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.

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On Discipline

I’m getting a lot done lately, and I love the feeling of accomplishment.

Re-organizing and prioritizing.

I’m realizing that as much as I admire minimalists, I’ll never be one of them! Yes, I’m a sap.

A friend just pointed out to me that I’ve invested a lot in my books. Good point! I got rid of the ones I bought but accepted I would never read, or on topics I’ve already absorbed. Let someone else enjoy them. I have more space now. I kept my favorites, including some from childhood. Now I get to buy MORE! Mwahahaha!

I love it! I can’t believe I got rid of probably 85% of my movie collection. But CD’s are harder. They are attached to a time period in your life, memories and emotions. I’ve never used digital music. I have no files on my computer or songs on my iPhone. I am a decidedly old-fashioned lady when it comes to technology. I still love my cassette tapes. I even have a few vinyl records. I don’t listen to music often at home, but always blast it in my car. At home I enjoy silence or watching TV and movies.

Being single, I’ve learned to appreciate quiet. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable.

And I’ve made an executive decision to keep my writing. Some poems and things that aren’t relevant, I’ve shredded. But I have notes and papers I wrote in college. Old newspaper articles. Old school assignments, they are mostly in binders. They are a record of my life. They show how much I’ve grown. What I felt back then.

Those, I’m keeping.

But what I’ve learned through this purging is that when you dispose of useless things, you leave room for something better. Something ELSE that will bring you joy.

If it doesn’t bring you joy, why keep it? Pitch it.

As I de-clutter and purge, I’m feeling more relaxed in my own space.

Can’t complain.

I Will

succeed.

Right now, I’m cleaning out and purging stuff. Today I got $7 for some DVD’s. I went to a local store that buys them used– everyone was so busy. Hustling. Isn’t that what we’re all doing? They told me most of my DVD’s were overstock, and one set (90210– the original!) was missing one DVD. I’m not sure I’ll find it. I went home and decided as much as I like movies, they take up a lot of space and there’s a lot I need to get done anyway so it’ll help to just not have them as a distraction. I kept 19 of them. I went back with another bag with most of my collection– but the store was closed. I’ll return tomorrow and hope to get some cash for them.

I also dropped off a bunch of VHS cassettes at Unique Thrift Store– I don’t even have a VCR anymore and it takes up a lot of space. To the Book Market I dropped off a bunch of books and didn’t ask for store credit– I just wanted to donate them.

I found a box full of CD cases. It has to go.

I just want to have less possessions and be unencumbered so I can move.

Falling in Love (Again) with Books

It’s been months since I gave in.

My obsession has always been a harmless one– books.

I made a conscious choice to go out more, interact more with people– to not hole up so much with books. And I’ve done that, and it’s been healing and needed. To stop recording everything compulsively in my journal, to not write so many poems. To forget about fiction.

At a certain point, life is easier if you forget about dreams. I’ve got a steady job, I’m happily rooted in my hometown. I work for a great company, which I’m proud to represent. My boss tells me often I’m doing great, and I can bond easily with my clients and they thank me often for helping them find exactly what they need.

But in other aspects, my life has become so routine that it just hurts. That’s a by-product of becoming a Thirtysomething, I know it’s not a unique predicament. Most of my friends feel that way as well, especially if they’re married with children. Of course, they feel privileged to have the opportunities and stability they’ve achieved– but everyone needs a creative outlet.

Everyone needs to save a little piece of themselves, untouched by obligation or family.

I substituted books for movies. And I’ll always love them! But I can feel myself losing my intelligence– my brain is stagnating. My vocabulary is diminishing. I’ve got to keep myself growing, especially since right now taking classes is not an option and I don’t know if it ever will be again. Most likely, no. I was fortunate to get an undergrad but my schedule and finances have not allowed for me to pursue grad school.

But recently, I dated a man from Chicago, Jonathan. And one of the main things that drew us together was a shared love of literature. However, it turned out we didn’t actually have that much in common. He loved critical essays and philosophy, I dig fiction. He was very sincere, and a writer himself. But he was intellectual, not emotional. It’s rare that I feel insecure when talking about literature or reading in general– that’s always been my getaway. My undergrad is in journalism. But I could tell he was struggling to connect with me and I got tired of missing his references. When he came to my apartment, he noticed a collection of Flannery O’Connor short stories and his eyes glowed. Looking up at me, he said, “This might be the best collection of short stories, EVER!” But I just felt like a fraud, because my friend’s mother loaned it to me since she’s a Catholic author. I hadn’t gotten into it yet. I smiled awkwardly, and thought he tried not to show it, there was clear disappointment.

Everyone’s got books they haven’t read– but it sucks when that’s the one your date zeroes in on with such excitement. Not one other book I had elicited a comment??

On our first date, he drove to Joliet and I took him to a local bookstore– which he loved. And I thought it was sweet that he bought me not one, but TWO books: “Middlesex,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, because I hadn’t read it and he wanted to get something. It didn’t look like my kind of novel but it was such a surprising and promising gesture, I accepted. And then I had wanted to get Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” for myself– a novel I’d been wanting to read for quite awhile, and he surprised me at the check-out counter by getting it for me.

But I tried getting into “Middlesex,” and I just can’t. I may try it again, but it’s not grabbing me. I’m currently reading “The Fault in Our Stars,” WAY late– because I just wanted something simple and emotional. Something that’s not complicated or literary– just a love story, because I liked the movie. And although I’m ambivalent about Augustus Waters, the more I read the more I’m loving Hazel Grace. Reading a book is a lot like a relationship. Everyone has a different reaction to each novel and its characters– but as more is revealed, you fall deeper into the lives of these characters. And it’s their flaws that makes you grateful they exist.

Next, I have something totally different lined up– “Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M.,” by Catherine Millet. Because who doesn’t love smut once in a while?

Right now, I’m not a monogamous reader. I’m flirting with several books- and they’re never jealous of the others. Only happy I return.

Last night, I stayed up late reading a book for the first time in months, it seems!

What an indulgence. I loved it so much, I’m doing it again tonight.

John Green and I have a thing, for sure.

But I’ll certainly have a date with Virginia Woolf.

And something curious is happening. My brain is cracking awake.

I’m daring to imagine. I’m beginning to Write again.

I love my friends, and my family is amazing.

But books make me happy. I’m a nerd, but not a snob. They’re legal and cheap.

And the more I read, the more ideas I get to Write.