I am about one week away from releasing my book This Is Really Us: What the Hit TV Show Teaches Us About Faith, Hope and Life. In this book, I compare the themes and characters of the show to that of biblical people and themes. Because of this, I want people to see the Bible in a new way and be able to apply it to their lives-- including their TV sets. It will be released on Amazon in print form, but you can also put it in an order in the store section of this website. Wish me luck!
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”- Genesis 2:15
Knee deep in diapers a few years ago, I thought my life would never change. I believed my life would consist of nothing more than washing endless loads of dishes and folding mounds of laundry. Raising two children seventeen months apart in age felt like raising twins. I loved being their mom, but I also knew I wanted to do other things in addition to being their mom. But would I ever have the time? Was this all there was to life?
Have you ever felt like your work means nothing to anyone? I’m sure at one time or another we all have felt like our work means nothing. Wiping food off a baby’s chin or caring for a sick loved one may seem tedious and fruitless, simply because we don’t see any reward for our labor until many years later, if at all. Yet God sees our work as a part of the natural order of things. In fact, he considers work so important, he included as a part of paradise.
Your work matters to God. We can view it as something we have to do, or something we get to do. It may be easy to compartmentalize our work as something separate from God, but it isn’t. Our work is a part of our worship to God. When we treat an ornery coworker with kindness or do the best job in your department, you are honoring God and being a good steward of what He has entrusted to you. Your work matters to God in three ways:
It gives us purpose- God designed our lives so that men and women would work together to help manage and work together. Each person is gifted with a specific set of gifts to complete the tasks at hand. No one has all the gifts, so we need each other to get the job done.
It gives us meaning- “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name” (2:19). God assigned Adam meaningful work. He entrusted him with the task of permanently naming the animals that we have today. He gave him an important job in His garden. God could have done the work himself, but instead He gave the task to Adam so they could work and fellowship together.
Work was not meant to be done in isolation- “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him”(2:18). We were not meant to work alone. We all need help to complete the work that God has prepared for us to do. When you are feeling like your work doesn’t matter, talk with a co- worker. Sometimes they can shed a different light on the importance or the value of your work.
Your work matters to God. Even if you don’t see rewards for your labor, know that your work has more significance than you can imagine: an eternal one.
On March 27th, ABC changed television again with its premiere of the Roseanne reboot. Filled with laughs and touching upon relevant cultural topics, the show opened to 18 million viewers, knocking the Big Bang theory and Young Sheldon out of their respective two spots as number one show and comedy. Fans of the show (myself included) watched not only to laugh their cares away but also to see exactly what the Connor clan has been up to over the past twenty- five years. The Connors were the epitome of the working class family of the eighties and nineties and this reboot is no exception. Roseanne, now working as an Uber driver and Dan still taking contracts for drywall jobs still struggle to make ends meet, as Darlene tells David in one episode that they made “a decorating choice called poverty” after he comments her room is exactly the same way it was after all these years.
But their decorating choice isn’t the only thing that makes Roseanne both a comedy and tragedy. As I have tuned into my nostalgic side and re-watched the original Roseanne episodes, one of the pervasive themes of the show was that Dan and Roseanne wanted better for their children than they had. Married at eighteen, Dan and Roseanne struggled to put food on the table and the electricity going (although in one episode in an earlier season, they couldn’t quite make that happen.) The original Becky (played by Lecy Goranson) is depicted as a struggling widow waiting tables at an Italian restaurant (that looks eerily similar to the same place Roseanne and Jackie owned their restaurant the Lanford Lunch Box for several seasons.) In the first episode, Becky meets a woman (played by second Becky Sarah Chalke) who wants Becky to have her baby in exchange for $50,000, of which she eagerly accepts. When Dan and Roseanne refuse, Becky retorts that she doesn’t want to have to worry about money anymore and if she has this baby she can be worry free for quite some time. She has never moved on from Mark’s death (real life actor Glenn Quinn died in 2002) and she struggles to pay her rent and move on with her life, which was the same way we left her in 1998. Married at sixteen, Becky soon regrets that decision as she learns Darlene is going to college and has turned down a copywriting job making $30,000 a year, more than any Connor has ever made in his/her life. When Becky lies about her age in the reboot, she quickly learns she has a slim to no chance of ever having a child, something she at one point put on hold to go to school. No children to speak of, a dead end job and barely making ends meet seems reminiscent of the same life she mocked her parents for in earlier seasons.
