I LOVE hearing Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill’s version of “How Great Thou Art.” Recently, I couldn’t resist clicking on a friend’s facebook link to it. I cried again — for the 10th or 12th time. I love the ending, when the crowd of stars is all on their feet, and Carrie Underwood is simultaneously wiping tears and beaming a huge smile. I get the distinct feeling that the cheers are even more about our God and how great He is, than they are about Carrie’s amazing voice or the undeniably awesome performance.
Without much awareness I continued clicking randomly and moved on to a spontaneous act of culture by the Philadelphia opera — singing the Hallelujah Chorus in Macy’s at Christmastime. Commerce stopped, as shoppers joined in and gave enthusiastic applause. It seemed everyone in the mall sensed the sacredness in what was happening and fully attended to the moment of celebration and praise. Job 8:21 says “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.”As I watch, I can’t see for the tears I am wiping as a smile, alone in my night gown in my kitchen… Do I look like Carrie? Maybe just a little?
Watching these feel good videos is addictive! I’m compelled to keep clicking an unmapped, but easy to follow path to similar videos. It’s like the Sunday pleasure driving of old — where people just meandered slowly about with no destination in mind (don’t you remember calling the slow people “Sunday drivers” when you had places to be?) They were visiting as they enjoyed whatever they saw and experienced along the way. In our crazy busy world, this type of “wasted” afternoon is all but unheard of. At least we have Godvines, google, facebook, and youtube.
Even “every day” occurences compel us — the antics of family pets, animals in nature, babies laughing, the face of Jesus in a cloud… How many pictures of sunsets have you “liked” on facebook? Or mountaintops? Vacation scenery: the serenity of a beach, a wide open field, quaint towns, or colorful flowers? A great meal, family photos, silliness, athleticism, perseverance, beauty, accomplishment and triumph — all make us “like,” them, smile, cry and just plain feel good.
Why? You could argue this is wasted time. Then why do we never tire of seeing the joys and beauty of relationships and our world? The smiles and hugs, the praise of God and his handiwork in creation? Why do scores of people emotionally respond to a flash mob’s singing about Jesus in a country that we hear has all but secularized Christmas? Why are we so drawn to the human spirit that overcomes adversity, to laughter, to the hands of creativity and to the heart that is wide open to love? Could it be it’s because we are made for this?
Yesterday, Robin Williams committed suicide. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are exploding with tributes to a tremendous artist (one of my favorites) who made us laugh out loud. The world loved his wit, compassion, and exuberance. Who would have ever thought he was living in a world of darkness? His death is our corporate loss; the private pain was all his to bear. This real life story makes virtually all of us sad and confused. Why then do we willingly enter similar darkness in both overly sensationalized news, reality TV and the fiction of Hollywood?
Robin Williams was a master of his trade. He created thoughtful, uplifting, feel good TV and movies. Romantic comedies, sitcoms, dramas, adventure stories, cartoons, and science fiction have inspired us over the past decades. Lightened our load. Given us hope. They were feel good entertainment, and it was the norm to leave the theatre thoughtful and smiling. Today? Not so much.
When Rob and I want to relax with a little “mindless TV” or have a date night at the movies, we struggle to find anything decent. With some exceptions, a large portion of what we call entertainment has gotten violent, dark, vulgar, scary, and sexualized. It brings us down, even as it draws so many in. Are we addicted to watching darkness in the lives of others to help us make sense of our own world? Or are we being lemmings, just following the world’s trends?
It’s not a novel idea to say we are overloaded with bad, evil, fear, and hate. The major networks must now fill the time 24/7 with “news” that sells ads and attracts viewers. “Local on the eights” makes sure we know the danger is very close to us, as well as across our nation and abroad. We need to be informed. But is this overload of “news” really necessary? A typical hour watching or reading news or entertainment could understandably leave us drowning in depression and anxiety, as if we’re drinking from a fire hydrant of ugliness.
There is little mention of the good stuff. I have become somewhat desensitized from so much trash, and I just feel sort of numb after watching. Resigned. Empty. Tired. But Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Like when I watch Carrie Underwood, Vince Gil and Robin Williams!
Many noisy extremists around our country would have us believe America is no longer a Christian nation. But America is our people. According to a 2012 Gallup survey, 77% of the adults in the US claim to be Christians. Our nation has a desire for God. Why are we letting politicians, entertainers and news anchors bring us down — creating a society where record numbers of men, women and children report regularly suffering with depression and anxiety? What then shall we as Christians do to combat the darkness being fed to us?
As believers we can seek to truly know the Savior and Lord we follow. God, the Creator, is constantly revealing Himself to us. Romans 1:20 says “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and the sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”
He created us in His image — therefore we are creators too! The art of cooking and conversation, painting, writing, performing arts, serving, medicine, business — virtually anything we do with our gifts to the Glory of God are reflections of Him. We can share ourselves and God In Us with others.
In an earlier post, I wrote “Why do we try to live life in our own knowledge and power — as we see fit? So often, we do what feels right, looks good, and what we want to do — rather than slowing down and giving God our first fruits of time — in prayer and reading His Word (living and personal to us) for the day. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” We need the Bible to see clearly what God’s will is for us — each day. When we don’t seek Him, we’re in danger of being sucked in by the world’s patterns and noise.
“Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2, NIV). I want to eliminate as much of the junk the world is screaming at me in so many ways, and listen to what God says to me in prayer and in His Word. That means giving Him my time and attentions first. What’s most important is Who He is, Who He says we are, and what He says He will do. More to come on that…
Philippians 4:8 says, “whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent and praiseworthy — think about such things.” And Ephesians 6:11 tells us “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
Have your quiet time. Watch a few “feel good” videos! Catch up on the oldies: Cosby, Robin Williams, Andy Griffith… Why should we let the darkness of this world enter our minds where we don’t have too?
Romans 8:6 reads, “so letting your sinful nature (the allure of the world’s ways) control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control you mind leads to life and peace” (parentheses mine). John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” We are not made for what this world presents us, but for the abundant life God offers us in His Word.
Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”
James 4:8: “Come close to God, and God will come close to you.”
Carpe Diem! But I want to seize today knowing God is with me. Where you lead me Lord, I’ll follow. Let’s love and laugh together.