Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Yippee-kai-yay, Mother and Child By Sharon Lurie

© 2013 David's Harp and Pen

Mood:  Explosive

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want anyone to think I am promoting violence on the holidays, unless it’s necessary to get out of uncomfortable Christmas gatherings in which nosy people insist on asking you why it’s almost the end of another year and you’re still not married.

“Die Hard” is my favorite Christmas movie, which is a conundrum since I am also a big Jane Austen fan (a woman who likes both Georgian gentry romantic fiction and action thrillers walks a lonely road).  Alan Rickman, who plays the main antagonist in “Die Hard,” also plays Colonel Brandon in the 1995 film adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility.”

My girlfriends think Alan Rickman as Brandon is on parity with Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy in the 1995 “Pride and Prejudice” miniseries.  They don’t understand why I can’t bear him as Marianne Dashwood’s future husband.    However, every time I watch “Sense and Sensibility” and try to imagine Alan Rickman sweeping off my feet in the rain, as soon as we get to the wedding scene, I imagine him reverting from an English brogue to a German accent, shooting me in the head, and running off with my negotiable bearer bonds on the way to our honeymoon.

Anywho, for those who don’t know, “Die Hard” is a film from the 80s starring Bruce Willis as New York policeman John McClane.  Estranged from his wife Holly, who has moved to California with their two kids, John flies to Los Angeles in an attempt to reconcile with her.  However, while visiting her at Nakatomi Plaza during her office Christmas party on December 24, the building is taken over by terrorists, led by Hans Gruber, who’s played by Rickman.  McClane escapes the party and tries to defeat the twelve terroists, who’ve taken everyone else in the building hostage.

Of course, the police get involved, and then the FBI.  For the sake of comic relief, filling 131 minutes of screen time, and advancing Bruce Willis’s career, law enforcement are complete idiots and only exacerbate the hostage problem.  So, the job of saving the day rests solely on John McClane’s shoulders.

Some say the movie is the first in a line of the modern cop movies.  Some say it’s a cliché-ridden popcorn flick full of plot holes and over-the-top theatrics that only serve to propagate the antiquated idea of the urban cowboy as it lines the pockets of film studio executives.  For me, it’s probably the greatest allegory of the coming of Christ I have seen put to film.  (To the myriad of online bloggers who insist “Die Hard” is not a Christmas movie, take note!)

We became alienated from our true love.  In the meantime, we put ourselves on a collision course with a powerful enemy, one with an intricate plan to take from us what wasn’t his and destroy us in the process.

Our true love came to reclaim us as His own, but we resisted.  For a moment we forget what it was like to be in relationship with Him, and in that moment, the enemy struck.  However, as the full force of the love we left behind and its consequences hit, so did the full force of the jealousy He had for us.

True love sprung into action, and so began redemption’s great work.  He worked and lived among us, in our confines of terror and confusion that are often the hallmarks of human existence.  For the time being, He had to do the job of preparing our rescue in anonymous and clandestine fashion, and though it didn’t seem so at the time, His surreptitiousness was for our safety and benefit.

As we trembled in terror, the Word-Become-Flesh worked in the background, robbing the enemy of his weapons and his henchmen, quickly reminding the enemy of his shortcomings, which worked him into a stupefying rage.  However, each successive blow to the enemy came at great personal expense to the Pursuer of our souls.  He was forced to experience pain and peril previously unknown to Him.  He knew full well the blood He would have to shed.  But for Him, there would be no retreat.  Those on the outside had failed, and miserably so.  He had to succeed, because the apple of His eye was at stake.

Every great story has a pinnacle showdown between good and evil, and this one is no different.  The enemy was almost completely disarmed, but we the beloved didn’t know that.  All we knew was that we had death at our heads, and the sky was falling.

But then He appeared-bloodied, limping, and with singular purpose in His eyes.  He moved towards us as the enemy sneered.  Being the coward he is, the enemy put us between true love and himself.  He demanded He put down what appeared to be His only weapon, which He did, for love’s sake.

Then began that heart-stopping, breath-taking moment when the enemy rocked with laughter.  Strength fled from our spirits as we watched in disbelief what couldn’t possibly be the end.

But it wasn’t the end.  IT WASN’T THE END!!!!!  Love had a plan.  He always had a plan, and until that moment, no one could see it but Him.  Armed with the Life and the Promises of God, He not only bought us back for Himself, but He stole the keys to Hell and Death back from the epitome of evil himself.