Similarly, Darlene has come home to take care of ailing Roseanne and Dan, which we quickly find out is a lie. Roseanne reveals that Darlene has lost her job, has no money and has moved back home from Chicago because she has no place to live and has a pending divorce from David looming over her head. Roseanne replies that Darlene is “her little loser” as she cries from embarrassment (a characteristic un common for Darlene’s previously quick witted, resilient character.) Darlene, who had shown promise despite being married to David after getting pregnant with Harris at nineteen, now proves yet again the struggle gene is genetic.
The only bright spot is previously weird kid DJ (played Michael Freshman). He, and his wife have both served in the military and have one daughter together (who ironically has little screen time in the first five episodes.) The same brother whom Becky and Darlene mocked for years as being someone who wouldn’t amount to anything because of his quirks has become the bright spot in the Connor family.
As much as I have laughed at the poignant and humorous jokes Roseanne provides, I can’t help but shed a tear or two. In a similar vein as the Gilmore girls reboot where the last four words Rory utters to her mom (“Mom, I’m pregnant!”) reveals in an instant all the fears Lorelai had that her daughter would turn out like her has come true, turning Rory into yet another statistic. The Connors are not different, its children living out the same concerns Dan and Roseanne voiced over all those years.
As Dan said, “The classics really do hold up.” While this is true, it is also true that
history has indeed repeated itself for the Connor clan.
MICHELLE S. LAZUREK is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.
I must say this year's season finale was definitely better than last years' show. Last year we found Jack and Rebecca embroiled in one of their biggest fights yet. This is where we, as the audience understand Rebecca wants more out of life and Jack wants her to acknowledge that he and the kids are enough. This leads to a temporary separation where Jack lives at Miguel's house for a while. This year, however, Rebecca is the first person we see in the beginning scene, walking down the aisle to her vow renewal with Jack for their forty year wedding anniversary. It's like it was meant to be. However, there is one person missing throughout all of it-- Toby! The groom for Kate's wedding is missing in all of her dreams of her parent's ceremony. Kate figures out she needs to "make room for Toby" in her life and let go of her dad's influence.
Personally, I found it a bit disturbing that Toby does not appear in any of her dreams. If she is getting married and the man she is supposed to marry isn't in any of the dreams about wedding, then what does that say about their relationship?
I love that we finally got a chance to learn a bit more about Toby's background with two divorced parents fighting over alimony payments and concerned about his health. Their concern does not go unfounded even with Toby's protests because in the final scene where Toby is struggling with depression again. The last sequence also reveals Kevin with new lady Zoe (Beth's cousin) on a plane visiting what we think is Vietnam, as well as Randall, aged about ten years, visiting Tess and asking her "You ready to see her?" with an uneasy Tess replying "I'm not ready yet."
So Fogleman and gang have presented us with three new questions to ask ourselves as we wait with great anticipation for next fall: Why is Kevin going to Vietnam? Who is the "she" Randall and Tess are going to see? and, why is Toby struggling with depression? Feel free to comment below with your thoughts. I'd love to hear what you have to say. Here are my thoughts:
1) Tess is going to see Beth who has recently split from Randall due to the tension of having Deja around.
2) Toby is struggling with depression because either their dog Audio died or they lost another baby.
3) Kevin is going with his new wife (yes, I said it) Zoe and they are going to Vietnam to visit a child his uncle had while he was at war, or visiting his uncle's tombstone.
It's questions like these where we come to love This Is Us more and more.
And in classic, "worst case scenario" fashion for season three: "Fogleman never answers our questions and it becomes another show like Lost. Go!"
As I mentioned in my last post, I, in partnership with biblestudyexpo.com, are featuring two Christian authors on my blog. Yesterday I featured Michelle Cushatt. Today, meet Carey Scott, author of the book Uncommon. For more info, please visit her website at www.careyscott.org. Below are her interview questions:
Do you travel much?
I'm such a homebody, so I don't travel a ton. When I do speak in different cities though, I have a great time meeting new women! They can be crazy-fun and they love me well! But I'm always ready to get back to my home and family because they love me even better... most of the time.
How do you spend your time when you're not writing?
Gosh, when am I not writing? LOL. I've had 3 books published in 4 years, including Uncommon which released in July of 2017 and Unafraid releasing July of this year. Writing keeps my crazy tucked in, so it's actually something I really enjoy doing. When I do step away, I love watching my daughter crush the volleyball, listening my son wow me with his scientific knowledge and watch movies with my husband.
