Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Living Heart



Life is confusing.  Everyone knows it and I doubt there is a single soul who wouldn't agree that trying to sort through life is just that... life.  It isn't easy and sometimes it becomes so stressful you just want to cover your eyes, scream, cry and just start over.  

And I've done that.  

I've started over and sometimes you have to stop starting over and just learn how to make things better.  

That right there.  That is where the heart seams burst, because it can't take the pressure.  The heart doesn't know how to take the tangled strings of rocks and make them into a delicate string of pearls.  

Then it breaks.  

The heart.  The pearls.  Everything.  The river of grief spills out the windows of your soul and you just want it to be... better. 

Not great, amazing, phenomenal, or just plain old good.  Just. better.  Just bearable.  Just being able to cope.  

If you're like me, you start evaluating all of the different facets of your life.  You look around you and you say "what is contributing to my misery?"  Because I belong to the Savior who suffered all pain so that I might have joy!  So there has to be a roadblock.  

And there it is.  You see it, and even though you want to deny that as a possibility to your state of misery, you know- you know that you know that you know.  

You know that you're drowning in the shallowness you subject yourself to.  You know that dropping your vulnerable heart into a den of daggers is going to make it bleed. You know that searching for love and acceptance, among people who burn rejection into your soul, is going to scar.  And you want to deny it.  You want to say that it isn't true and you're just imagining it, but you know.  You know that Jesus Christ has provided solace and love for you, and you just have to grab it up. You just have to swallow the clump of pride in your throat and admit that just because something holds the promise that it is what you need, doesn't mean it is what you are searching for.  Your heart is searching for the place that Jesus resides, and if Jesus isn't found, it's time to move on.  

I have so many things I want to do and in a rut is where my free spirit is.  I want out and away.  But I just need up.  Up out of the rut and on the path towards the home the living God has for me.  

That's it.  

It isn't like looking for a needle in a haystack.  It's just about giving up an idea of what my life as a single person is.  People try to tell me what it is, or who I should be; and even though it is cliche, I am me.  God gave me two things that overwhelm me and that's love and passion.  And as tempting as it is to fall into the rut that was dug for me, I have to... I have to, make the choice to follow my Master.  To be free.  To love.  And to live with an unquenchable passion.  

So this is it.  This is my stake in the ground of life.  To *not* not live.  To not be boring and lifeless and not love what I love and express myself because I am afraid or because I am in a demographic.  

I'm just going to be brave and say it.  Shoot me if you will, but I have the heart of a truth teller and here it explodes from my lips:

Groups created to "help" people because they are not married or dating, are 99% of the time, a hindrance.  They're not a hindrance to marriage, they're a hindrance to life.  They are the rut.  We get stuck and can't move.  We wait and wait and wait for life to begin and it's right here!  It is right in front of us!  Begging us to pick it up and enjoy it!  Life is so hard.  God gave it to us to shout from the bottom of our lungs, the love and joy He has given us.  

So we need to scream it.  We need to sing it and laugh it and dance it!  

I'm trying so hard to not use this opportunity as a podium to proclaim my hurts and blows.  To not seek pity for how my heart burns with grief and sorrow, but to use this as an opportunity to see how powerful and strong life can be when we live it in the face of God and to express His love.  Not to advance our names, but to spread His joy.  

Have joy people, because Jesus died and rose to life so that we could live.

So let's live. 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Soul Vulnerable



It's been awhile since I've been motivated to write anything.  Life is crazy, and not always the good kind.  I barely have time to respond to text messages or emails from dear friends, let alone sit down and pour my heart out on this neglected blog.

But...

I am laying here, sick in bed and thinking over everything that has transpired with a deep introspection that is bordering dangerous, and I realize that I need to mush some of these thoughts onto cyber paper.

Sometimes things hurt.  Sometimes we don't even know why.  Like that mysterious splotch of purple and blue that suddenly appears and makes you feel like you were in a battle, but you don't even know where it came from.  Or the red that pours from a wound which magically made its presence known with no recollection of the trauma.

Sometimes scars hurt.  Sometimes you run your fingers over the disfigured parts of your skin... or your soul, and even though pain is physically absent, the haunting memories flood you with pain.  And in those moments, you know you are alive, and you remember-

Grace.

The grace that allowed you to be affected and impacted, but not destroyed.  The grace that allowed you to be submerged in suffering, but not drowned.  The grace that allowed wounds to penetrate your soul, but not kill it.  The grace that flows from the veins of Jesus and pours out of the heavens onto and into His children.

And then I feel it...

I feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit ignite in my spirit and I feel at one with my Creator.  I feel my heart fuse to His heart and every scar is a memory of what has been done for me.

Tragedy forced me to flee a movement that was denying grace and love.  God ripping my heart from something I was so deep in and saving me from what I didn't even know was happening... a lifestyle that promised something more than the pure Gospel and yet, was crumbling underneath itself.  Whole lives established on sand, instead of the Rock.  And before the pillars of false truth could cave in on me, the hand of the Almighty tears me away, and scars are left... but so is life.  Life in the pure truth.  Life in the love of Jesus. 

Words from the living Word soothe burns in the heart flesh-

"For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He causes grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.  To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth, to deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High, to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the Lord does not approve.  Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?"  -Lamentations 3:34-39

I see lives scattered through the course of this life and we lose focus.  Our eyes are upon our gain here, and not our gain there.  Our gain with the angels and the saints.  Our gain with our Savior and our Father.  A gain which will never be equaled.

We.are.His. 

and

He.is.ours. 

So why do we hunt for whatever will please us?  Why do we forget that there is a world dying, while we seek what will make our living better?  Why are we seeking to exalt our lives, instead of laying them down?  Life is fleeting, and I am guilty.  I am guilt ridden with losing myself in my own world; of recoiling within myself when comfort isn't my friend.  I consume my time with thoughts of how things can be better for me, instead of what I can do to help others see life is better with Jesus.

I want light to consume me.  I want it to penetrate the dark corners of my soul and illuminate the dark shadows that eat those void of redemption.  I want others to see that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, (Romans 5:3-5) and hope... hope.  Those glorious four letters which express the Christian's entire sense of being and dwelling in the Vine.

This. this hope. It does not put us to shame.  

It gives us joy.  It gives us love.  This is what it means.  It means that "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom..."  What kingdom?  The kingdom "of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)

We.  We as children of God, we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins.  My heart is exploding, because I don't deserve this.  This love.  Why?  Why can't I forget it all?  Why can't I forget those pains and this pain?  Why does it distract me and inflict blurry eyes which can't see Heavenward?