As the enemy fell to his defeat, the Lion of Judah proclaimed, “Happy trails, Hans!”

No, not really.  He said, “Death has been defeated.  Hopelessness has been vanquished.  Sin has been conquered.  Addiction has been disarmed.  Abandonment has been given notice.  The thief of hearts has been subdued and can steal from the lives of the Beloved of God no longer!”

Friends, we are the ones who have been rescued in a tale so hyperrealistic it can’t be true.  Ah, but it is!  And because it pushes the confines of credibility that we can cry out, “Glory to God in the highest!”, even if we are an acrophobic cop from New York.  *wink*

The End


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On Woodchips and Wilderness by Sharon Lurie

--> © 2012 David's Harp and Pen

Mood:  Wild

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear any complaints from podiatrists claiming I am so endorsing walking around with wood chips in one’s shoes regularly. Although, I must say they work much better than those expensive food deodorants, not to mention that they leave a smaller carbon footprint.  (Ha!!!)

One thing I have learned in the last 18 months is that revelation comes when I least expect it, and when I feel least deserving.  Today was no exception.

I went hiking with a friend of mine whom I shall refer to as my Semitic Soul Sister, because we are both Jewish in some form or fashion.  We went to a place here in Nashville called Radnor Lake.  This body of water seems like a bit of an anomaly because the 85-acre lake and surrounding woodlands are smack dab in the middle of a residential area.  It seems odd that something so big and so wild could be so contained.

Semitic Soul Sister and I bounded down the trail taking in the glorious sight of multi-colored falling leaves.  The trail was lined with wood chips before we began our journey, but not afterwards, because most of them ended up in my sneakers.  About half way down the trail, we had to stop at an intersection closed due to the crossing of a rafter of wild turkeys.  The happy little birds waddled slowly and leisurely to their destination, and those of us on the trail just stood in awe of them.  The delightful little eye candy was short-lived, however, when a power walker decided to barrel through the crossing, spooking the birds and sending them on their way.

Right around where the birds scattered, I saw three different deer feeding on some flowers and sprouts.  Some of us moved a little closer to the deer to get a better look at them.  I was very cautious, because in the past, deer I had encountered were easily startled.  One of the other hikers along the trail said, “Don’t worry.  You can get really close to them and they won’t run off because they’re so used to humans around here.”  Learning that made me…sad.

I couldn’t have told you at the moment why I was sad.  Who wouldn’t like a close-up, unobstructed view of nature?  A little more reflection, however, revealed the cause.

There are so few avenues for adventure left.  To see what was once frontier become so domesticated and so tame pierced something in my heart.  The lavish beauty I witnessed along those trails that day was so striking -- not in its refinement, but in its wildness.  Nowadays, beauty is a costly commodity.  It is highly processed, developed, and expensive.  Women will pay all sorts of money to replicate a certain look.  Yet the loveliness of an autumn day, with a million scattered crunchy leaves, a myriad of wildlife, and a cacophony of sounds and intricate rhythms, still trumps anything that man can reproduce simply because it cannot be quantified.  So many different colors and seemingly opposing elements, scattered across that landscape, yet somehow woven together for a feast for the eyes in a gorgeous orderly chaos.  It’s a beauty man can try to copy but can never manufacture.  The alluring wildness, whose power over us lies in that we can appreciate it, but never own it.

I have been thinking a lot about what real beauty is.  It’s not something I can conjure up.  It is something God-given, God-made, and -- dare I say -- a little bit ferocious.  I still haven’t cleaned out the wood chips from my sneakers, because when I wear them, I am reminded of the importance of taking a walk on the wild side.

“Life consists with wildness.  The most alive is the wildest.  Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him.  One who pressed forward incessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast and made infinite demands on life, would always find himself in a new country or wilderness, and surrounded by the raw material of life. He would be climbing over the prostrate stems of primitive forest-trees.”  Henry David Thoreau

The End


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Awake by Sharon Lurie

© 2012 David's Harp and Pen

Mood:  Sleepy (Very, Very Sleepy)

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to get any complaints from concerned parents that I am advocating the watching of scary movies as a spiritual discipline.  Are you listening, Morbid Redhead?

God speaks to me in many different ways.  Sometimes he speaks through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes he speaks through his word.  Sometimes he speaks through my Christian brothers and sisters.  Occasionally, he speaks to me through my dog.  Then, there are those rare and special times when God speaks to me through a B horror movie from the 60s.

