The Good Place

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There is a new sitcom out this fall called “The Good Place.”  Ted Danson and Kristen Bell are the stars. I watched the Pilot and first episode. I haven’t decided if I will keep watching to see where the show is headed or not. What I wanted to discuss here is the depressing way the sitcom portrays the after-life.

Kristen’s character dies and ends up in the “Good Place” at Ted Danson’s desk. He explains to all the newcomers how you get there. A point scheme exists that gives you positive or negative points based on every action you do on earth. Obviously, good things give you positive points and bad behaviors give you negative points. In the end, it’s totaled up and if you are above an extremely high, pre-defined number, you go to the “Good Place.” Everyone else goes to the “Bad Place.” The people inhabiting this land were extreme philanthropists or spent their life as doctors in impoverished nations. Very few make it to the “Good Place.”

The rest of the show is spent meeting new characters. There is rivalry, insecurity, lonliness, bitterness and boredom in this “Good Place.” The people aren’t happy nor are they any different than on earth. Emotions run high.

Let me state that I am a Christian which means I believe in Jesus as God’s son and that His death and resurrection (coming back to life and ascending to Heaven) paid my penalty for disobeying God. I believe in Heaven (eternity in God’s presence) and Hell (eternity apart from God’s presence).

This show made me sad. Why would I want to struggle on earth just to keep doing so after I die? Why would I even bother doing good if I most likely wouldn’t reach the high score required to make it to the “Good Place?” Why would I want to live in “paradise” if I am just going to continue to feel insecure, lonely and/or not good enough?

I know it’s just a sitcom and meant to be funny. It has humorous moments and the flashbacks to Kristen’s former life are intriguing. Yet the tension of all the emotions makes it a sad show to me.

I’m not rejecting or embracing this new show. I just wanted to challenge all of us to think about what we believe happens after we die. How do we envision Heaven or our view of the “Good Place?” Obviously, I hope you come to understand who God is and how Heaven is truly the place you want to be.

In the Bible, Revelation 21:3-4 says “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

It’s a new order. The pain and frustration of earthly things will be gone. No more tears. Dwelling with God is the GOOD PLACE. You can start that dwelling now while you are on earth. Reading the Bible, joining a church, connecting with others who also seek to know God more are all ways to get a taste of the GOOD PLACE today. The hope of Heaven, the real GOOD PLACE, will sustain you through the trials and joys of this life. Start seeking today.

Dream Big!

Bad Mom

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Let me start with a disclaimer: I can’t remember the last time I saw an R rated movie (actually I think it was The Kings Speech which shouldn’t have been R). I don’t like raunchy movies.

I saw Bad Moms. I loved Bad Moms. I am not recommending any of you go see it. It is R rated for a reason – lot’s of bad language and quite a few verbal sexual references and one visual reference. I wish they could have removed most of that stuff for a PG rating because the message is pretty great.

Without giving spoilers, the main premise of the show is a bully PTA President and regular moms trying to over throw her and the concept of perfection. The main mom in the show worked part-time, has a cheating husband, enrolled her kids in a million activities, and was overwhelmed.

Here are my takeaway’s from Bad Moms the movie.

  1. You need friends. She made two new friends who weren’t perfect yet over time shared from the heart with one another.
  2. You can’t do it all. If you work outside the home (full or part-time), life is extra full. If you are a stay-at-home mom, life is extra full. Discover what are priorities for your family and invest time in those things.
  3. Your kids can’t do it all. Truly evaluate their extra-curricular activities for their sanity as well as yours.
  4. Teach your children how to do for themselves. In one scene, the kids are sitting at the counter waiting for homemade breakfast. It never comes and they are lost. Teach your children to prepare simple meals, make their own lunches, and clean around the home. These are skills they need in life. I love to cook my kids breakfast but if I skip a day, they all know how to make eggs on their own now.
  5.  Cut each other some slack. Stop judging other moms, especially the ones who seem so put together. They are sometimes the ones who need friends most of all. We are in this together. Lean on one another. Laugh about the crazy teen years or terrible twos. Don’t judge the mom who has the screaming kid or the daughter wearing short shorts – get to know her.
  6. This isn’t from the movie but my life: Get together with good friends as often as you can. – I saw this movie with 2 of my dearest friends who are also moms. We laugh together. We cry together. We vent to one another. We point one another to God. After the movie, we got dinner and talked long after the valet closed.