God gave us so much beauty! Why do I only see the ugly?  Why can't I get past the ugly and see how it can be the key ingredient to seeing beautiful?  I think about the woman who will go to more of her children's funerals than weddings, and shattered is my heart.  The grief.  And a grief that can't be comforted because Jesus is not known.  Searing loss.  Oh God, how?

My heart feels pain, and not just my own, but others'.  I can't describe how easily I am affected by others suffering.  It's like their ghost is my ghost, and tender doesn't begin to touch the delicate state of this heart, when grief floods and mercy feels far away.  Sometimes it feels like a disease, because it hurts to feel this much.  To go from extreme happiness to extreme sorrow is something not easily understood and dark moods rule my life more than they ever should.

But Jesus weeping in the garden, knows this.  Jesus, beside the Almighty, is whispering in His ear "I know what that feels like, Father have mercy."  And that is more comfort than I could ever ask for in a lifetime.  To know that He knows, to know that He cares and that what is required of me, is that I stop trying to do it myself and I trust Him.  I stop trying to rescue, and show others how to be rescued.  God loves to be our deliverer, but in order to be delivered, we need to be in trouble.  

And that makes it all worth while.  I have to stop worrying.  Worrying about what people think, or say... it.does.not.matter.  What matters is that I belong- I belong to Jesus.  Acceptance.  Love.  Admiration.  Those are all things we crave, and me more than I ever should.  But He is patient to work this out of the stubbornness it is grown into and use it to manifest His glory.

And that brings overwhelming peace.  




He is so good.  He is so faithful and He loves with a love that causes mountains to tremble.  His voice is everywhere.  It is in the roar of the sea and the whisper of the moon.  It is in the scream of pain and the laughter of abundance.

We belong to Him and He is real.  We just need to live in a way that tells others this singular truth.  It's not about us.  It's about Him and His love in redeeming us.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

One Thousand Gifts

   
(One of my beautiful little sisters)


Lately I have been reading a great deal of Ann Voskamp's Blog

There are no words to describe how it makes me feel to be reminded of the importance of living in the face of our Savior. 

I can't find a post on her beloved blog that doesn't make me cry--that doesn't stir in my heart a desire to be closer to my Lord.  I find myself challenged and convicted.  I feel this stirring in my insides... a stirring to strive for something more

I become blind.  My job blinds me.  Being single blinds me.  Trials blind me.  Life blinds me.  It blinds me to my precious One. 

I want to rant about the fundamentalism that haunts me.  The remnants of my scars plague my heart out and tears blind my eyes to the beauty that is right in front of me.  Past ghosts from the life of legalism that God called me to leave behind, rise up and echo the whispers of pride that beckon me to find unhappiness on the path my feet now tread. 

And then I read this...

And my heart breaks.  My heart breaks because I have succumb to the temptation to live in the sphere of myself.   I can't write this without crying.  Crying because I know it isn't about me.  It isn't about how much I need to feel accepted, loved or happy.

It is about giving every ounce of myself to the cause that Jesus spilled His *perfect* blood for. 

Which leads me to this...  Here is a quote from that post which made my spirit weep with both joy and sadness. 

"One of Katie’s daughters had whispered it:

“Mommy, if Jesus comes to live inside my heart, will I explode?”

And Katie had said —“No!” and then —
 
“Yes, if Jesus comes to live in your heart, you will explode… That is exactly what we should do if Jesus comes to live inside our hearts.

We will explode with love, with compassion, with hurt for those who are hurting, and with joy for those who rejoice. We will explode with a desire to be more, to be better, to be close to the One who made us.”

YES!  That is precisely what should happen when Jesus is in our hearts.  I have found this battle raging inside of me.  This desire to point my finger and feel as if I am better than others.  Or to be exceptionally disappointed when I have been sinned against.  

But yet He who was perfect did no such thing.  He made us!  He is amazingly holy and just and I sin against Him and am filthy before Him, and yet I only feel His gentle love beckon me back into His arms and feel His righteousness rush over me.  He condemned and chastised, yes!  But He had a disdain for those who were oppressing His precious sheep.  He was tender towards His sheep and aggressive with the wolves who threatened His delicate and vulnerable lambs.  

But see, I lose this passionate vision I have.  It becomes cloudy and hides in the darkness of fear that overwhelms my heart whenever my world shatters.  Whenever the earth quakes beneath my feet, I hide and cower, and the light that illuminates my zeal for love, vanishes when I close my eyes.  

And every day, my Father pours His Spirit on me stronger and stronger, and I see that His faith and love are to be my weapons against all that the enemy seeks to destroy.  All that Jesus has cultivated in my soul and nurtured, are to be protected and fought for, because they are the tools He desires to use to minister to the weary, to weep with the broken, to fight for the helpless, and to love the unloved.  To further His Gospel and show how He can take a busted, flaw invaded, dirty, scummy, worthless soul like me, and love.  Compassion my soul has seen, and mercy my eyes have beheld.  

So to help in my journey towards a deeper and stronger faith, I have decided to partake of the challenge.  I will make a list of One Thousand Gifts.  A list of one thousand things I am thankful for.  One thousand things that will remind me of all the good God has shown and given me.  One thousand things that will burn in my mind that I have been shown more love and mercy and grace than any one or any thing could possibly promise me.  

And my purpose is to share it with others...  

My purpose is to declare how Mighty the Living God is and be transparent enough that others will be amazed at how Jesus' fountain of purifying blood, can transform a despicable creature.  

So I will endeavor to share how it works with you, and I hope you will be inspired to act on faith and move with more grace and compassion, than is ever fathomable. 

Because Jesus is all we need... and frankly, Jesus is all I want. 


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Relentless Desires



I can't begin to describe what is going on in my heart right now.  Overwhelmed-broken-healed- I feel as though a million things are happening at once and I don't know what to do.  My heart is so burdened and ashamed.

I see so much suffering.

Every.day.

Every single day I am faced with those who have significantly less than me.  Either their clothes reflect it, or their souls do.

I see the elderly black man, wearing a wool suit and beanie cap, carrying a load of papers under his weary arm... as I sit at a stoplight in 90 degree weather in luxury, with cool air comforting my sweaty skin in my vehicle.  I don't know what he was doing or where he was headed, but he obviously couldn't afford transportation and needed to look his best, so he wore all he had that was suitable and went out in the most disagreeable weather.  Grief spills over in my heart and tears run down my spirit.

