The Beauty of “War Room:” Don’t Believe the Bad Reviews

Last Wednesday I heard about the Kendrick Brothers’ movie “War Room,” at choir practice.

Our choir director said it was a prayerful movie and that anyone of faith should go see it. That despite the title, it had nothing do with actual, political war. That an unbeliever who saw this movie would be convinced of the power of prayer.

I was sold immediately. I’m a believer, but it sounded like just my kinda movie.

Thursday night, the next day, I was invited to my parents’ for dinner, along with a longtime family friend. She’s a mother of five, a grandmother and a devout Catholic woman– I grew up next to her family.  I had planned to invite her and my step-mother.

Once I brought it up, SHE said she had heard about the movie and planned to invite ME! We both enjoy movies and are single. My step-mother ended up canceling, but she and I kept our plans.

We decided to share a medium popcorn and she asked for butter– just like me. Apparently there wasn’t enough salt, so she poured a heaping pile of it in some napkins, then folded it up into her purse so that we could disperse it in the middle as we ate our way through it. It made me laugh.

I was so glad she went with me. Like me, she’s a movie talker!

After, she wanted to stay and watch the credits. We were the last to leave. Afterward, we went for dinner, which I hadn’t been expecting. I had the best time.

I won’t spoil it- -but I will share a few details.

It’s an ambitious movie that works because it’s focused on one small family, and the way the one family member’s decision to surrender to a disciplined prayerful life transforms the family’s circumstances in every area.

The hero is an elderly woman named Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie). I think she deserves an Oscar.

She’s got the sternness of Madea, with a little more empathy. She’s a small woman of fire– but she commands just as much respect as Madea. She’s the kind of woman who commands your attention. The kind of woman who refuses to accept your facade, no matter how good you think you are at hiding the pain. The kind of woman who reminds you that you deserve love. That you are accepted and forgiven, no matter what. The woman who teaches you about God’s grace.

Miss Clara notices something amiss in her realtor, Priscilla, and buts into her business in the loving way that older people tend to do. She wants to know about her marriage, her daughter, if she has a relationship with the Lord.

It parallels “Fried Green Tomatoes,” in that a woman’s life is set right by a deep friendship with an older woman, a mentor, who helps another adult woman who feels a bit lost.  This woman could have given up on a marriage that was held together only by contempt. Their own daughter felt unloved as a result of their constant fighting– there was no affection present at all. On the brink of infidelity, both partners in this marriage might have abandoned hope and ended up divorced.

But Priscilla (Elizabeth Jordan), the wife and mother who befriends Miss Clara, is so desperate she is open to prayer,

Miss Clara challenges her to fight FOR her husband, rather than with him. To fight in Jesus’ name.

And it’s Priscilla’s devotion to changing HERSELF, accepting her husband and loving him as is, and praying unceasingly for him, her daughter, and her own change of heart– that is what inspires.

It’s about acceptance, surrender, owning responsibilities, about amends.

About passing on your faith and what you’ve learned with others.

It’s about creating a physical space in your life to be with God and his Word– to pray for those you love most.

It’s about the Bible.

It makes me want to overhaul my own space– to create my own War Room. To eliminate the clutter.

To put the focus back where it out to be: on God.

I heard a lot of “That’s right!” and “Uh-huh,” and “AMEN!” in the rows surrounding us.

I know I will see this movie again.

Please, give it a chance. Even if you’re a non-believer. Especially if you are.

The Couple in Gray

At Palm Sunday Mass today, there was a young couple behind me.

They were both brunette, conservative. A tall strapping man, a petite woman with long beautiful hair.

When it came time for “Peace,” I turned behind me to shake their hands.

But he pulled her to him and kissed her forehead. It was casual PDA, second nature.

She closed her eyes and the whisper of a smile came to her face. She looked as if she felt cherished.

And I was glad for her– for both of them.

They were both wearing a gray long-sleeve cotton shirt, and blue jeans. They matched perfectly.

I’ve seen them before.

I love that this couple incorporates going to Mass together into their relationship.

I hope to have that myself one day.

I especially enjoyed that moment of affection because most Catholics don’t do that in Mass– there may be a quick hug, but not usually a full embrace. Usually you’ll see a lot of eye contact, smiles, waves and of course, people shaking hands.

I remember once a former youth minister of mine kissed his girlfriend in church– and said he got several LOOKS because of it. Just a peck. Why should that natural expression of love between a committed couple be a problem in God’s house? Afterwards, he talked to us about why that bothered him. He thought it was so petty– and it was.

