the movie God the Father changes form and appears as a man as well and we were all created in His image, male and female, soooo…I just keep going back to the fact that this is someone’s fictitious narrative.

So, again, this movie is based on a work of fiction from someone’s imagination. They had an idea and tried to fit scripture into it. Is that wrong? I don’t know. God seems to be using it regardless. Who am I to say it’s bad to watch this movie? In this case, and I already explained what I mean by, “in this case”, there was more meat than bones. So, as a believer rooted with a solid foundation of truth, I chewed the meat and spit out the bones. And, as a believer, I can now have a discussion about this film if it ever comes up because I saw it. Others who don’t have as solid a foundation or none at all should be able to be fed by the rest of us who do. If we choose to view this film we can then explain the truth to those who don’t know or understand. This film presents opportunity.

I didn’t want to assume I knew what this film was all about without seeing it. So that’s why I chose to go see it. We shouldn’t judge, condemn, or shame our fellow believers for being excited about a movie that seems to be encouraging them in THEIR walk and helping those who are struggling with grief and forgiveness. After watching this film I don’t see it as a deterrent to knowing the One True God. I’m hoping it will pique one’s curiosity and lead them to do some seeking of their own. And if in their earnest seeking they are sincere, God will meet them.

It’s OK to lovingly express our concerns and remind our brothers and sisters about using discernment and being alert to the possibility of hidden deception. I think it’s important and we should do that, but then it is in their hands. The choice is their’s to make and we must trust that Holy Spirit is at work. Who am I to judge something that has touched so many? I’m willing to admit that I don’t know it all. Just because it didn’t impact me doesn’t mean it can’t be encouraging for someone else. Granted, I did go into the movie knowing what was coming in many places and that may have ruined the element of surprise, but that’s what I needed to do “in this case“…but there was a time in my walk, as a believer, when I DIDN’T always test everything…and yet somehow I turned out alright. Imagine that. Holy Spirit must be doing something right.

Would I recommend this movie to others? No. Probably not because of my own lingering doubts and concerns. Would I watch it again? Sure…if it happens to be showing during a free DIRECTV movie preview at home…Sure. Maybe I’ll get more out of it the second time around, and since I’ll be at home, I won’t be tempted to buy that overly priced, buttered popcorn that goes straight to me butt.

FINAL CONCLUSION:

After reading through all that I wrote above it is clear to me I was in conflict with myself; trying to justify why the movie is OK for others but not for me while still struggling with the fact that this story is not based on 100% biblical truth. I wrote above, “They had an idea and tried to fit scripture into it. Is that wrong?”…Yes. It’s wrong to try and contort God’s Word to fit your own ideas of “truth”.  I’m not OK with a movie conflicting or distorting any aspect of God’s true nature. This film left me with an uneasiness deep within my gut because its theology is clashing with the Holy Spirit who lives in me. I should not have to struggle to justify something if it’s message is in alignment with the bible; this story is not. And one should note that the author, William Paul Young, does not believe in the One True God of the bible. His latest book, “Lies We Believe About God” proves that. He believes in universalism, where everyone is saved. That is not biblical. And I did see universalism suggested in this movie. Even though this book’s co-author does not support this falsehood, the very fact that both authors have conflicting beliefs should raise red flags. 

I spoke of deception being disguised with truth and upon further reflection I DO believe this movie is veiled in deception. What I wrote was me basically arguing it all out with myself…Pros and cons…But, for me, I don’t like anything that is just far too questionable and that can mislead someone into thinking that true repentance and having a healthy fear of God are not necessary, because that’s part of this movie’s message whether one wants to agree with it or not. I can’t support something that takes away from the very essence of why Jesus Christ died on the cross.  I cannot and will not try to justify this film any further…Is God a loving God? Yes. But He is also Holy and deserves reverence. I get people’s arguments that this movie reaches those that think God is unloving and unreachable, but this movie watered down certain truths to appease those who don’t want to know about the reality of eternal consequence to sin by rejecting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That, to me, is the most important message and did not need to be excluded…but after learning what the main author’s theology is I’m not surprised. Not sure this movie would lead one to salvation even though I did say God CAN use anything, but it could lead one to believe all paths lead to the One True God…and that’s a travesty.

I found a clip of Ravi Zacharias answering someone’s question and he speaks of Paul Young in a very loving way but puts into words exactly how I feel but wasn’t able to express…

“…Doctrinally if you come close to that which can become quite aberrant you risk the pristine nature of the doctrine and can run the risk of fouling it up…”

I also agree with Steven Bancarz’s take on this movie as well…