I see those with more money than I could ever fathom.  Arrogant-disdainful-lofty are their eyes.  Their homes explode with plenty and their hearts are vacant caves.  My smiles hide the yearning and burning desire I have to tell them there is much more to life than their knowledge and wealth has dreamed.  The misery I feel for them is unspeakable and I wish I could change the world.

My soul is heavy like iron and sinks into the depths of my being.  How can I look at my flesh and not see an ungrateful worm?  How can I see others who are so full of holes, and not be affected by the fact that my holes have been filled with redemption?  How can conviction not move me to only reflect light but be light? 

Thirst for the witnessing of souls transformed, causes the darkness to discourage my hands.  My heart floods with waters of love and I desire relentlessly for others to be washed in the refreshing fount of a grace that evokes an aroma of the sweetest scent.

My feet want to go into the pits of hopelessness where the stench of broken hearts fills the air, and nurse the wounds of sin, with the balm of the Gospel, showing tenderness and strength.  Arms that will hold the helpless and lips that will speak words that will nurse sick souls to heal in our precious Father's bosom.  Dark eyes that are shown the light, and radiate with the white light that results from a pure blood, hold a beauty that is seldom equaled.  

On this day of rest the Lord has given His children, my soul heared my pastor preach a sermon of love that makes my heart excited at what I envision transpiring next.  Arm and arm, saints conquering the walls of hate and hardness that the Enemy has built, wielding weapons of love fashioned by the Redeemer, destruction of misery and pain transpires, and mercy in the Kingdom of Jesus births greatness.  A flag of freedom in Jesus and souls bathed in His love is raised in the land of the once dead.  The Bride is washed in a river of white, which flows from the veins of a spotless Groom crowned in mercy-a powerful strength that makes mountains shatter and demons quake.

Beautiful is what my eyes will behold.  Through the ashes of aching eyes and a black wickedness veiling the innocence of a pure love, the Cross will illuminate the path for the children of God and shadow them in battle and move them to actions that *will* change this world... and usher others into the Paradise of the next.

"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more... "  Philippians 1:9



Monday, May 27, 2013

Compassion

I was born with a nurturing and tender heart.  When I was around 8, I remember catching a breathtaking monarch butterfly and putting it in a jar, only to find that it had died one morning.  I felt so incredibly guilty that I had kept that butterfly so cooped up, that I killed it.  I bawled my head off and gave the delicate creature a proper burial; complete with a never-ending fountain of tears, and a floral burial cloth. 

Tenderness is something God has infused in me, almost from infancy, and recognizing it as a gift solely from Him, I endeavor to protect it most ardently... which is the reason I feel so concerned.

I'm not sure why, but lately I have been bothered tremendously by the amount of hard-heartedness I see.  I feel overwhelmed with calloused, abrasive, cold and genuinely *hard* people.  Maybe it's working in the retail world-- maybe it's an edge that is easily developed when individuals go into survival mode-- maybe it's something I'm hyper sensitive to from being around the coldness of fundamentalism; I'm not entirely sure.  But I do know, that I find myself constantly praying the Lord will protect me from such a spirit.

I've seen this type of compassion-less nature utterly permeate fundamental circles.  I've watched as hurting people who desperately need the grace of Jesus ministered to their wounds, are given judgmental stares and are haughtily placed beneath the feet of those who believe they are sufficiently more righteous.  I feel so sorry for the people who suffer at the hands of such stoney hearts; but more than that, I weep for the people who possess the stoney hearts!  Because the Lord promises to take away our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh!  Tender, gentle hearts... and even though it is a process that God has to accomplish in us gradually, those who have been shown the great mercy we receive in redemption, should be able to show great mercy to others.  It burdens me to see so many people trying to earn their salvation and trying to atone for their sins through a lifestyle.  It is such a poor testimony to lost souls.  

I don't want to be the kind of person who guilt trips others into being Christians.  I want to be the kind of person, who shows so much love, that others can't help but see the love that I have been shown in Christ Jesus. 

So often we get wrapped up in our own little worlds, and totally forget the amount of suffering that is taking place around us.  I don't want to be the kind of person who only sees the issues that are affecting me.  I want to be the kind of person who is constantly looking around me to see how the grace of our Savior can be applied to wounded hearts and souls.  I don't want to get tangled up in being financially successful, or socially known and loved, or be someone who only cares about recognition and being accepted and loved by peers. 

That isn't what is important. 

I don't want to be the type of human being, who gets caught up in fame and notoriety and wealth... I want to be able to only care that the love of the Gospel was shown in every place I was ever in and truth was declared whenever my mouth was opened.  Even though I am in the place that God wants me to be now, I feel Him preparing my heart for something else and stirring my spirit to do greater things.  I just need to be patient and let Him accomplish it in His timing.

This life isn't about *just us*.  The scope is infinitely more vast and reaching than we can fathom.  As the redeemed, our lives are about the harvest of lost souls, the sanctification of Christ's Bride and the glory of our Risen Lord.  Tunnel vision is an easy thing we fall into and one that is detrimental to the work that is supposed to being accomplished.

May God instill in all of us, spirits that are easily broken and hearts that are ever tender towards suffering and overwhelmed by the love of the Gospel. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ready for Spring...

A photo I took from last Spring, that is making me anxious for *this* Spring to arrive soon!!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Will my hairstyle make me hell bound?

Recently, two of my best friends came to visit me... they knew I had been wanting to get a new haircut since about last September and since it was so different from my current hair do, we thought it would be neat to do it while they were visiting so they could see the new-do in person. 

After I received the haircut, I posted this photo on my blog of my two friends and me having a wonderful time together!


Sarah on the left, and Hannah in the middle, are enormously precious to me!  We've known each other for what feels like a trillion years, and we have been through a lot together. 

As you can see, the photo displays my new haircut!  Which I LOVE!  I knew that some people would probably tell me they didn't think it was as feminine as my longer hair and I was totally prepared for that!  I mean, it is a radical transformation!  But after I had it done, I had a lot of people tell me they loved it!  Some said they doubted it would look good, but after seeing me actually go through with it, they ate their words and told me they thought it was lovely and adorable! 

So after receiving the following response, you can imagine my surprise... especially if you have read my blog for any length of time. 

I am going to address the comment in this blog post, because I think it will allow me to be more cautious in addressing this in a loving manner and to maintain a Gospel mindset regarding something rather serious when it comes to understanding salvation. 

"Shelby, may I kindly ask, what happened to you? I am seriously concerned. What possesses a beautiful girl like you to cut nearly all her hair off? Shelby, this is not the kind of thing a Christian girl does.

