Holy Week, Holy Movies

One of the things I remember about the Easter season growing up were the religious movies we watched.  My first recollection of a spiritual movie was “The Robe”.  Even as a child I was moved by it and the message of ultimate sacrifice and unconditional love the lead characters (Richard Burton and Jean Simmons) displayed in the final scene of the movie.  (I won’t give away the ending if you’ve never seen it.)  It is still one of my favorite Easter movies.  “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston was also a family favorite.The Robe

In 2004, Mel Gibson produced “The Passion of the Christ” taking spiritual movies to a new level.  It was violent and highly controversial.  It was incredibly gripping and painful to watch.  I left the theater emotionally raw after watching the realistic depiction of Jesus crucifixion.  At the same time I remember thinking it would be something I should see every year as a reminder of what Jesus endured for the sake my soul.  Nine years later and I still haven’t been able to watch it.  The visual images are that powerful in my mind.

Passion of the ChristThis year I have a new favorite spiritual movie that has given me much pause about my Christianity.  It is “Les Misérables”.  Like “The Passion”, it is dark and violent at times, but the music, lyrics, and redemption message, carry you through the movie to its tear-jerking and powerful conclusion.

The movie opens with the song “Look Down” and the release of Jean Valjean from prison after 19 years.  After word of his release, Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman, sings about his freedom, while the prison guard, Javert, played by Russell Crowe, reminds him his name is “24601” and that he’ll always be a slave.  Although technically free, Valjean is a marked man and must carry his papers with him wherever he goes.  He is bitter and sings “I’ll never forgive them for what they’ve done”.

Les MiserablesAfter an encounter with a Catholic bishop, there is another moving scene in which we get to witness Valjean’s inner struggle as he decides to reclaim his identity and put the mentality of a slave behind him.  (Click the song link to hear Pedro perform the first three songs of “Les Mis” – Look Down, Valjean’s Soliloquy and The Bishop © 2012 Claude Michel Schonberg.)

These first few scenes set the stage for conflict throughout the movie.  On the one hand you have Valjean, who is stepping into his redeemed identity and living a life of grace and forgiveness (like Jesus).  On the other hand you have Javert, who represents ‘the law’ (like the Pharisees).  Javert is obsessed with tracking down Valjean to return him to prison for breaking parole—much like the Apostle Paul persecuted Christians prior to his conversion.

Throughout the movie, there are encounters between these two characters as their worlds collide in unpredictable ways.  Javert continues to believe (and sings) “a man such as you can never change”.  But even in the face of death, Valjean chooses to do what is right and won’t return to his ways of rebellion and slavery.  Valjean is a changed man.  He is walking out his identity in Christ. In the end (spoiler alert), Javert can’t live with himself and the inner turmoil caused by Valjean’s transformation, and chooses to take his own life—like Judas did.Les Miserables 2

I’ve seen “Les Mis” twice in the theater, bought the video this week and have listened to the soundtrack countless times in the last two months.  Needless to say, I love it!  I’m sure not everyone will agree with my enthusiasm for this movie.  However, with its powerful story, amazing music and compelling lyrics, I think “Les Mis” is a must-see for every Christian—and perfect for Holy Week reflection.  Coincidentally, it ends with the hope of tomorrow—just like we have in Christ.

What’s your favorite spiritual or Holy Week movie and why?

Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones

Over the past few weeks I have been under an amazing amount of spiritual attack.  The attack actually started a few months ago as we formed a team at my church to launch a Celebrate Recovery ministry.  Initially the attack was in the form of many organizational and logistical obstacles to overcome.  But then a few weeks ago, the attack turned very personal in nature when my motives and recovery were questioned. 
When this first happened, a friend told me that I was being bullied.  That is exactly what it was—only this time it wasn’t being done by some school age kid, it was by an adult.  It was a painful process to walk through.  As I did, I was able to share with my 14-year-old son how to take responsibility for my part in the matter, offer and seek forgiveness and to walk tall in midst of the continuing attack.  I was thankful to be able to turn this into a teaching moment with him.  Like my friend, he recognized it as bullying from the start.
sticks-and-stonesIn hindsight, I can definitely see how Satan used this to throw me off course and to attempt to derail me from being on this team.  Sometimes I even became my own worst enemy in the process.  When I was young, kids used to say ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’.  As an adult, I know that those words are not true.  Words do hurt people.  And in fact, quite often people intentionally do use words to hurt people.  After all, hurt people hurt people.  Their words can and do stick with you—if you allow it.
The voices from people in our past, including bullies can keep us stuck in the past and prevent us from living the life that God has called us to.  Satan wants us to keep believing those lies.  He puts the bait out there and wants us to get hooked on it.  Once we do, we can easily go down the road of doubt, self-condemnation and becoming a victim.  It is not a pretty sight.  I know because I have been caught up in it in the past and have to constantly be on the lookout for it.
That is precisely the reason I love Celebrate Recovery.  It is all about working through our hurts, habits and hang-ups.  Quite often it is the words that have been spoken into our lives in the past that we don’t let go of.  We repeat them in our mind or we listen to the voices in our head that tell us we are not good enough and that God could never use us or love us after what we have done.  Celebrate Recovery is a safe place to work through those hurts with others who also struggle and have found victory over it through Christ.
I know that Satan is not done with his attacks against me or this ministry.  He knows it is a threat to his dominion.  I also know that God is not done with me yet.  He is using my trials to build me up into a better leader.  I have a group of amazing mentors, accountability partners and prayer warriors around me that have walked this road as well.  I know I am not going down a path that has not been walked before.  I have some battle scars, but will proudly reveal them to those who want to walk this journey with me.
the sword - word of godI have often been reminded of Ephesians 6:12 over the last few weeks.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Then God’s still quiet voice also reminds me of his promises as in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
In the face of persecution and spiritual attack, we have a choice to make.  Are you going to let the ‘stick and stones’ lies of the enemy define you or are you going to believe what God tells you about your identity in Christ and His plans for you?  I choose to believe God.  I know He’s got my back.  What about you?
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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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