Again, I don’t recommend this movie due to its rating. I am happy to say that even though pluggedin.com (A Focus on the Family movie review website), didn’t endorse the movie – they saw the value in the lesson of it.  Check out their views here at  http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/bad-moms

I just want to encourage moms who are facing the end of summer and the beginning of new schedules to take time to read my takeaway’s above. Create the schedule you all can live with. In the movie, saying you’re a Bad Mom took away the pressure of perfection. You aren’t a Bad Mom – you are a Real Mom – doing the best you can, leaning on God for strength and wisdom and sharing honestly with friends. I hope us Real Moms enjoy the last few weeks of summer.

Dream Big!

American Idol: I’ll miss you

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I watched American Idol from the beginning. I loved it. As a singer, I enjoyed watching the pursuit of a career in this field. I noticed too that every season, there were several Christians in the mix. I prayed for them regularly.

As the show ended last night, I realized this isn’t just a show but this is life for the people we are participating. This is a new reality for them. As previous winners and contestants sang on the stage, I saw how many desired to be in the music industry but how few make it. Even among the winners, only a handful “made it.” Several “losers” went further in their careers than those crowned American Idol. I am sure several of those on stage last night, won’t be on a stage like that again. Many will play local clubs, theaters, etc. However, they are still pursuing their passions and touching people with music.

I was thrilled when Colton Dixon sang “Through All of It” I was grateful for the testimony he gave on TV.

“I have won and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it”

Carrie Underwood sang “Something In The Water” which is about baptism and being changed by God. Another powerful testimony.

God was praised by many artists last night. Even Trent thanked God, truly thanked Him, when he won. I must confess that I wanted LaPorcha to win. Both finalists thanked God several times in the season. I believe, and hope, they both have a relationship with Him. God has a plan and He is in charge of who wins American Idol. He is going to lead both Trent and LaPorcha on a journey where God is glorified.

I am sad the show is over. I’m glad the bad and goofy auditions are done though. I honestly didn’t start watching until Hollywood week. I wanted to see talent and growth and passion develop before my eyes. I had that in American Idol. It now frees up 2 hours a week to do other stuff though. Maybe I’ll pick up my guitar and try to learn that how to play it again.

For any fans out there, sad over the shows ending, take the extra 2 hours in your week and pursue your passion. Start biking, painting, writing, sewing, knitting, boxing, whatever – just start! The show encouraged that. God wants that for you too. Step into your giftedness. You don’t need national exposure to make a difference. Goodbye American Idol, hello to all of us who touch lives in our own ways every day.

Dream Big!

Courage is fear bathed in prayer

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I am recovering from outpatient surgery.  It was minor surgery however they needed to put me under completely.  The idea of that freaked me out. What if I didn’t wake up? What if I get totally sick from the medication? What if…? What if…?

I am a fearful person by nature, or nurture, or both. I constantly need to seek God to step out into new things. Trying a new food, learning a new skill, or the big stuff most people fear. When I found out on a Tuesday I was having surgery on the upcoming Friday, I freaked. I had 3 days to prepare.

Day 1: I got the call about the scheduled surgery as I was walking into my Bible Study group. The first friend who asked how I was got a flood of my tears. I was in shock and scared. I cried and prayed with friends all morning. Guess what? I was in the best place to have a mini-meltdown. I needed my sisters in Christ. They prayed. They promised to pray on Friday. They hugged me. They held my hand. They encouraged me. They didn’t judge me or tell me to get over it.

Day 2: I kept myself busy so I didn’t think too much. I made sure I had a time to sit in God’s presence after reading from the Bible. I found peace and His love. I went to my workout to work off the anxiety in my system. I did mommy duty the rest of the day.

Day 3: A morning of prayer, yoga, time with a dear friend and being outside at the arboretum left me in a state of peace. Afternoon soccer, Open House and nighttime routine filled the rest of the day.