I know you've been through some hard trials, but that doesn't mean it's time to start looking and acting like the world or, more likely in your case, to give up entirely. It's time to fall back on your Savior and to realize that He may be your ONLY friend, but that's ok, because Jesus is the ONLY friend you need. Don't turn away from Scripture & Biblical womanhood just because someone has wronged you. Turn to Christ, turn to God's Word and allow them to bring healing to your heart.

From a concerned sister in Christ, please be careful. Remember it only takes a little sin to drag us down completely.

Feel free to email me if you need someone to talk to.

-Hannah"

When I first decided to address this, I was going to go paragraph by paragraph and defend myself and my positions.  But I have changed my mind...

I think there is just one thing I want to really say and that is that I am sorry this young lady is so confused and I will truly pray for her. 

I didn't cut my hair because I want to look like the world, or because I am secretly rebelling!  I cut my hair because I thought it would be a flattering hairstyle for me!  I am *always* changing up my hair!  Whether it be adding more layers, dying it or just having it cut different ways.  This was more radical, sure!  But I had been thinking about it for a long time and new that it would look very feminine on me.  I had the support of my family, friends, best friends and acquaintances.  It wasn't a decision made on a whim and it certainly wasn't one made in an effort to look more worldly!!  Honestly, long hair is what most worldly super models have anyhow!  So it wasn't an issue of carnality. ;)  It was an issue of "I want to do something different and this haircut would work on me and will be an expression of my style of femininity." 

Plain and simple.

But the larger issue that concerns me is this, why does this commenter think that a haircut is demonstrative of an unregenerate heart? 

Which presents this question... 

What action does one have to take to have a regenerate heart? 

My answer to that is simply *nothing*.

Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross to pay for my sins, and to say that there is something I need to do in order to maintain His love, would be blasphemous to His death and resurrection. 

Just because I am a firm believer in the fact that my life belongs to the God in Heaven above and that His word is true when He says that "nothing can separate me from the love of Christ", doesn't mean I am falling away from Him.  Yes I have experienced a great deal of pain, but I wouldn't trade it for the world, because it is what has driven me into the arms of my Savior so often, that it is the place I call home more than any other. 

That is what matters.

It wouldn't have made a difference if I had dyed my hair kelly green and cobalt blue!  Although, I wouldn't do that because I don't think it is attractive, it still doesn't mean that someone who does do that isn't saved.  I mean sure, it is a symbol of rebellion in our culture, so it really doesn't reflect a Gospel message in the most expedient manner, but it doesn't ever EVER mean that someone isn't a Christian, for pity's sake.

So I will end with this -- I genuinely hope that this young lady and any other human being who feels that someone can fall from grace because of the hair cut they decide to go with, will be convicted and understand that God doesn't need our filthy works.  God doesn't need us to be something in order for His righteousness to be fulfilled. 

He.is.perfect. 

Anyone whose sin has been atoned for by the blood of Jesus, belongs to Him and when God looks at any of His redeemed children, He sees His precious Son, Jesus Christ. 

Let us always cling to our Savior and have our hearts softened by the tender love of the Gospel of our Beloved Savior.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved -- and raised us up with and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not you own doing; it is the gift o God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." -Ephesians 2:4-9


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bibles and Whiskey Bottles

"For freedom Christ has set us free..."

I have learned something vital over the last year or so.  Something that I can't figure out how I ever lived without.  I have experienced inextricable heart break and grief, and felt the sting of rejection penetrate the depths of my already raw and tender heart.

In the strongest sense, I understand what it means and what it feels like when God allows your heart to experience pain in the most intense manner.

I know what it's like to have your joy robbed from you and replaced with a black cloud of seemingly unending despair.

I know what it's like to have your world shattered into a million pieces and to wake up one day and realize that it has been shattering for years, but love tried to conceal the brokenness and denial was an easy escape from reality.

But you know something else?  If you never experience darkness, you don't know what *true* light looks like.  You can't appreciate the freedom that Jesus died for you to have, if you have never known what bondage and oppression feels like.  You can't know how to minister to a hurting heart, if your heart has never hurt.

I have learned that subscribing to any, and when I say any, I mean *ANY*, movement whatsoever, is a death sentence and the most dangerous thing you can possibly ever do to your spirit... the spirit that God gave you and seeks to fuse your soul to Jesus... the spirit that is supposed to illuminate dark corners and heal broken hearts... the spirit that is supposed to be nurtured and take care of by us.

When people want to constantly pour guilt and burdens on you, because they have developed their own set of *rules* that you are to obey or risk offending these people (who act as if they are members of the Royal family), do me a favor and run, because the guilty are not trusting in Christ to bear their guilt and consequently are trying to dump their guilt somewhere.  Run for your life because those people will entangle you in a web that can only be broken by God Himself.  Run because they were sent by Satan to rob you of your freedom that our precious One spilled His blood for.  Run because your tears of joy will be turned into tears of depression and you will feel like you are not meeting up to standards that some random man made, instead of using God's standards to show you how much you need Him -- and only Him.

* * *

If there is one thing that I could tell every single true Christ living and breathing Christian I know, it would be: 1) that I love them as if we had the same blood running through our veins, and 2) that all they need to do is live their lives in the face of Jesus and proclaim His Gospel with every breath that they take.  

That's it.

I wouldn't give them a list of do's and don'ts --  I wouldn't hand them a bazillion books and direct them to a gabillion websites.  I would say that the organic Word of God Almighty is the only "rule" for Christian living that is necessary. (*note: I am not saying that we are islands and need no one else to help us interpret the Word, nor am I saying that we don't need pastors and teachers, etc., but we do need to make certain they are true shepherds and leaders, not spiritually abusive and self-seeking wolves.  I am also not saying that with the problems that come with life, getting help from outside sources isn't necessary.  God gave us resources, knowledge and skills to assist us through some complex situations that life throws at us.  I am talking here about just basic Christian living.)  Labels, movements, lists, conferences, ladies' teas, retreats, churches that seek to centralize family or marriage above the Bride of Jesus Christ, audios, books, books and MORE books, etc., etc. -- all of those things are recipes for a life of trauma, unrest and plain old hell, if they are abused and used as tools to mold into submission everyone that a group or set of people deems "rebellious"... not submission to God, but to leaders who bear no God given authority whatsoever, but deviously desire control and power and fame. 

As human beings, we desire control and power.  We thirst for something that will make us feel like a god.  Sometimes this desire is demonstrated most strongly when people claim the name of Jesus and are not truly converted in their hearts.  