* SPOILER ALERT *  The Hypnotic Eye is about a string of beautiful women who mutilate themselves for seemingly no reason.  It is also about a man whose failure as a police detective is rivaled only by his failure as a boyfriend.

The movie, released in 1960, begins with a gorgeous blonde who walks into her kitchen to wash her hair.  However, instead of putting her hair into the kitchen sink under the faucet, she puts her hair into an open flame on her stove.  She subsequently dies from third degree burns.  Dave, the detective who arrives at the scene, talks to the woman before she dies, but she claims she was alone and merely confused the stove for the sink.  She is the 11th in a string of self-mutilations, and all the women have the same story:  they were alone at the time, and they confused something harmful for something harmless.

The next night, Dave takes his beautiful girlfriend Marcia and her beautiful friend Dodi to see Desmond, a charming and handsome hypnotist and magician performing at a local theater.  Desmond, with the help of his drop-dead gorgeous assistant, Justine, performs mostly hypnotic tricks with a little bit of magic in the mix.  For the last segment of the performance, Desmond, under the direction of Justine, picks a beautiful woman from the audience to perform the levitation trick.  Dodi had commented to Dave and Marcia how amazing it was how Desmond seemed to completely dominate his subjects.  Dave makes a smart aleck remark about Desmond being a fake, which prompts Dodi to raise her hand to volunteer for the levitation trick.  As is normal magician procedure, Desmond hypnotizes Dodi before levitating her.  After the show, Dodi begins to act strangely.  Next thing we see, poor Dodi is washing her face and hands with sulfuric acid, which burns her terribly.

The next day, Dave and Marcia visit Dodi at the hospital.  Like the other self-mutilation victims, Dodi doesn’t remember anything, nor did she feel anything while she was washing with the acid.  Marcia begins to suspect that perhaps Desmond was involved.  However, Dave scoffs at her.  Wanting to prove her theory, Marcia goes back to the theater that night and volunteers for the levitation trick.  She pretends to be hypnotized, and while pretending to be under Desmond’s spell, he whispers to her to come to his dressing room at midnight.  Marcia shares all this with Dave and Phil, Dave’s best friend and the police psychiatrist who is also trained in hypnosis.  She also tells them Desmond used a device, resembling an eye, which emitted a strange, flickering light, hidden in his hand as he tried to hypnotize her. So, the three of them decide that Desmond is up to no good and that Marcia should go back to Desmond’s dressing room and see what happens.

Marcia gets to Desmond’s dressing room, but he has a trap for her, and ends up hypnotizing her for real.  He then takes her out, while she’s in a trance, for a night on the town of dinner and dancing before taking her back to her apartment.  When they arrive, they start to make moosh-a-moosh until Justine, who had been hiding out in Marcia’s apartment, stops them.  Justine then puts Marcia completely out in hypnotic sleep.  Desmond looks at Justine and asks, “How many more?”

As Justine puts her hand on Marcia’s face, she answers, “As long as there are faces like this.”

Desmond then leaves Justine and Marcia alone, and Marcia is at Justine’s mercy.  She leads Marcia, still in a trance, to the bathroom and turns the shower on to boiling hot.  She tells Marcia to step into the “cool, cool shower,” which she almost does, until Dave shows up banging on the door, saving Marcia from a fate similar to Dodi and the other women who mutilated themselves.

Fast forward to the end of the movie.  Marcia has once again fallen into the clutches of evil Desmond and evil(er) Justine (chicks in horror flicks aren’t the brightest and are known for always getting into trouble, but in this instance, the fault clearly lies with Dave.)  There is a standoff between Dave and Phil and Desmond and Justine.  Justine leads Marcia, still in a trance, to the scaffolding above the theater stage and threatens to push Marcia to her death.  As Phil tries to talk Justine, she pulls the beautiful mask off her face to reveal that she is horribly disfigured.  It is the then audience learns that the reason she had been having Desmond hypnotize all those beautiful women and then giving them post-hypnotic suggestions to mutilate themselves was because Justine was jealous of their beauty, beauty she had lost and could never recover, and so she wouldn’t rest until she could destroy all the beauty that crossed her path.

Now, before I get to the main point of this blog, I would like to teach a little lesson to all of my male readers entitled, “How to Stay Celibate for the Rest of Your Life.”  (If any of my male readers sense this to be misandrist, I promise equal time by composing a similar lesson to my female readers in a future blog.)