If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?
I would be a dive master. I love the ocean and everything in it. I've been scuba diving since I was in high school, and that was a long time ago.
Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
I love the big hair bands of the 80's. Like a lot. When I'm having a bad day, I turn up the stereo and sing at the top of my lungs. It changes my mood almost immediately. I love it. Also, I have a sword -- a real sword -- that I pray with sometimes. Maybe it's the weight of it in my hands or holding something to symbolize the battle... but it helps me feel like God is with me and I can overcome anything.
Were you good at English?
I was! I've always been good at writing, but not all writing is the same. I had to learn how to write non-fiction and express myself succinctly. Finding the shortest, most powerful way to say something took practice and patience.
What do your friends and family think of your writing?
My husband is very proud of me. He's my biggest fan and brags on me all the time. My mom worries because when I write I bleed onto my keyboard and she knows it's hard to be so vulnerable. My friends always wonder if the stories I tell are about them. I feel very supported by my tribe. They make what I do... doable.
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you?
Too many to mention, actually. But I'll tell you what my family finds the most amusing about me -- ordering food at a drive thru. For some reason, it stresses me out. I feel pressure. And it makes me nervous. I forget what everyone wants, I order the wrong items and I can't make up my mind. I cannot explain why fast food ordering unravels me. LOL. And while it hasn't always been this way, it is now. And my family laughs every time.
What is your favorite movie and why?
I love The Help. Seriously. I watch it all the time. I think I appreciate the boldness it took for the characters to write the hard stuff. I love the courage it took to be real in a world that glorifies the fake. And the shift in confidence in each of them encourages me to be brave.
What process did you go through to get your book published?
My first book, Untangled, took over a year of my agent shopping it around to different publishing houses before it was picked up. During that time, it changed titles and direction. And it was brutal to continue getting a "no" from one house to the next. When I finally received a "yes" ... I kinda freaked out. I had a crisis of confidence, afraid I couldn't actually write this book. But I did. God continued to show up. That's when I discovered how close I feel to Him when I write.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Hopefully working on another book, continuing to speak to women around the world, visiting my kids at college, enjoying my husband more than ever... and finding God in every bit of it.
Welcome to the christian Women Speakers blog expo! In partnership with biblestudyexpo.com, I am featuring two Christian authors and speakers who have blessed my heart tremendously with their teaching. The first is Michelle Cushatt, bestselling author, podcast host with Michael Hyatt and a woman with a powerful testimony. Below are some interview questions regarding her new book I Am (found at www.iambook.net) so you can get to know her and her work better:
Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
I usually write on a topic I’m neck-deep in the middle of wrestling. That means, I write in spurts. As God is teaching me a certain truth, I might write and write and write over the span of a few days. Then, I let it ferment for a while. I do additional research, prayer, study. As God opens my eyes, ears, and heart to understand more, I’ll return to the book and edit, revise, or add accordingly. Writing isn’t a black-and-white process for me, as it really takes places in the trenches of my real and raw life.
How do you find or make time to write?
Good question! Some days, I have no idea. :) As of right now, I still have three of my six children living at home, which means my day-to-day parenting responsibilities are significant. In addition, I lead a mastermind for Christian women in leadership, record a podcast, coach numerous leaders and communications, and travel and speak around the world. I’ve discovered that for me the best way to tackle big writing projects is to schedule one weekend a month to hunker down in a hotel or AirB&B away from home and write like a mad woman. I can get more accomplished in those three to four days away than I can get done in a whole month at home while juggling work, marriage and kids. My other secret writing window? 5:00 in the morning, before anyone else in my family is awake.
What book are you reading right now?
Only one?! I’m actually reading about 6 or 7 books right now! A couple of my favorites include The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning, Making Sense of God by Timothy Keller, and The Question That Never Goes Away by Philip Yancey.
What do you to relax on a weekend?
I read as much as possible, work in the yard, or go for a walk, hike or run in the mountains. Oh, and NAP. A perfect weekend always includes a good long nap.
What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
Such a great question, and one I contemplate often as someone who's survived cancer three times and has no guarantee of a long life. In truth, I feel quite grateful with what God has already allowed me to experience and accomplish. My forty-six years of life have been quite extraordinary, and I savor the gift. However, I would still like to see my children’s children someday and be a “Mimi.” I’d also like to hike a few more Colorado 14er mountains and travel to Israel. Israel has long been a dream trip of mine, and it just hasn’t happened. YET.