For instance, what better way is there for a power hungry man or woman, to satisfy this raging hunger, than to masquerade as a true convert in the faith and have others begin to esteem them as a highly religious and respected Christian, and then try to jam others underneath their power and control and take individuals and shove them into their own man made mold of what they think people should be?  The only way for a small person, submerged in a culture like this, to get any attention or love or affection, is to bow and worship and wash enough feet to be deemed worthy enough.  

It is demeaning, shameful and certainly not what our Beloved sought to instill in the hearts of those who are clothed in His righteousness.  

We don't have to earn the love of Jesus... as a matter of fact, we are incapable of earning His love!   That is the whole point!!  As the elect, we were chosen!  We were selected to be loved.  We did not do one single thing to earn it.  

I am loved.  

That is it.

I don't have to prove that I am loved.  I do not have to prove that I am worth loving.  I do not have to expect others to do things that I did *not* have to do in order for me to be loved.   And I certainly do not have the right to tell someone that if they don't follow A, B or C, they can't be loved with the love that has been bestowed on me.  

We are not loved because we are perfect... we are being perfected because we are loved!  The point in living a life that is different from the world, is to show how love transforms.  Not to maintain being loved, not to show how worthy we are of love, but to show how wonderful it is to be loved to perfection.  

* * *

Ask anyone who was formerly in a cult, how they got there, and they often don't even know.  It is a slow process and it usually comes because someone preyed upon a victim's feelings of worthlessness and instead of pouring the love and balm of Grace over it, they took advantage of it and told them all they had to do was a few little steps and they would be whipped right into shape.  They use you for their own selfish desires and set you up to fail publicly, by loading you down. Then once they have destroyed you, they remove all traces that you ever even existed within their feigned godly circle

The enemy is as a ravenous lion, seeking whom he may devour.  You think he is an idiot?  You think he doesn't know the power of subtlety?  You think that he is going to be obvious?  Well if you do then you are an obvious idiot!!  Satan isn't going to run around, clashing a set of cymbals, declaring that he is hoping to destroy your life!  He is going to do it sllllowly, softly and oh so quietly that you won't know what hit you until it is almost too late.

*Rabbit trail alert* 

I love good books!  I love well written, solid story line, classic literature! (I am kind of a snob when it comes to my books; but another day, another rant.)  Honestly, I went through this phase where I felt guilty for reading anything fictional.  It was kind of a gnostic approach to literature.  I felt that it had to be something that was spiritual, in order for it to be worth my time.  

Now God has delivered me from that and shown me that He designed the imagination to create all forms of art, whether it be music, books, paintings, drawings, cakes, photography, etc.  These things point us to the beauty He created us with!  Delphiniums (for those who don't know, that is a flower), Peonies, Weeping Willows and Pecan trees all scream to the majesty of their Creator, simply by displaying their beauty.  Art is the same way.  Photography is an art, but photos don't have to be solely of Churches or crosses to be enjoyed by Christians.  Unless it defies God or discredits or is not glorifying to Him, then we should be able to enjoy it.

I love love love LOVE, To Kill a Mockingbird!  It is one of my favorite books!  There is much to learn in it, but also much to just simply enjoy.  (I'm not saying you should ever enjoy sin being condoned or displayed in a glorified manner, by the way.)  Harper Lee had a gift that I envy, but I can see how beautifully God created the human mind.  

I recently decided that I would pick this book back up again and one line in particular, hit me right where I am at in life...

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of another." 

Whoa!  Wait a second!  What?!  How did she know?!  

A Pharisee with a Bible, is just as dangerous as a drunk with a bottle of booze.  They take the Word of God, and use it to bind, manipulate and oppress God's people, all for their own glory and benefit, including raising themselves to a more famous stature.

You think God likes this?  You think God is just going to wink and nod approvingly?  

Why?

Why do we have such a low view of God, that we think He isn't going to *care* if someone uses HIS WORDS to falsely misrepresent Him to get others to do what THEY want them to do.  

Ummm... I don't know about all y'all, but Ima feared they is gunna be under some fiercest judgment if they don't go a repentin' for their crimes against the Ruler of... everything. 

Sounds a bit dangerous to me!  Which is why I ache and suffer pain over my desire to just live my life in accordance with the Gospel.  I don't want a polluted Gospel... just the plain. organic. whole. Gospel that Jesus preached.  

That doesn't sound too hard, now does it?  

That was a trick question, and if you answered "no, it doesn't sound hard at all", why then, you have a lot to learn, because it is the *hardest* lesson to learn in the whole world... but God is good to teach us, and be there to catch us when we fall, because frankly, the "cloud of being taken in by others' false system of Christianity" is a looooooong way to fall from.  

So tread lightly, move gently, love much and above all trust Jesus...  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Confessions of a Les Miserables Enthusiast




Well, I have *finally* found some time on this quiet Sunday afternoon, to jot down some of my thoughts regarding the greatest novel (in my opinion) ever written!  A novel turned into brilliant stage musical, turned into a brilliant film.  

What I find so amazing, is the controversy this film has stirred among conservative Christian homes.  Honestly, I am torn between laughing and sobbing!  When I was about 7 or 8, I was digging through some old things in the house my dad grew up in.  In the process of my searching for something interesting to do, I stumbled upon a very old comic book...



Now this was my *very* first taste of Les Mis -- and I was smitten!!  Literally, I instantly was in engulfed in deep admiration for this story!  Now mind you, I was only 8 or so and when I attempted to read the book, I failed miserably because I really couldn't wrap my brain around it!  My mom got a hold of the Radio Theater version (which at the time I loved and now can't stand!), and we tried a couple of film adaptations. 

And then!  THEN!  I met one of my best friends!  Molly, who is probably the only soul (outside of some of my own family members) to share my deep love for Les Mis.  But Molly was privy to a world of Les Mis that I didn't know existed!  Molly introduced me to the musical, and I fell in love all over again!  The musical adaptation of Les Miserables is probably the most accurate portrayal of Victor Hugo's original story, that I have ever come across.  

So rather than use this post to release my massive frustration with those who would seek to hate on this film constantly,  I am going to expound on the basic stream of the story and take a positive approach to repelling the criticism that has ensued Les Mis.  And while I have only read about half the book, half was enough to bring me to tears more often than not.  

Les Miserables is set between 18th and 19th century France.  France is (and already has been) experiencing some major political shifts and one of the first characters (in the book) that we are introduced to, is the bishop.  The bishop is a die hard monarchist (as all Catholics were) and while a compassionate man, he seems to have very little tolerance for revolutionaries.  He sees revolutionaries as vindictive, violent men, who seem to have no conscience.