Surgery Day: I awoke peaceful. The key here is that I slept. I was grateful for that. I didn’t fret all night. Again, God’s peace was surrounding me. I would feel a moment of fear rise up then I’d pray and it would dissipate. I remembered the phrase I heard at a conference – Courage is fear bathed in prayer. I can have the fear but not let it stop me. I truly stayed calm with momentary fear bursts that were squelched with more prayer (Lord calm me down, Lord be near me, Lord I know you will uphold me with your righteous right hand).

The moment I was wheeled into the OR, I began to cry. That room is so scary: Huge lights above, everything is sterile, it’s big and sparse and all the nurses are rushing around. The staff was fabulous. I was just scared. The last thing I heard before I went out was “let’s sedate her.” I awoke in another room with an oxygen mask on my face. I wasn’t nauseous. I began to praise God. He granted me another day to love Him, love my family, and grow as a person.

God is the reason I got through this ordeal without major anxiety and even more tears. Courage is fear bathed in prayer. I am courageous because I lean on God, His Word and His people in time of fear. The prayers of myself and my friends made all the difference. As we celebrate Easter this weekend, I hope you will consider the power at your fingertips because Jesus chose to die and conquer death then rise again to prepare a place for us in Heaven and to connect with us daily because He loves us. Life isn’t easy but it’s less scary when we have a relationship with Jesus. I’m grateful for Him and for you who read my blog. You are loved by Him and by me.

Dream Big!

Spinning

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The holidays don’t  have me swirling around in a daze of busyness.  However, the spin class I took nearly sent me over the edge.  For those of you who love to spin – more power to you.  For those who have never tried it, let me give you a first timer’s experience.

My dear friend shared a free coupon she received to try a spin class at Soul Cycle.  I looked online to find a class time that worked for us and we set a date.  On a Monday, after dropping our boys at school, we headed to Pasadena.  The business is impressive.  It was brightly lit with yellow decor.  We signed in then signed our life away on the waiver.  After selecting our bike location (out of 50 bike stations), I noticed a jar of yellow earplugs.  I inquired.  The woman said, “The music can get kinda loud in the room.”  My heart rate started increasing at that moment.  I love music but loud “boom-boom” contemporary stuff can overwhelm me.

We were guided to lockers where we put our stuff and shoes.  We slipped on the specialized shoes they gave us that included metal contraptions to clip onto the bike.  Walking was slippery. When the doors open and the prior class exited, everyone was dripping sweat.  I looked at my friend who also looked concerned that everyone was so sweaty.  We agreed it would be a good workout.

A kind woman, who was a regular and several years older than us, said it is a lot of fun, intimidating at first, and the music is very loud.  She encouraged us that we could do it.

I walked into the darkened room and had to remember to breath.  It was warm, small, dark, and had tight aisles between the rows of bikes.  We squeezed our way to the back row where bike 45 and 46 were.  Since we were new, a worker showed us how to clip in and out, where the emergency brake was located and explained a bit about the way the bike worked.  I inquired how to exit if I freaked out when it got darker and more full of people.  (Claustrophobics would not take this class.  I barely could.)

The instructor entered and the lights dimmed.  The only lights on were at the front where the instructor was.  She greeted everyone and said a special hello and word of encouragement to us 2 newbies.  It was a welcoming place.  Then the music started and the intensity began.

The pounding beat of the music began.  I actually liked the songs.  I was grateful for the ear plugs.  Without them, my ears were in pain.  Very loud is an understatement.  Within a few moments, everyone in the class got off the seat of the bike and stood upright.  You are clipped into the pedals and can stand with your hands on the handlebars and your toes are pointed downward while you keep pedaling.  Yes it is as complicated as it sounds.

I braved standing only to feel immense pain in my upper thighs.  These aren’t bicycle muscles I was using.  I like to bike and do so often, but biking doesn’t use the same muscles as spin.  I sat back down after 30 seconds.  I think the most I stood at one time was 2 minutes.  I see that it is something you need to do regularly to build up that particular muscle group. While everyone stood, I sat and tried to join in the other motions.

We did push-ups on the handlebars.  We moved side to side on the beat. We pedaled faster. At one point, everyone sat down and we pulled out hand weights tucked under the seat of the bike.  The nice gal next to me showed me where they were.  At one point, I slowed to a snails pace and took deep breaths when my heart rate got dangerously high. I pedaled the whole time, even after I tightened the tension when I thought I was loosening it.  Ugh.