This young couple wasn’t worried about what anyone thought– and no one seemed to begrudge them for it.

Seeing reaffirmed a bit of my hope for love.

One day, I hope to have man who will go to Mass with me– who will think nothing of such an innocent display of love. I see it as something protective and genuine.

But until then, I will keep going on my own.

And I will be happy for those couples who have found each other, and celebrate God together.

Why keep dating, when it’s so ridiculous? We need the eggs!

When you’re single, everyone bombards you with relationship advice.

Chief among it is, “Stop looking.”

I’ve tried that. But ultimately, it’s not for me. I’m inherently quixotic, and proud!

To stop “looking” is to stop enjoying the possibility of happiness with another person. To stop flirting, to stop having butterflies. I think too many of us get wounded after a harrowing break-up and just shut down and declare our hearts off-limits for too long. Or we get hung up on an ex and are oblivious to the new opportunities to have something even better. We try to take control by saying that we don’t need anyone, and become afraid of failure in our next relationship. And sadly, our reluctance to “get hurt” again is often what leads us to miss genuine opportunities to share again with someone who wants to be with us. They may be exactly what we need, but if we are convinced we’re “not looking,” we may not see them in time. People move on when you don’t let them in.

And truth is, I enjoy the search! It enlivens me.

To me, it’s worth it. Yes, it can be exhausting and demoralizing at times.  But gosh, it’s also exalting, silly and GOOD for us.  The hope of finding something extraordinary– even if it’s not permanent– is good enough for me. It feels incredible to care about someone else– to give without expecting anything in return. To admire and respect someone and embrace their faults– and yours. To let go. To trust.

You can always play it safe and remain unattached and single. You won’t get hurt– and you won’t be loved, either.

Yes, I’ve been hurt. My feelings have been unrequited. I’ve been dumped. But I’ve also hurt, and that doesn’t make me a terrible woman. We are bound to hurt someone, simply by being honest and making decisions about who we want to become involved with– or not.

I don’t hate anyone who I’ve become involved with– and I wish them well. I’m grateful to them for caring, for showing me parts of myself that I was unaware of– good and bad. For taking me on stupid dates and posh ones. For holding my hand, calling me in the middle of the day, sending flowers, picking me up at the airport, for caring about my writing and believing in me even when I didn’t. For listening to me and remembering details. For leaving me voice mails while singing  songs, and playing guitar. For cooking for me. For making my friends jealous. For telling me to reject shame and take risks, to be proud of who I am. For complimenting my character, intelligence, and treating me like a lady. For making dirty jokes and checking me out and making me feel like a woman!  For writing gushy PDA things on my wall or even gasp– MySpace! For writing songs for me, sending love letters, meeting my parents, and making an effort to get to know my friends. For giving me little gifts that make me blush with surprise and delight. For reading and commenting on my blogs, and talking about my column with me. For picking me up, even when it’s out of the way. For asking about my life. For knowing when to shut up and just hold me. For saying I can call in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep, and then answering  and making me laugh. For giving me kisses that make my brain short-circuit! For giving me a life-saving hug, and telling me I look hot when I’m wearing no make-up, having a bad hair day,  and in scummy clothes. For calling instead of texting. For cute e-mails. For driving hours to see me when I lived in a different city, every weekend. For taking a train from Chicago to see me. For introducing me to their families. For saying “No,” when I wanted to break-up, and fighting me on it. For letting me go when it was truly over. For being honest when I needed to be called out, and caring enough to fight with me. For apologizing. For letting me be right sometimes, even when I’m not. For forgiving everything that was unsaid and accepting me as I am.

These are all moments in my dating history that have impacted me positively and remind me of why I refuse to be jaded and “stop looking.”

I’ve enjoyed some relationships that were circuitous and intense, some that were instant and simple, some that were just a date or few but nevertheless left an impression.

If you get your heart broken, good for you. You’re LIVING. I don’t believe any more that if a relationship ends– or doesn’t happen– that it’s a “waste of time.” Or that it negates the connection you had, and somehow it’s less true because it’s over. I’m full of optimism, and proud of the resilience I’ve cultivated in this Scorpio heart of mine.

It can take a long time for me to open up to someone. I want to trust them first, and see that they’re invested in me equally.

But I’m a giver, and I want someone to give to.  I feel better already admitting that.

I don’t think there’s any better way to explain why we put ourselves through the glory and trauma of dating than Alvy Singer’s comment at the end of “Annie Hall.”

We need the eggs, that’s all there is to it.

In the meantime, I’ll continue looking and be inspired.