But, being the man of compassion that he is, he feels obligated to visit an old revolutionary who is dying and lonely.  As the bishop tries as hard as he can to visit this man, you can tell that he is irritated and bitter towards this dying revolutionary.  And then a conversation takes place in which all of this changes.  The bishop and the revolutionary are discussing monarchy and martyrs.  As I mentioned above, the bishop sympathizes with the monarchy and has disdain for the revolutionary whom he is bitter towards.  Here is a portion of the conversation that can be taken as the start of a change of mind for the bishop:

"'I repeat,' {the revolutionary} continued, 'you've {the bishop} mentioned Louis XVII.  I agree, let's weep together for all the innocent, all the martyrs, all the children, humble as well as mighty.  I'm for that.  But then, as I said, we must go further back than '93, and our tears must start before Louis XVII.  I will weep for the children of kings with you, if you will weep with me for the children of the people.'
'I will weep for them all,' the bishop said. 
'Equally,' the revolutionary exclaimed, 'and if the balance tips, let it be on the side of the people: They have suffered longer.'
There was silence again, broken at last by the old revolutionary.  He raised himself up on one elbow, pinched one of his cheeks, as one does unconsciously in examining and forming an opinion, then he addressed the bishop with a look full of all the energies of dying.  It was like an explosion. 
'Yes, Monsieur, the people have been suffering for a long time.  And then, sir, that's not all; why do you come to question me and to speak to me of Louis XVII?  I don't know you.  Since I have been in this region I have lived within these walls all alone, never going beyond them, seeing no one but this child who helps me.  Your name has, it is true, reached me confusedly, and I must say not without respect, but no matter.  Clever men have so many ways of impressing the good and simple people... Monsieur, monsieur, I mourn Marie Antoinette, archduchess and queen, but I also mourn that poor Huguenot woman who, in 1685, under Louis le Grand, monsieur, while nursing her child, was stripped to the waist and tied to a post, while her child was held before her; her breast swelled with milk and her heart with anguish; the baby, weak and famished, seeing the breast, cried in agony; and the executioner said to the nursing mother, 'Recant!' giving her the choice between the death of her child and the death of her conscience.  What do you say to this Tantalus torture inflicted on a mother?  Monsieur, remember this: The French revolution had its reason.  Its anger will be pardoned by the future; its result is a better world.  Its most terrible blows are a caress for the human race.  I must be brief.  I must stop.  I have too good a cause; and I am dying.'"

After this, the bishop is moved with immense emotion and experiences a change of heart towards the people.  In a sense, this moment to me, marks the beginning of his pulling away from Catholic traditions.  Catholic bishops were wealthy and extravagant and this precious bishop was humble, lived a seemingly poor life, and seemed to be the very opposite of what his Catholic religion would desire him to be.  In many, many ways, he pulled away from his Catholic faith.  

This is a good place for me to address a concern that many have expressed with Les Mis... Catholicism.  Victor Hugo, did indeed, start out a Catholic.  But as time went on, he became convicted and actually expressed many concerns he saw within the Catholic Church.  Les Miserables, was actually, part of his protest against the Catholic religion.  Victor Hugo was eventually excommunicated from the Catholic Church and actually died in exile.  Knowing this history of the author, makes it easier for me to identify that Javert can be a representative of the Catholic Church, and Jean Valjean represents a truly converted soul.  The film does at one point, show Jean Valjean hand Javert a rosary.  While I was not too thrilled about this little symbol at first, what I do deeply appreciate, is that Hollywood was trying to make sure that you knew Jean Valjean was different *because* of his religious conversion.  I mean honestly, it is not something to be picked on in the least!  

Before you all look Victor Hugo up on Wikipedia, let me dispel another myth that has gone around about him.  Some have said that he later became a deist, but deism is the belief that God is not involved in the running of the world and cannot protect or intervene in anyway at all.  Here is a quote from Victor Hugo himself, which disproves this assumption:  


“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.

This among several other things, has convinced me that Victor Hugo believed in the Providence of God and so deism was clearly not something that he practiced.  

Now *ahem* let's get back to business here...

We are very soon introduced to Jean Valjean. 



 Jean Valjean stole a loaf of bread to save his sister's starving son.  He was caught and sentenced to prison.  Part of what made his punishment in prison so long and harsh, was that he kept trying to escape.  Valjean is verrrrry bitter against the world and cannot even find a place to stay because his papers reveal he is a convict and so nobody trusts him.  He is finally taken in by the kind hearted bishop and given some food and a comfortable place to sleep.  He is treated like a normal man and is not looked down upon because he is a convict.  Valjean cannot sleep and so he gets up and steals the bishop's silver.  When the bishop's maid discovers that the silver has been stolen, he tells her that it wasn't their silver in the first place, and reassures her that there is no need to go off the deep end.  Later, Valjean is caught by the police and taken back to the bishop's home, where the police tell the bishop that Valjean claims to have been given the silver by him.  The bishop does not deny it.  Here is a portion of the lyrics from the song in the musical:
  
{Bishop to Valjean} "But my friend, you left so early, surely something slipped your mind, you forgot I gave these also (picking up silver candlesticks) would you leave the best behind?" 


(Jean Valjean and the bishop)

Valjean took the bishop's tunic and the bishop gave him his cloak also (Matthew 5:40).  This act of kindness seems to overwhelm Valjean, who is on his way to another place.  He is resting on the side of the road, when a little chimney sweep boy passes him by.  The young boy drops his money on the road, and Valjean, out of instinct puts his foot on top of it to keep it from the little boy.  The boy begs for him to give it back and Valjean eventually screams at him to scare him away.  Then Valjean falls asleep.  When he awakes, he stands up and begins to go on his way.  When his foot moves, he sees the coin that he stole from the boy and realizes what he has done after the amazing mercy that he has just been shown by the bishop.  He runs around frantically, screaming for the boy, so that he can give him back his money.  He finally feels overwhelmed with what he has just done and falls to his knees.  This is the moment that Jean Valjean becomes a new man and is born again.  Here is a quote from the book:


“Why had he done so? {stole from the chimney sweep} Assuredly he could not have answered the question. Had it been a last stirring of the evil generated in him by prison? In simple terms, it was not the man who had stolen; it was the animal which, from habit and instinct, had brutally set its foot on the coin while the man’s intelligence wrestled with the new and dumbfounding thoughts that preoccupied it. When the man saw what the animal had done, Jean Valjean recoiled with a cry of horror. The fact is -- a strange phenomenon, only conceivable in the situation which he found himself -- that in robbing the boy he had committed an act of which he was no longer capable… Excess of suffering, as we have seen, had made him in some sort a visionary. This was a vision. He truly saw that Jean Valjean, that evil countenance confronting him. At that moment he was near to asking who the man was, and he was appalled… Jean Valjean wept for a long time, sobbing convulsively with more than a woman’s abandon, more than the anguish of a child. And as he wept, a new day dawned in his spirit, a day both wonderful and terrible. He saw all things with a clarity that he had never known before -- his past life, his first offence and long expiation, his outward coarsening and inward hardening, his release enriched with so many plans for revenge, the incident at the bishop’s house, and this last abominable act, the robbing of a child, rendered the more shameful by the fact that it followed the bishop’s forgiveness. He saw all this, the picture of his life, which was horrible, and of his own soul, hideous in its ugliness. Yet a new day had now dawned for that life and soul…”

My word!  That just gives me goosebumps!  Jean Valjean recognizes his sin and his depravity and experiences a conversion which results in a beautiful life!  Hugh Jackman, who plays Valjean in the film, does a magnificent job!  He truly became Jean Valjaen and I was in tears many times during the movie!!  Here are the lyrics from the song from the musical, which represents this portion of the story:


"What have I done sweet Jesus? What have I done?
Become a thief in the night? Become a dog on the run?
Have I fallen so far and is the hour so late?
That nothing remains but the cry of my hate?
The cries in the dark that nobody hears?
Here where I stand at the turning of the years
If there's another way to go, I missed it twenty long years ago
My life was a war that could never be won
They gave me a number, murdered Valjean
When the chained me and left me for dead
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread
Yet why did I allow that man, to touch my soul and teach me love?
He treated me like any other
He gave me his trust, he called me "brother"
My life he claims for God above. Can such things be?
For I had come to hate the world, this world that always hated me
Take an eye for an eye, turn your heart into stone
This is all I have lived for, this is all I have known
One word from him and I'd be back, beneath the lash upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I had a soul. How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life? Is there another way to go?
I am reaching but I fall, and the night is closing in
As I stare into the void, to the whirlpool of my sin
I'll escape now from the world, from the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now! Another story must begin!!!
" {Valjean's Soliloquy}

I love that the musical so accurately portrays the conversion that is taking place in Valjean's soul!  

Now Valjean breaks his parole in the process of starting a new life and changes his identity.  He is now known as Mayor Madeleine.  He is generous beyond belief and has a workhouse which he runs above reproach.  He is beloved and treasured and has become a gracious man, who knows the depths that he was in and the slums that God has brought him out of.  But, because he broke his parole, he is a wanted man.  Javert, is an officer who is strict and forceful.  He is an emotionless creature, who believes in living your life in total accordance with "the law".  Many religions (including Christians) embrace a works mindset and totally forget grace.  Javert represents those who think they are doing the Lord's work by living such a graceless life.  The contrast between Valjean and Javert is stunning really.  I know that Russel Crowe was picked on like crazy, but he did in fact, portray Javert according to Victor Hugo, to perfection!!  



Fantine, who was played by Anne Hathaway in the film, was once a blooming, youthful young woman who came to love a scoundrel of a man.  (Anne Hathaway did a *brilliant* job!  She was a perfect Fantine!)


The man whom Fantine loved ended up getting her pregnant and then abandoned her for good.  After Fantine has had the child, she doesn't know how to care for her and make money to support the both of them.  As she passes through a town and sees a mother with her children, she is touched by the gentility and care that this mother is showing.  She approaches the woman and asks if she can pay her to take care of her child.  The woman agrees and Fantine's daughter, Cosette, is now in the care of this family... the Thenardiers.  This is where we are first introduced to these wretched people.  What Fantine didn't know, is that they were just putting on an act for her.  They planned the entire thing to convince Fantine to give them care of her child.  Fantine fell prey to the artwork of master cons.  

 


So Fantine gets a job in Valjean's workhouse to send money to the Thenardiers.  The Thenardiers mistreat Cosette horribly and lie in their letters to Fantine about Cosette being sick and so on, all in efforts to get more money out of her.  

When it is discovered that Fantine has a child, she is dubbed an immoral woman and loses her job.  She sells her teeth and her hair all in effort to take care of her daughter.  Finally, after she has done all of this and sold everything she owns, she resorts to prostitution.  Now the scene in the movie where this part is being depicted, has caused quite an uproar among conservative Christians!!  It is the scene where the "lovely ladies" are trying to entangle Fantine in their prostitution ring.  They are dressed immodestly, as prostitutes dress!  The Bible even says that a harlot is known by her attire!  It would be a travesty to convey them as modestly dressed women.  Fantine then proceeds to take her first customer and she hits the depths of despair.  

Now the film conveys the "lovely ladies" as disgusting and gross.  They are dirty and repulsive!!  Anyone who is aroused at seeing this scene, is a troubled person.  The Bible doesn't shy away from the gritty details.  Such as when Esther went into the King to spend the night with him before she was Queen... or when Onan spilled his seed on the ground... or when Job is weeping in despair and says the following...

"Then let my wife grind for another, And let others bow down over her." -Job 31:10

You see, the Bible doesn't disguise sin and the horrors that can result from sin.  It calls a spade a spade and oftentimes shocks us with its graphic honesty.  

Now after Fantine has become a prostitute, a potential customer harasses her and she reacts in self-defense.  Javert takes her into custody and threatens to throw her into prison.  Jean Valjean then looks into the matter and at first, Fantine spits on him because she blames him for her losing her job.  Valjean is horrified at what has happened to poor Fantine, and he then overrules Javert and takes Fantine to a hospital and cares for her.  He promises to retrieve Cosette and bring her back to Fantine.


  
While this is taking place, Javert apologizes to Valjean (whom he thinks is Mayor Madeleine) for thinking that he was Jean Valjean (which he really is) the con who broke his parole.  He confesses that he thought he was Valjean and found out he was wrong when another man confesses that he was the con.  Valjean is shocked that another man has taken on his former identity and goes to the court to confess that he is in fact, Jean Valjean.  When Javert gets word of this, the manhunt begins.  