1.     When going out on the town with your girlfriend and her friend, make sure you tell them their ideas are dumb.

2.     If your girlfriend has a theory about someone being a dangerous person, and you don’t believe her, by all means let her test her theory on her own without any protection.

3.     If the aforementioned possibly dangerous person is a hypnotist, and your girlfriend, while unprotected and in his clutches starts to act weird, your first assumption should be she is just a flake and cheating on you, especially if your best friend, who is trained in hypnosis, has just told you that hypnosis is real and dangerous if in the wrong hands.

4.     By all means, let your girlfriend go alone with possibly dangerous hypnotist to her apartment.

5.     After you save her from being badly scalded at the hands of the villain who, for the record, knows where your girlfriend lives and most likely has hypnotic power over her, leave her alone at her apartment for the villains to come back and finish what they started.

However, if you then decide your girlfriend is really cute, and you don’t want to be celibate for the rest of your life, after you’ve unwittingly done everything in the preceding list, save your girlfriend from the villain and certain death in dramatic fashion and at great risk to your own life, because a well-executed daring rescue covers a multitude of male-pattern cluelessness.  (I’m just joking.  No man in real life would ever be this careless.)

So finally, the spiritual lesson (first presented to me in Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge):  we find ourselves in the pain and distress we are in because we have a powerful yet very crafty enemy.  Our enemy used to be God’s right hand and he was beautiful and dazzling by all accounts.  However, he got puffed up with pride, and was, therefore, stripped of his beauty, position, and power and cast out of Heaven.  Then, when God made man and woman in his own image and gave them authority over creation, Satan went into a frenzy.  He hated that he had lost so much, and so, like Justine, he decided if he couldn’t have those things back, no one else would get to enjoy them, either.  So he targeted the woman, the beautiful woman, the final act of creation and the image-bearer of the lovely, relational part of God, and he got into her head and planted the idea that God was holding out on her.  And he got into her head through a serpent, the most cunning, crafty, and slick of all God’s creatures, sort of like how Justine got to the women in the film through enchanting Desmond.  So what does she do?  She partakes of the only tree in the Garden of Eden forbidden by God, thinking it is an innocent piece of fruit, when in reality, she is digesting death, and mutilating her beauty, namely her innocence, eternal life, and relationship with God, her husband, and every other human she will meet.

Watching the movie, which I stumbled upon by accident, really helped drive some of this spiritual truth home and recognize how Satan still tries to rob us, and me as a woman of God in particular, of our beauty.  I needed to see a good analogy of how spiritual warfare plays out in every day life, because the only thing more confusing to me over the years than my relationship with God has been my relationship with Satan.  What I mean is that I’ve not always had a good grasp of who Satan is, how he operates, and what he wants from me.  The church I grew up in taught that Satan was the one who tempted us and made people in the Pentecostal church speak in tongues, but other than that, he was pretty much in permanent retirement.  Then the church I went to as a teenager believed that Satan was responsible for everything, and he has a demon for every occasion, like the spirit of fear, the spirit of infirmity, the spirit of talking too much, the spirit of always locking one’s keys in one’s car, etc.

1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “ Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.  Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world.”

Matthew 26:41 says, “All of you must keep awake (give strict attention, be cautious and active) and watch and pray, that you may not come into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Satan messes with our minds, and like the women in the movie who destroyed themselves at the command of the villains, we let him into our heads when we let our guard down, when we miss Satan because he’s wearing a handsome or clever disguise that lulls us into his confidence.  He can’t make us do anything we don’t want to do, and we are also tempted by the world and our own sinful desires.  Make no mistake, though, that his mission is clear and his tactics are underhanded, and he preys on the weak, the hurting, and the spiritually sleepy.  He looks at us and sees the Beauty of God, the reflection of his image, which he can never get back, and he wants to destroy it by any means necessary.

I suffer from chronic sleep problems, so I know very well how susceptible I am to temptation when I am not well rested physically or mentally.  Keeping vigilance over my spiritual well-being is paramount, more so when I am feeling fatigued or hurt or whatever.  I have let Satan into my head and into my heart for too long, so much so that I have lost sight of who I am and in whose image I was made.  No more.  I won’t let Satan steal from me through deception what he pridefully and willingly discarded.  From this point forward, I shall remain alert, attentive, and awake.


The End