Saturday, August 28, 2010

There's More to Life Than Cherry Garcia

Today is Saturday. I've been to four yard sales, bought a pillow and three hand towels at the mall and eaten a mini-sized Cherry Garcia. All the exciting stuff! That's the way most days are, right? Hours of monotony that keep repeating themselves so all the days start to run together. After a while, it all just begins to seem ridiculous, doesn't it?

But the other thing I did on this monotonous Saturday was watch Prince Caspian again. I love the way that story reminds us about destiny, about our particular individual purpose.

But what does destiny have to do with our world? Between work and school and house cleaning and grocery shopping, destiny sounds like something only found in fairy tales.

Maybe it doesn't exist.

Or maybe it all comes down to the fact that we don't pay attention. Maybe the Lord's trying to guide us down the right paths to our destiny every second of every day, and we're just too focused on the monotony to notice.

It doesn't mean we're going to end up fighting to save the world or staking our place in the history books. Destiny doesn't often add up to headline news. Life is still life, and we're responsible to lead it. But the real significance of destiny is the all-important fact that it's designed by God. God created us and placed us here for a very specific purpose, and if we spend our lives fulfilling that purpose by being obedient to Him, life gains added dimension no matter how many dishes you wash or customer complaints you field.

I believe that when He creates each one of us, He crafts us in such a way that we will only be truly fulfilled by living out His plan for our lives. Sure, we can find substitutes that will make us relatively content, but there will be something missing. Somewhere, deep down inside, we'll know we were made for more than this.

So I suppose it's up to us to see past the boredom and monotony of the never-finished laundry, the daily carpools, reoccurring workplace dramas, and the dust that lands where dust was just removed. Because somewhere out there is our own personal destiny, our purpose for being sent here in the first place. We may not know all of it at once - we'll likely only see it in bits and pieces - but all of the particulars are up to Him.

Don't go out there seeking to find your destiny; seek to find Him and all the rest will fall into place. If we keep our eyes focused on our Creator, He'll guide our feet, one step at a time, onto the path we were meant to travel.

"For You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be" Psalm 139:13-16

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Classic Inspiration... and Junior Mints

One of my favorite movie memories is going to see a special screening of "Arsenic and Old Lace" at a local historic theater. I was a kid seeing Cary Grant on the big screen for the first time, and I ate up every second of it, nearly ending up on the floor when Cary Grant's "brother" pops through the window. (Haven't seen it yet? Watch it and see how you react when it happens!) It has since become one of my all time favorites, and there's a very clear reason why: It's a fantastic story brought to life by fantastic actors.

Aside from that early trip to the theater, I grew up on these films at home. Whatever I could catch on television as a kid, I watched. Mostly that meant monster movies or Jerry Lewis comedies, but it didn't matter. I loved them. I remember being balled up on the couch watching "The Invisible Man", scared to death that somebody could be sitting on the couch next to me without me being able to see him. I jumped like a cricket during a 3D "Creature from the Black Lagoon", staring at the television through paper 3D glasses we picked up at 7-Eleven. Most of all, I couldn't wait until the Easter time showing of "The Wizard of Oz". I swear that movie is the reason I'm so fascinated by weather - that tornado still stands in my book as the best film depiction of a twister. And then when we got a VCR (Yes, I remember a day without being able to pop in any ol' movie any ol' time!), I picked up every classic movie I could find that I hadn't seen yet. I reveled in the golden age of film and watched my favorites over and over again.

So it's a thrill for me to have found a local theater that shows classic films every weekend. There's nothing like seeing these stories in a larger than life fashion while munching a handful of Junior Mints and sharing the experience with an audience that laughs, jumps and gasps right along with you. It just goes to reaffirm how memorable these films were. A little melodramatic? Maybe. But those screenwriters and directors knew how to put on a show that would stick in a movie goer's mind long after they'd left the theater.

That's what real stories do - they draw you in time after time. I'm not talking special effects, risque scenes and childish dirty jokes... I mean real stories. Once upon a time, those good old films brought charm, genuine witty humor, class and - above all - a good reason for making the film in the first place. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of clunkers back in the good ol' days, too. But think about the films that everyone's heard of: "Gone with the Wind", "On the Waterfront", "Casablanca". Those stories stick in our minds, the lines are repeated in our conversations. We mimic Brando's "Stella!" in "Streetcar Named Desire", and "Badges? I don't have to show you no stinkin' badges!" from "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".

Strong writing takes root in our culture, and I for one appreciate that back in the day the roots they laid down had meaning to them. They were cast into immortality with classy, intelligent skill. That's my goal as a writer, to put words down on paper that stick and stand the test of time... for all the right reasons.

If you're feeling uninspired in your writing, check out some of those famous classics. Watch how the story is crafted, how the characters come alive. Pay attention to the crispness of the dialogue. You can't help but learn some lessons and get some ideas.

Those stories have stood the test of time because they're timeless.