What is your favorite childhood book?
I loved, loved, loved the Little House on the Prairie series. In fact, I’m pretty sure I read through every volume at least three or four times.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I sat down to write my first articles, stories and books because I needed some way to make sense of the complexity, confusion and suffering of my life and faith. I had so many questions, things I didn’t understand or know how to reconcile with the God I grew up believing. Writing was therapy, a means of unraveling all the knotted emotions and doubts, and helping me to see Truth. In short, writing helped me find the presence of God in the middle of the mess.
When did you decide to become a writer?
It wasn’t so much a decision as an accidental stumbling. Well over a decade ago, I was leading a women’s Bible study at my church that grew from a handful of women to over 80 in a very short amount of time. As a result, I needed to find a way to stay connected with each woman. It was impossible to touch each one at our Tuesday night Bible studies! Thus, I began writing weekly devotional emails to the group. This became my way of personally investing these women that I loved. Over time, those emails became blog posts, then articles and eventually books.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
Oh, I have so many favorite authors, so many who have deeply impacted my spiritual life and writing life! Corrie ten Boom was, perhaps, my first female writing hero. Her story, ruthless honesty, and absolute faith in God in spite of the unanswered questions were fuel to my teenage faith. Since then, writers like A. W. Tozer, Brother Lawrence, Charles Spurgeon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C. S. Lewis, Philip Yancey, Henri Nouwen, Jill Briscoe and Dallas Willard have continued to fuel that fire and have helped me navigate the deeper waters of faith and life. These authors wrote (write) with a humble and courageous honesty about their humanity. I'd like to think I’ve borrowed a bit of their bravery as I strive to write with that same authenticity.
Tell us something about yourself not many people know.
I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and hold an active nursing license. I haven’t practiced in two decades, but I keep my license “just in case.”
Las Vegas. The perfect place for people to let loose, see the sights and party with their friends. Except on this episode of This Is Us, we find out this is the thing Kate and Toby lack the most- friends. Kate even says they had to "scrape the bottom of the nerd barrel", so they had enough people to make it to their bachelor/bachelorette party. It was nice for Beth and Kate to share a tender moment together. Watching them interact, I was reminded that Beth and Kate, although they are not close and barely spend any time together, have something in common- the loss of a child. Beth lost Deja and Kate lost her baby. They can bond over this loss.
Finally, we learn something about Toby-- Toby has a brother! We also know that he and his brother are far apart in age (ten years) and that has placed a permanent wedge between the two's relationship. Toby, disclosing his inner nerd and penchant for Dungeons and Dragons tells Randall and Kevin "It's sad to hear your six year old brother tell you, 'I don't want to play with you anymore,' and he means it!'"If I didn't love Toby enough already , he has given yet another reason to love him more!
Lastly, we get an intimate glance into Beth's life. All along Beth is portrayed as a hard nose strong, woman that keeps Randall's family intact. However, we see the toll being the strong one takes on her,thrust in a role i'm not sure she ever wanted in the first place. Randall's gesture of the candy and the note that said, "you're all heart," reveals Beth has just a big (if not bigger) heart than Randall. After all, who opens her heart and home to a complete stranger? To be a foster mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Only a strong woman could be up for the challenge. And, if next week's previews are any indication, Deja isn't the only person Beth and Randall open their homes to welcome.
Ok. Confession time. I don’t watch a lot of PG movies.
It’s not that I don’t like them or don’t want to support lean content on the big screen. It’s more that often PG movies lack the spark of a compelling story line told by actors who have honed their craft. So, when I received a Fandango gift card for Christmas, I was genuinely confused as to what movie to see. When we saw the reviews for Wonder, however, we were hooked. We had to go see it. This wonderfully written film starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay did not disappoint. Not only did Roberts and Wilson deliver wonderful performances, but the plot rings true for so many of us: this film is for the outcast quietly suffering through bullying with an insatiable yearning to be heard: the celebration and embracing of humanity.
Soon on its heels came another blockbuster, The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman about P.T Barnum’s and the beginning of the Barnum and Bailey circus. Recently nominated for a Golden Globe for best film, Hollywood is not only validating women as they speak out against the sinful actions on the powerful men in their past but also that a good story can stand on its own without gratuitous material for a seeming more popular rating.
