Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Lately, I've been listening to a new song by one of my favorite bands, Needtobreathe. They are fantastic, you should take a listen. They manage to cross over various genres and break the mold in every possible way. All of their songs leave me breathless. This particular song, called "Multiplied," has been moving around in my brain and my heart and making some serious waves that must break out and put themselves on paper. The lyrics are as follows:

"Your love is like radiant diamonds, bursting inside us, we cannot contain
Your love will surely come find us, like blazing wildfires, singing your name
God of mercy, sweet love of mine,
I have surrendered to your design
May this offering stretch across the sky
And these hallelujahs be multiplied."

About 2 weeks ago, as I was struggling with my friends and my family through some very difficult terrain, I heard this song for the first time. It has moved me in an inexplicable way. I wish I could put my finger on it - the music? The harmonies? The beat? The lyrics? I don't know. What I do know is that I can't stop listening to it, and when I hear it, I get that familiar lump in my throat and I feel like I'm transcending everything - all the pain and the sorrow and the suffering and everything. These words have been making their rounds back and forth between my head and my heart, doing some serious renovating and remodeling. I'm going to attempt to put this into words, although I'm sure I shall fail miserably.

Recently, some of my closest friends have experienced the ultimate depths of heartache and sorrow. One friend is coping with the loss of a close friend. Another friend is working with family to deal with a tragic loss. Another friend is at a tremendous crossroads about her path in life. These experiences bring out the worst in us, I have come to learn. We find that our strength is stretched in ways we never imagined it could be. Pain has the power to pluck us up from our comfortable places and shake us so we descend into the abyss like salt from a shaker. Suddenly, our shoulders are sagging and we are so ragged and worn we scarcely recognize ourselves.

I've spoken here about my faith before. Anyone who knows me knows that it's a defining feature of my life. I'm not an "Everything happens for a reason" kind of Christian, nor am I a "God has a plan" kind of Christian, nor am I a "Let go and let God" kind of Christian. I'm not going to try to make you feel better with some silly words. I don't know what kind of believer I am. I do know that most of the things that I believe make people uncomfortable, because I'm a little radical. I have really struggled for answers for my friends who have been facing life's biggest challenges and overwhelming pain. The truth is, I don't have answers. What I do have....is this song.

"Your love is like radiant diamonds, bursting inside us, we cannot contain...."
To me, this sounds like the experience of pain. It bursts insides us and sometimes we feel as if we may explode from the sheer weight of our sorrow. God takes this pain - in whatever way you allow God to take your pain - and holds you and caresses you and polishes you until you are bursting with love like diamonds: radiant and impossibly beautiful. It may take months; it may take years. The process may last your entire life. It is a process.

"Your love will surely come find us, like blazing wildfires, singing your name..."
Pain seeks us out. It attacks us when we are least prepared. It waits in the corner until we've finally let our guards down and given up the fight for the day, then it pounces. It's all consuming, like a California wildfire. Picture for a moment being trapped in a fire like that. I think there is a point where you give up and think, "This is the end." Then you look up, and one brave firefighter is breaking through the flames and shining a flashlight and looking....looking....looking for you. Shouting your name like her life depends upon finding you and bringing you out of the blaze. You've been found, and you've been saved.

"God of mercy, sweet love of mine, I have surrendered to your design..."
I will never get tired of thinking of God as my love. It has nothing to do with human love. It has everything to do with the idea that, at the end of the day, even if I have let every single human being down, there is something that remains true to me, regardless of my ridiculous and thoughtless mistakes. As far as God's design, I don't mean "predestination." I mean that we are created in God's image, so our pain, our loss, our depths of despair are NOT places that we travel to alone. We have the constant company of the most eternal vibration of love and light, the ultimate antidote to that horrible poison, pain.

"May this offering stretch across the sky, and these hallelujahs be multiplied..."
I think that, sometimes, giving up our pain, loosening our grip on it and throwing it into the void, can be something of an offering. We're finally dragging ourselves out into the light and saying okay, I think I'm ready to let go of this. Maybe we're not actually ready, but this initial gesture is such a violent thrill of release, such an earthquake of bottled-up emotions, that we're ready to begin the process. When we can begin this process, perhaps it is our way of shouting 'hallelujah!' to the universe. Maybe, every time we are able open our fingers and release a little bit of whatever is hurting us, we are crying out to God, "Thank you! Thank you for creating a space for me to be broken, to be only parts and not the whole, to be a fraction of myself! Thank you for running into the fire to save me when no one else could save me. Thank you for gently rounding out my rough and painful edges so I could be radiant like a diamond. Thank you for being a light in dark places, when all other lights have gone dim." We learn to say this over and over again, and our faith thrives through our expressions of grief, loss, pain, and less-than. Maybe our imperfections make us strong. Let these hallelujahs be multiplied.


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Psychology of 'Frozen'

I love the movie 'Frozen.' I bet you can guess who loves it more....my little JuneBug. She sings along in the most hilarious monotone, singing the same line over and over again: "Let the storm rage OOOOHHHHN the cold never bothered me annnyyyyywaaaaaay!"

