Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

27 Dresses and The Great Story

June 1, 2008

   My wife and I watched “27 Dresses” the other night. As usual, several times during the movie I was moved to tears. Afterwards, my wife asked me what I liked so much about this movie in particular, and this genre of movies – romantic comedies – even more in particular.

   I had to think about it. I’ve seen a lot of RCs over the years, from “Pretty Woman” to “Working Girl” to “Must Love Dogs” to “Music and Lyrics.” In fact, if there’s one out there that I haven’t seen, sometimes many times, it’s probably because everyone on earth told me it was a dud. If only one person out of a thousand, said, “Yeah, I liked it,” I’m there.

   So how to answer my wife? She suggested, “Is it the pretty girls with big you know whats – is that it? Them wiggling around and hanging out all over?”

   I laughed. “Not really. I have you for all those things.”

   That made her smile. But then I said, “You know, I think it has something to do with seeing a girl triumph in the end, get the man, win, succeed, all that.  I think women have been so beaten down by the world that it’s good to see one of them win, at least on the screen.” 

   She scoffed. “But you know nothing about real women, how we think, how we feel inside. Why is it that you love watching these women so much in contrast to reality?”
   Was I that much of a dolt? Sheesh, I’m only a guy.

   Yet, it was a good question and I said, after much thought, “I think it’s kind of that on the screen you have a simple structure. Men can ‘get’ the woman in a way that doesn’t happen in real life. You know probably within the first few minutes of the film what she really wants, what she’s going after, what she’s all about. There’s no guessing. There’s no looking at her face and trying to figure out if she’s angry, or frustrated, or totally in love, or what. You know by the way the movie unfolds everything she’s thinking and feeling. And I think some men like that. Like me. For once, we feel like we understand and even know this person. In contrast to most of our encounters with women in real life.” 

   She had to think about that. But I had more. “I think there’s a bigger explanation, though.” 

   She gave me those deep, green, mysterious eyes for a second. “Hit me with it.” 

   “Well, I think human history is the Great Story of all great stories. God is writing this incredible story with twists, turns, knock-downs, horrible sins, and so on. But God has shown us in the Bible that there’s a happy ending. That the good guys – and girls – win in the end. That evil does not triumph. See, when directors try to do movies that are ambiguous, or where evil wins in the end, or where no one wins, they usually fail. We as people intrinsically want to see good triumph. We want to see the good people win. We like getting there, too. Seeing them down at the bottom with nowhere to look but up. We like to see them pounded down a little. But in the end, we want a win.” 

   She nodded and sank down on the bed. “I guess it makes some sense.” 

   “Of course it does. I always make ‘some’ sense. It’s the archetypical story. It’s why so many stories are like that. Person has a problem. The problem gets worse. He or she can’t solve it on their own. People reach out to them. They join forces. At some point, it looks so bleak, you think there’s no way. Then they pull the rabbit out of the hat, and everything is perfect. For the last few seconds of the story, anyway.” 

   She laughed. “So what you want is simple women you can understand, and a happily ever after ending, and you’re happy?” 

   “Yeah, and usually crying too.” 

   “Well, it’s a pretty standard Hollywood formula. Books, novels, too, as you said. The archetype. I guess God has built that desire, conviction, whatever you want to call it, into us. And we react to anything not like that with rejection and sometimes even anger. I get that. I think really almost everything relies on that principle at some point. Except people like Oliver Stone and the weirdo movie directors and writers who insist on telling us the world is a horrible place, there’s no good, and we all lose in the end.” 

   “Right.”  

Health Care for the Likes of Me

March 29, 2008

             Sen. Clinton’s newly re-minted health care plan sounded to me like the health plan salvation I’ve been looking for for years. Wow! What a savings it’ll be. I’ll be able to buy lots of stuff at Wal-Mart with the money I’ll save, you can bet on that.  I’ve been watching several things in the electronics section, know what I mean? 

            Sen. Obama’s plan and whatever Sen. McCain has going in his little political straight talk express yourself deal today are equally amazing. Whoever grabs the White House this year is going to be my best buddy. 

            The problem is I just don’t believe them. Any of them.  

            Let me tell you a little about my health care woes.

            It all came home to roast me first in 1983 when my wife and I had our first baby. I lost my health care between my marriage and the pregnancy because a new plan came along that sounded so much better. I applied and they told me I was in. So I let the original insurance lapse. But then the new plan decided, No, I was out. And by then my wife was preggers. No one would touch us. 