What is so refreshing about this and other films coming out is not only the acceptance of human beings for who they are, but it also gives credibility back to clean quality cinema that doesn’t need profanity, gratuitous sex or bloody violence to tell a story. For so long we as Christians have been settling, allowing a good story to take prominence over our moral compasses. Too many times a television show or film has come across my screen with content that are clearly condemned in Scripture. And yet I let it go, because I let myself believe that a good story was more important than holding fast to the word of God.
Christians, it is time to take a stand. Not a stand with posters in front of the White house or on a street corner, but rather with our wallets. The resurgence of the Pg rated film deserves a comeback. With well-crafted storylines and compelling actors, it could just become a reality.
My dear friend Kathy Collard Miller's new book Pure Hearted has just released. Here is a blog post from her below. Enjoy!
Woman with Issue of Blood Mark 5:24b-34
by Kathy Collard Miller
This nameless woman had no hope. During twelve long years, she had taken every possible step to become well. Her bloody discharge made her ceremonially unclean, unable to enter the temple and worship her God. Her husband must have left her long ago because he couldn’t touch her without becoming unclean himself.
She had spent every cent she had. She had put her hope in numerous doctors. In fact, Mark 5:26 says, who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. Had doctors taken advantage of her? Had they offered hope when there was no hope? Had they promised a cure and taken her money, yet had no clue what to do?
Regardless of all her efforts, she was still an outcast. She must have felt distressed walking the street looking for any sign of hope.
We don’t know when she first heard of Jesus. Was there a rumor about what he was doing—healing people—or as she walked did she notice he was there? Hope must have filled her heart. Or did the renewed hope quickly drain out of her. There is no hope. Why even try? Yet try I must. Jesus is my last hope.
She stealthily looked around her. When no one was watching, she reached out and touched the hem of his garment, possibly terrified of being called out for public humiliation. She risked making this godly man unclean. Yet her distress was so great, she had to try.
And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:30-34
I hear concern in Jesus’ voice, not anger. Of course, he knows who touched him; he’s omniscient God. Yet he knows it will be healthy for her to express her distress and publicly acknowledge his provision.
The disciples on the other hand were most likely hassled and frustrated. Their attempts at crowd control were futile. They may have been distressed feeling responsible to protect their teacher. Now someone was not only interrupting their next appointment— slowing them down—someone had touched him without their knowing. Were they placing him in danger?
After her touch, knowing she was well, she approached with “fear and trembling.” What will happen now? Will he only dismiss her with cruel words or call for the priests to take away an unclean woman who polluted others? She feels prompted to tell him the whole truth publicly, so great was her relief. I’m healed! I know it. I feel it! Oh Jesus, thank you. What she longed and prayed for twelve years had been fulfilled.
Her fears are alleviated as Jesus calls her Daughter and acknowledges her courage in reaching out. His voice had to have been tender and inviting, understanding and gentle. Then he assures her of complete healing, not just the cessation of her discharge. She’ll never have to feel hopeless or unclean again.
Because of her deliverance and healing, Jesus is glorified.
Kathy Collard Miller is an award-winning author of over 50 books that include Christian living topics, women’s Bible studies, and Bible commentaries. She is a speaker who has shared in 8 foreign countries and over 30 US states. Kathy and Larry have been married for 47 years and are the parents of 2 and grandparents of 2. They live in Southern California and often write and speak together. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com. She would love to hear from you.
This guest blog is adapted from Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory
Order Pure-Hearted at: http://amzn.to/2jzYdWi
These may seem like random names, but to fans of the TV show This Is Us, they are the names of characters that are redefining what quality drama looks like on television. As the show just premiered its second season (can I get an amen?), we are just as enthralled with these ordinary people this season as we were last season.
When I tuned into the first episode, I never expected to watch such well-written storylines and captivating characters. As I waited with anticipation week after week as the season unfolded, I quickly realized that this was no ordinary show, but rather a phenomenon. Although not written from a Christian perspective, it became apparent there were some common themes that parallel the commands stated to us in the bible. As I listed all of the themes I found in the show, I found there was enough to write about them each day for one month.
So I decided to dedicate this year’s “31 Days” blog series to the themes and characters I noticed in this show. For those of you that don’t know, 31 Days is a blog challenge that Myquillan Smith began as a way to connect bloggers and encourage them to write for thirty-one consecutive days on a specific theme while giving them the exposure they need to get their writing out to the world. I am participating this year and using This Is us as the theme.
If you are a big of a fan as I am, please feel free to comment below as each day posts. Let me know what you think about this series and if there have been any new revelations you have gleaned as a result of it.
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