I have watched this movie so many times I lost count. I like that it isn't like traditional Disney movies in that the hero (er, heroine) is a woman. And not just one woman - sisters! There's also the perfect response to Anna and Hans' request to get married: "You can't marry a man you just met." Thank you, Disney! You're getting with the times.

There's something that really irks me about this movie, however. Now, as a precursor, I know that this is a fictional story and that Disney has never paid much attention to the psychological ramifications of their characters' stories. Regardless, I think that the psychology of 'Frozen' deserves a little bit more conversation.....

First of all, Elsa. She was born with this pretty cool power, to make snow and ice with her hands. She and her sister share some very special moments making Olaf the snowman and turning their ballroom into a winter wonderland. However, when Anna gets a little too excited, Elsa, in her haste, tries to save her and ends up striking her in the head with her ice powers. Her parents have to rush to the trolls to erase the memories of magic, and Anna is scarred forever with the strip of white in her hair. What the movie doesn't really emphasize is how Elsa is also scarred forever. I'm sorry, but if I wounded my sister to the point where she almost died, I would be pretty traumatized, especially if it was accidental. The movie glosses over that, and jumps to their parents' stigmatizing Elsa's power, basically shutting their entire castle down for fear of her, not to mention the extremely dangerous phrase her parents teach her: "Conceal, don't feel." Then they basically close her off from the world in her room, alone with no toys and no contact with the outside world. If that happened now, the parents would be arrested and it would be plastered all over the news.

Anna, on the other hand, goes about her life as if nothing had happened, because in her memory-loss induced state (thanks, trolls!), nothing actually happened. She prances through the hallways, talking to pictures, begging Elsa to come out and play, not knowing that Elsa could potentially kill her. O.k., so that's exaggerating a little....but is it really? Anyway, the years go on, Elsa still hasn't come out of her room, and Anna is still talking to pictures and running around an essentially empty castle, singing.

Cue the sadness.

Anna and Elsa's parents go on a trip. As a parting gift, Elsa gets gloves, because hey! let's make you feel even more weird about your magic powers before we leave on this trip that we might not return from and ostracize you just a little bit more. We don't see their parents saying goodbye to Anna. SPOILER ALERT: Anna and Elsa's parents die on their trip. Their boat is swallowed by the ocean during a storm. You can kind of gauge based on the physical appearance of the girls how many years have gone by between the 'accident' and their parents dying. I would say approximately 10 years. Maybe 12.

Soooooo Anna has been running around an empty castle, singing to her sister through closed doors, without a clue as to why her sister won't come out and play with her. For all she knows, Elsa could be dead. Elsa has been shunned, emotionally destroyed, and shut down, all without any human contact whatsoever. This has been happening for 10 TO 12 YEARS. Then their parents die in a sudden and unexpected accident.

Doesn't this sort of sound like the beginning of some kind of horror movie??

Moving onto coronation day. Anna is awoken on coronation day by one of the servants. She leaps out of bed and runs around the castle singing excitedly about interacting with real people again. Can we take a moment to wonder how Anna even knows how to interact with real people anymore? They reduced the staff in the house so much so that Anna's only companions growing up were paintings. I'm sure the king and queen were far too busy running the kingdom to spend any time with their children. Elsa was busy being locked in her room, so Anna really grew up with no playmates or companions. How does she even know how to talk to people? And then she starts singing about meeting a husband! I suppose in the land of Disney, this makes perfect sense, because most of the other Disney princesses fell in love in less than 24 hours.

While Anna is prancing around using her brilliant imagination to talk to her future non-husband, Elsa is busy reciting the very wise (NOT) life advice her parents left her with before they died: "Conceal, don't feel," "Don't let them in, don't let them know," "Put on a show," etc. I'm wondering how Elsa hasn't developed Dissociative Identity Disorder (multiple personalities) or Schizophrenia or another mental illness. She has basically been in solitary confinement for at least a decade, with only her powers and the memory of almost killing her sister to keep her company. What has she been doing in there? (Let me just tell you, I would be sleeping.)

The actual coronation party. Here's how Frozen really should have portrayed this scene: Elsa would be in the corner, having a panic attack, and Anna would be talking to the painting of Joan of Arc. Neither of them would be able to carry on a human conversation. Dancing? Out of the question. How/when did they learn? Addressing the whole crowd? Not a chance. Neither of them has addressed an actual human being in years.

I'm not going to go into the rest of the movie, but it just keeps getting better....or maybe it's worse? Kristoff was raised by rocks, so he and Anna are a match made in heaven. Elsa made her way up to the most isolated spot in the land, which makes perfect sense. "People? Nah, I'd rather hang out with snow." Kristoff and Anna should have gotten married with the trolls and just stayed there, being weird together, and Elsa should have been allowed to stay in the mountains, 'letting it go' for the rest of time.