            When my wife went into the hospital with toxemia the last three weeks, and delivered by C-section Nicole our little preemie, we ended with more than $25,000 in hospital bills. We paid it off at $300/month for six years.  I recall that last payment. How I screamed. How I jumped for joy. How I wept and told Nicole, “You better amount to something, girl, because you cost a fortune.” 

            I made sure never to be without health insurance again, mainly by working in industry with good benefits. 

            Until 2002, I or my wife always had a regular, unfulfilling, grind-it-out job where the various companies paid for not-that-bad-but-not-great health insurance. And of course there was our “small” donation to that, too. But being writers, we wanted to write. So we went fulltime freelance. The only way we could do that and get cost-effective health insurance was by forming a “group” of two with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. It cost about $800 a month at that time. We couldn’t qualify for any cheaper “individual” plan because pre-existing conditions pre-empted us.

            Over the next few years, I developed problems with diabetes, high blood pressure, and other things. Our health insurance went up each year to what it is today, almost $1500/month. With all the accounting and tax necessities with the IRS to prove we’re truly a group, it racks up another $300 per month. In addition, my medications cost about  $150 a month even with the discounts. That’s to say nothing of the $500 deductible for going into the hospital for any reason, including visiting someone already there(well, not quite, but it seemed that way).

            Thus, we’re looking at nearly $2000 a month just to have health insurance, which is more than 30% of our income.

            But the perils of not having health care are far worse today. So we bite the bullet and die financially, but live on the happy knowledge that if at 57 years old I have a heart attack, I’m well-covered. At least, after deductibles, and writing a promissory note that I won’t have another one for sixty years. 

            Now where does that leave us with all these plans from our candidates?

            It’s rather amusing. They expect us to believe this? Especially when we all know how well the government runs things – from the motor vehicle place to my kids’ public schools to the endless regulations for everything under creation?

            So this is what I say, “Hillary, Barack, John, convince me. Dig down deep into those super-smart craniums of yours and show me as a self-employed fool with preexisting conditions that you can deliver. Otherwise, just go on blathering away like you do and win my contempt with every word you speak.” 

            

Life-ology: Where Real Life and Theology Meet

February 7, 2008

I Still Have Dreams Even Though I’m Homing in On Sixty

            One night as we sprawled in bed, my lovely wife Jeanette posed a question as she often does at such times. “Honey, did you . . . “       

       “Yes, I took out the trash.” 

            “No, darling. What I meant to ask was, do you still have dreams?” 

            My nose stuck to a book (not “in”) as I fought to stay awake, I answered, hoping she didn’t expect me to go into the lurid details of my typical dreams. They usually involved machine-gun fire, hulking mutants, and Arnold Schwarzeneggar, before he was governor of California. Lately, though, Arnold has been replaced by The Rock. “Sure. But I don’t remember most of them when I wake up. Except for the blood and guts. I remember that.” 

            She shook her head. “No, I mean goal-dreams, hope-dreams, pipe-dreams, those kinds of dreams.” 

            For the first time, I perked up at the thought of one of our scintillating late night conversations. At fifty-seven years old, I occasionally get such questions from her, because she is always trying to find out what really goes on inside my head. I’ve tried to tell her many times that at twelve-midnight there’s nothing going on inside my head, unless it there’s a tie in the final game of the World Series, the chance of winning a free shopping day at Home Depot, or perhaps the idea that we might soon be taking off all our clothing. For some reason, none of that usually stokes up the fire of passion in her soul.

            “Sure, I have a lot of them,” I finally answered with a yawn. “Of course, they’ve changed over the years.” 

            She propped herself on her elbow and gazed at me with her mysterious green eyes. “Tell me about them.”   

            I thought way back, so far back my head ached. “When I was about six years old, I dreamed of becoming Superman.” 

            “Really. Why?” 

            “Well, I wanted to fly. And also have X-ray vision.” 

            “Really?”

            “Yeah. I wanted to be able to see through walls to see what other people were doing in there without them knowing I saw them. And flying, well, what could be more fun for a kid?”

            She shook her head with amazement and, gave me that look I always get when she says to me, “You are so hopeless”.

            I went on to catalogue many other dreams. There was the one about being a middle linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles. Clearly, that never happened. Another revolved around every woman I ever dated (no need to go into what that was about).  Then there was the all-important vision of marrying the love of my life, which I quickly assured her had been fulfilled with her. Many others about being pastor of a mega-church, speaking all over the world to crowds of thousands, and even having a radio ministry like the pastors I revered who spoke every night on stations everything. But finally I got to what I have always thought as the BIG ONE.  