Fantine has now died and Valjean has gone and gotten the poor and horribly abused Cosette.  When Valjean and Cosette escape Javert, Javert sings the following song in the musical:


"There, out in the darkness
A fugitive running
Fallen from God
"
Fallen from grace
God be my witness
I never shall yield
Till we come face to face
Till we come face to face
He knows his way in the dark Mine is the way of the Lord
And those who follow the path of the righteous
Shall have their reward
And if they fall
As Lucifer fell
The flame
The sword!
And so it has been and so it is written
On the doorway to paradise That those who falter and those who fall
Must pay the price!
Lord let me find him
That I may see him
Safe behind bars
I will never rest

Till then
This I swear
This I swear by the stars!" {Stars}

So as you see, Javert truly believes that he is on the side of the Lord and is doing His work.  He is a professing believer who is living his life according to works and the law.  He is a PERFECT pharisee!!  

As time goes on, Cosette grows up, meets Marius (a revolutionary) and the two fall in love.  Javert is still after Valjean and revolution is brewing fiercely in France.  Numerous other characters who are so important to the story are introduced.  One being Enjolras, a somewhat misguided revolutionary who is passionately driven about the people's freedom, or Eponine, Gavroche, Fauchelevent, Courfeyrac, and many others. 

The small battle that takes place between French soldiers and young revolutionaries and results in a horrible massacre of young, passionate driven, freedom fighters, can appear a little confusing.  But it is important for two reasons:

1) The bishop in the beginning hated revolutionaries!  But his heart was softened.  He showed kindness to Valjean, who becomes a new man.  Valjean in turn, joins the revolutionaries when he finds out that Marius is in love with his beloved Cosette and in turn, saves Marius, who is a revolutionary!  Make sense? 

And...

2) The poor and horrible people are oppressed by the monarchy and are fighting for freedom!  To me, this represents the spiritual battle that we all fight against legalism, for our freedom in Jesus Christ!  Valjean was fleeing from Javert, who was seeing to bind him again; and the revolutionaries were fighting against the monarchy that was seeking to bind them.  



 It is all such a beautiful picture on a ginormous scale!!  Les Mis is a massive book and honestly, it doesn't do well to just know the story and know nothing of the spirituality that Hugo was trying to impute.  The Catholic church *hated* Les Miserables because they saw themselves in Javert!  And Javert was the villain.  He was trying to earn his salvation.  

At one point in Les Miserables, Valjean is supposed to kill Javert, but he instead, grants him his freedom.  Javert, in the end, is so overwhelmed, that he cannot hardly go on knowing that Valjean was gracious to him.  Here is what he sings just before his suicide:


"Who is this man?
What sort of devil is he
To have me caught in a trap
And choose to let me go free?
It was his hour at last
To put a seal on my fate
Wipe out the past
And wash me clean off the slate!
All it would take
Was a flick of his knife.
Vengeance was his
And he gave me back my life!
Damned if I'll live in the debt of a thief!
Damned if I'll yield at the end of the chase.
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked
I'll spit his pity right back in his face
There is nothing on earth that we share
It is either Valjean or Javert!

How can I now allow this man
To hold dominion over me?
This desperate man whom I have hunted
He gave me my life. He gave me freedom.
I should have perished by his hand
It was his right.
It was my right to die as well
Instead I live... but live in hell.
And my thoughts fly apart
Can this man be believed?
Shall his sins be forgiven?
Shall his crimes be reprieved?
And must I now begin to doubt,
Who never doubted all these years?
My heart is stone and still it trembles
The world I have known is lost in shadow.
Is he from heaven or from hell?
And does he know
That granting me my life today
This man has killed me even so?
I am reaching, but I fall
And the stars are black and cold
As I stare into the void
Of a world that cannot hold
I'll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean.
There is nowhere I can turn
There is no way to go on...." 
{Javert's Suicide}

 There are two things that I want to point out here.  Valjean's Soliloquy and Javert's Suicide are both set to the same tune.  In Valjean's Soliliquoy, where he becomes a Christian, this is what he says at one point: 


"Yet why did I allow that man, to touch my soul and teach me love?
He treated me like any other
He gave me his trust, he called me "brother"
My life he claims for God above. Can such things be?
For I had come to hate the world, this world that always hated me
Take an eye for an eye, turn your heart into stone
This is all I have lived for, this is all I have known"
 
Contrast it with what Javert says in his suicide:


"How can I now allow this man
To hold dominion over me?
This desperate man whom I have hunted
He gave me my life. He gave me freedom.
I should have perished by his hand
It was his right.
It was my right to die as well
Instead I live... but live in hell." 

Again, here are Valjean's words as his song ends:


"I am reaching but I fall, and the night is closing in
As I stare into the void, to the whirlpool of my sin
I'll escape now from the world, from the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now! Another story must begin!!!"
 
And here are Javert's words right before he falls to his death:


"I am reaching, but I fall
And the stars are black and cold
As I stare into the void
Of a world that cannot hold
I'll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean.
There is nowhere I can turn
There is no way to go on!"



 As you can see, these two songs demonstrate perfectly how an act of kindness led Jean Valjean to redemption and a very similar act of kindness led to Javert's damnation.  



Finally at the very end (of the film), when Jean Valjean is dying, Fantine and the bishop (both dead) are there to take him to heaven.  As his last breath leaves his body, he hears a faint singing... it is the voices of hundreds of dead saints who died in pursuit of freedom joined together as they sing the following words:


"Do you hear the people sing?
Lost in the valley of the night It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord
They will walk behind the ploughshare, the will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken and all men will have their reward!

Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing? Say do you hear the distant drums
It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes
Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing? Say do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!
Tomorrow comes!!" {Epilogue}

 It is amazing and stunningly beautiful!  I was sobbing... sobbing I tell you!  And I have cried every time I have seen it since... all four times!!  

I want you to keep in mind this scripture as I close:
 

"Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them."  -Ephesians 5:11

The scripture above is telling us not to participate in works of darkness.  Don't play with ouija boards, don't practice witchcraft, don't be drunk, don't be sexually immoral, etc., etc.  It is also telling us to expose these acts of darkness!!!  Les Miserables is not participating in darkness, it is exposing it!  You can't expose something if you just close your eyes and pretend it isn't there!  Now, how in heaven's name, do we expect to minister to prostitutes if we can't even see them without stumbling sexually?  I will be the first to agree that lust is an issue among Christians today... but I will also be the first to stand to my feet and declare that it seems it may be the result of making everything "unmentionable".   

Les Miserables is a story of redemption that no other work of fiction has ever equaled.  It is brilliant, touching, sometimes funny, and deeply moving!  If you are contemplating going to see it, or if you are wrestling with your own legalism and have decided not to go see this film, keep in mind the following quote from Victor Hugo himself:

“...But listen, there will be more joy in heaven over the tears of a repentant sinner than over the white robes of a hundred just men.” -Victor Hugo