The final stretch felt good.  However, I only did one side because you unclip one foot, stretch, then clip back in and do the other side.  I could never reclip.  When I stood up to exit, I had spaghetti legs.  I thought I was going to fall down.  I didn’t though.

We all exited and returned to our lockers.  I was grateful to get the shoes off and sit down without pedaling.  The worker who helped us appeared with a welcome gift (a free pass to come again) and a huge smile.  He asked how we liked it.  I said, “It was loud and hard, but I did it.”

Would I do it again? I doubt it. The environment isn’t my style. Would I recommend it?  If you like high energy, high impact, high intensity, then go for it. I am grateful to my friend for encouraging me to try something new. We went together because new things can be intimidating.  Doing it with a friend, makes it manageable and fun. She and I now share a memory that I guarantee will last a life time.  For that alone, it was worth it.

Dream Big!

It’s finally soup weather

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My New Year’s Resolution is to try a new recipe a week.  I began the year blogging on this topic but stopped this summer.  However, I never stopped trying new recipes.  I have found a few fabulous ones I just had to share.  This is one of them and it’s soooooooo easy.  It’s a Crock Pot Potato Soup.

We ate nearly the entire Crock Pot of soup.  We had one serving left over which was eaten the next day at lunch. My kids had thirds.  I made cornbread to serve with it. Normally, all of our cornbread is gone at one sitting.  They each had a small piece of cornbread and a ton of soup.  I know it isn’t the healthiest but it is the heartiest and most heartwarming too.

This was shared on Facebook with a link to http://www.leahwithlove.com/recipe/crock-pot-potato-soup.  Thank you Leah.  I will include the recipe since I can’t seem to cut and paste it from her site.

Ingredients:

1 32 oz bag of Frozen Hash Browns, cubed (not really hash browns, cubed frozen potatoes)

1 32 oz box of Chicken Broth (I used low sodium)

1 can (10 oz) Cream of Chicken Soup

1 8 oz package of Cream Cheese (the recipe says not fat free but I’d try it next time I make it)

3 oz Bacon Bits (I got the “real” bacon, bacon bits – buy two ’cause you top the soup with it too)

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1-2 pinches salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Put hash browns in the crock pot
  2. Add in the chicken broth, cream of chicken soup and half of the bacon bits (dump it in, no need to premix)
  3. Add a pinch of salt and pepper
  4. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or until potatoes are tender. (Mine was in 7 am – 4 pm and it was fine)
  5. An hour before serving, cut the cream cheese into very small cubes (Mine were large chunks) and place in the crock pot
  6. Mix a few times throughout the hour before serving (I threw in the cream cheese and stirred it right before serving and it was fine.)
  7. Top with cheddar cheese and some additional bacon bits! (you can add green onions or chives too)

Hope it warms up your family’s tummies.  It did ours.

Try new things and remember…

Dream Big!

What have you learned lately?

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I found myself sipping a smoothie at my favorite coffee shop, Hyper Coffee in Arcadia. (The picture is not from Hyper but looked close.) The song “You Learn” by Alanis Morissette began to play. I had just read a great article about her and her influence on women in music as well as authentic lyrics becoming more the norm. As I listened to this song, I was inspired. The chorus is this:

“You live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn

You grieve you learn, you choke you learn
You laugh you learn, you choose you learn
You pray you learn, you ask you learn
You live you learn”

I pondered if I let these experiences/emotions in life teach me. Recently, I grieved as a friend from Bible Study passed away after battling illness. What did I learn? I need to make it a point to send a note or show up on someone’s doorstep when prompted. Don’t wait. I cried because I was exhausted from a long day. What did I learn?  I learned to keep almonds in my purse to give me healthy energy when I am sinking. I laughed aloud and learned I need to do that daily. I prayed for a friend who asked for it. What did I learn? I discovered asking is good and prayer makes a huge difference. I can learn daily, hourly some days, if I choose it. And I do.

Unfortunately, I know some people who rarely learn. They are faced with opportunities but don’t use them as points of growth.  I feel sad for them. In my opinion, their lives are small.
I encourage you to take time to ask yourself “What have I learned lately?”  If you don’t have an answer, start learning.  Let life be your teacher. If you have an answer, please share in the comment section. I’d love to hear about your growth in life.
Dream Big!