            “It started in late high school and college. I really got into poetry, not sure why. But I dreamed of being a poet, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and becoming the Poet Laureate of the U.S.A. As I got into writing nonfiction and then fiction, I started to dream about writing a New York Times bestseller.”

            “You writers certainly shoot high.” 

            “Of course.” I went on, “I also longed to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, a couple Oscars for the movies I’d write based on my bestselling novels, having a state dinner in my honor at the White House, and having my picture taken with on Oscar night with all the multiple winners. “ 

            She rolled her eyes.  “Do you ever think in realistic, it’s-possible terms?” 

            “Well, what should I say? ‘Yes, I hope my next book sells seventeen copies. I long that several of those buyers actually read a few pages. I even dream of reading a chapter or two Joe’s Crab Shack on all-you-can-eat shrimp night. Is that what you think I should want?’” 

            “Okay, okay. It’s good to dream big, I’ll admit that. So that’s still your dream – that bestseller?” 

            “Yeah, I guess. Do you think it will happen?” 

            “You never know, honey,” she said, touching a finger to my nose. “We serve a God who can do the impossible, after all.”   

I nodded.   

            “Anyway, you’ve answered all my questions,” she said, bonking her behind against my torso. “Now I can go to sleep in the happy knowledge that my husband actually thinks something at night besides about the World Series and Arnold Schwarzeneggar.” 

            “The Rock,” I corrected. 

            “The Rock?” 

            “Nothing,” I said, sinking down under the covers, suddenly feeling miserable. “Just some guy.”  

*****

            Have you ever felt as though your highest dreams were long ago laid in the dust o foolish early career musings? Do you ever look back on your life like I do – at the age now of nearly sixty – and tell yourself, “Guess it’ll never happen now”? 

            In this blog, I plan to explore those dreams, early-life, middle-life, and late-life, and offer some real hope to those of you who face the retirement years and have to admit little you ever really hoped for has been accomplished. As a writer, I recall reading how some of the great writers of our age came down to their last years lamenting that little they wanted to do had become reality. Some of them did win the Nobel Prize, the Oscars and Pulitzers, and so on. How could they believe they’d achieved nothing great or lasting? 

            The truth is that few people in any generation leave behind a legacy that truly lasts. Remember Jack London? The highest paid writer of his time? The first ever to make a million dollars in one year? He died a drunk, deeply depressed.

            I think of Freddie Prinze, star of the hit show, “Chico and the Man.” in the 1970s. He became rich, married a beautiful woman, and brought a son, Freddie Prinze, Jr., who has become a well-known and successful actor. But at the age of twenty-two, despondent and feeling lost, he took his own life while high on Quaaludes. What a waste, many would say. And truly, such an exit from life was. 

            How about Ronald Reagan? Despite all he accomplished, he spent his last years a victim of Alzheimers, having little idea of who he was, let alone anything he’d ever done. 

            If life turns out this way, why is it even worth trying to make a mark, or attempting to build a legacy? 

            I deeply believe that without God in your life, for many such an outlook will be hard to deflect. It’s like the biblical story of the rich young ruler, found in Mark 10:17-27).  He came to Jesus asking what he needed to do to qualify for eternal life. Jesus told him to sell all he had, give the proceeds to the poor, and then come and become a disciple. This rich man found the answer both mystifying and discouraging, and he went away unsaved and undone. When the disciples asked Jesus what had gone wrong, he replied the classic answer: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples, stunned, asked, “Then who can be saved?” To them, being rich, young, and powerful was the epitome of a person blessed by God. They were perfect candidates for God’s kingdom, weren’t they?

            Not quite. Jesus answered them, “With people it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 

            While Jesus spoke with respect to salvation, I believe the same principle applies to us, our dreams, our hopes, our greatest longings. Right now all may look impossible. But not with God. He is a God who makes the impossible possible.

            In many respects, that’s what I want to show you in this book. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that I plan to tell you your dreams of being rich, owning that resort chalais in the mountains, attaining the top position in your company, or whatever is what God wants most to do in your life. In fact, your dreams may be the problem. I want to point you to God’s dreams for you.

            Those are the only dreams worth obsessing about.  So I hope you’ll come along in the pages ahead to find out what they might be. 

 

 

This blog is written by Mark Littleton, a Christian author with many books in print. You can find most of his books at Amazon.com under his name.

 

Mark Littleton is represented by Glass Road Public Relations.  For additional inquiries, please contact Danielle Douglas at  danielle@glassroadpr.com.

 

To interview Mark Littleton also, please contact Danielle Douglas. 

 

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